Luscombe – a sad tale

Don Luscombe was a gifted aeronautical designer, who after his service with the US Army in France during WW1, was responsible for the excellent Central States Aircraft Co. series of fabric-covered, steel-tube framed Monocoupe aircraft (the prototype first flew in 1927). Monocoupes were successfully raced against bigger, more powerful aircraft, and often won. Don Luscombe left to form his own company and concentrated on building all-metal aircraft, something which had not been done on a large scale before. The company sales slogan became ‘No Wood – No Nails – No Glue’. Perhaps the most successful Luscombe design was the Model 50, better known as Series 8 or Silvaire, beginning with the 8A in 1938 and culminating with the 8F, post-war. Despite the superior performance (on lower horsepower) than their steel-tube framed bretheren, not a single major military contract was awarded to the company during WW2. This might have been due to the fact that Don Luscombe had been forced out of his own company in 1939 due to a ‘proxy fight’, and that the the firm was taken over by the Alien Property Control Division of the US Treasury Department, because the person who had taken the company over, one Leopold Klotz, was an Austrian citizen! The Government made Luscombe manufacture parts for Grumman Corporation aircraft until 1944. There were many changes of location and ownership post-war, but production of the Series 8 finally finished in 1960.

G-AKUI, built in 1947 as N45937, is seen here being judged by Arthur Ord-Hume, as part of the Great Vintage Flying Weekend at Hullavington, Wiltshire. Despite having the designation 8E, it can be seen to have been fitted with the squared-off fin, typical of the last 8F models, as built by TEMCO.

Sadly, this beautiful example of the marque is no more. It was destroyed in a mid-air collision over Staffordshire on 16th December, 2007. It is thought that G-AKUI had just made a collision-avoidance turn because of the presence of an unidentified aircraft, but, unfortunately, this put it squarely in the path of a Pacific Aerospace 750XL, (on the New Zealand register as ZK-KAY). The 750XL had its left main gear torn off, but G-AKUI crashed, killing both occupants. ZK-KAY then made an emergency landing at East Midlands International Airport, EGNX, and the three persons onboard survived without injury. A truly tragic accident.

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