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An Armstrong Whitworth Argosy?

I have not had time to process the photos I need for a good photo blog of the LA County Airshow from about ten days ago, but I am going to push this photo ahead of the bunch. The aircraft in question was not a part of the show; it was parked way back where you need your maximum lens extension to get a fair look. It sits behind a C-97 and not far from a C-119, so I was of course looking for something USAF or USAAF from that era even though I knew of no aircraft of this format in American service. It looked somewhat Russian or British so I tried that approach. The match to the Argosy seems conclusive to me, but I have no idea what one of those is doing at Fox Field outside Lancaster, California.

A C-97 and an Armstrong Whitworth Argosy at Fox Field In Lancaster, California

A C-97 and an Armstrong Whitworth Argosy at Fox Field In Lancaster, California. Copyright Dale Amon, All Rights Reserved.

21 comments to An Armstrong Whitworth Argosy?

  • Barry Sheridan

    An Argosy, now that brings back memories of hot sweaty nights trying to find and oil leak in the apu (LH boom). Interesting, as were the R4350’s that drove the C97. Aviation had a bit more to it in those days, now everything tends to look the same, although it is all very reliable.

  • Barry Sheridan

    Sorry typo. meant R4360’s.

  • Dale Amon (Belfast, Northern Ireland/Laramie, Wy)

    Also, I would appreciate it if someone could confirm that the photo actually did get automatically resized and is not causing any download issues. Once I am sure that is the case, I will start doing my photo blog on the event.

  • 18 years and counting

    Dale – the photo you uploaded is 1.3Mb but the one displayed is just 17k, so no problems with display or download.
    This could help https://wordpress.org/plugins/imsanity/

  • David Moore

    This one is listed at Wikipedia as XP447

  • Mr Ed

    There is one at East Midlands Aeropark, by East Midlands Airport it should be visible in this link. Visitors can go inside it.

    Apparently it was called either ‘the whistling wheelbarrow, or ‘the whistling tit’ when in service.

  • Bruce Hoult

    Sure looks like an Argosy. There were two of them base here in Wellington until 1990 or so, used to see them a lot.

  • Jaded Voluntaryist

    Maybe my mind was addled by watching the (original, of course!) “Flight of the Phoenix” as a child, but from an aesthetic point of view I’ve always loved aircraft with that “twin boom” design. They just look so cool. The P-38 lightning for example is to my eye one of the more gorgeous aircraft ever built.

    Another advantage of that deisgn is if you find yourself stranded in the desert with Richard Attenborough, you can build a whole new plane from the wreckage of one……. 😉

    Anyone know why this design feature went out of style?

  • AKM

    “Anyone know why this design feature went out of style?”

    I don’t know, however I’d guess it comes down to cost. It’s probably cheaper to develop & build a comparatively simple shape than a more complex one and any advantages from having two booms and two tail-fins didn’t warrant the extra cost. Shame though, I agree that they look more attractive.

  • Mr Ed

    JV, if you like the twin-boon’ style, there is a de Havilland Vampire still flying, maintained by volunteers of the Vampire Preservation Trust. I have just rejoined as a supporter, and, on my bank statement, it says ‘Vampire Preservation’, how cool is that?

    I am not sure if the de Havilland Evil Hippo marque has an airworthiness certificate.

  • llamas

    They’re not so rare. If you wonder why one is parked at Fox Field in Lancaster, CA, ask yourself why one is parked at Willow Run airfield in Ypsilanti, MI – or it was, last time I happened to look.

    The high-wing-twin-boom approach, which started with the Miles brothers right after WW2, was one popular way to solve the challenge of a wide, flat, unobstructed load floor with a very low sill, in a design that could still be got into the air with the big radials and very-early turboprops of the era. Fairchild did a couple of good ones in the Packet and the Flying Boxcar, I think the French did a similar one.

    But by the time these models were in production, advances in turbo-prop power plant in the US had allowed for designs like the original C130 Hercules, which had the same huge, low load floor, but a conventional empennage with a gigantic rear ramp/door.

    The weight and complexity of this rear structure, together with the exceeding-clever-but-complex-and-heavy undercarriage of the C130, would have eaten into the payload of something like the Argosy to the point where it would not be economically viable. The Argosy was hampered by the political/currency consideration that it had to be powered by UK-made engines (RR Darts) and the state of turboprop development in the UK was well behind what was being done in the US. The Argosy and the C130 were built at almost-exactly the same time, but the C130 benefitted from Allison turboprop engines delivering almost 2x the shaft horsepower of the Darts used in the Argosy.

    Pretty airplane, tho’.



  • Mr Ed

    And then there’s the ‘Beluga‘ for the weirdest-looking ‘plane of lot.

  • AKM

    Except that link is to pictures of the Super Guppy, not the Beluga. Good pictures though! 🙂

  • Jonathan Bailey

    Dale Amon, I volunteered as a docent at the (now defunct) Museum of Flying at Santa Monica (SMO) back around 1990 and we had an Argosy, an airworthy one, for a while. It was being held for an annual auction. It could very well be the same one as the one in your picture. Lancaster, CA certainly isn’t too far away. I’ll have to go digging in my old photos and see if I have one of it.

  • Mr Ed

    AKM, sorry, my apologies, it still looks like a Beluga to me 🙂 Whale have to agree to differ on that.

  • Jonathan Bailey

    Yup, Dale Amon, it’s an Argosy, s/n XP447.


  • Dale Amon (Belfast, Northern Ireland/Laramie, Wy)

    One of my co-workers here at XCOR did a bit of digging and we both have discovered that there is a local aviation museum in the area which neither of us had been aware of: Lancaster Milestones of Flight. Guess where I will be this coming weekend 😉

  • Dale Amon (Belfast, Northern Ireland/Laramie, Wy)

    Speaking of the Santa Monica Museum… I visited it back in 1999; I also visited their facility out here in Mojave where they were rebuilding a Zero and a P-38 at the time. Turns out that hangar is now used by NGC and is the one just across the apron from ours.

  • PersonFromPorlock

    Regarding the demise of the twin-boom layout, cargo aircraft will either ‘gross out’ or ‘bulk out’: that is, be limited to a cargo below a certain weight, or of less than a certain volume. The single long fuselage can carry a bulkier cargo at little or no weight-carrying cost.

    Also, the stiffness of a structure increases disproportionately with its volume, so the larger ‘box’ constituted by the single long fuselage is considerably stiffer than the two booms it replaces. Sorry, can’t remember the equations for that.

  • Phil B

    here is a link about the Argosy and explains why it was so heavy – let’s use Shackleton wings and Meteor fuselages for the booms …


    (it has a video clip of a New Zealand Air service Argosy in that lit too).

    Person from Porlock – the stiffness of a tube increases as the square of the diameter (if the wall thickness is kept constant) but linearly with wall thickness (i.e. double the thickness of the metal, twice as stiff, double the diameter, 4 times as stiff … )

  • PersonFromPorlock

    Thanks. For some reason I had it stuck in my mind that the stiffness of a structure increases by the ninth power of the increase in its dimensions, and I was pretty sure that wasn’t right.