Airspeed Ferry G-ABSI ground
A view of Airspeed AS4 Ferry G-ABSI on the ground


The Airspeed AS4 Ferry was the first powered aircraft to be designed and built by the newly formed Airspeed Ltd, a company created by AH Tiltman and Neville Shute Norway who had learnt their trade under Barnes Wallis at Vickers, working on the ill-fated R100 airship.


Powered by three Gipsy II or Gipsy III engines (these wre later uprated to the Gipsy Major engine) the cabin could accommodate up to 10 passengers.


The aircraft was specifically built to the exacting requirements of Alan Cobham for his National Aviation Day displays.  Cobham served as a Director of Airspeed, in return for placing an order for 2 'off-plan' aircraft on behalf of his company, National Aviation Day Limited who combined showmanship (Barnstorming) and Joy-riding.


Production was undertaken in York in 1932 with aircraft towed on its wheels, at night, from York to Sherburn-in-Elmet finally assembled and test flown.


The prototype (G-ABSI) flew for the first time on 5th April 1932 and subsequently christened 'Youth of Britain' to maximise the publicity for both Airspeed and Cobham who subsequently took the aircraft on national tour of the UK.  A second aircraft (G-ASBJ - Youth of Britain II) soon followed and during their first season of operation over 92,000 gained their first flying experience in the two aircraft.


In total, four aircraft were built in York before the Company was attracted south to the new Municipal Airport at Portsmouth.


With the outbreak of World War II, the first aircraft was pressed into RAF service in 1940, the second aircraft having been sold in 1934 to the Himalaya Air Transport and Survey Company and subsequently destroyed by vandals in a hangar fire just 2 years later.


Apart from the two being used by Alan Cobham, two further aircraft were sold to Midland and Scottish Air Ferries Ltd for commercial services between Renfrew and Campbelltown and from Belfast to Speke.  



Airspeed AS4 Ferry G-ABSI flying past
A low fly-past by Airspeed AS4 Ferry G-ABSI.
In 1940, the company folded and both aircraft were advertised for sale before being acquired by the De Havilland Aircraft Company who operated the firm under the name Airspeed (1934) Ltd.
Whilst the third production aircraft (G-ACBT) failed to sell and was eventually dismantled in 1941, the fourth aircraft (G-ACFB) was drafted into RAF service, eventually becoming an instructional airframe.
What finally became of G-ABSI and G-ACFB appears to be unknown or at the very least, uncertain.


Powerplants Two 120 hp Gipsy II and one 120 hp Gipsy III
Span 55 ft 0 in
Maximum Weight 5,400 lb
Capacity  Pilot and 10 passengers
Maximum Speed 112 mph 
Cruising speed 100 mph
Endurance / Range 340 miles


Number built




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