Auster? It’s a doggone Beagle! (Well, a Terrier, actually) And thanks for 100,000 page views!

By: shortfinals

Feb 06 2011

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Category: aircraft, Aviation, British Isles, England, Great Britain, Kemble, military, RAF, Royal Air Force, warbird

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Focal Length:52mm
Shutter:1/0 sec
Camera:NIKON D40

It is said that you can’t improve on perfection (see the handling qualities of the Spitfire Mk 1), but sometimes you can ‘tweak’ a really good thing. For that, I offer the example of G-ARUI, a Beagle-Auster A.61 Terrier 1, seen here parked in the sunshine at Cotswold Airport, Gloucestershire, with a storm coming on. It has a De H Gipsy Major 10 Mk 1 engine, fitted with an electric start, and putting out about 145 hp to the Hoffman HO-21 propeller. A really elegant aircraft.

The 1960s was a time of consolidation amongst the companies which formed the British aircraft industry. Pressed Steel Ltd merged with Auster Aircraft Company (Rearsby) and F.G. Miles Ltd. (Shoreham), in an attempt to form a viable manufacturer of light aircraft, known as BEAGLE (British Executive & General Aviation Limited). Basically, the attempt was doomed from the start. The two constituent companies had widely different design philosophies and histories. One turned out steel-tube/fabric covered, high-wing, aircraft, renowned for their slow-speed handling; the other built fast (then faster) racing and record-breaking wooden machines, and had been thwarted in their attempt to build the world’s first supersonic aircraft (Miles M.52). The two former companies staggered on for a few years as separate divisions – Beagle-Miles and Beagle-Auster, but the writing was on the wall.

The Auster A.O.P. 6 had been the standard Air Observation Post aircraft of the British Army postwar, with the usual pattern of the Squadrons being constituted within the RAF – and manned by RAF servicing personnel – but having Army pilots.  VF571 was an A.O.P. 6 which saw service with 662 Squadron (3rd Regiment, Army Air Corps) and 651 Squadron (5th Regiment, AAC). 651 had originally been 651 AOP Sqn, and was based at Debden, Essex, then with 3rd Division, Army Aviation HQ at AAC Middle Wallop, Hampshire. The A.O.P. 6 (and its trainer versions, the T.7 and T.10), was a very successful type, seeing service with the RCAF, Belgian Air Force, Royal Hong Kong Auxiliary Air Force, South African Air Force, and the Arab Legion Air Force. The advent of the Auster A.O.P. 9 in 1955 meant that the A.O.P. 6 was surplus, and many were sold off.

A number of these aircraft were acquired by Auster, and re-worked into two basic types, the Auster 6A Tugmaster – a glider tug and utility type, and the Auster 6B – designed as a luxury three-seater. After the Beagle merger, the Auster 6B became known as the Beagle A.61 Terrier 1. A batch of 18 of these had been produced, with the first conversion flying from Rearsby on 13th April, 1961. They were followed by the modified Terrier 2 (45 built), but it was too little, too late and the Auster name faded from view. Sadly, the whole Beagle enterprise followed in 1969, and the British production of light aircraft (De Havilland had ceased making light ‘planes after the Chipmunk) virtually ceased.

Finally, a word of thanks to all of you who have visited the ‘Shortfinals’ blog. As of 10am this morning (Sunday, 6th February, 2011) 100,046 page views had been recorded. I must be doing something right! Thanks a million (or a hundred thousand, anyway!)

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