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Cranwell Light Aeroplane Club aeroplanes

avion ancien

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It's well known that in the period 1923-29 Flt.-Lt. Nicholas Comper designed five aeroplanes for the Cranwell Light Aeroplane Club - the CLA.1 (designed, but not built), CLA.2 (one example built), CLA.3 (one example built), CLA.4 (two examples built plus another built later in Canada) and the CLA.7 (the Comper Swift, designed for the Club but built by the Comper Aircraft Co. Ltd. after Comper left the RAF). There does not seem to be any record of there having been a CLA.5 and/or CLA.6 (even as unbuilt designs or projects) or, if these did not exist, of the reason for this hiatus in the sequence. Does anyone know why?
 
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avion ancien

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I suggest he designed of course CLA.5 & CLA.6
To the best of my knowledge, there is no evidence to support this assertion. If you're aware of such evidence, I'd be grateful to be pointed to it. Otherwise, one must assume that there was not a Cranwell Light Aeroplane Club project or design CLA.5 or CLA.6. Hence my question - was there a reason for the hiatus in the sequence and, if so, what was it?
 

hesham

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My dear Avion,

maybe the solution was in Royal Aircraft Museum's site,they mentioned that for Comper,there
was CG.5 & CG.6,to be honest I recorded it by my written hand,and potentially CB.5 or CB.6 that
if I wrote wrong,and in that site they displayed only the aircraft designation without any description,
so maybe they were a gliders or something ?,unfortunately the site's pages is disappeared now.
 
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Apophenia

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That is a puzzle. I had wondered if the missing '5' and '6' were early designs for the Comper Aircraft Company - as opposed to the Cranwell Light Aeroplane Club. (AFAIK, the later Mouse, Streak, and Kite received no numbered designations while the autogyro prototype already had a Cierva designation - C.25.)

Alas, none of that helps. If designs '5' and '6' were left unnumbered, why the heck did the 1929 Swift receive its CLA.7 designation? :(
 

avion ancien

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To me it is illogical to follow a numbering sequence from 1 to 4 but then miss out 5 and 6 and go straight to 7. One wouldn't think that this would have been done on a whim - which is what causes me to think that either this didn't happen or there must have been a reason for it. I prefer the former theory.

The Cranwell Light Aeroplane Club was founded in 1923. I do not know when the CLA.1 (a single bay, single seater biplane) was designed but, logically, one might expect that to have been that same or early the next year because its successor, the CLA.2, first flew in September 1924. July 1925 saw the first flight of the CLA.3. The date of the first flight of the CLA.4 doesn't seem to be recorded but one assumes this to have been prior to September 1926, both CLA.4s having been entered for that year's Lympne Trials, which took place that month.

It is recorded that Comper designed the CLA.7 Swift whilst still serving in the RAF and under the auspices of the Club, which suggests that this occurred prior to or in early 1929 (he resigned his commission in March of that year) although, evidently, the Swift was not then 'the finished item' as it didn't make its first flight until early 1930. But if one assumes that Comper was working on the CLA.7 design from, say, 1929, what was he and the Club doing during 1927/28? It is recorded that Comper occupied himself flying the two CLA.4s in 1927/28 but having been a 'one per year' man, vis a vis designing aeroplanes for the Club hitherto, are we to assume that his drawing board was stowed for some two years? Is it not more attractive to presume that he continued to design aeroplanes, a task that would become his life's work?

Against the foregoing theory is the fact that all Comper's previous design efforts had been focussed on the Lympne Light Aircraft Trials and the last of those took place in 1926. But it's hard to believe that someone who had been busy designing an aeroplane a year, in the period 1923-26, should stop doing so for at least the following two years. It's equally hard to believe that, if this is so, when Comper recommenced designing aeroplanes for the Club, he would abandon the numbering sequence used hitherto and start again at 7. It's this that drives me to the logical theory - although I have no empirical proof to support it - that there were CLA.5 and CLA.6 designs which now are lost in the mists of time.

If there were CLA.5 and CLA.6 designs which are now lost in history, that conveniently avoids the need to explain the the Club aeroplane numbering sequence conundrum. But if I am wrong, and Comper produced no designs between the CLA.4 and the Swift, I am unable to resolve the conundrum which that produces!
 
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avion ancien

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Since writing the above I've found a snippet of information that might be relevant. Ord-Hume (British Light Aeroplanes) says:

'As for the CLA.4, G-EBPB, Comper raced this at the Bournemouth Easter meeting in April 1927, and took part in other races with varying degrees of success. Comper then went to Felixstowe where he formed the Felixstowe Light Aeroplane Club.'

According to the website created by his descendants (http://nickcomper.co.uk/), Comper had been based at Felixstowe early in his RAF career, at some time between the years 1920 and 1923 (i.e. between his year at Cambridge University and his appointment at Cranwell). So is Ord-Hume saying that Comper returned to Felixstowe in 1927? No mention of this is made on the aforementioned website. But if he did, was this a temporary posting or did he see out his RAF service there? If the latter, how does one reconcile that with the fact that the Swift had a CLA, rather than a FLA, prefix? But if the latter is the case, it could explain why no CLA aeroplanes were built subsequent to the CLA.4. Maybe at Felixstowe, where maritime aviation was its raison d'être, there wasn't the same level of interest in, or facilities for the design and construction of, light aeroplanes of the type that Comper had been designing. Maybe if someone has access to Comper's service records they can shed light on this.
 

Hood

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The nickcomper website that you quote agrees with Ord-Hume in saying that Comper was posted to the Marine Aircraft Experimental Establishment in November 1926 until he resigned his commission in April 1929.
The Felixstowe Light Aeroplane Club remained extant after he left, there is at least a reference to it in a listing of light aircraft clubs in Flight in June 1930. The address given for the club secretary is the MAAE. I thought it might have been based elsewhere but this seems not to be the case. I doubt that the RAF would of been keen to allow its officers to set up a commercial business on its premises, which is why Comper resigned his commission.

Alternative airfields for the club would be unlikely for this period, beyond the obvious at Martlesham Heath, Ipswich Airport was not begun until 1930 but the Suffolk (and Eastern Counties) Aeroplane Club had been formed at Hadleigh in 1926 - moving to Ipswich in 1930.
 

hesham

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Alas, none of that helps. If designs '5' and '6' were left unnumbered, why the heck did the 1929 Swift receive its CLA.7 designation?
Maybe the answer in my reply,No.4 ?.
 

avion ancien

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The nickcomper website that you quote agrees with Ord-Hume in saying that Comper was posted to the Marine Aircraft Experimental Establishment in November 1926 until he resigned his commission in April 1929.
The Felixstowe Light Aeroplane Club remained extant after he left, there is at least a reference to it in a listing of light aircraft clubs in Flight in June 1930. The address given for the club secretary is the MAAE. I thought it might have been based elsewhere but this seems not to be the case. I doubt that the RAF would of been keen to allow its officers to set up a commercial business on its premises, which is why Comper resigned his commission.
Thank you, Hood. Previously I'd managed to overlook that information on the CLA section of that website, where it says that:

Sadly, the disappointments of the 1926 season also marked the end of the CLAC’s existence. The Boys’ Wing had moved to Cranwell in the first instance because of the lack of permanent accommodate at Halton, but by early 1926 Halton was ready and the transfer of the Boys’ Wing, or No 4 Apprentices Wing as it was now formally known, could not be delayed further. Nicholas Comper remained behind in a supernumerary capacity, presumably to wrap-up the season’s work, and it would not be until early November that he was posted to Felixstowe on the staff of the Marine Aircraft Experimental Establishment. Coincident with this move, the CLAC’s name was changed to the Felixstowe Light Aeroplane Club, but no designs appear to have been completed under the new title. Nick Comper was to remain at Felixstowe until he resigned his commission in April 1929 in order to pursue his developing commercial interests.
But if that's correct, it takes me back to the original question, namely why did the CLA sequence move from 4 to 7 and miss out 5 and 6? Also it leaves me wanting to know the circumstances in which, apparently at Felixstowe, Comper evolved the Swift design, a sporting landplane, in an environment which, presumably, was seaplane-centric. Furthermore it seems rather odd that 'the CLAC's name was changed to the Felixstowe Light Aeroplane Club' when, seemingly, the only common feature between the two was Comper himself!
 

Hood

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Furthermore it seems rather odd that 'the CLAC's name was changed to the Felixstowe Light Aeroplane Club' when, seemingly, the only common feature between the two was Comper himself!
CLA.4 G-EBPB seems to be the only aircraft registered to the Felixstowe Light Aeroplane Club, so presumably the change of name just reflected Comper's change of location when he was posted to the MAEE. Comper was far more interested in light aircraft than seaplanes so its likely the CLA5 and CLA6 would be light aircraft designs.

When Comper formed his company he probably resurrected the CLA-designation as it was better known and simply changed the name from Cranwell to Comper Light Aircraft to still fit CLA.
 

hesham

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Yes my dear Apophenia,

but the list of companies which led to aircraft designations was disappeared from long time ago ?.
 

avion ancien

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CLA.4 G-EBPB seems to be the only aircraft registered to the Felixstowe Light Aeroplane Club
Whilst I don't doubt you, Hood, will you please help me by identifying the source of this information - because it doesn't appear on the G-INFO site, which has Ian Baldwin, of the Royal Artillery, as its sole registered owner (albeit only subsequent to May 1930). Clearly there is a lacuna because G-EBPB received its C of A in April 1927.

Furthermore, if the CLAs were club aeroplanes, what entitled Comper to take G-EBPB with him when he was posted from Cranwell to Felixstowe?

And finally, if Comper was posted from Cranwell to Felixstowe in November 1926, what was happening to the CLA.3 between this date and its recorded scrapping in 1929? Did it stay at Cranwell or go, with Comper, to Felixstowe?
 
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Hood

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CLA.4 G-EBPB seems to be the only aircraft registered to the Felixstowe Light Aeroplane Club
Whilst I don't doubt you, Hood, will you please help me by identifying the source of this information - because it doesn't appear on the G-INFO site, which has Ian Baldwin, of the Royal Artillery, as its sole registered owner (albeit only subsequent to May 1930). Clearly there is a lacuna because G-EBPB received its C of A in April 1927.

Furthermore, if the CLAs were club aeroplanes, what entitled Comper to take G-EBPB with him when he was posted from Cranwell to Felixstowe?

And finally, if Comper was posted from Cranwell to Felixstowe in November 1926, what was happening to the CLA.3 between this date and its recorded scrapping in 1929? Did it stay at Cranwell or go, with Comper, to Felixstowe?
My source is here: http://www.airhistory.org.uk/gy/reg_G-E3.html
This seems to indicate that G-EBPB was registered to Cranwell Light Aeroplane Club, Felixstowe Light Aeroplane Club, Comper Aircraft and then 2nd Lt Baldwin. I would speculate that the aircraft was really Comper's property throughout until he sold it to Baldwin in May 1930.
G-EBPC is shown as only being registered to the Cranwell Light Aeroplane Club before its accident when it was written off in March 1927.

CLA-3 G-EBMC is recorded as registered to the Cranwell Light Aeroplane Club (Flt Lt N. Comper), written off July 1926 and cancelled 3 July 1929. So G-EBMC was already wrecked before Comper moved to Felixstowe in November 1926.

I don't think that that the club is really a flying club in the strictest sense. It was set up by Comper and involved other pilots at Cranwell to further their hobby and the boy apprentices as eager labour to build the CLAs but they had been transferred to Halton so he lost his main manpower. There seems to be few mentions of the club after Comper was posted to Felixstowe but its possible that G-EBPB and G-EBPC were at Cranwell until 1927 when Comper could secure hangar space at Felixstowe. No other aircraft of non-Comper design were ever registered to the club or to other members (who were they?) so it really seems to have been Comper's way to build up a mini factory under the noses of his superior officers and to allow his fellow officers joyriding time in the CLAs.

Further to this, the Felixstowe Light Aeroplane Club seems to have lasted until May 1930 (the Flight source I indicated earlier), a year after Comper resigned from the RAF but its no coincidence that G-EBPB was sold to Baldwin that month and further mention of the club ceases. I think its highly probable that Comper kept the aircraft there until it was sold as no other aircraft were registered to the club.
 
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