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Airspeed AS30
Queen Wasp

An attractive Cheetah-powered cabin biplane intended for use as an unmanned target aircraft.
Airspeed AS30 Queen Wasp K8888 flight Airspeed AS30 Queen Wasp K8888 in flight in landplane configuration.

Airspeed at Portsmouth built seven examples of the 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 Hessell Tiltman and Neville Shute-Norway, it 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 procedure.


Structurally, the Queen Wasp was constructed of a wooden frame with plywood covering with the fuselage secion filling the gap between the upper and lower wings, both of which were highly-tapered.


The type was designed against Specification Q.32/35 for wheeled operation with the RAF and for floatplane operations with Royal Navy who used it for target practice at sea, set against air targets.


Two prototypes were ordered with the first (K8887) being flown by George Errington on 11th June 1937 and the floatplane (K8888) flown on 19th October 1937.  The floatplane also carried out successful catapult trials from HMS Pegasus in November 1937. 


Despite this success however, water handling capabilities necessitated the redesign of the floats by their manufacturer Short Brothers.


Airspeed AS30 Queen Wasp K8888 floats ground The attractive Airspeed AS30 Queen Wasp K8888 in seaplane form.


The cockpit allowed for a single seat and appropriate controls which were provided to allow the aircraft to be flown conventionally by a pilot between different locations.


There was an expectation of a requirement of 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.


Airspeed AS30 Queen Wasp floats flying K8888 Airspeed AS30 Queen Wasp seaplane K8888 in manned piloted flight.
Airspeed proposed a number of alternate designs based on the Queen Bee including the AS.38 communications aircraft and the AS.50 Trainer. Pages for these aircraft will be available of this website shortly.
Sadly, the second prototype (K8888) was lost on 20th March 1940 whilst attached to the RAF Pilotless Aircraft Unit whilst the fate of the first prototype (K8887) and the 5 production aircraft are unknown although it is more than likely they were destroyed during their intended use.


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 

Numbers Built

Number built                    Two prototypes (K8887 & K8888) and a total of five production aircraft