Whilst Britain and her Commonwealth nations were amply served by the De Havilland Tiger Moth as a preliminary single engine trainer in the late 1930s, the British Air Ministry realised that an advanced twin-engine aircraft would be required to assist students in their transition to heavier bomber aircraft.
The existing Avro Anson was initially earmarked to fulfil this role but it was felt that a more advanced, versatile and challenging aircraft would be required which was capable of reproducing similar flight characteristics of many contemporary front-line aircraft such as the Vickers Wellington, Handley Page Hampden, Halifax and even the heavy four-engined Lancaster which was just coming into service.
A low-wing counter-levered monoplane with a semi Monocoque fuselage and conventional landing gear, the Airspeed was powered by two Armstrong Siddeley Cheetah X air-cooled radial engines, capable of generating 340hp each.
As a general purpose training aircraft, the Airspeed was produced in two variants; the Mk I, with its dorsal gun turret, and the Mk II with no turret but featuring dual controls.
Nicknamed the ‘Ox-Box’ the Airspeed Oxford was normally operated by a crew of three with seating arrangements able to be altered to suit various training missions.
The Mk II cockpit was outfitted with dual flying controls with seats for both a pilot and either a navigator or second pilot alongside.
When used for bomb aimer training, the second set of controls would be removed and the freed-up space was used instead to accommodate a bomb-aimer laying prone in the nose.
As a navigation trainer, the second seat was pushed back so that it would line up with the chart table, with the aft of the cockpit used as a wireless operator station.
The Airspeed Mk I's, dorsal turret was located amidships; it could be used for training navigators, bomb-aimers, wireless operators, air gunners and camera operators. The centre section could contain up to 16 x 11 lb. practice bombs which were controlled via bomb-release switches installed at the pilot and bomb-aimers’ stations.
By the close of WWII, over 8750 Airspeed Oxfords had been produced with many exported to other Commonwealth nations as part fo the Empire Air Training Scheme including Canada and Australia’, with the RAAF receiving 391 Oxford Mk I and IIs.
An odd feature of the Airspeed was the knotted rope attached to the back of the pilot seat running back to the rear of the aircraft, to assist with evacuation.
It was discovered that should the aircraft
go into a flat spin
(which was almost impossible to recover from), the centrifugal forces of the spinning aircraft would immediately hurl the crew to the rear of the plane beyond the escape hatch, once they had released their seatbelts.
The rope was installed after flight test engineers placed their Oxford into an intentional spin to see if they could bring it back under control from 18,000ft.
No matter what they attempted, the aircraft refused to level out and continued spinning forcing the crew to attempt a bail out. Unfortunately, as soon as they unbuckled their harnesses they were thrown to the rear of the aircraft where they remained helpless as their spiral descent continued.
Miraculously the aircraft was in such a flat spin when it finally hit the ground, that it skidded sideways over the surface of a water-logged field where the tail section hit a haystack and broke off.
The crew walked away from the wreckage relatively unharmed with the knotted rope, their only positive remedy for an Oxford in a spin.
All Airspeed Oxford Instruments listed below come complete with detailed Scale Model, Mango Wood Stand & Plaque plus Printed Fact Sheet featuring photo of instrument in aircraft cockpit.
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AIRSPEED OXFORD MK XIIID 6/A437 ALTIMETER
Rare, 1943 British Air Ministry issued Airspeed Oxford Mk XIIID...