No longer in service, the twin-engined Miles Gemini has now been relegated to the MAF history books.
Selected due to its compact size, clean lines and relatively simple construction, the Miles Gemini, given the name 'The Mildmay Pathfinder', was a brand new aircraft, straight off the production line in 1947.
'We had a qualified engineer flying with the Gemini and high professional standards, both in flying and maintenance, were integral to all our plans'. Stuart King in Hope Has Wings
The Gemini had many pleasing features including a perspex canopy, not unlike many of the wartime aircraft flown by MAF's early pilots. It had a retractable undercarriage which facilitated streamline flight and large wingflaps, that when lowered, enabled the plane to land slowly and safely on quite short airstrips. The two small engines gave a cruising speed of 120mph.
It wasn't until it reached Africa that the pioneer pilots realised it's limitations. The Gemini's normally aspirated engines struggled in some of the locations, like Eritrea where MAF planned to operate. In the tropics, the lower density of the air robs a light plane of both power and lift.
After only six months of operational service the Gemini met a sticky end, amazingly with no loss of life, when it crashed in the mountains of Burundi. MAF had gained valuable knowledge about the challenge of operating light aircraft in Africa. It wasn't long before a new aircraft type had been identified and MAF was airborne again.
'We landed at Asmara to refuel, nearly 8,000ft above sea level, and only 15 degrees north of the equator: that meant it was both high and hot. Our little Gemini didn’t like it. We took off again accelerating rapidly to get airborne. But the plane was reluctant to climb.'
Stuart King in Hope Has Wings