Westland Lysander, Duxford 2010 ©Nigel Key
Army Co-operation / Liaison.
15 June 1936.
The Westland Lysander was designed by Arthur Davenport and 'Teddy' Petter as an army co-operation aircraft.
After considerable feedback from RAF pilots, emphasis in the design was given to field of view, good low speed handling and Short Take Off and Landing (STOL).
Powered by a Bristol Mercury air-cooled radial engine with high wings for increased visibility and fixed landing gear the Lysander had its first flight on the 15th of June 1936.
The fixed undercarriage was covered with spats, to help wind resistance, which could be fitted with stub wings to carry light bombs or supply canisters.
The reverse taper at the root of the wings give the Lysander its distinctive look giving the impression of a bent gull wing although the wings were actually perfectly straight.
Despite the Lysanderís antiquated appearance it was quite aerodynamically advanced, fitted with automatic wing slots and slotted flaps and a variable incidence tail plane, giving the Lysander a stalling speed of only 65 mph (104 km/hr).
The Lysander featured the largest Elektron alloy extrusion made at the time, a single piece inside the spats supporting the wheels. The wings had a girder type construction with a light wood frame forming the aerodynamic shape. The wing itself was covered in fabric with the front spar and struts manufactured from extrusions.
The Westland Lysander was produced from 1938, with 1,786 built.
Bristol Mercury XX or XXX, producing 870 hp.
3 or 4 x 0.303Ē Browning machine guns
500 lb (227 kg) Bomb load
The Lysander first entered service in June of 1938 as artillery spotters and message dropping aircraft in an army co-operation role.
As WWII broke out the Lysander Mk I had been largely replaced by the Mk II and had 4 Squadrons to accompany the British Expeditionary Force in France in October 1939 with a further Squadron being formed in early 1940.
After the German Invasion of France on the 10th of May 1940, the Lysanderís were used as Spotters and light bombers but they made easy targets for the Luftwaffe even when escorted by Hurricanes and were withdrawn from France during the evacuation of Dunkirk.
Although vulnerable, the Lysander was still used on supply-dropping missions from England airbases but with some 118 being 'lost' over France and Belgium during May and June of 1940.
The Lysander was replaced from 1941 with camera-equipped fighters such as the Curtiss Tomahawk and the North American Mustang for reconnaissance duties and the Taylorcraft Auster as an artillery spotter.
Fourteen Squadrons of Lysanderís were formed for air-sea rescue duties dropping dinghies to downed RAF aircrew in the English Channel during 1940 to 1941.
In August 1941, No. 138 Squadron was formed which undertook 'Special Duties' maintaining clandestine contact with the French Resistance. The Lysander Mk III was among the aircraft in this Squadron and was fitted with a fixed ladder to enable agents to be inserted and retracted in France or to pick up Allied Aircrew who had evaded capture after being shot down.
|Crew - 1 or 2|
|Length - 30ft 6in (9.30m)|
|Wingspan - 50ft 0in (15.24m)|
|Height - 14ft 6in (4.42m)|
|Empty Weight - 4,365lb (1,980kg)|
|Max. Weight - 6,318lb (2,866kg)|
|Max. Speed - 212 mph (341 km/h)|
|Range - 600 miles (966 km)|