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Armstrong Whitworth Ensign

United Kingdom (1936)

Detailing the development and operational history of the Armstrong Whitworth Ensign Mail Service / Passenger Transport Aircraft.

 Entry last updated on 1/12/2018; Authored by Staff Writer; Content ©

  Armstrong Whitworth Ensign  
Picture of Armstrong Whitworth Ensign Mail Service / Passenger Transport Aircraft

The impressive Armstrong Whitworth Ensign saw only limited production numbers but managed to serve both sides of World War 2.

The impressive Armstrong Whitworth Ensign AW.27 series was made originally designed to a 1934 British government requirement for an air mail service transport to spearhead an improved method of correspondence to all points of the British Empire. The Armstrong Whitworth design was accepted and development proceeded, albeit at a interrupted pace thanks to the ever-changing requirements as put forth by Imperial Airways. Couple that with early engine reliability issues and the Ensign seems to have been doomed to failure. On the contrary, the system was recognized as a successful design and would see many years of usefulness in commercial and military ventures thanks to its stellar design.

Design of the Ensign was characterized by its smooth lines and high-wing mounting. The cockpit was situated at extreme forward offering up good views past the wings which were seated to the middle of the fuselage, far back from the cockpit. Oval-shaped windows dotted the fuselage sides while the fuselage bottom sagged from nose to tail tip. The main landing gear were housed in the wing roots and consisted of large donut type wheels consistent with large aircraft design of the times. Four engines were placed two to a wing in the leading wing edges and contoured nicely into the wing elements. The empennage was of a traditional layout complete with rounded fin edges. Crew accommodations amounted to five personnel that included the pilot, co-pilot, radio operator and - if needed - two cabin stewards for passenger flight. Depending on the required range, passenger seating numbers fell between 27 and 40 total personnel.
The AW.27 came in two dominant variants, categorized by the brand of engine fitted to each. The AW.27 Mk I was seen fitted with four Armstrong Siddeley Tiger IXC radial piston engines whilst the AW.27 Mk II model came with four Wright Cyclone GR-1820-G102A radial piston engines. Beyond that, both models were basically similar in design, layout and operation.

The AW.27 series served with the RAF in military service during the Second World War and also appeared in a single captured form with the Vichy French and later the Luftwaffe. With the RAF, the Ensign served with the No. 24 Squadron.
Armstrong Whitworth AW.27 Ensign Mk I Specifications
National Flag Graphic
United Kingdom
Year: 1936
Status: Retired, Out-of-Service
Type: Mail Service / Passenger Transport Aircraft
Manufacturer(s): Armstrong Whitworth - UK
Production: 14
Supported Mission Types
Ground Attack
Close-Air Support
Airborne Early Warning
Electronic Warfare
Aerial Tanker
Passenger Industry
VIP Travel
Business Travel
Special Forces
Crew: 5
Length: 114.17 ft (34.8 m)
Width: 123.03 ft (37.50 m)
Height: 23.03 ft (7.02 m)
Empty Weight: 35,053 lb (15,900 kg)
MTOW: 55,556 lb (25,200 kg)

Installed Power
4 x Wright GR-1820-G102A geared radial piston engines developing 1,100 horsepower each.

Standard Day Performance
Maximum Speed: 205 mph (330 kph; 178 kts)
Maximum Range: 1,367 mi (2,200 km; 1,188 nm)
Service Ceiling: 23,950 ft (7,300 m; 4.54 mi)
Rate-of-Climb: 900 ft/min (274 m/min)


Operators List
France (Vichy French); Nazi Germany; United Kingdom

Series Model Variants
• AW.27 Mk I - Fitted with 4 x Armstrong Siddeley Tiger IXC radial piston engines.
• AW.27 Mk II - Fitted with 4 x Wright GR-1820-G102A Cyclone radial piston engines.