Armstrong Whitworth A.W.52

1st Flight 1947

Military Users

Royal Aircraft Establishment.



The Armstrong Whitworth A.W.52 was an early flying wing aircraft designed and produced by British aircraft manufacturer Armstrong Whitworth.

The A.W.52 emerged out of wartime research into the laminar flow airfoil, which indicated that, in combination with the flying wing configuration, such an aircraft could be dramatically more efficient than traditional designs.


It was pursued to gather data and experience with the configuration in support of Armstrong Whitworth’s ambitions to develop its proposed flying wing jet airliner.

Construction of the A.W.52 commenced during the late 1940s; a total of three aircraft, the A.W.52G glider and two jet-powered aircraft, were constructed for the research program.

On 13 November 1947, the A.W.52 performed its maiden flight. On 30 May 1949, during a test flight, the first prototype encountered severe pitch oscillation that motivated its test pilot, John Oliver Lancaster, to eject from the aircraft; the incident was the first occasion of an genuine emergency ejection by a British pilot.


The first prototype recovered and descended to the ground relatively undamaged.

Shortly thereafter, Armstrong Whitworth decided to terminate all development work, having lost confidence in the configuration’s practicality and the envisioned flying wing airliner that the A.W.52 was intended to lead to.

Despite the termination, the second prototype remained flying with the Royal Aircraft Establishment until 1954.



Crew: 2, pilot and navigator-wireless operator / flight test observer

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

Length: 37 ft 5 in (11.4 m)

Wingspan: 89 ft 11 in (27.4 m)

Height: 14 ft 5 in (4.4 m)

Wing area: 1,314 sq ft (122.1 m2)

Airfoil: 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)


Power plant: 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

Range: 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: 1.6



Armstrong Whitworth Aircraft since 1913-Oliver Tapper.

Jane’s Encyclopedia of Aviation-Michael J. H Taylor.




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