1956 to 1965



Design of the second aircraft type to bear the name "Argosy" was commenced in September 1956, following intensive market research into freighting conditions all over the world.   Various submissions for a Military transport aircraft had previously been made to the Ministry of Aviation without a resulting order, and the decision to go ahead on Company funds was particularly outstanding.  Leading personalities in this venture were Mr. W.S.D. Lockwood, Director and General Manager, and Mr. E.D. Keen, Director and Chief Designer.


In order to make efficient use of research and test facilities the Design Department was moved to Whitley at the commencement of the programme.   Extra equipment included a large modern fatigue testing machine and two water tanks for testing the pressure fuselage, one for static tests and the second, a fatigue specimen.  First flight took place in January 1959.


By December 1960 the acceptance testing had been completed and the first aircraft of an order for seven from Riddle Airlines had been delivered.  Within one month of receiving this aircraft, it was engaged on a rigorous Logair freighting contract, which entailed intensive flying under arduous conditions.  Subsequently, the aircraft were operated by Capitol and Zantop airlines on the same task.  The remaining three aircraft of the first ten were bought by B.E.A. for freighting on European routes.  As of July 1965, six aircraft of the original batch had each flown more than 10,000 hours.


After some months of negotiation, the company received a contract from the Ministry of Aviation in September 1959 for a number of Argosys to a Military Transport specification.   The multi role operations entailed many changes to the civil aircraft standard, to the extent that it was virtually a new design.  Orders totalling 56 aircraft followed the first flight in March 1961, and by July 1965 the aggregate flying times in Service amounted to nearly 100,000 hours.  Development to meet modern needs was pursued, culminating in such facilities as an auto landing capability and a "buddy tanker" role, all such work being under the direction of Mr. D.A. Woodley, as Transport Aircraft Project and Development Manager.


1961 was the period of company mergers following the Government white Paper on the industry.  It was at this time that Gloster Aircraft was joined with A.W.A. to be known as "Whitworth Gloster Aircraft Limited".   As a further result, the responsibility for Beverley aircraft, also cargo handling and supply dropping, was transferred from Blackburn Aircraft Limited to Coventry in May 1962.


Later changes in Group organisation in 1962, resulted in a closer link between the Coventry firm and the former A.V. Roe factory at Manchester, both bearing the title "Hawker Siddeley Aviation, Avro Whitworth Division".


To return to the subject of Argosy civil aircraft development.  It had long been recognised that the Shackleton type wing did not meet modern "fail safe" standards.  Consequently, the Group authorised, as a private venture, the design and construction of a new box-spar wing having fail safe features.  A further ten aircraft were laid down, to embody this wing, also having integral fuel tanks instead of bag tanks.


Meanwhile, the three B.E.A. Argosy Series 102 aircraft had been operating so successfully that the airline decided to increase their freighting capacity and consequently contract agreement was made to supply 5 new Argosy Series 222 in place of 3 Series 102's returned to the firm for refurbishing and resale.  The first of the 222's was delivered to B.E.A. 28th January 1965 and the remaining four followed during the next six months.


During 1957, the firm were asked to convert a Meteor 11 to target towing duties using an M.L. Aviation Ltd. winch. The installation was successful and production orders followed.  The aircraft became known as Meteor TT 20. Targets in the first instance were 'sleeve' type, followed by 'dart' form and finally the Rushton (Flight Refuelling).


Some time after, in December 1961, a contract was placed with the firm to install the American 'Del Mar' winch, which has the advantage of a much longer "two" length.


The work of the Forward Project Section of the design department deserves some mention, since during the years 1960 to 1965 it was engaged on important projects concerning supersonic and V/STOL aircraft.   Studies on an 'M' wing were carried to the point of model tests in a high speed tunnel and, in addition, shot body tests with models were performed on this long range passenger transport concept, which was to achieve speeds of Mach 1.2.


Other activities included studies on a VTOL transport for B.E.A. "city-to-city" operation, a turbo-propeller military transport (AW 680) for STOL operations, a narrow delta supersonic VTOL aircraft and a maritime patrol aircraft for N.A.T.O.  A Noratlas aircraft fitted with lift engines was also considered as part of the V/STOL programme.


All this activity led up to the military transport for operations under STOL conditions, to be known as AW 681 (or H.S. 681).  As far back as 1961, this project was being pursued in the Coventry and Kingston design offices.   It was not until September 1963 however that a contract was received to allow work to go ahead on a firm basis.


Group policy decided that Woodford should be the design and production control centre and accordingly Mr. Keen moved there, together with certain key personnel to form the 681 Management Team, early in 1964. Soon after this, the Whitley design office was transferred back to Baginton for greater efficiency in communications etc.


By February 1965, drawing issues were beginning to flow into the shops, in fact more than 1000 had been issued, and a full scale fuselage mock up and a loading rig were well advanced, when the Government cancelled the project in favour of buying C130s at a lower sum.


This meant virtually the end for the Coventry organisation, since continuity of research, development and production was relying on the AW 681. The Group decided to close down Baginton at the end of July 1965, Bitteswell being retained as a repair organisation and for carrying out trial installations.


Design, commercial and production responsibility for the work in hand was transferred very largely to Manchester and Kingston.


As an historical footnote, A.W.A. was in good company in losing out to the C130.  A decade later, in the mid 1970s, Boeing and McDonnell Douglas engaged in a competition for an Advanced Medium STOL Transport to replace the C130.  Both companies developed two prototypes for evaluation by the US Air Force, but the US Government chose to continue with the C130 in preference to either of them.





Argosy 650

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Argosy 660

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AW 681

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