The "Starling" (company designation of "AW.14") was developed by the British concern of Armstrong Whitworth during the late-1920s to compete for Royal Air Force (RAF) fighter contract Specification 28/24 of 1924 (seeking a day / night fighter). The biplane, intended to succeed an aging line of Armstrong Whitworth "Siskin" biplanes, eventually lost out to the Bristol "Bulldog" (detailed elsewhere on this site), which went on to see production reach 443, while just two Starlings were completed for the prototype testing phase. A first-flight was recorded on May 12th, 1927.
Specification 28/24 called for a new biplane fighter of all-modern design capable of reaching / exceeding speeds of 180 miles-per-hour. Armstrong Whitworth engineers returned with a traditional offering featuring a conventional wing mainplane arrangement (over-under), fixed two-wheeled undercarriage, and single-seat / open-air cockpit. The mainplanes were of single-bay configuration and unequal span, with the lower member noticeably shorter than the upper. The members were braced by N-shaped struts as well as cabling as was the usual construction method of the period. The engine was fitted at the extreme forward end of the fuselage and drove a twin-bladed propeller unit. The pilot sat aft of the engine installation as well as the upper wing member so views forward were considerably limited. The fuselage tapered towards the tail to which a single, rounded vertical fin was situated. Horizontal planes were affixed to the fuselage at the base of the fin. Beyond the main landing gear legs, of which both were wheeled, the aircraft was braced along the ground by a simple tail skid featured under the tail unit. Internally, the fuselage carried a steel tube framework with wood and canvas completing the rest of the aircraft's construction makeup.
As a fighter, the aircraft was proposed with a typical fitting of 2 x 0.303 caliber Vickers Machine Guns. These air-cooled units were positioned over the nose of the aircraft and synchronized to fire through the spinning propeller blades.
The first AW.14 aircraft, flying in May of 1927 and eventually named the "Starling", was powered by the in-house Armstrong Siddeley "Jaguar VII" air-cooled radial piston engine offering 385 total horsepower. However, this powerplant failed to provide the performance required which led to the installation of the Armstrong Siddeley "Jaguar V" 14-cylinder air-cooled radial piston engine of 460 horsepower output instead. Despite the increase in output rating, the aircraft still struggled to impress in the skies, managing speeds under 160 miles-per-hour. As a result, the aircraft was passed on in favor of the Bristol design under the revised Specification F.9/26 of February 1926 (calling for a day / night "zone" fighter).
As built, the aircraft was given a length of 25.1 feet with a span of 31.3 feet and a height of 10.5 feet. Empty weight reached 2,060lb against an MTOW of 3,100lb. With its Jaguar V engine, the fighter prototype could manage a service ceiling of about 27,600 feet with a rate-of-climb of 1,428 feet-per-minute.
Armstrong Whitworth continued work on their AW.14 and fitted the prototype with new wings as well as the Armstrong Siddeley "Panther II" series engine of 525 horsepower hoping to solve both the performance issues as well as handling limitations encountered through Starling I. In this form, known as the "Starling II", the aircraft flew for the first time on December 5th, 1929 and was entered against Specifications F.20/27 (interception single-seat fighter) and N.21/26 - the later being a Royal Navy Fleet Air Arm "fleet fighter" requirement. Even in this guise, the aircraft failed to impress and was eventually used in testing by the company for the remainder of its operating days.
The Armstrong Whitworth AW.16, detailed elsewhere on this site, was heavily influenced by the company's work on the AW.14. However, this newer offering only resulted in eighteen total aircraft completed with sixteen being sent to fight in China.