MIKE BILLINTON, FSMAE, 12/3/1932- 5/7/2019
Mike Billinton was a unique person, a self-taught engineer, engine builder and tester, author and control line speed multiple winner - being the first person in Europe to break the 200mph record for the 10cc class. This was at Barkston Heath at the Nationals in the early 1980s; the OS engine manufacturers from Japan were there on the day with Ron Irvine from Irvine Engines and the record caused quite a stir and atmosphere on the day. He competed in control-line speed for some 35 years, mainly in the 10cc (60) and the 6cc (40) classes as well as jet.
Mike was ultra-competitive but always had time to help his competitors and share his knowledge. Never one to do things by halves where performance was critical, he had a Colchester lathe in an upstairs bedroom, though how it got up there without involving wall removal was unclear.
He built his own dynamometer to test model engines and wrote articles for various UK and US magazines including RCM&E, AeroModeller, Model Airplane News, RC Model World and Flying Models. He also wrote a book, Introducing Model Aero Engines, which is still available.
As well as being an enthusiastic competitor Mike was also involved in the early negotiations by the then-SMAE in the 1970s which led to the recognition of model flying as a sport, first by the Central Council for Physical Recreation and eventually by the Sports Council (now UK Sport). As part of the successful presentation he wrote some of the crucial definitions of various model flying disciplines, stressing their similarity with existing sports.
He loved classical and dance music...quite a mix; his son, Jordan, remembers going to a rave with him in Milton Keynes when he was 70. He loved dogs, the Norfolk coastline and mid- and North Wales.
Mike initially got involved with the Shell Mileage Eco Marathon in about 1986, building engines for the Ford Motor Company, then Kings College London and helping Dr. Graham Paul run the cars for a few years. He then built and ran his own cars and many engines for some 15 years, competing in the UK and abroad. He achieved a best and astonishing figure of 4,300mpg- with a car that carried a man and averaged 15mph, using a 4-stroke 15cc engine built by him out of cast iron, with a plain piston - no rings and twin spark luminition ignition, running on 95 octane petrol. For a private entry this was an amazing achievement.
He had a long and distressing time with dementia, his character slowly disappearing over the last two years.
Jordan Billinton and Martin Dilly
Photo credit – Ray Cox