Frank Bethwaite (1920- )

Frank Bethwaite set many world records over the 1950-56 period using "Wright" radio control equipment. In 1958 he moved to Sydney, where the lack of suitable flying spaces led him to the field of sailboats, where he has made many significant contributions. In 2000, he was awarded the Award of Australia for Experiment and Design.

Francis Dewar Bethwaite, DFC, OAM

Born 26th May 1920, Wanganui, NZ.
1931 - '36 Wanganui Collegiate School
1936 - '39 Read aeronautical engineering.
Built and sailed racing dinghies
Designed, built and flew model aircraft. Member IGMAA
Learned to fly
1940 Joined RNZAF
1940 - 42 Flying training
1942 - 43 Test pilot
1943 - 45 Three tours operations. Squadron Leader, DFC
1946 - 1959 TEAL (Air New Zealand), Captain.
1959 - 1968 Director, Flight Operations, CSIRO's Cloud Seeding Experiments.
1968 - Founded Starboard Products P/L, Sydney (now called Bethwaite Design).

Recreational and Personal.

1946 app Established the North Shore Model Aeroplane Club. Key members-Don Wilson, Kevin Williams, Brian Foster.

1946 - 1958 Council member NZMAA, various positions. Key people - Walter Read, President; Les Mayn, Sec; Freddie Macdonald, Patron and general encourager.

1948 Represented New Zealand in person, at the 1948 Wakefield competition at Cranfield, UK.

1951 - 1953 Models proxied at World Championships for Nordic A2 (1951,53) and Wakefield (1952,53)

1950 - 1956 "Long Project". Using radical own-design models and techniques and Les Wright designed Radio equipment, culminating in World Endurance Records:
07 Jan 53 R/C Glider 1 hr 09 min
10 May 54 R/C Glider 2 hr 00 min
30 Jan 55 R/C Power 3 hr 02 min 06 sec
17 Apr 55 R/C Glider 3 hr 28 min
02 Apr 56 R/C Glider 7 hr 37 min

1956 - 58 Developed reliable radio control model flying boats.

End '58 Moved to Sydney. No room for free-flight or R/C models, so reverted to high performance sailboats, which are simply model aircraft that float.

2000 Awarded Order of Australia for experiment and design.

Frank enjoyed the technical challenges of model aircraft and appreciates the very close association between model aircraft and sailboats. All that happened because space constraints in Sydney precluded further work with model aircraft, so he turned back to sailboats, and studied their properties with the same care. Many of the key elements - detail drag reduction, achieving laminar flow in critical areas, the small-scale structure of wind, the different wind patterns - all had their origins in his model work. For this reason he regards his work with model aircraft and his work with light sailboats as a continuum of the same area of study, primarily low speed aerodynamic properties of thin flexible aerofoils in unsteady flow. In both areas diligent research yields significant results. His younger son, who now runs his company, "Bethwaite Design", has inherited this conviction from him.

Back to top