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G-ACLL Leopard Moth

De Havilland DH85 Leopard Moth G-ACLL

The Leopard Moth was designed in 1933 as a luxury three seat private aircraft. The prototype first flew on the 27th May 1933 piloted by Capt. Geoffrey de Havilland. On 8th July 1933 he won the King's Cup Air Race in the aircraft averaging 139.51 m.p.h. over the course. The aircraft was immensely popular and a total of 132 Leopard Moths were built until production ceased in 1937. Amongst the many famous personalities owning these aircraft was Sir Derwent Hall Caine who acquired the third aircraft off the production line. He appropriately registered it G-ACHC. This aircraft in fact finished third in the race won by Capt. de Havilland but was flown by A.J. Stryan.

Many Leopard Moths were used for record breaking flights. The last of these finished on 3rd May 1937 when H.F. Broadbent landed at Lympne Airport in Kent having flown from Darwin in Australia in 6 days, 8 hours and 25 minutes, a solo British record unbroken to this day. Sadly, many of these aircraft were impressed into the R.A.F. at the outbreak of the Second World War and very few survived their service careers. Of all the 132 aircraft built only seven were known to exist by 1983.

The 27th production aircraft it was first registered on 5th February 1934 to F.H. Matusch of Belgravia. He flew the aircraft until 1940 when it was impressed into the R.A.F. It was used by Anti Aircraft Co-operation Units at Ringway and Castle Bromwich until Sept 1942. It was then transferred to the Airborne Forces Experimental Establishment at Sherburn-in-Elmet and operated there until involved in an accident in Jan 1944. After repair it was stationed at Beaulieu and suffered another incident early in 1945. The aircraft was demobbed in ]946 and sold to Rollasons. They returned the aircraft to the civil register and refurbished the airframe and sold it to Moreton Air Services. Moretons again sold the aircraft in 1949 to C.P. Godsal of Air Courier. Little is known of the aircraft for this period save that it was entered for the 1950 Daily Express Air Race from Hurn to Herne Bay and carried the racing number 37.

The aircraft was found in the rafters of a hangar at Blackpool in Sept 1959 by Ron Paine of Derby Airways (later to become British Midland). It was restored to flying condition and remained with this airline until Dec. 1969 when it again passed into private hands. During the latter part of it's ownership with British Midland it had done very little flying and was in need of a major rebuild. This was done and the aircraft flew again on 14th Oct 1973. J.V. Skirrow was not to enjoy the fruit of his endeavours for very long. On 3rd August 1975 it suffered severe damage in a landing accident at Tollerton. The cost of repair prohibited the owner from undertaking another rebuild and so the aircraft was dismantled and stored at Wickenby until 1978.

Tony Haig Thomas bought the aircraft and by Jan 1979 had finished the rebuild. He flew it for one and a half years and then sold it yet again to E.N. Grace in July 1980. The new owner had it for even shorter, a mere three months. It then passed into the hands of the present owners who flew it to the Isle of Man on 2nd August 1981. It is now based at Jurby.