Model As were imported into Britain, followed by one Model B, and these
were typical of the aircraft to be built by the new company at
Thurmaston. Of braced high-wing monoplane configuration, with a
fabric-covered wing of composite wood and metal construction, the
aircraft featured a fuselage and tail unit that were of welded steel
tube with fabric covering. Accommodation within the enclosed cabin was
for two persons, seated side by side, and landing gear was of basic
non-retractable tailwheel type, with main unit shock absorption by
rubber bungee. Powerplant of the imported Model As consisted of one 40
hp (30 kW) Continental A-40 flat-four engine, and the Model B differed
by having a 50 hp (37 kW) A-50 engine from the same manufacturer.
An civil Auster in flight. Civil use was the original intention of the
equivalent to the Model A was designated originally Model C, but this
was soon to be redesignated Auster Plus C, reflecting the improved
performance resulting from the installation of a 55 hp (41 kW) Lycoming
O-145-A2 engine. Including the prototype (G-AFNW), 23 Plus Cs were
built. With a 90 hp (67 kW) Cirrus Minor I engine, the designation
changed to Plus D, and nine civil aircraft were completed as such
before the outbreak of World War II.
Of the 32 British-built
aircraft mentioned above, 20 of the Plus Cs and four of the Plus Ds
were impressed for service with the RAF. The Plus Cs, re-engined with
the Cirrus Minor for RAF use, became redesignated Plus C.2. Most of
these aircraft were used by No. 651 Squadron for evaluation of their
suitability for deployment in AOP (Air Observation Post) and
communications roles. This led to an initial order for 100 generally
similar aircraft for military use under the designation Auster Mk l.
The name Auster is latin for "warm southern wind".
Other than provision of
split trailing-edge flaps to improve short-field performance, Austers
were to change little throughout the war. During this time more than
1,600 were built for service use under the designations Auster Mk I, Mk
III, Mk IV and Mk V, with the Auster I entering service with No. 654
Squadron in August 1942. Only two Auster Mk IIs, with 130 hp (97 kW)
Lycoming 0-290 engines were built because of a shortage of the American
powerplant. This led to the Auster Mk III, which was basically
identical to the Auster Mk I but with a 130 hp (97 kW) Gipsy Major I
engine. The 470 Auster Mk IIIs were followed by 254 Auster Mk IVs,
which re-verted to the Lycoming engine, and introduced a slightly
larger cabin to provide space for a third seat. Major production
version was the Auster Mk V, of which approximately 800 were built, and
this differed from the Auster IV by introducing blind-flying
At the height of their
utilization, Austers equipped Nos. 652, 653, 657, 658, 659, 660, 661,
662, 664 and 665 Squadrons of the 2nd Tactical Air Force, and Nos 651,
654, 655, 656, 663, 666, 671, 672 and 673 Squadrons of the Desert Air
Force. They were also used in small numbers by associated Canadian and
Dutch squadrons. Their initial deployment in an operational role was
during the invasion of Algeria. and they were to prove an indispensable
tool in the Sicilian and Italian campaigns. Just three weeks after
D-Day, these unarmed light planes were in the forefront of the action
as the Allied armies advanced into France. Flown by British Army
officers, who had been trained by the RAF for service with the AOP (Air
Observation Post) squadrons, the Austers not only spotted for the
artillery, but a suitably equipped version also provided photographic
evidence of the effectiveness of the artillery action.
Company - Auster A.O.P. 6
The use of aircraft as
air observation posts for the army had its origins in World War I, and
in World War II a considerable number of American light aircraft types
were pressed into service for this purpose. In the UK, developments of
the pre-war US Taylorcraft design had resulted in a series of aircraft
from that company which was re-named Auster Aircraft in March 1946.
Last of the type to serve was the Auster Mk V with a 130 hp (97 kW)
Avco Lycoming engine.
As the end of the war
approached, it was decided to build a replacement for the Auster Mk V
using a British engine, and the Auster A.O.P. 6 appeared in 1945, with
a strengthened rear fuselage, increased fuel capacity, increased all-up
weight and more power. The engine was a 145 hp (108 kW) de Havilland
Gipsy Major VII, and lengthened landing gear struts were necessary to
provide clearance for the larger-diameter propeller. A significant
difference in appearance resulted from the installation of external
non-retractable aerofoil flaps. Of metal construction, these were
mounted behind the wing to enhance the aircraft's take-off performance.
Floats and skis were installed on some aircraft.
An initial production
run of 296 A.O.P. 6s was completed in 1949 but further production began
in 1952 and the total built by the end of the run was around 400. Of
these, 22 ex-British aircraft were delivered to the Belgian air force
and two were transferred to the Royal Hong Kong Auxiliary Air Force.
New aircraft were supplied to the Royal Canadian Air Force (36), South
African Air Force (5) and to the Arab Legion (4).
In his book Soldiers
in the Air, Brigadier Peter Mead compared the A.O.P. 6 with the
Auster Mk V. He emphasized that it had no artificial horizon and that
the aircraft, and therefore its controls, were heavier and clumsier,
and that it had inferior take-off performance. Indeed, the fact that
its take-off run was noticeably longer than its landing run. Mead
Insisted, instilled doubts and apprehension in many pilots when lining
up for take-off from a new, small field.
However the A.O.P. 6
served for a number of year until it began to be replaced by the Auster
A.O.P. 9 in 1955, and surplus A.O.P. 6s began to appear, being snapped
up for conversion to civil use the Auster Mk 6A and later, the Beagle
Company - Auster A.O.P. 9
A successor to the
Auster A.O.P. 6 was required in the British Army's A.O.P. squadrons in
the mid-1950s, and a completely new design was advanced as the Auster
A.O.P. 9. Of similar high-wing configuration to its predecessor, the
A.O.P.9 was of a slightly lower loaded weight, but had a considerably
more powerful engine, the 180 hp (134 kW) Blackburn Cirrus Bombardier
203 inline engine, giving greatly improved take-off and landing
performance. It could operate from ploughed fields and muddy surfaces,
thanks to robust landing gear with low-pressure tires, and in addition
to its A.O.P. role the aircraft could be used for light transport. The
rear cockpit floor was easily detachable and replaced by a new floor,
bringing within its scope such tasks as casualty evacuation,
photographic work and cable laying.
The prototype A.O.P. 9
flew at the maker's airfield on 19 March 1954 and deliveries began in
February 1955. The new aircraft was soon in action overseas, against
terrorists in Malaya with No. 656 Squadron in Operation 'Firedog'. A
leaflet-dropping sortie was the first operation for the A.O.P. 9, and
the type soon proved to be a valuable complement to the A.O.P.6 already
in that theatre, In September 1957 the Army Air Corps was formed,
taking over responsibility for A.O.P. work from the RAF. By that time
No. 656 Squadron had flown 143,000 sorties, more than any other unit in
With No. 653 Squadron
in Aden, engine problems began to impair operations seriously. A loss
of power when operating from strips at between 4000-7000 ft (1220-2135
m) meant a poor rate of climb, dangerous in view of hostile armed
tribesmen. However, by this time the army was thinking seriously of
helicopters for A.0.P. work, and funds were not available for Auster
improvements. A total of 145 was built, and some were supplied to the
Indian army, and the Indian and South African air forces.
In 1960 the Auster
Aircraft Co was bought out (along with Miles Aircraft) by the Pressed
Steel Company and formed into the British Executive and General
Aircraft (BEAGLE). BEAGLE in turn was bought out in 1966, and in 1968
the Auster rights were sold to Hampshire and Sussex Aviation.
Taylorcraft Auster Mk V)
Type: Three Seat
Light Liaison, Communications, Observation & Civil Touring
An enclosed cabin with seats for three, two side-by-side with dual
controls and a seat immediately behind the second pilot. Glazing the
same as the Mk IV with a domed Perspex roof-light, with both side
windows opening. Cabin heating, two large doors and armour protection
for the pilot were also provided.
Gilbert Taylor of The Taylorcraft Aircraft Corporation of America
(formerly Taylorcraft Aviation Company). Taylor's original company had
been acquired by William Piper, for whom he designed the E-2 Cub. They
parted company in 1935, and Taylor went on to form the Taylor-Young
Aeroplane Company which produced the Taylorcraft.
Taylorcraft Aeroplanes (England) Limited based at Thurmaston,
Leicestershire (Britannia Works at Melton Road) under licence by The
Taylorcraft Aircraft Corporation of America. On the 21 November 1938
Taylorcraft Aeroplanes (England) Limited was registered as a Private
company with both production and selling rights for the British Empire
and Europe. The rights were negotiated by Alexander Lance Wykes who
formed Taylorcraft Aeroplanes (England) Limited to build the aircraft.
Early in the war the company acquired a second production facility at
the County Flying Group Airfield on Gaddesby lane in Rearsby (Rearsby
Airfield). By 1940 the company had become a Ministry of Aircraft
Production Repair Centre and by the war's end had over 10 plants in
Thurmaston, Syston, Mountsorrel and Rearsby. Alexander Lance Wykes, was
killed while demonstrating a Auster Mk IV in 1945, and was replaced by
Frank Bates as Managing Director. In March 1946 the British company
became the Auster Aircraft Limited when the original Taylorcraft
I) 90 hp (67 kW) Cirrus Minor I engine. (Mk III) One 130 hp (97 kW) D.H.
Gipsy Major I 4-cylinder engine. (Mk IV optional) One 130 hp (97 kW)
D.H. Gipsy Major I 4-cylinder engine. (Mk IV and Mk V) One 130 hp (97
kW) Lycoming O-209-3 flat-four 4-cylinder horizontally-opposed
air-cooled piston engine driving a fixed pitch wooden airscrew. (J/1
Autocrat) One 100 hp (74.6 kW) Cirrus Minor II 4-cylinder engine.
Maximum speed 130 mph (209 km/h) at sea level; cruising speed 112 mph
(180 km/h) at 1,000 ft (305 m); service ceiling 15,100 ft (4600 m) with
an absolute ceiling of 18,200 ft (5550 m); stalling speed (flaps up) 38
mph (61 km/h); stalling speed (flaps fully down) 30 mph (48 km/h);
initial rate of climb 800 ft (244 m) per minute; climb to 15,000 ft
(4575 m) in 46 minutes; take-off run (with flaps) 75 yards (68 m).
15 Imperial gallons (68.18 litres). An external long-range tank of 8
Imperial gallons (36.36 litres) could also be carried to extend the
range of 220 miles (352 km) on internal fuel.
Weight: Empty 1,050 lbs
(476 kg) with a maximum take-off weight of 1,920 lbs (827 kg); wing
loading (maximum) 9.87 lbs/sq ft (48.2 kg/sq m); power loading 14
lbs/hp (6.36 kg/hp).
36 ft 0 in (10.97 m); length 22 ft 5 in (6.83 m); height 8 ft 0 in
(2.44 m); wing area 167.0 sq ft (15.51 sq m).
Variants: Plus C
(civil), Plus D (civil), Auster Mk I. Mk II (AOP 3 - Lycoming), Mk III
(AOP 3 - Gypsy Major), Mk IV (AOP 4), Mk V (AOP 5), J.1 (civil), AOP 6,
(Optional) Standard communications and navigation equipment. The
Auster Mk V introduced a full blind-flying panel driven by a mechanised
vacuum-pump to cater to bad weather flying on urgent communication
duties. The auxiliary trimming surface below the tailplane was replaced
by a standard elevator trimmer.
Completion date (first prototype) 24 April 1939; first flight
(prototype - civil registration G-AFNW) 3 May 1939 from Sir Lindsay
Everardís airfield at Ratcliffe on the Wreake.
Britain, Canada (RCAF), Australia (RAAF), Netherlands (Free Dutch
Forces), New Zealand (post-war).