Aeronautical progress during the 1914-18 war, meant that the
aeroplane had graduated from a fair-weather vehicle for the
few to an everyday vehicle for the many. With this in mind,
in 1924 the Air Ministry held a competition with the object
of discovering a light two-seat machine, of low power and
economical operation, suitable for the owner-pilot.
The immediate result of this competition was disappointing,
because all the entries proved to be underpowered, but the
long-term effect was to interest designers in light
aeroplane problems and, eventually, to lead to a number of
highly successful two-seat private-owner types.
These machines were mainly of the tandem open-cockpit
variety, similar in arrangement to the early Hawk
monoplanes, and it was not until 1936 that the class neared
an ideal in the Miles Whitney Straight side-by-side cabin
monoplane. This aeroplane was the result of collaboration
between the wealthy aviation enthusiast Mr. Whitney
Straight, who then operated a series of flying clubs in
various parts of the country, and Mr. Miles, both having
almost identical ideas on the form of a modern light
The prototype Whitney Straight (G-AECT) first flown on 14th
May 1936 and its all-round good qualities exceeded
expectations, comfortable and easy to fly, with a top speed
of 145 mph. and a fuel consumption of over 20 miles to the
gallon. Immediate production followed the successful flight
tests, and 50 M.11A, M.11B and M.11C aircraft were sold in
almost every part of the world over the next two years. A
number of these were used for experimental purposes,
including the testing of various engines and, on the
prototype, of auxiliary aerofoil flaps, the data gained
proving beneficial to later Miles aircraft. A later model,
known as the M.11 C, was fitted with the Gipsy Major Series
II engine and a variable pitch airscrew, this combination
giving a remarkable take-off and climb performance.
Perhaps one of the finest demonstrations of the all-round
handling qualities of the machine was provided by the result
of the 1937 King's Cup Air Race, in which General Lewin,
then aged sixty-three, flew his own Whitney Straight into
second place after a very close contest.
On the outbreak of war, in 1939, most of the Whitney
Straights in Britain were requisitioned for R.A.F.
communication duties, including 23 for the RAF (21 in the UK
and two in India), and three for the Royal New Zealand Air
Force. Many were still giving good and faithful service
after five arduous years.
An improved model of the M.11 was developed with three-seat
accommodation and flown as the M.17 Monarch on 21st February