The CMC Leopard: A Jet Beside the Highway

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The CMC Leopard: A Jet Beside the Highway

The first prototype CMC Leopard G-BKRL in flying condition with the Noel Penny turbines

Image Credit

                   The difference between a runway and a highway is ironic. Whereas the former refers to a paved level path designed for airplanes to land and take-off, it is simply a runway where if you have no basic knowledge of its connection to airports, it is nothing more than a marked concrete or asphalted path to "run" as the literal meaning so dictates. Highway on the other hand despite of its literal meaning will not lead you anywhere higher as the word “high” may promise because ironically, it just refers to a main road used by motorists for travelling in between places where the speed limit is a bit higher than minor roads in between communities. The great irony of it all as few may realize, runways are used for airplanes while highways ignoring the word “high” preceding “ways” are solely intended for land vehicles which can’t go any higher unless they break the speed limit and bounce off the side barrier along an interchange and be sent flying before landing in wreckage.

The aircraft repainted with red markings for welcoming visitors to the incoming Bournemouth Air Festival this 19th-22nd August 2010.

                The fate of an aircraft after its usable lifespan if it survives any bad landing or an emergency landing after engine failure may be a cross between the usage of runways and highways for their intended purpose. As for this article, a cancelled jet project found a temporary place beside the highway. A perfect coincidence for the words “jet” and “high” because they seem to be on the same level of usage (literally) just on a different perspective. The jet aircraft was a CMC Leopard. Back in the 80s where the trend was set by the emergence of midsize jets as an option against operating bigger and expensive business jets, aircraft manufacturers were competing on the best design to win the lead on this emerging market. Ian Chichester-Miles a former Chief Research Engineer at Bae (British Aerospace) designed the aircraft which became the basis for a prototype built by the Designability Company. The prototype with registry no. G-BKRL took off on 12 December 1988 but just like the fate of the BD-5J Micro (which didn’t succeed owing to the closure of Hirth), the famed James Bond jet from Octopussy, the engine manufacturer (Noel Penny Turbines) ceased operations thereby leading to the grounding of the prototype.

Judging from the registry indicated at the flying image, this is the same aircraft as above with the no. G-BKRL on the vertical stabilizer.

A semi front side view of the Leopard Jet.

A rear view with the ratio of the engine size to aircraft size fully visible.

Close up of those twin turbines attached at the pylons along the empennage at the rear side of the aircraft.

The front view making it a little less than a fully flyable plane.

                   A second, much improved prototype (G-BRNM) went to production based on Williams International turbofans and flew in April 1997 but the project was ultimately cancelled bringing the two prototypes at the protective care of The Bournemouth Museum. But even there, the fates of the prototypes were uncertain as the museum closed in 2008. The second prototype finally got relocated at Midland Air Museum in Coventry, UK while the first prototype at the custody of Bournemouth Aviation Museum found a temporary place at the side of the highway at A35 near Wessex Way (roundabout) and St. Paul’s Road, Bournemouth. A jet on the highway is an understatement to the fate of a promising aircraft project with a brighter future ahead earning a spot at the side of the road to welcome motorists (the outside livery speaks for itself). Sometimes machines have two choices given the chance if they could exercise their options. Fighter planes of World War II were usually at a default option to have a worthy (operational) life flying missions before being hit by the enemy and ending up in metallic shreds, this one had a less colourful life in peacetime and made just a point for its designer before ending beside the highway in one piece. Of course, the CMC Leopard jet remained a worthy aircraft for this author to merit being featured.

There it was, just a jet beside the highway.


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The Jet from Octopussy                             

The Republic RC-3 Seabee: A Flying Summerhouse                         

The Rockwell/MBB X-31                            

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