Airspeed at Portsmouth built seven examples of the Airspeed AS.30 Queen Wasp, an attractive Cheetah-powered pilotless cabin biplane, intended for use as a target aircraft during the Second World War.
Designed by Alfred Hessell-Tiltman and Nevil Shute Norway, the AS.30 Queen Wasp featured a complex radio control system with a number of back-up safety devices to ensure that radio and battery operations continued uninterrupted.
A trailing receiver aerial was winched out immediately after take-off and this also acted as a landing indicator device, activated by the trailing aerial weight hitting the runway. However, this was a bit haphazard during turbulent weather and an alternative landing signal was later developed to initiate the shutdown procedure.
Structurally, the AS.30 Queen Wasp was constructed of a wooden frame, with plywood covering with the fuselage section filling the gap between the upper and lower wings, both of which were highly-tapered.
The type was designed against Specification Q.32/35, calling for wheeled operation with the RAF and for floatplane operations with Royal Navy, who used it for target practice at sea or set against air targets.
Two prototypes were ordered with the first (K8887) being flown by George Errington on 11th June 1937. The floatplane (K8888) flew 5 months later on 19th October 1937. The floatplane also carried out successful catapult trials from HMS Pegasus during November 1937.
Despite this success however, water-handling capabilities necessitated a redesign of the floats by their manufacturer, Short Brothers.
The AS.30 Queen Wasp cockpit also allowed for a single seat (and appropriate controls) which were provided to allow the aircraft to be flown conventionally by a ferry pilot between different locations.
There was an expectation of a requirement for 65 aircraft and the first production aircraft (P5441) flew on 29th March 1940, followed by the second (P5442) on 18th May 1940. Despite these ambitious forecasts, only three other aircraft were built and flown from the initial order for just 10 aircraft.
|Powerplant||One 350 hp Armstrong Siddeley Cheetah IX|
|Span||31 ft 0 in|
|Maximum Weight||3,500 lb (landplane); 3,800 (seaplane)|
|Capacity||Pilotless, with provision for a single pilot when required|
|Maximum Speed||172 mph|
|7||2 Prototypes (K8887 & K8888) and a total of five production aircraft|