Gordon Cornell, one of the great characters of UK aeromodelling, has died peacefully at the age of 88. Probably as famous for his eccentric personality as for his enormous talent as an engineer and craftsman, Gordon’s whole life was lived in model aviation, from his professional involvement with FROG and ED in the fifties, to his cottage industry supplying hand- built diesel engines, which occupied him until his brief final illness.
Like many of his contemporaries in Croydon & District MAC, his interest in flying came directly from witnessing the dogfights of the battle of Britain. While flying models in the halcyon days of Chobham Common and Epsom Downs, his work at E.D. led him to design the famous 1.5 CC Super Fury engine, of which he remained extremely proud, hand- building a batch of replicas to commemorate its 50th anniversary. In fact his one- man engineering firm- which he called Dynamic Diesels- started in his home workshop in the 1960’s and continued when he moved to the Midlands a decade later.
Dynamic engines became highly prized by collectors as well as enjoying success in competition Free Flight and Control Line, sometimes in models designed and built by Gordon himself. Gordon’s talents extended beyond craftsmanship. He was a prolific contributor to the modelling press, author of two books on model engines, a gifted chess player at national level, and an early exponent of computer programming. The latter (which was entirely self- taught in the days when Bill Gates was still a college geek) could have made him a wealthy man, but typically he chose instead to apply his knowledge to his lifelong love, designing and building model engines.
A true obsessive, he could be awkward and opinionated at times, but earned the respect and affection of everyone who got to know him. He will be missed not only as a man of great skill and intellect, but a genuine English eccentric who bought a dash of colour to today’s bland world.