Three years before C.W.A Scott and Tom Campbell Black broke the record for flying from England to Australia in de Havilland DH88 Comet G-ACSS (an aircraft which forms part of the Shuttleworth Collection today), a very different British flying machine set the record.
A small, high wing, open cockpit design flown by Arthur Butler set the 1931 record at a little over nine days, an impressive feat for the day. This remarkable flight was made possible by the Comper Swift, a design marketed as the smallest light aeroplane in the world when it first emerged in 1930.
The Swift soon gained an impressive reputation with a 75hp engine propelling the aircraft to a top speed of 140mph and a range just shy of 400 miles. For 1930 those statistics had the makings of a great racer.
The Swift was a surprisingly successful export product, with examples going to 15 countries around the world. Such was its popularity around the world that over half of the entire production line were sold abroad.
Alongside the record flight to Australia in 1931 the Swift gained a number of other records during the early 1930s as many examples made their way around the British Empire.
With such good form in long distance records and racing, it was unsurprising that the Swift became a popular air racing machine at home as well. Following the first flight of the first prototype a Swift was present in every Kings Cup Air Race for the next 7 years.
The Shuttleworth Collection is home to Comper Swift “G-ACTF” – Originally registered in India. The owner at the time of construction was Alban Ali, who nicknamed this aircraft “Scarlet Angel”. Ali started an epic journey from India to London in 1933, stopping along the way to take part in an air race in Delhi, where he finished the second fastest of the day. Ali’s epic journey came to an untimely end though, thanks to an engine failure over Egypt. This historic machine joined the collection in 1996 and has been a regular performer at airshows over the years.
Though perhaps lacking the status of the racing aircraft which would soon follow in the run up to WW2, the Swift certainly left its mark on the long distance and air race flying world. An especially impressive feat for a small British firm and their miniature design.