In 1973 the Airfix Model company of England purchased a copyright licensed from Schaper Manufacturing Co. Minneappolis Minnesota, to produce a revolutionary new type of toy for the UK market. Its name was Flight Deck. It consisted of a Control column based loosely on a fighter cockpit and a mock-up of an aircraft carriers deck which was made from plastic and printed cardboard. By means of a simple pulley system attached to the top of the control column and an object such as a chair (see diagram), a 1/72 model F4 Phantom was able to make landings on the mock-up carrier deck.
An arrestor hook at the rear of the aircraft would collect a small piece of line stretched across the deck which would stop the aircraft as happens on a real aircraft carrier and raise a flag placed on either side of the deck to show a successful landing. Unfortunately, failed landings usually resulted in the Phantom smacking nose first into the pulley at the top of the control column!!!! Flight Deck was more of an outdoor toy. There was rarely the room in the average house to allow for a really long flight path. Airfix recommended a minimum clear distance of 15 feet. Once outside however, it could be used to maximum effect. Airfix supplied 90 feet of control line. This would be halved due to the nature of the pulley system in use but using the maximum amount of line you could get a 45 foot long flight path, though this may have been a bit excessive.
Once set up though, hours of fun were to be had attempting to land the Phantom in the correct manner. The higher the pulley at the far end of the flight path was placed, the faster the Phantom would come towards you. You could even place objects and hazards in the flight path to fly around or over.
Christmas 1974 was when I got my first Flight Deck. As we spent the seasonal period at my Grandparents house in Norfolk, I had to make do with the other toys I got that year. It would not have been appropriate to have elderly relatives blundering into an oncoming Phantom jet attached to some near invisible nylon line.
In the Summer of 1975 I had it set up in my parents garden and used it most days. Over the next year or so, the wheels got snapped off, the Phantom probably got trodden on when it was not in use, the cardboard got damp when it was left out at night. All the usual things associated with kids not looking after toys. It was a great toy to have and there is nothing like it these days. Airfix revamped it after a couple of years and brought out Super Flight Deck. This was a similar principle but allowed the Phantom (which was yellow this time) to be catapult launched up a single piece of nylon line and spin round at the top and return for a similar carrier style landing.
The images you see on this page are of the original Flight Deck. I happened to find one for sale recently on a market stall specialising in old toys.Steve B was actually with me on this trip and neither of us could believe that there was a guy selling one of these in this market This for me was the end of a personal quest lasting 5 years to try and track one of the things down. I was lucky enough to purchase one that had not been used. Everything is still in the box untouched. It also sparks the beginning of a new quest to acquire a Super Flight Deck in similar order.
This is not the end of the flight Deck Story though. Steve B aquired the original in a similar condition to the first one that we found for the princely sum of £4 at a local boot sale. This one had been used so recently we set it up in his garden for a few remeniscent landing scenarios. A movie file of this occasion is available underneath the thumbnail images. It's REAL tacky and a spoof of what we remember from the original advert. I'm really really sorry!
Unfortunately there are not many other sites on the web (that I have found) containing information about this fine product. The only one to date is at www.djairfix.freeserve.co.uk/weird.htm This site has an image on it with some information. Unfortunately these were supplied by Hubbard Media Group, so anything you have seen here is on the other site.
Click on the thumbnails below to view images.