Tag Archives: Sir W.G. Armstrong Whitworth Aircraft Limited

15 June 1928

Captain Gordon Percy Olley, M.M., with Imperial Airways’ Handley Page W.8b G-EBBI, R.M.A. Prince Henry, circa 1926. (Unattributed)

15 June 1928: Imperial Airways’ Captain Gordon P. Olley flew an Armstrong Whitworth A.W.154 Argosy Mk.I, G-EBLF, City of Glasgow, with 18 passengers aboard, from Croydon to Edinburgh Turnhouse in a race with the London and North Eastern Railways’ famed Class A-1 Flying Scotsman. The apple green steam-powered 4–6–2 Pacific-type locomotive pulled the world’s fastest passenger train in express service from London, England, to Glasgow, Scotland.

Imperial Airways’ Armstrong Whitworth Argosy Mk.I G-EBLF, City of Glasgow. (Unattributed)

Flight reported:

Train v. Aeroplane

     A novel “stunt” was carried out on June 15 when a simultaneous journey was made from London to Edinburgh by train and aeroplane—the “Flying Scotsman” and the Imperial Airways Armstrong-Whitworth air liner “City of Glasgow” respectively. After breakfast at the Savoy Hotel, the two parties of travellers proceeded to their respective points of departure—King’s Cross and Croydon. Train and aeroplane both departed at the same time, 10 a.m., the “City of Glasgow” being piloted by Capt. G. P. Olley, who was accompanied by Mr. J. Birkett, aged 79, a retired L.N.E.R. engine driver, Air Vice-Marshal Sir Vyell Vyvyan and Maj. Brackley. Capt. G. P. Jones, Imperial Airways pilot, was a passenger on the train! The “City of Glasgow” flew via the East Coast, and made stops at Bircham, Newton, and Cramlington; it arrived at Turnhouse Aerodrome, Edinburgh, 15 minutes before the “Flying Scotsman” reached Waverley Station.

FLIGHT The Aircraft Engineer & Airships, No. 1017. (No. 25 Vol. XX.), 21 June 1928, at Page 464, Column 2

Gordon Olley’s pilot license, issued 16 September 1919. (Air Ministry)

Gordon Percy Olley had been an aircraft mechanic during World War I, then became an observer. He was next trained as a fighter pilot flying Nieuport 17 and 27 fighters and is credited with 10 aerial victories between 1 June and 14 October 1917. He was awarded the Military Medal for bravery, and commissioned as a second lieutenant in the Royal Flying Corps. After the War he became a civil aviator. Olley was the first pilot to have logged more than 1,000,000 air miles (1,609,344 kilometers).

Armstrong Whitworth A.W.154 Argosy Mk.I G-EBLF, City of Glasgow. (Unattributed)
Armstrong Whitworth A.W.154 Argosy Mk.I G-EBLF, City of Glasgow. (Unattributed)

City of Glasgow was the first of three Argosy Mk.I airliners built by Sir W. G. Armstrong Whitworth Aircraft Limited for Imperial Airways. It made its first flight 16 May 1925. A three-engine, three-bay biplane, it was 65 feet (19.812 meters) long and had a wingspan of 90 feet, 7½ inches (27.623 meters). The total wing area was 1,886 square feet (175.2 square meters). Its maximum takeoff weight was 19,200 pounds (8,709 kilograms). The Argosy was described as an “exceptionally comfortable airplane to fly in. . .”

The Argosy Mk.I was powered by three air-cooled, Normally-aspirated 1,511.89-cubic-inch-displacement (24.775 liter) Armstrong Siddeley Jaguar Series IIIA two-row 14-cylinder radial engines, rated at 385 horsepower at 1,700 r.p.m., and 425 horsepower at 1,900 r.p.m. The direct-drive engines turned two-bladed propellers.

The Argosy had a cruising speed of 90–95 miles per hour (145–153 kilometers per hour) and maximum speed of 110 miles per hour (177 kilometers per hour). Its maximum range was 400 miles (644 kilometers).

Three-view drawing of Armstrong Whitworth Argosy Mk.I (NACA)

During the airliner-vs.-passenger train race, the Argosy made three refueling stops which required a total of 1 hour, 24 minutes. Captain Olley and his airliner completed the 390-mile (627.6 kilometer) journey approximately 15 minutes faster than the train.

City of Glasgow was later upgraded to the Argosy Mk.II standard, which used the Jaguar Mk.IVA gear-reduction engines, rated at 420 horsepower. G-EBLF was withdrawn from use at Croydon, December 1934.

mperial Airways’ Armstrong Whitworth A.W.154 Argosy Mk.1, G-EBLF, City of Glasgow
Imperial Airways’ Armstrong Whitworth A.W.154 Argosy Mk.1, G-EBLF, City of Glasgow. (Unattributed)

The Flying Scotsman is a Standard Gauge 4-6-2 Pacific steam-powered railway locomotive produced by the Doncaster Works, Great Northern Railway’s “Plant” at Doncaster, South Yorkshire, England. It was built in 1923 as a Class A-1 locomotive for the London and North Eastern Railway. In January 1947, it was rebuilt to the Class A-3 configuration. It was later renumbered 502, 103 and 60103. Flying Scotsman set two world records for steam locomotives, for speed and distance.

The locomotive with its tender is 70 feet, 5-1/8 inches (21.463 meters) long, 13 feet, 1 inch (3.988 meters) high and weighs 156 tons, 12 centals (350,640 pounds, or 159,048 kilograms). The six driving wheels each have a diameter of 6 feet, 8 inches (2.032 meters). At 85% of maximum boiler pressure (225 p.s.i., 15.17 Bar), the locomotive produces 32,909 pounds of tractive effort. Flying Scotsman was the first locomotive officially certified to have a speed of 100 miles per hour (161 kilometers per hour).

LNER rebuilt Gresley 4-6-2 'A3' class loco no 4472 FLYING SCOTSMAN at Swayfield Lodge on the Down Slow line with the 09:30 London Kings Cross to York charter which it will work between Peterborough and York. Sunday 27/02/1983. (David Ingham)
London and North Eastern Railway’s rebuilt Class A-3 Gresley 4-6-2 Pacific locomotive No. 4472, Flying Scotsman, at Swayfield Lodge on the Down Slow line with the 09:30 London Kings Cross-to-York charter, Sunday, 27 February 1983. (David Ingham)

The locomotive was originally assigned Great Northern Railway number 1472, before being taken over by LNER prior to completion. In 1924, it was given number 4472 and named Flying Scotsman. It was one of five Pacific-type express passenger locomotives designed by Sir Nigel Gresley that were used to pull the London-to-Edinburgh Flying Scotsman passenger train, beginning in 1928. The journey by rail was 392 miles (631 kilometers) and the train was able to complete this non-stop by carrying 9 tons (8.2 metric tons) of coal in a tender and replenishing the water supply with a system of troughs located between the rails.

Flying Scotsman was retired in 1963 after driving 2,076,000 miles (3,340,998 kilometers). The locomotive has been restored and is owned by the National Railway Museum. It was overhauled and began testing in January 2016.

L.N.E.R. 4-6-2 Three Cylinder Express Passenger Locomotive, the Flying Scotsman. at the National Railway Museum.

© 2018, Bryan R. Swopes

30 May 1949

John Oliver Lancaster, DFC. (Photograph courtesy of Neil Corbett, Test and Research Pilots, Flight Test Engineers)
John Oliver Lancaster, D.F.C. (Photograph courtesy of Neil Corbett, Test and Research Pilots, Flight Test Engineers)

30 May 1949: While testing a radical “flying wing” aircraft, the Rolls-Royce Nene-powered Armstrong Whitworth A.W.52, TS363, test pilot John Oliver (“Jo”) Lancaster, D.F.C., encountered severe pitch oscillations in a 320 mile per hour (515 kilometer per hour) dive. Lancaster feared the aircraft would disintegrate.

In the very first use of the Martin-Baker Mk1 ejection seat in an actual emergency, Lancaster fired the seat and was safely thrown clear of the aircraft. He parachuted to safety and was uninjured. The aircraft was destroyed.

Bernard I. Lynch, B.E.M., seated in the cockpit, with John O. Lancaster, D.F.C. (Photograph courtesy of Neil Corbett, Test & Research Pilots, Flight Test Engineers)

The Martin-Baker MK1 was developed by Bernard Ignatius (“Benny”) Lynch, B.E.M., a ground fitter for Martin-Baker Aircraft Co., Ltd., who tested it himself, ejecting from a test aircraft at 420 miles per hour (676 kilometers per hour) and 12,000 feet (3,658 meters). He eventually made more than 30 ejections. Lynch was awarded the British Empire Medal in the King’s 1948 New Year Honours.

The seat was launched with a two cartridge ejection gun, with an initial velocity of 60 feet per second (18.3 meters per second). After rising 24 feet (7.3 meters), a static line fired a drogue gun, deploying a 24-inch (0.61 meter) drogue parachute to stabilize the seat. The static line also actuated the seat’s oxygen supply. The pilot manually released himself from the seat, and opened his parachute by pulling the rip cord.

Martin-Baker Mk1 ejection seat (Martin-Baker)
Martin-Baker Mk1 ejection seat. The parachute is an Irvin I 24. (Martin-Baker)

As of 31 May 2023, 7,695 airmen worldwide have been saved by Martin-Baker ejection seats. 69 of these were with the Mk1.

Armstong Whitworth A.W. 52, TS363
Armstrong Whitworth AW.52, TS363

The Armstrong Whitworth A.W.52 was an all-metal, experimental two-place, twin engine, tailless “flying wing” airplane with retractable tricycle landing gear. The concept was that of an air mail aircraft. The cockpit was pressurized and offset to the left of the aircraft centerline. The two turbojet engines are in nacelles positioned almost entirely within the wing. The A.W.52 was 37 feet, 4 inches (11.354 meters) long with a wingspan of 90 feet (27.4 meters) and height of 14 feet, 4 inches (4.343 meters).

The wings were swept in two sections. From the fuselage to just outboard of the engines, the leading edges were swept to 17° 34′. From that point, called “the knuckle” in contemporary descriptions, the sweep increased to 34° 6′ to the wing tips. (A line from the ¼-chord points at the wing root and tip gave a sweep of 24¾°.) The inner wing had no dihedral, and the outer wing had 1° dihdreal. The wing incorporated a -5° twist between the root and tip. The total wing area was 1,314 square feet (122.1 square meters). Vertical fins and rudders are attached at the wing tips.

The airplane incorporated boundary layer control to delay the wing stalling in the area of the ailerons. It also used engine heat for deicing,

The A.W.52 had a empty weight of 19,662 pounds (9,055 kilograms) total weight of 32,700 pounds (14,832 kilograms).

The A.W.52 was powered by two Rolls-Royce RB.41 Nene Mk.I engines. The Nene was a single-shaft turbojet developed from the RB.40 Derwent. It had first been run in October 1944. The Nene was considerably larger than the Derwent and produced nearly double the thrust. It had a single-stage centrifugal-flow compressor and single-stage axial-flow turbine. It was rated at 5,000 pounds of thrust (22.24 kilonewtons) at 12,400 r.p.m. for takeoff. The second A.W.52 prototype, TS368, used two Derwent engines.

The A.W.52 had a maximum speed at Sea Level of 500 miles per hour (805 kilometers per hour) and 480 miles per hour (772 meters) at 36,000 feet (10,973 meters). Its maximum range was 1,500 miles (2,414 kilometers), flying 330 miles per hour (531 kilometers per hour) at 36,000 feet (10,973 meters).

Sir W. G. Armstrong Whitworth Aircraft Limited (AWA) advertisement from FLIGHT, 14 January 1948. (Aviation Ancestry)

© 2018, Bryan R. Swopes