Comper CLA7 Swift VH-UVC will soon take to the air for the first time in more than 60 years at Omaka airfield near Blenheim, New Zealand, following a complete rebuild with JEM Aviation. It is hoped that the 1932-built machine will make its first public appearance at the Classic Fighters show at Omaka in April, after which it will return to its owner, vintage aircraft collector Roy Fox at Bankstown in south-west Sydney, Australia. Fox also owns the world’s only surviving de Havilland Gipsy III in line-powered Comper Swift, VH-ACG.
JEM director Jay McIntyre told Aeroplane, “The Swift arrived in Blenheim in January 2014 and a complete rebuild was started immediately. We were lucky in that virtually all the metal components were still with the aircraft and in very good condition, requiring only inspection, sand-blasting and repainting. Virtually all the wood has been replaced for varying reasons. Overhaul of the engine was a minor challenge as, although quite simple in many regards, the design of the Pobjoy Niagara is somewhat complicated for 90hp! Modern brakes and a tailwheel have been fitted for operations at her eventual home in Bankstown.”
Originally built in 1932 at Hooton Park, Cheshire and registered G-ACAG, the machine made its first flight with Nicholas Comper at the helm on 14 November that year. Comper took the machine on an extensive tour of Europe during 1933, but the following year it was sold to the Australian Aero Club (Victorian Section). It arrived at Port Melbourne aboard the SS Ormonde on 24 September 1934, and was test-flown at the start of the following month at Essendon, Melbourne. ’UVC hasn’t flown since the port undercarriage collapsed on landing at Bundaberg, Queensland, on 27 July 1962.
Jay McIntyre adds: “We are hoping to fly ’VHC towards the end of January. It received a New Zealand CAA certificate of airworthiness in late November, but we have a few small details to attend to before flying her for the first time, not least of all ensuring the scratch-built electronic ignition units are up to the job. These have been fitted for increased reliability over the old BTH magnetos, which had a bit of a reputation as hand grenades. Test flying will be completed in New Zealand. VH-UVC has been finished in what we believe to be a pseudo-authentic scheme to replicate G-ABRE, in which Arthur Butler flew from England to Australia in 1931.”