Armstrong Whitworth AW.27 Ensign
The Ensign class of airliner was designed to an Imperial Airways specification for an aircraft capable of operating Empire routes to South Africa and Australia. 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 had a retractable undercarriage, each main leg carrying a single large Dunlop wheel.
The design was accepted and development proceeded, albeit at a interrupted pace thanks to the changing requirements put forth by Imperial Airways, coupledd with early engine reliability issues.
Design of the Ensign was characterized by its smooth lines and high-wing mounting. The cockpit was situated at extreme forward offering up good views past the wings which were seated to the middle of the fuselage, far back from the cockpit. Oval-shaped windows dotted the fuselage sides while the fuselage bottom sagged from nose to tail tip. The main landing gear were housed in the wing roots and consisted of large donut type wheels consistent with large aircraft design of the times. Four engines were placed two to a wing in the leading wing edges and contoured nicely into the wing elements. The empennage was of a traditional layout complete with rounded fin edges. Crew accommodations amounted to five personnel that included the pilot, co-pilot, radio operator and - if needed - two cabin stewards for passenger flight. Depending on the required range, passenger seating numbers fell between 27 and 40 total personnel.
The first A.W.27 flew on 23 January 1938 and from October it flew the London-Paris service. Production was slow but three more were completed in time for mail-carrying flights to Australia in late 1938. 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 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 with No. 24 Squadron. During this period several were destroyed or damaged by German fighters. In 1941 the surviving aircraft were re-engined with 671kW Wright R-1820-G102A Cyclone radials and were known as A.W.27A Ensign Mk IIs.
The AW.27 appeared in a single captured form with the Vichy French and later the Luftwaffe.
With the end of the war the airliners were scrapped.
Altogether 14 A.W.27s had been built.
Armstrong Whitworth AW.27 Ensign Mk I