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Airspeed Oxford


The Airspeed Oxford Virtual Museum


MP 425, a surviving Standard-built Airspeed Oxford  (acknowledgement,  the RAF Museum, Hendon)


It is well known that the Standard Motor company built 1066 Fighter Bomber versions of the famous De Havilland Mosquito.


However, that was not the only plane that the SMC built in numbers during the Second World War. One of the others, which predated the Mosquito, was the Airspeed Oxford A.S.10 Mk 1 Bomber Trainer, of which Standard built no fewer than 750 examples. The importance of this plane is perhaps undervalued, for although it never saw combat duty, it was pivotal in pilot training programmes worldwide and enabled thousands of wartime pilots to earn their wings.


At least one Standard built Oxford survives, registered MP425, you can see it in the RAF Museum at Hendon, a splendid museum which has free entry.


The Airspeed Oxford was a military development of the same company's Envoy airliner. The prototype first flew on 19 June 1937 and when it entered service with the Central Flying School in November of that year it became the Royal Air Force's first twin-engine monoplane advanced trainer.


As well as Airspeed themselves, the Oxford was built by the De-Havilland Aircraft Company; Percival Aircraft  and of course the Standard Motor Company. It was constructed of a wooden frame with a plywood covering.

The Airspeed A.S.10 Oxford was a multi-engine three-seat advanced trainer monoplane. It was developed to fit specifications T.23/26 for a trainer aircraft. The design developed as a cantilever low-wing monoplane, powered by two Armstrong Siddeley Cheetah air-cooled radial engines. The first Oxfords were intended for all aspects of aircrew training including gunnery and had an Armstrong Whitworth dorsal gun turret fitted. The turret was removed from later versions. With a normal crew of three the seating could be changed to suit the training role. The cockpit had dual controls and two seats for a pilot and either a navigator or second pilot. When used for bombadieer training, the second set of controls was removed and the space was used for a prone bomb-aimer. When used as a navigation trainer the second seat was pushed back to line up with the chart table. Aft of the pilots' area was a wireless operator station, facing aft on the starboard side of the fuselage. Remarkably, the plane could be used to simultaneously train pilots, navigators, bomb aimers, gunners, or radio operators on the same flight. Oxfords were also used as air ambulances, communications aircraft and for ground radar calibration duties.

On the outbreak of World War II, Oxfords were selected as one of the favoured trainer aircraft in Canada, Australia and New Zealand as part of the Empire Air Training Scheme (EATS) or British Commonwealth Air Training Plan (BCATP), and trained many Fleet Air Arm personnel. The BCATP evolved following a meeting of Government representatives from United Kingdom, Australia, New Zealand and Canada in Ottawa, and signed an agreement to set up the Plan in December 1939, converting Canada into what President Roosevelt later termed "the aerodrome of democracy." The first schools opened in Canada in April 1940, and by 24 November 1940 the first trainees from the Scheme arrived in the UK. 


A total of 8,751 Oxfords served in Britain, Australia, Canada, New Zealand, Rhodesia, and the Middle East. In total 137,000 aircrew went to Canada from all corners of the globe to earn their wings in the  BCATP. The Oxford was used for instruction in flying, navigation, gunnery, radio and bombing, direction finding, high-altitude bombing, air gunnery, aerial photography, night-flying and twin-engine flying. One of the main training schools was at the RCAF Station, Yarmouth, Nova Scotia, Canada, where the Royal Navy had the eastern side of the airfield whilst the RCAF flew anti-submarine patrols from the other side of the field.


Known to trainees as the "Ox Box" the Oxfords were also used at the EATS Australian schools  in Australia, the prefix A25 was allocated for RAAF use but the imported Oxfords retained their RAF serials. Altogether 391 Oxfords were shipped to Australia and the first aircraft, P6878, was received on 28 October 1940 and the last, LW999 in March, 1944. 


The following versions were built, Standard only being involved in the Mk I version:

        A.S.10 Mk.I : bomber trainer with a fuselage turret

        A.S.10 Mk.II : navigation trainer, without dorsal turret

        A.S.10 Mk.III : more powerful engines

        A.S.10 Mk.IV : testing platform for de Havilland "Gypsy Queen" engines

        A.S.10 Mk.V : more powerful engines

The famous Aviator Amy Johnson was lost when delivering a new Oxford MkII from Blackpool to RAF Kidlington in appalling weather on Jan 5th 1941. She is thought to have crashed in the Thames estuary but no traces of her or the plane have been found....


Specification A.S 10 Mk 1




Engine:


Two 375 hp Armstrong-Siddeley Cheetah X engines

 Wing Span: Length: Height: Wing Area: 


Span, 53 ft 4 ins (16.3m); length, 34 ft 6 ins (10.5m); height, 11 ft 1 in.(3.3m) 

Empty Weight: Max.Weight:


Empty, 5,380 lb (2575kg); loaded, 7,600 lb (3632kg)


Speed, Ceiling, Range.


Max Speed 188 mph (325 km/h)

Ceiling 19,500 ft (6400m)

Climb 960 ft per minute (15.1 m/s)

Armament: 


None

Standard-built MP425 History

The full history of this aircraft, on display at Hendon, is known and can be downloaded  as a PDF from the RAF Hendon website. Briefly, In March 1943 it was assigned to the No.1536 (Beam Approach Training) Flight at RAF Spittlegate. It finished its service career with No.18 (Pilot’s) Advanced Training Unit at RAF Peterborough, before going in to storage. In 1946 it was sold to Air Service Training at Hamble and registered as G-AITB. it was withdrawn in 1961 and acquired by the RAF Museum in 1969. Following a complete restoration at Cardington it was loaned to the Newark Air Museum in June 1991 for three years, before being displayed at Hendon.

It should have a dorsal turret as shown in the photo below, but this seems to have been removed at some point, probably during an update to later specification.

photo courtesy of Steve King

Researched by Phil Homer, September 2008

Airspeed Oxford material gratefully received for addition to this site

Footnote:

Another major wartime assignment for the Standard Motor Company was the production of 3000 Bristol Beaufighter Fuselages. Very little research material is available for Standards involvement in this programme, so if you have any information to enable the building of the Bristol Beaufighter Virtual museum please get in touch with me