A short-lived company, but a long-lived Civilian
Tags: 'push-rods', 1932, 1946, A.B.C. Hornet engine, Air Show, aircraft, airports, April 15th, Armstrong Siddley, Armstrong Siddley Genet Major 1A, auctioneer, auctioneer's hammer, Aviation, Biggin Hill, Cardiff Airport, Carmarthen, Civilian Aircraft Company Ltd, Civilian Coupe 2, Derby, Derbyshire, DH Mosquito, England, Flight magazine, fuselage, G-ABNT, Glynn Rees, Great Depression, Great Vintage Flying Weekend, GVFWE, hangar, Hedon, Heston, historic aircraft, Hull, Hullavington, London, metal tubing, municipal airports, passenger seat, plywood, plywood panelling, port, propeller, radial engine, River Humber, Second World War, Secretary of State for Air, Shipping & Airlines Ltd, South Wales, stressed plywood panelling, Wales, wings, wire, Yorkshire
Throughout the 1930s many towns like Derby and the Yorkshire port of Hull joined the rush towards modern transport by establishing municipal airports. Hull’s was sited about 5 miles out of town at Hedon on the banks of the River Humber, and the civic authorities tried to attract aviation concerns to the new airfield. ‘Flight’ magazine in its March 27th, 1931 issue, mentioned that the Civilian Aircraft Company Ltd. had established a small manufacturing works on the southern edge of the site and was producing a two seat aircraft. Sadly, the first example of the ‘plane, which was first shown to the public at Heston in 1929, was powered by an A.B.C. Hornet radial engine, which vibrated rather badly. The Series 2 of the Civilian Coupe had solved the engine problems by fitting the Armstrong Siddley Genet Major 1A of 100hp. The aircraft’s fuselage was so narrow that the passenger seat had to be offset slightly behind and to one side of the pilot’s (rather like the much later DH Mosquito). There was some use of metal tubing in the fuselage, but the majority of structure, including the wings, was covered with stressed plywood panelling. Technically interesting, because it was one of the first aircraft to use ‘push-rods’ to connect the controls, rather than wire (leading to crisper responses), the Coupe was the right aircraft at the wrong time, as it appeared just as the civilian market was under immense pressure due to the Great Depression. A small series of aircraft was built, but it was already too late, and ‘Flight’ noted the demise of the company in its April 15th, 1932 issue.
One of the breed survived by sheer chance; Serial No. 03, a Civilian Coupe 2, was bought by Mr Glynn Rees of Carmarthen, South Wales and hangared at Cardiff Airport. Little flying took place (a total of 130 hours only), and he stored the aircraft before the outbreak of the Second World War. The aircraft’s registration was cancelled, by order of the Secretary of State for Air, on 1st December 1946.
After being stored for more than 40 years, G-ABNT went under the auctioneer’s hammer in Wales in February 1978. It was sold to Shipping & Airlines Ltd of London, along with a quantity of spares, including wings and a propeller. Careful restoration, and a move to a hangar on the historic Biggin Hill airfield, ensured that this highly significant aircraft is still with us today. Here she is in the historic aircraft park at GVFWE, Hullavington.
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