The Shield Xyla – showing that every Ground Power Unit has its day!


Shield Xyla

Welcome to the Shield Xyla! The vision of one Yorkshireman, George Shield, was translated into this neat single-seater. It is a wooden aircraft, for the most part, hence the name Xyla, from the Greek for wood. The uncovered airframe was featured on the front cover of Popular Flying in 1971, the year of its first flight. There are design ‘echoes’ of aircraft such as the Druine Turbulent, but this aircraft is that rather overused word – unique.

Both the United States and Britain have a long and meritorious history of pilot-inventors, some of whom, like Sir Edwin Alliott Verdon Roe, went on to fame and fortune. Others, like George Shield, confined themselves to building just one – truly personal – aeroplane.

The powerplant used by the Shield Xyla is very unusual, in that it is built by a famous manufacturer of aero engines – Continental Motors Corporation – but as a Ground Power Unit! The PC60 puts out around 100hp, and has been converted for airborne use. The engine has been fitted with a cam taken from a flight-worthy Continental O-200 and has given no trouble at all in more than 40 years. The maximum take-off weight of the aircraft is just 995 pounds!

As an aside, a similar unit powered a famous WW1 replica aircraft, the Sopwith Tabloid built by a Rolls-Royce engineer, Don Cashmore, which is now on display in the RAF Museum – admittedly, that aircraft is now fitted with a genuine 80hp Gnome rotary engine, for added authenticity.

The PC60 in the Xyla originally drove a three-bladed propeller, but following a period in storage, and two more changes of ownership – both of whom were based in South Yorkshire – the engine was now fitted with a much more aesthetically-pleasing two-bladed prop.

The major rebuild (1500 hours of work) which was undertaken following the storage , also gave rise to a new colour scheme – all-over yellow to replace the original black – and a set of polished metal cowlings. The aircraft is seen here at Hullavington, at the Great Vintage Flying Weekend, once a fixture in the British light aircraft calendar, but now sadly, no more.

There have been a grand total of 8 owners of the aircraft listed by the CAA, following the original build in 1971, and as of August, 2019, the Xyla had accumulated just 625 hours in a 48 year history! What this means is that this ‘one-off’ piece of British light aviation history has become a cherished survivor, and it is back where it belongs – in the air.

3 comments on “The Shield Xyla – showing that every Ground Power Unit has its day!”

  1. Is this the same George Shield who built a motorised shed for his friends wedding?

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  2. Shortfinals and Pauline, how do you know about the motorised shed? I’m going to do a Tedex talk on him and the Xyla. He was my headmaster. He built the Xyla in our woodwork room. I would be grateful for any information/stories about him and/or his projects. Thanks.

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