The Auster was developed from the Taylorcraft Model A and first entered operational service in the Air Observation Post (AOP) role when 651 (AOP) Squadron formed up at Old Sarum on 1st August 1941 equipped with Auster Mk1s.
AOP squadrons, operating Auster variants (Mk 3/4/5), saw active service throughout WW2 in North Africa, Europe and the Far East. The aircraft were flown by pilots from the Royal Artillery, supported by engineers and groundcrew from the Army, RAF and RCAF. The Auster Mk6 was introduced in 1949 and was flown by AOP pilots in the Korean War from 1950 to 1953.
The Auster AOP Mk9 prototype first flew on 19th March 1954 and entered service in February 1955. A more powerful engine, larger wings, large flaps and a strengthened undercarriage gave the Mk9 better take-off and landing performance than the Mk6. The extended cabin enabled the aircraft to be operated in AOP, Command and Control, light transport and liaison roles, with an aft observer facing either forwards or rearwards. The aircraft was operated by the British Army of the Rhine and also saw active service during the Malayan Emergency in the 1950s and Aden in the early 1960s.
The Auster AOP9 is powered by the Blackburn Cirrus Bombardier 4-cylinder inverted inline piston engine developing 180 bhp at sea level. The maximum speed is 140 knots / 160 mph and the cruise speed is 90 knots. It has a range of 360 nautical miles or an endurance of 4 hours.
The Historic Army Aircraft Flight’s Auster AOP9 is XR244 which arrived at Middle Wallop in 1961 as a training aircraft and has remained ever since.
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