The 138 and 161 Squadron Aircraft.
The Westland Lysander
Construction was of metal with fabric covering and the original design of
retractable undercarriage was rejected in favour of spatted sprung wheels,
the spats housing Browning machine guns, landing lamps and small bomb racks.
A swivel mounted Vickers gun was provided for the observer. The designer,
W E Petter, gave the wing a 50' span and it was slotted and flapped giving
very low take-off speeds, stalling speed being only 55mph. It was possible to
take off in under 40 yards with a reasonable headwind and the automatic boost
control cut out. The slots and flaps were all fully automatic, controlled by
airspeed to operate at 80mph. A variety of Bristol 9 cylinder radial engines
were fitted, depending on mark, but all gave around 900hp and a top speed over
230 mph. The original undercarriages were from Switzerland and could take
massive punishment, often being the only piece left after crashes. Flying was
unlike any other aircraft and one pilot likened it to an autogiro!
A normal descent would result in the automatic slots and flaps going in and
out on their own and the aircraft coming down in a series of steps. The trick
was to slow very quickly to below 70mph and then control height with the
The aircraft was designed as a short take off army co-operation machine, moving messages and generals or target spotting, and featured a warm, well laid out cockpit with a superb view. Much of the glazing could be left open in flight, which was a major boon in hot climates. It was known as the 'Lizzie' or 'Flying Carrot' and a whole range of new uses were found for it on the advent of war, one even managing to shoot down a Heinkel 111 bomber during the phoney war! They served as close support bombers, 50 being shot down in the French campaign, precision supply droppers, target tugs, night fighters and air/sea rescue, as well at their most famous role of dropping and collecting agents in occupied Europe. This role was carried out by the mark IIISCW which had special a entry ladder, a belly fuel tank, and a variety of other special internal equipment. The aircraft was used extensively during the desert war and the retreat to India in its Army co-operation role. 1,425 were built in the UK and a further 325 in Canada. Only one is known to be in flying condition now, which is at the Shuttleworth Collection, Old Warden, Bedfordshire UK, but a fine restored (but non-flying) example can be seen at Duxford, UK. There are others in Canada and India. RAF service delivery was from 1938 - 1942.
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