Chrislea CH3 Super Ace Skyjeep Series 4 – a rara avis

Skyjeep - a rara avis!

The Chrislea Aircraft Company did many things wrong…it seemed that it was in the wrong place, at the wrong time, with the wrong product. British buyers of light aircraft couldn’t afford a new design with a novel control system (see entry on the Super Ace) which was overweight and under-performed. Not when hundreds of war-surplus Austers (to which the Super Ace had a passing resemblance), DH 82A Tiger Moths,  Miles Magisters and Messengers were flooding the British market. Inevitably, the company turned turtle in 1952, and the remaining uncompleted airframes were scrapped. Just before it went under, Chrislea managed to undertake production of a series of six Chrislea CH3 Super Ace Skyjeep Series 4, a developed Super Ace, with conventional (stick and rudder) controls and a ‘taildragger’ undercarriage (at a time when this was the norm amongst light aircraft); it had a more powerful 155hp Blackburn Cirrus Major 3 engine, and a removeable rear decking, to enable it to fulfil the utility aircraft role.  One was sold to Argentina and at least two to Australia. The Australian registration, VH-BRP, was intended to apply to a different airframe, but there was a serious fire on board the freighter taking it to Australia in 1951, when she docked at Port Said, Egypt, which destroyed that particular Skyjeep, so the registration was applied to another aircraft! It was re-registered VH-RCD in 1956, following an extensive rebuild (which saw her wearing a striking deep purple and cream colour scheme). In 1963, you could have found the aircraft hangared at Bankstown Airport, New South Wales, Australia (IATA code BWU, ICAO code YSBK) in a very delapidated state, with engine and propeller removed (she had previous worn the Australian registration VH-OLD).

Somehow the Skyjeep made her way back to the UK to assume her original registration, G-AKVR, and was then fully restored, becoming the ONLY survivor of her type. At the eleventh GVFWE at Hullavington, we manage to arrange participation by the one Skyjeep and the last two flying Super Ace aircraft on the British register, and parked them adjacent to each other in the historic section of the Aircraft Park. To say that this caused a ‘reverential scrum’ of aviation photographers would be no exaggeration, as they took hundreds of photographs of the total British Chrislea population.

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