A short-lived company, but a long-lived Civilian

Civilian Aircraft Company Coupe 2

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.


9 comments on “A short-lived company, but a long-lived Civilian”

  1. Book: A Civilian Affair by Eduard F. Winkler
    all about G-ABNT
    Flight Recorder Publications
    Still available from Crecy


  2. I was lucky to see this aircraft in storage in Carmarthen,we had seen a note in Wrecks and Relics and after an hour asking all over town we found the shop.It was amazing to see the dismantled aircraft and engines surrounded by old ledgers full of copperplate writing. In the cockpit were all the logbooks and rally rosettes, a great time warp feeling. We wrote an article which was published in Control Column with some monochrome photos.


    • Thank you for the information, Gary; much appreciated. It is a great thrill to see the Civilian at various air rallies and events, particularly since she has the last ‘active’ Genet engine. I’ll be featuring the Genet in an upcoming blog entry. Thanks for stopping by!


  3. Other active Genet engines..Southern Martlett under restoration south Uk , same owner planning Moth replica with actual Genet. Robinson Redwing flying with Shuttlelworth Trust and Avro Cadet EI- ALP republic of Ireland.


    • Goodness! Thank you so much……obviously having a senior moment, here. Ahhh! The Shuttleworth’s Martlett is the ex-Butlin’s one (G-AAYX). They don’t appear to own the Redwing – at least it’s not in their collection list, (that’s down to Robert Burgess, according to GINFO), and it appears to be based at Sywell (it may have moved by now). I was hoping to see the Irish Type 626, but that will have to wait until my neice invites me over (AND I win a suitable lottery!). Thanks again


  4. […] It is quite possible that this is the same aeroplane as in our iconic photograph? It can be viewed here on: Shortfinals’s Blog at https://shortfinals.wordpress.com/2009/04/02/a-short-lived-civilian/ […]


  5. The Hull Municipal Aerodrome was actually at Hedon a town outside Hull. An early picture (taken in 1931) of the Civilian Coupé 02 pictured above is kept in Hedon Museum and is one of the iconic images associated with Hedon’s long-gone aerodrome.

    See at http://hedonblog.wordpress.com/2010/06/24/hedon-aerodrome-iconic-image/


    • I am really glad that the Civilian Coupe has survived; it is a part of the British aviation heritage from the golden age of the 1920s and 30s. I have another (close up) shot of the nose of the aircraft which I will be featuring in the blog, later. Cheers!


  6. This aircraft gave a fine display at Bexhill-on-Sea Roaring 20s event on 18th July 2015.


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