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Westland Lysander

Specifications:
  • Crew: One, pilot
  • Capacity: 1 passenger (or observer)
  • Length: 30 ft 6 in (9.29 m)
  • Wingspan: 50 ft 0 in (15.24 m)
  • Height: 14 ft 6 in (4.42 m)
  • Wing area: 260 ft² (24.2 m²)
  • Empty weight: 4,365 lb (1,984 kg)
  • Max. takeoff weight: 6,330 lb (2,877 kg)
  • Powerplant: 1 × Bristol Mercury XX radial engine, 870 hp (649 kW)
  • Maximum speed: 212 mph (184 knots, 341 km/h) at 5,000 ft (1,520 m)
  • Range: 600 miles (522 nmi, 966 km)
  • Service ceiling: 21,500 ft (6,550 m)
  • Climb to 10,000 ft (3,050 m): 8 min
  • Take-off run to 50 ft (15 m): 305 yards (279 m)
  • Guns: Two forward-firing .303 in (7.7 mm) Browning machine guns in wheel fairings and two .303 Lewis guns for the observer
  • Bombs: Four 20 lb (9 kg) bombs under rear fuselage and 500 lb (227 kg) of bombs on stub wings if fitted

The Lysander was built to a specification calling for a rugged, short-take-off-and-landing (STOL) aircraft for low-level reconnaissance and observation issued in 1934. Westland designed and built a rugged high wing monoplane with fixed spatted undercarriage.

It had an exceptional field of view for both pilot and observer, and was armed with two forward firing machine guns and a machine gun fired from the rear cockpit. The first prototype flew in 1936 and production aircraft entered service in 1938.

The Lysander entered service with the RAF as an army co-operation aircraft, replacing Hawker Audaxes and Hectors during 1939. However during the Battle of France in 1940, the Lysander proved too vulnerable to survive modern warfare and suffered some terrible losses.

After 1940 Lysanders were used by Coastal Command on search-and-rescue missions. Lysanders were also built under licence in Canada and these aircraft were often used as targets tugs at the overseas training bases.

The role that the Lysander is best remembered for is as a ‘spy taxi’, picking up and dropping secret agents behind enemy lines. For these operations, the aircraft were painted black and fitted with a long-range fuel tank beneath the fuselage and a ladder fixed to the side of the aircraft to allow the agents to enter and exit quickly.