99 Taylorcraft Auster Mk1

The early development of the Auster Mk1 took place in the United States by Taylorcraft. The type of aircraft was further developed and re-engined in the United Kingdom and was adopted by the Royal Airforce as an Air Observation Post (AOP). The first AOP Squadron 651, formed at Old Sarum on 1st August 1941. It was still part of the RAF but all of the pilots, drivers and signallers were from the Royal Artillery, while the RAF supplied the Adjutant, Engineer Officer and technicians. It is therefore the premier Army Air Corps squadron.

The Squadron’s first aircraft were an assortment of Taylorcraft Plus Cs and Ds, three Piper Cubs and a Stinson Voyager. Then, later that year all of 651’s aircraft were replaced by the version of the Plus D manufactured by Taylorcraft in Britain and renamed the Auster I.

Our aircraft LB312 was “demobbed” in 1946, a state that was to exist for over 30 years when she was restored to her former military glory.

Our Auster LB312

Our Auster LB312 was built by Taylorcraft in 1942 with construction number C/N 171 and is an Auster Mk1 model. It was delivered new to No. 651 (AOP) Squadron at Dumfries on 24 September 1942. At this remote Scottish airfield she went to ‘C’ flight and was flown by Major Warburton Croix-de-Guerre and Major Neathercote, who was to succeed Major Bazeley as Commanding Officer of the Squadron. Unfortunately, LB312’s career with 651 Squadron was cut short as it was damaged in landing on 2 October 1942 and removed to the Taylorcraft Aircraft Company aerodrome, Rearsby, Leicestershire for repair.

No. 653 Squadron was the next operator of LB312 from 31 December 1942 until 24 April 1943, when she was allotted to No. 43 Operational Training Unit at Old Sarum where it served as a training machine for Air Obsrvation Post (AOP) courses 5 to 23 until 6 October, 1944.

After a period with 3 Tactical Exercise Unit (TEU) at Aston Down, the aircraft spent 10 months with 234 Squadron. In 1946 she was “demobbed”, a state that was to exist for over 30 years.

Auster LB 312 joined the Historic Army Aircraft Flight in late 2020, flying into Middle Wallop from Netheravon via the services of a Light Aircraft Association pilot. After an initial inspection and it was decided to ground the aircraft pending a full technical review and associated reconditioning of the whole aircraft. The aim is to complete the reconditioning work by Spring 2023.

The aircraft was registered under the civilian aviation register as G-AHXE.

Technical Information and Development

Wing Span10.97 metres (36 feet 0 inches)
Length6.83 metres (22 feet 5 inches)
Height2.44 metres (8 feet 0 inches)
Weight, Empty499 kg (1,100 lb)
Weight, Gross– kg (- lb)
Cruising Speed– km/h (- mph)
Max Speed209 km/h (130 mph)
Rate of Climb– metres/minute (- feet/minute)
Service Ceiling5,490 metres (18,000 feet)
Range402 km (250 miles)
Power PlantBlackburn Cirrus Minor I 90 hp (67kW)
Technical Information: Auster Mk1

The Auster Mk1 is a development of one of Taylorcrafts original American designs the Model A. This aircraft had to be redesigned in the United Kingdom to meet the more stringent civil aviation standards and was called the Taylorcraft Model Plus C. It was fitted with the Lycoming O-145-A2 engine. One prototype and 22 production aircraft were built.

The Plus C design was re-engined with the Blackburn Cirrus Minor I egine and resdesignated the Taylorcraft Plus D. Most of the existing Plus Cs were also re-engined thith the Cirrus Minor engine and designated the Plus C2. Most of the civil Plus Cs and Ds were impressed into Royal Air Force service.

After the start of the Second World War, the company developed the model as an Air Observation Post (AOP). The aircraft were flown by officers of the Royal Artillery and used for directing artillery fire.

Prewar tests had identified the Taylorcraft Model D as the most suitable aircraft for the AOP role. Three aircraft were purchased from Taylorcraft and a trials unit, D Flight, under Major Charles Bazeley, Royal Artillery, formed at Old Sarum on 1 February 1940. The flight with three Austers and one Stinson Voyager, and three artillery and one RAF pilots, moved to France where they trained with artillery and practised fighter avoidance with Hurricanes before moving south to train with French artillery. The flight did not participate in the fighting and withdrew without loss to the UK. However, the War Office then ordered 100 Stinson L-1 Vigilants. The formation of the RAF Army Cooperation Command in December 1940 led to the RAF rejecting the very idea of a light AOP aircraft.

Intercession by General Alan Brooke led to an accommodation that led to the first AOP pilot course for artillery officers taking place in October 1940 and in 1941, the first AOP squadron, No. 651 Squadron, formed. The Stinson Vigilants were delivered in early 1942 but most had been severely damaged in transit leading to the adoption of the Taylorcraft Auster 1. An order for 100 aircraft was placed with Taylorcraft Aircraft Aeroplanes Limited, a UK subsiduary based in Rearsby Airfield, Thurmaston, Leicestershire.

Auster Mk1 Gallery

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