When in 1925 Imperial Airways
adopted a policy of using only multi-engined
aircraft to replace the 13 aircraft of four
different types operated by its predecessor
companies, the Armstrong Whitworth Argosy was one
of the three types ordered.
Armstrong Whitworth produced the Argosy, a large
biplane with fixed tailskid landing gear and its
first airliner, to a 1922 specification for a
three-engined aircraft with a 500 mile (805 km)
range, and the first example flew in March 1926,
following receipt of an order from Imperial
Airways for three aircraft. The second Argosy flew
on 18th June 1926, and was the first to be
delivered to the airline, which received it the
Imperial lost no time in introducing its new airliner
into service, one making its first revenue flight between Croydon and
Paris on 16th July 1926. Traffic figures showed an immediate upsurge while
costs per ton/mile dropped substantially, and on 1st May 1927 the luxury
'Silver Wing' service was inaugurated on this route. On standard services
the Argosy carried 20 passengers in the cabin, with the captain and first
officer in an open cockpit just behind the nose engine. To allow room for
a steward to serve the gourmet meals for which the 'Silver Wing' service
was famous, it was necessary to remove two passenger seats.
The Argosy was later used on such routes as those to
Basle, Brussels and Cologne from Croydon, and Imperial ordered a further
three, later increased to four, which began to enter service in 1929.
The aircraft of the second batch were designated Argosy II, having 420 hp
(313 kW) Armstrong Siddeley Jaguar IVA engines in place of the original
Jaguar IIIs, and all-up weight increased from 18,000 lb (8165 kg) to
19,200 lb (8709 kg); after delivery of the Mk IIs, the original three Mk
Is were re-engined with Jaguar IVAs.
The Argosy opened the first Empire air mail link with India on 30th March
1929, carrying the mail to Basle, where it was transferred by train to
Genoa and then by air, via various stops, to Karachi. The fleet was
gradually whittled down: in June 1931 an Argosy was lost in a forced
landing near Aswan; two months previously another had burned out in a
crash at Croydon during crew training. Fortunately no persons were injured
in either incident. However, an unexplained fire in the air over Belgium,
in March 1933, resulted in a crash in which the crew of three and all 12
passengers were killed. The last Argosy in service was the sixth aircraft,
which was used for joy-riding by United Airways at Blackpool during the
second half of 1935; taken over by British Airways the following January,
it was retired in December 1936.
Argosy Mk I: Designation of original batch, at first with 385 hp (287 kW)
Jaguar IIIA direct-drive radials, but later re-engined with Jaguar IVA
radials; data as for Mk II except range 330 miles (531 km); empty weight
12,000 lb (5443 kg) and maximum take-off weight 18,000 lb (8165 kg), span
90 ft 8 in (27.64 m), length 65 ft 10 in (20.07 m), height 19 ft 10 in
(6.05 m) and wing area 1,886 sq ft (175.22 mē).
Argosy Mk II: Designation of second batch, powered by three 420 hp (313
kW) Jaguar IVA radials; this variant also featured some slight refinements
in control by the use of servo tabs on the lower wings.