Armstrong Whitworth AW55 Apollo | BAE Systems | International

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Armstrong Whitworth
AW55 Apollo

An unsuccessful four turboprop commercial airliner, let down by engine development issues.
Armstrong Whitworth AW55 Apollo G-AIYN ground The first AW55 Apollo G-AIYN photographed on the ground.

 

The Armstrong Whitworth AW.55 Apollo was designed, like the Vickers Viscount, to the requirements of the Brabazon Committee Type II design calling for a medium size, mid-range and pressurised passenger aircraft.  It featured four turbo-prop engines and a tricycle undercarriage which, due to the narrowness of the engines, retracted directly into the wings.
 
It was a low-wing monoplane with capacity between 26 to 31 passengers. Outwardly, there was a rounded line to the fuselage and the Armstrong Siddeley Mamba engines were installed in very slim nacelles. 
 
Armstrong Whitworth AW55 Apollo G-AIYN taxying Armstrong Whitworth AW55 Apollo G-AIYN taxying at the Farnborough Air Show.
 
In the event, only two aircraft were built (G-AIXN / VX220) with Mamba 1 engines and (VX224 / G-AMCH) with Mamba 504 engines, the first of these flying from the grass airstrip at Baginton, Coventry on 10th April 1949.  Test flights soon established that the aircraft was both unstable and underpowered and it was grounded after just 9 hours.  Although test flying restarted in August 1949, it was soon established that it still had major engine issues.
 
The second aircraft did not fly until 12th December 1952, by which time the success of the Vickers Viscount made it clear that the Apollo did not have a commercial future.
 
In this instance, Armstrong Whitworth’s preference for Armstrong Siddeley engines proved to be unhelpful as engine development issues, particularly in respect of reliable operation at their rated power, undoubtedly contributed to the Apollo’s lack of success.
 
The AW Mamba used an axial compressor, rather than the Rolls-Royce Dart’s simpler and more robust centrifugal compressor and in the end the Dart proved to be a far more outstanding engine.  The Mamba eventually found its only production application in Double-Mamba form as fitted to the Fairey Gannet ASW aircraft.

 

Armstrong Whitworth AW55 Apollo G-AIYN landing Armstrong Whitworth AW55 Apollo G-AIYN landing with starboard outer engine shut down.

 

Both prototype aircraft had been funded by the Ministry of Supply and so they were transferred to the Aircraft & Armament Experimental Establishment (A&AEE) at Boscombe Down before spending a period with the Empire Test Pilots School (EPTS).  

 

The first aircraft was scrapped in 1955 whilst the second ended its days as a water tank pressure test unit by the Structures Department at the Royal Aircraft Establishment (RAE) at Farnborough were it was finally scrapped in the 1970's

Specification

Powerplant Four 1,010 shp Armstrong Siddeley Mamba 504 engines
Span 92 ft 0 in
All up weight 45,000 lb
Capacity 26 to 31 passengers. 
Maximum Speed  330 mph 
Cruising Speed 276 mph
Range 1,000 miles (approx)

Number built

AW.55 Apollo  2 aircraft (G-AIYN / VX220) and (G-AMCH / VX224)

Survivors

No AW.55 Apollo aircraft survive