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Armstrong Whitworth A.W.52

The Armstrong Whitworth A.W.52 was an early flying wing aircraft that was designed and manufactured by the British aircraft manufacturer, Armstrong Whitworth.

The A.W.52 was developed as a result of research conducted during the war into the laminar flow airfoil, which suggested that an aircraft with a flying wing configuration could be significantly more efficient than traditional designs.

The A.W.52 was constructed to gather data and experience with this configuration in support of Armstrong Whitworth’s aspirations to develop its proposed flying wing jet airliner.

Construction of the A.W.52 began in the late 1940s, and a total of three aircraft were built for the research program, including the A.W.52G glider and two jet-powered aircraft.

On 13 November 1947, the A.W.52 made its maiden flight.

However, during a test flight on 30 May 1949, the first prototype encountered severe pitch oscillation, which prompted its test pilot, John Oliver Lancaster, to eject from the aircraft.

This incident marked the first genuine emergency ejection by a British pilot.

The first prototype was able to recover and descend to the ground relatively unscathed.

Following this incident, Armstrong Whitworth decided to terminate all development work on the A.W.52, as the company had lost confidence in the configuration’s practicality and its envisioned flying wing airliner.

Despite this decision, the second prototype remained in operation with the Royal Aircraft Establishment until 1954.





4,000 lb (1,800 kg) / 300 cu ft (8.5 m3)


37 ft 5 in (11.4 m)


89 ft 11 in (27.4 m)


14 ft 5 in (4.4 m)

Wing area

1,314 sq ft (122.1 m2)


NPL.655-3-218 at root, tapering to NPL.655-3-118 at extremity of the centre section and to NPL.654-3-015 at the tips

Empty weight

19,660 lb (8,918 kg)

Gross weight

34,150 lb (15,490 kg)


2 × Rolls-Royce Nene centrifugal flow turbojet,

5,000 lbf (22 kN) thrust each


Maximum speed

500 mph (800 km/h, 430 kn) at sea level


1,500 mi (2,400 km, 1,300 nmi)

Service ceiling

36,000 ft (11,000 m)

Rate of climb

4,800 ft/min (24 m/s) at sea level

Wing loading

24.8 lb/sq ft (121 kg/m2)

Max lift coefficient



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