Airspeed Queen Wasp

The Airspeed Queen Wasp was a beautiful British cabin biplane, much too beautiful to be deliberately shot down. That was, however, the purpose for which it was designed – a radio–controlled target airplane. Two prototypes were built in 1937, and the first of them, K8887, had a singularly remarkable quality. Airspeed’s test pilot, George Errington, took its designer, Hessell Tiltman, on a flight one day to show him.

“I would like you to look over the side,” he said. “We are at 2,000 feet, heading into the wind over the leeward side of the field. I shall now close the throttle and pull the stick back until the angle of incidence is on the other side of the stall.”

Tiltman watched the airspeed indicator drop to 45 mph, then gradually to zero. The attitude of the airplane was normal, but they were losing height rapidly. Errington had full control all the timeā€”he could even rock the wings with the ailerons. At the end of the near–vertical descent, he had to apply full throttle to reach the field, just skimming a hedge.

Errington was probably the first test pilot to encounter a stabilized superstall. The angle of attack must have been close to 80 degrees. The funny thing is that none of the other Queen Wasps built could do this trick, and nobody knows why. (Don Middleton: Test Pilots)

The photograph shows Airspeed Queen Wasp K8888, one of two radio-controlled target aircraft. The second (K8888) a sea plane first flew on October 19, 1937 and crashed on 20 March 1941, while attached to the Pilotless Aircraft Unit.

Photograph published in The Royal Air Force in Pictures including aircraft of the Fleet Air Arm prepared by Major Oliver Stewart, 1941. Page 47.


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