Aviation Historian 8
R.Riding - The Aeroplane that Flies Itself
The prototype CH.3 Series 4 Skyjeep G-AKVS with its original smaller fins in 1949. The hinged rear decking opened up to reveal a compartment fitted with special rails and support-carrying rollers, into which a stretcher could be fitted. A medical attendant would have sat with the pilot in the front cabin.
The Series 2 Super Ace production line at Exeter in April 1948. By the summer of that year, all was not well at Chrislea and the factory was closed for two months owing to ‘‘material shortages”, a result of financial difficulties with the company’s suppliers.
The sole CH.3 Series 1 Ace, G-AHLG, in its original configuration with a single fin and rudder. The large cabin, around which the aircraft had largely been designed, created turbulent airflow which tended to blanket the tail surfaces at low speeds. Test pilot Rex Stedman had considerable difficulty making turns during early flights.
The prototype CH.3 Series 2 Super Ace, G-AKFD, initially retained the Chrislea control system but was ultimately fitted with a standard rudder bar, as were the majority of production Super Aces. The prototype was crated for Australia in March 1949 as VH-BRP, but was destroyed in a ship fire at Port Said a few weeks later.
The Skyjeep was fitted with standard flight controls, but the rubber-covered footprint rudder pedals were still unusual, being placed at a slight angle to the floor and operated harmonium-style. Flight Editor Maurice Smith described using the pedals as “taking a little getting used to, unless one frequently dances on one’s points...”
A series of publicity photographs of the Ace, showing its novel features, including (left) the simple cabin, unusual “steering-wheel” flying controls and door designed for easy access, and (right) the car-type upper cowl­ing, hinged around a line on the starboard side. The lower cowling could be quickly detached as a complete unit.
Donald Lowry, who took over from Rex Stedman as Chrislea's test pilot in 1949, also assumed the role of sales and publicity manager for the company.
The first batch of nine Super Aces lined up at Exeter in the summer of 1948. Chrislea announced that ‘‘as soon as the material supply position improves, it is hoped to put the next batch in hand” and that “over­seas interest in the machine has been encouraging”.
Within three weeks of its first flight the Ace had been fitted with twin fins and rudders and the dihedral of the wings had been reduced. The aircraft was ultimately withdrawn from use in January 1949 and scrapped at Exeter in the spring of 1952.
In the flight control system devised by Chrislea, all control was effected by a single wheel mounted on a column protruding from the dashboard on a universal joint. Unfortunately the system was not self-centring, meaning that it was extremely difficult to find a level/straight control position to work from.
Chrislea CH3 Super Ace
Designed to meet the specifications issued by the Civil Air Guard for a cheap and simple aircraft with which to train civilian reserve pilots, the cunningly named Chrislea LC.1 Airguard was completed in the late summer of 1938 and registered G-AFIN. Its foreign engine precluded its selection and only one was built.
Sporting its dapper undercarriage fairings, or “spats”, and its final dashing pale blue and white colour scheme, the sole Airguard awaits another flight from Heston. It appears that the aircraft was never evaluated by the Air Ministry for Civil Air Guard service, possibly owing to its foreign engine, but also perhaps because of the perception that its neutral stability may have limited its value as a military trainer.
The Airguard makes a low pass sans spats, which were found to clog up with mud and debris and were often removed. The undercarriage was of a simple half-fork type and employed eight rubber buffers under compression. The rebound was taken on one buffer with a split fibre bush bearing on a conical shoulder to serve as a check. Reportedly, the under­carriage legs could be replaced in less than 30min.
A three-view of the Bianchi Survey, designed by British aviation pioneer Doug Bianchi in response to a questionnaire published by aviation publication The Light Plane in 1947. The four-seat touring design looks remarkably modern by contemporary standards, and similar in configuration to the Beagle Pup, which made its first flight two decades later.