Armstrong Whitworth A.W.27 Ensign
|CIVIL TRANSPORT||Virtual Aircraft Museum / United Kingdom / Armstrong Whitworth|
The Ensign class of airliner was designed to an Imperial Airways specification for a new aircraft capable of carrying a large number of passengers and mail over the land sections of the Empire routes to South Africa and Australia. In the event the aircraft was proposed in two forms: the 40-seat 'European' or 'Western' (with 12 passengers in the front cabin, 4 in the card room, 12 in the middle cabin and 12 in the rear cabin, plus 3 toilets) and the 27-seat 'Empire' or 'Eastern' (with 3 cabins and 2 toilets) which could also be configured as a 20-passenger sleeper. Both versions were externally similar, being shoulder-wing monoplanes with the four 596kW Armstrong Siddeley Tiger IX radial engines mounted in the leading edges of the wings. The fuselage was long and slim and a retractable undercarriage was fitted, each main leg carrying a single large Dunlop wheel.
The first A.W.27 flew on 23 January 1938 and from October it flew the London-Paris service. Production was slow, mainly because of the company's heavy commitment to the manufacture of bombers for the RAF, but nevertheless three others were completed in time for mail-carrying flights to Australia in late 1938. However, due to engine troubles, all broke down well short of their goal. The sixth production A.W.27 was fitted with 637kW Tiger IXC engines driving new de Havilland three-blade constant-speed propellers, and had a modified tail unit. This arrangement subsequently became standard on all the A.W.27s.
With the outbreak of World War II the A.W.27s were used to ferry RAF personnel initially to France and then between RAF stations within the UK. During this period several were destroyed or damaged by German fighters. In 1941 the surviving aircraft were re-engined with 671kW Wright R-1820-G Cyclone radials and were known as A.W.27A Ensign Mk IIs. With the end of the war the airliners were scrapped. Altogether 14 A.W.27s had been built.