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VIP Unveils Comper Swift (4th November 2011)

VIP Unveils Comper Swift

The Royal Air Force Museum has today officially unveiled the Museum’s latest acquisition, the Comper Swift CLA.7 G-ACGL. The aircraft was unveiled to invited guests including relatives of the aircraft’s designer and of original owner in the Museum’s Hangar 1, where it is now on permanent display to the public.

During the unveiling guests gathered by the Comper Swift for a welcome speech from the RAF Museum Director General, Peter Dye.  Immediately afterwards the aircraft was unveiled by special guest Alex Henshaw Junior, son of Alex Henshaw Senior, the original owner of the aircraft.  The Swift was flown by Henshaw Senior in several air races around the country including the Kings Cup Air Race in1933 where he won the Siddeley Trophy.  Other V.I.Ps at the launch included Comper Swift Aircraft Designer’s grandson, Mr Stephen Perry and its Engine Designer’s daughter Mrs Shirley Ann Manser.

Designed by Nicholas Comper, an ex-RAF Flight Lieutenant in the early 1920’s, the first prototype Swift flew in 1929.  Whilst designing the Swift, Comper drew on his experiences with the Cranwell Light Aeroplane Club (CLAC), a group founded by Comper as an extra curricular activity for RAF Apprentices.  Members of the CLAC also included Frank Whittle and George Stainforth plus many other individuals who became legends within the RAF. 

Only 41 Swifts were ever built and they were only available in two colours – red or blue of which the Museum’s is red.  Most were fitted with a Pobjoy R type engine and they were popular in air racing throughout the 1930’s, 40’s and 50’s.  At only 5ft high, 17ft long with a wingspan of 24ft the Swift could reach a maximum speed of 140mph.  Big enough for just one person, a Swift was flown solo by Mr Arthur Butler between England and Australia in 1931 establishing a new record time.  Another was flown to South Africa and only just missed out on the record.

Henshaw Senior sold the Swift G-ACGL in 1934 and it passed through four more owners before reportedly being scrapped in 1942. Henshaw went on to become Chief Test Pilot at Castle Bromwich Aircraft Factory and test flew more Spitfires than anyone else.  The remains of the Museum’s Swift were saved and secured by various groups until 2008 when its parts donated by Mr Stanley Brennan of Manchester to the Royal Air Force Museum.  The aircraft has recently been restored by Skysport Engineering, Bedfordshire. There are now only eight remaining Swifts; four in the UK, one in Argentina, two in Australia, and one in Spain.

The Comper Swift is now on permanent display at the RAF Museum Cosford.  The Museum is open daily from 10am and admission is free of charge.  For more information on the Museum, visit www.rafmuseum.org or call 01902 376200.