View Full Version : AW Argosy query

19th Nov 2004, 21:59
How capable an aircraft was the Argosy?

I ask because in the last three days, I've read totally contradictory assessments of the aircraft. In essence, the first view says that the aircraft was at best merely OK, and rather limited in what it could do.

The second claims that the Argosy was rather good, and that it was ridiculous that they were retired from RAF service so soon. Any idea as to which is the more accurate of these two judgements, please?

19th Nov 2004, 23:34
Wasn't their retirement a political, rather than an operational, decision?

I think Dennis Healey wielded the big axe in 1977 having decided that as we were no longer a significant presence east of Suez we didn't need such a large transport fleet.

Thus the Argosy, Belfast and Britannia fleets all got the chop and I believe even most Andovers departed under this plan too. This was not about selling the family silver to raise money but to save on running costs. All were sold off pretty cheaply (50,000 for a Belfast, I gather).

So the question of whether these types were good or bad didn't enter into it - our political masters decreed they had to go and they did.

I do recall reading that the Argosy had its share of shortcomings from an aviator's point of view so it would be interesting if some ex-pilots would let us hear their experiences of the Whistling Wheelbarrow.

20th Nov 2004, 01:12
EGAC, you're quite right - the withdrawal from East of Suez led to a reduction in the transport fleet, and quality wasn't the first, second or third issue....

20th Nov 2004, 01:45
Edited: My mistake I didnt realise this was a Mil only forum.

20th Nov 2004, 12:48
EGAC, It was only known as the "Whistling wheelbarrow" in polite circles. The RAF ones with the radar scanner on the nose were known as "Whistling T--s"

Eric Mc
20th Nov 2004, 15:15
What were the economics of the Argosy like? In 1972, Aer Turas leased one from Transair Canada (EI-AVJ) but gave it back because it wasn't working out too well for them. A year or so later, they bought a second hand Britannia (EI-BAA).

20th Nov 2004, 19:04
From what I have read it was a perfectly acceptable aircraft. Where it suffered was in 'hot and high' conditions where it simply didn't have enough grunt! It's been mentioned numerous times that it needed Tynes and from memory there was a latter series wing (series 200) which would have made it more capable if they had been retrofitted.
It was an age old example of the RAF using a tactical transporter for strategic use and that's were the main problems were found.

20th Nov 2004, 20:06
I was involved in an Argosy operation almost 20 years ago (2 x 200's; 1 x 100). They were a great concept - donks off two F-27's for three times the payload, but they weren't the best hot and high. Cairns - Port Moresby, 480 nm, 12,500 kg payload, but still struggling to get 12,000 feet at TOD. Loading and unloading was a dream.

I think in the end, reliability of the steam driven bits and electrics were their downfall.

They operated in Australia for many years; not sure where they ended up - maybe in New Zealand?

20th Nov 2004, 21:55
Any left flying or are they all in museums now?

20th Nov 2004, 23:47
Guern I would say all scrapped now.
BTW regularly visited your island in the old girl to pick up cut flowers.

21st Nov 2004, 00:45
I think the last two flyers were N1430Z and N896U - both based in the US - and I was fortunate to see the former fly in the late 1980s while on its annual contract in support of the summer firefighting effort at Fort Wainwright, Alaska.

I subsequently saw it retired to a small outdoor museum at Fox Field in Lancaster, California where it continues to moulder away. A recent pic. is here:


N896U is at the Yankee Air Museum in Willow Run, Detroit. The museum hangar burned to the ground last month but all outdoor exhibits, including the Argosy, survived. Pic. here:


A few Argosies survive in museums in the UK.

A census of worldwide survivors is here:


Fris B. Fairing
21st Nov 2004, 04:19

Evidently you are talking about IPEC. Sadly, their Argosies were torn apart for scrap at Essendon in Dec 90, right in the backyard of the embryonic (and subsequently stillborn) National Air and Space Museum of Australia. But that's another story. I believe that the Moorabbin Air Museum have an MLG leg.


21st Nov 2004, 07:15

I believe that the Moorabbin Air Museum have an MLG leg.
dunno but.....some say was shared with a Vulcan.

21st Nov 2004, 09:25
I survived 10 years on the old girl and enjoyed the experienced. It could have done with bigger engines such as the Dart Da10 with reversing props.

EGAC: I think you are a bit out with your 1977 date. The Argosy was withdrawn from transport service at the end of 1971. The Belfast went in 1976. I attended both events!

21st Nov 2004, 09:55
I think you are a bit out with your 1977 date. The Argosy was withdrawn from transport service at the end of 1971 ................

I can clearly recall hitching a lift in an RAF Argosy from Akrotiri to Kingsfield, Cyprus, in the Summer of 1974.

Dr Jekyll
21st Nov 2004, 10:41
There was an Argosy doing circuits at RAF Marham in the summer of 1976, I think it was testing the ILS or doing something similar.

21st Nov 2004, 10:43
I was at Wattisham in 75 and still remember them coming in there. Didnt they use them for Flight Calibration before the Andovers??


21st Nov 2004, 11:05
JW411 and spelkesoftly:

You are both correct. Since I typed my original contribution above I have discovered this website:


The individual aircraft histories it contains show that most airframes were in MUs by the early 1970s although some were still on the go for a few more years. So Mr Healey's 1977 axe was NOT to blame for the en masse demise of the Argosy .

This website is comprehensive and well worth a visit.

21st Nov 2004, 11:14
70Sqn at Akrotiri had Argosys till at least 1972, the AOC of Near East Air Force had a VIP configured white over grey one operated by 70 and there were at least two other "standard" models in brown/sand camo which ran concurrently with 70's first Hercs IIRC.

Some Argosys (and Hercs) were adorned with large Red Crosses for ops to evac Jordanian Army wounded from Jordon to Cyprus during Black September. I remember the crews saying the smell was so bad (some wounded had gangrene) on some flights that they removed the cockpit overhead escape hatch

Later, 115Sqn operated them for nav-aid check/calibration, I think they were based at Benson.

115Sqn Whistling Tit at Wittering about 1974-5


21st Nov 2004, 11:56

That would probably have been the ISIS kite.

Maybe "ISIS" is the wrong acronym :confused:, someone will jump in with the right name I'm sure. But I mean the Whistling T^T that was used up and down route to calibrate the ATC kit. Used to be a regular visitor at Gan in 72/73.

21st Nov 2004, 13:06
The last Whistling Tits in RAF service were used by 115 Sqn for radar calibration purposes from Cottesmore until 1976, 115 then moved to Brize and were re-equipped with the Andover before moving to Benson in 1983.

I well remember seeing all the 'two shades of shit' coloured Arogosies at Kemble in the early 70s waiting to be scrapped.

There was even one proposal to use the Whistling Tit as a combined air engineer and navigation trainer to replace the Pig; in the end the plan was ditched although one airframe was in use for many years at Finningley for air engineer ground instructional purposes. I think it survived until the early 1980s?

21st Nov 2004, 13:30

I seem remember seeing them at the airport. When did they stop coming here?

I seem to remember a Whistling T^T at Halton when I was there for a couple of weeks in 85 or 86 (can't remember which). Of course it could have been something else my memory isn't what it was!

21st Nov 2004, 17:14
I seem to remember that the wing is basically a MkII Shackleton wing. They were also pretty slow, as I once followed one in a Shack from Aden, and it was still in sight at the top of the Red Sea.

21st Nov 2004, 19:01
Safe Air at Woodbourne (Blenheim) in the South Island of NZ used to fly them ... I believe they use one as a museum and cafe just outside the airfield...

21st Nov 2004, 22:07
Thanks for the replies...

22nd Nov 2004, 08:08
Those were the days.

....when I was a slim apprentice who was fed down the tail booms to wirelock the flying control cable barrels. Then some ba$trad moved the surfaces, causing the barrels to whisk across my face giving me some nasty scratches.


22nd Nov 2004, 12:13

There was even one proposal to use the Whistling Tit as a combined air engineer and navigation trainer to replace the Pig; in the end the plan was ditched although one airframe was in use for many years at Finningley for air engineer ground instructional purposes. I think it survived until the early 1980s?

I think you will find it resides at Cosford (on the airfield side) along with a "pig" awaiting space in the museum

Lou Scannon
22nd Nov 2004, 16:19
The reason for it's failure in the RAF was due, it was said, to the Army requiring it to carry one of their vehicles.

The RAF obligingly installed a strengthened floor to take said vehicle. The weight of this was such that the vehicle could no longer be carried and the army then changed to a larger vehicle that wouldn't fit into the Argosy anyway.

In service (as a freighter ) from 1963 to 1970' ish. The Hastings designed in 1943 still carried more payload for longer distances.

Both replaced in 1967 by the C130 which is still serving some 34 years later.

Says it all really!:ok:

23rd Nov 2004, 05:16
Fris. I heard they were all converted to pots, pans and beer cans in 1990 at Essendon.

Here's a memento........


I think this one - a Series 100 - became VH-IPA?

Fris B. Fairing
23rd Nov 2004, 05:33

Nice photo. Actually VH-BBA became VH-IPD. The two 200 series aeroplanes were VH-IPA and VH-IPB. I recall that they always looked immaculate so it is particularly tragic that nobody had the good sense to save one.


23rd Nov 2004, 19:26
there was an argosy on the airfield at halton in 1977, it was used to teach fitters to change engines. it spent its time having its engines changed by trainees.it would have an engine run, engines changed and then test run again. next course did the same , we could hear the engine runs from the workshops.

23rd Nov 2004, 22:10

Thanks for that. The memory wasn't failing me then I was right about the Argosy at Halton. It was still there in Mid 80's can't remember if it was 85 or 86 when I was there for a couple of weeks flying Ventures.

Seemed to remember some of the old Red Arrows Gnats being used for training of the engineers at the same time. Never saw anyone tinkering with the Argosy whilst I was there mind.

Wonder if it is still there? :hmm:

23rd Nov 2004, 23:49
The RAF Argosy Squadrons (chronologically)

No 114 Sqn. Reformed October 1961 at Benson. Argosy C1 from February 1962. Disbanded October 1971.

No 105 Sqn. Reformed February 1962 at Benson. Argosy C1 from May 1962. Khormaksar from June 1962. Muharraq from August 1967. Disbanded February 1968.

No 267 Sqn. Reformed November 1962 at Benson with Argosy C1. Disbanded June 1970.

No 215 Sqn. Reformed May 1963 at Benson with Argosy C1. Changi from July 1963. Disbanded December 1967.

No 70 Sqn. Received the Argosy C1 in October 1967 to supplement its Hastings C4 at Akrotiri. Transferred entirely to Hercules C1 on move to Lynham January 1975.

No 115 Sqn. Received the Argosy E1 in February 1968 to supplement its Hastings C4 at Watton. Moved to Cottesmore April 1969 and to Brize Norton in February 1976. Transferred entirely to Andover E3 in November 1976.

(Copied from the Argosy re-union website)

Beeayeate, I think you mean IRIS (Inspector of Radio Services)

24th Nov 2004, 11:40
<<How capable an aircraft was the Argosy?>>

Gentlemen's international transport. :cool:
Had to stop everywhere for fuel. Longest sector I've done was Masirah-Gan empty with island holding reserve. As a tactical transport there was no proper galley but the guys worked wonders with the hot cup.
Pressurised, comfortable pleasant flightdeck. Cosmetic lining in the freight bay a bit overdone by Herc standards.

As others have said, it wasn't great hot'nhigh.
Tehran to Bahrain we'd calculated that we'd have to make FL190 to cover terrain clearance driftdown in the event of EF in the cruise.
As it turned out, we were lighter than planned so did not have to make FL190 for the ER driftdown case. We decided, nevertheless, to see if we could make it to FL190 at the weight & ISA deviation on the day.
Just levelled at FL190 and thought "This is the life! Lets have a coffee." when we started going down again. Max cont had little effect and there was a Herc coming the other way at FL180.
Just as we were about to exit the airway we entered the upgoing bit of the standing wave and shot back to 190.
We learnt about marginal performance & standing waves from that :O

25th Nov 2004, 10:12
The RAF obligingly installed a strengthened floor to take said vehicle. The weight of this was such that the vehicle could no longer be carried and the army then changed to a larger vehicle that wouldn't fit into the Argosy anyway. Not quite the way I heard the story.... I'm sure I was told that the floor strengthening for the vehicle (Ferret Scout Car?) raised the floor level so it would no longer fit!!

But payload was never its strong suit. There was a rumour once that an Argosy QM had been court martialled for leaving his payload on top of his locker.........:rolleyes:

25th Nov 2004, 17:36
. . . and I seem to recollect being told it was the Saracen which would originally have fitted but for a design change on the vehicle :confused:
When the WW went to Signals Group at Cottesmore they'd a period of unserviceability and some of the old Varsity hacks produced pictures of yellow Argosies. (Ground equipment was painted yellow :D )

Is Charlie Spooner still around? Be in his eighties now I guess.

Vick Van Guard
27th Nov 2004, 11:58
Ahhhhhh the Argosy.

I did my apprenticeship with Field Aircraft Service at East Midlands where we maintained the Air Bridge Carriers Argosy's.

Our instructor ('wild' Bill Lackenby) worked for Armstong-Whitworth on the design side for the Argosy. Always had a few anecdotes about the aircraft, which to be honest were always more interesting in whatever he was supposed to be teaching us.

I can remember Bill used to use the wing as an example of the differences between 'safe life' and 'fail safe'. The 100 series had a 'safe life' wing (which was based on the Shackleton), the 200 series and military aircraft had a 'fail safe' type.

The tail booms were apparently a pair of Meteor rear fuselages (AWA were making NF Meteors at the time). The nacelles were taken directly from the Viscount. Bill reckoned that originally the aircraft was going to have two Tynes that is why the inboard Darts are positioned quite away from the fuse to allow room for the larger dia prop. In retrospect I think four Tynes would have made a better job of it.

The civil aircraft had a swing door on the nose and tail, whereas the mil aircraft just had that rather heavy clam shell type at the rear.

We also had the last flying military Argosy XN817, which belonged to A & AEE in for maint. on a couple of occasions. I remember it being immaculate compared to our rather shabby ones. Sadly this aircraft ended its days on the fire dump at West Freugh.

As regards the Finingley aircraft this aircraft was broken up (like the ones at Halton), however the cockpit was converted to a procedure trainer which is now at the Newark Air Museum (it still works).

Hopefully attached is G-APRL 'Edna' doing a rather sporting (for an Arogsy!) beat up at EMA on her final flight to the Midland Air Museum at Coventry. I remember the pilot whilst being interviewed by the local telly describing the Argosy as '' like flying a bungalow looking out of the bathroom window'' which always makes me smile when I look back. :)


PPRuNe Radar
27th Nov 2004, 12:19
There were 2 Argosy's at Halton when I did an Air Cadet pre entry visit there in 1980 (I think).

XP442 and XR140 according to an old 'Wrecks & Relics' book I have.

Still trying to work out whether being able to climb all over old aircraft (Hunters, Gnats, Argosy's, Sea Vixens, and Jety Provosts) was better fun than being shown round the Dental Hygenist school with all the nice young WAAFs :)

Vick Van Guard
27th Nov 2004, 13:22
There were 2 Argosy's at Halton when I did an Air Cadet pre entry visit there in 1980 (I think).

Yes, that will be these two then. :ok:



27th Nov 2004, 20:48
Vick Van Guard Bill Lackenby did my technical course for the type rating on the Argosy.
A lot of it conducted over a pint at the Flying Horse !
He certainly was a mine of funny anecdotes about the aircraft . Is he still around?
Was it also true the main legs were Vulcan?

28th Nov 2004, 08:11
I remember doing my first (and only outdoor) engine change on one of the above. I seem to remember that moving the stand about was the hardest part.
The dental school was much more entertaining:ok:

28th Nov 2004, 13:40
I guess the D-cup Whistling Tit ('44') was the T2 prototype? God it looks ugly with that nose!

Vick Van Guard
28th Nov 2004, 14:17
A few more from the archives:

XN817 showing military rear door, in company with a Beagle Bassett (crew transport).


G-APRL during a period of storage at EMA.


Another ABC Argosy, this time G-BEOZ.


Finally another shot of G-APRL being towed out of the hangar just prior to her last flight.



Not sure if Bill is still around. Fields/Hunting packed up in 98, and I think he had already retired by then. I will make some enquires.
As regards the main leg, I had not heard that before but looking at a picture of a Vulcan leg they do seem to have a passing resemblance.

28th Nov 2004, 20:20
Thanks Dick the last time I saw EMA was in 1980 when it was still a village airport. I doubt I could find my way around now.
Where you early enough at Fields to remember the ABC Viscount ? The chopping up of the Argosy virtually at Fields front door?
The sight and sound of RR's Spitfire popping around the circuit on a fine day was a memory as was the assymetric training going on in the BMA 707's.