The Auster was developed from a licence built version of the American Taylorcraft cabin monoplane. The Taylorcraft was created in the US, although the designer, C.Gilbert Taylor was originally from Nottingham. Taylor's original company had been acquired by William Piper, for whom he designedthe E-2 Cub. They parted company in 1935, and Taylor went on to form the Taylor-Young Aeroplane Co. which produced the Taylorcraft.
The initial British version, the Model Plus C which flew in May 1939, was an adaption of the American Model B. Around 20 had been sold when the war broke out. Fitted with a 90hp Cirrus Minor I in place of the original 55hp Lycoming O-145-A2, the aircraft was utilised by British forces for artillery observation. In 1941, in line with Ministry of Aircraft police, the aircraft was named 'Auster', the latin name for a warm southerly wind.
Utilised as a liason and reconaissance aircraft, the Auster Air Observation Post (AOP) underwent development and modification to enhance performance. The initial AOP.3 was upgraded to the 130hp Lycoming O-290-3 Mk.2, and the 130hp Gypsy M ajor 1 Mk.3 (which also introduced flaps). Changes were also made to the aircraft's structure to improve strength and pilot visibility, and add refinements like a tailwheel. The AOP.4 (or Model G) also used the 130hp Lycoming O-290-3. The 1944 AOP.5 (Model J) is considered the definative AOP Auster. This also featured a 130hp Lycoming O-290-3/1 engine and brought together the refinements of the earlier models. 790 of this model were eventually produced, and many survived onto the civil register.
Development did not cease however, and the AOP.6 appeared in May 1945. Again this had a stronger structure, as well as lengthened undercarriage and the more powerful Gypsy major 7 allowing an increased maximum weight. This aircraft was also fitted with floats and skis. A dual control version of the AOP.6 was designated the T.7, and one aircraft NZ1707 (described below) a T.7c was modified for Antarctic use. The final military variant which appeared in March 1954, was the AOP.9. This had an all metal contruction, and was powered by the 180hp Cirrus Bombardier engine. This served with the British, Indian, and South African forces. An AOP.11 prototype (featurning a 260hp Continental IO-470-D) was produced in 1961, but by that time its role had been taken over by helicopters, and it did not go into production.
In 1945 Auster Aircraft ltd was formed when the original Taylorcraft license expured. The company continued with development and production of the Auster. The 1946 J/1 Autocrat was a civilian version of the Auster Mk.5 incorporating a 100hp Cirrus Minor II engine and some cabin changes. The 'J' label follows the original company's internal designations. This was a three seater like the earlier AOP versions. In 1950 the J/1B Aiglet incorporated the more powerful 130hp Gypsy major 1, with a shorter undercarriage and larger tailfin and rudder. Some J/1's were later modified to J/1B, and some were factory altered. The 1956 J/1N Alpha is another J/1 conversion and is generally externally similar to the J/1B, apart from the addition of an oil cooler.
In 1946 a two seater, the Continental C75-12 powered J/2 Arrow was also produced. This lead to the 90hp Cirrus Minor powered J/4 Archer. The two seater was not as popular as the bigger 3-4 seat options, and only a limited number were produced. This amounted to 44 J/2, and only 26 J/4 aircraft.
The 4 seat J/5 Adventurer was introduced in 1947. This had the 130 hp Gypsy major 1 powerplant, and the nose was shortened to allow for a shift in the centre of gravity. This led to a reduction in the size of the fuel tank, and in some cases a slipper tank was slung under the fuselage. The undercarriage was lengthened to allow for the larger propeller required for the more powerful engine. In general these aircraft have the same fin as the J/1. In 1949 this was followed up by the J/5B Autocar with a larger rear cabin. The Autocar had the same powerplant and nose structure as the J/5 but added the larger tail ofthe J/1B and introduced wing tanks. Further Autocar variants were based on the powerplant fitted, with the 1951 J/5G having a 155hp Cirrus Major 3, the J/5H having a 145hp Cirrus Major 2, and the 1955 J/5P having a 145hp Gypsy major 10.
The 4 seat J/5F Aiglet Trainer follows from the J/1B (despite reports to the contrary) with the Gypsy Major 1 poweplant, a wider strengthened fuselage, clipped wings and improved ailerons - allowing it to be certified as fully aerobatic. Further models the J/5K and J/5L were again defined by powerplant. A further derivative, the Alpine (either the Gypsy Major powered J/5R or Gypsy major 1 powered J/5Q), used the J/1F fuselage and aileron control and the Autocars wing structure.
In 1960 the Auster Aircraft Co was bought out (along with Miles Aircraft) by Pressed Steel Co. and formed into the British Executive and General Aircraft (BEAGLE). BEAGLE in turn was bought out in 1966, and in 1968 the Auster rights were sold to Hampshire and Sussex Aviation.
New Zealand has featured both civil and military Austers. The RNZAF operated seven Auster aircraft (NZ1701-1707) in the period 1947-1969. Six J/5 aircraft were ordered in 1947, and fitted with locally procured Gipsy Major engines. The aircraft were used in a number of roles, including army-liason, and forestry patrol. One aircraft (NZ1701) was fitted for a time with with floats. A further aircraft, NZ1707, was purchased in 1956 for use with the Commonwealth Trans-Antarctic Expedition, and subsequently served on the ice until 1959. This aircraft was donated to MoTaT in 1966 following a crash in the Kaipara harbour while serving with 3SQN, but has subsequently been swapped back to be displayed in the RNZAF Museum. The other aircraft were sold or written off. The final aircraft (NZ1702) was withdrawn from service in 1969 and sold in 1970.
Four ex-RNZAF Austers survive:
The Auster has played a large part in New Zealand's post-war aviation development. Operators used the aircraft for passenger, freight, agricultural spraying and top-dressing), tourist and photographic work. The short strip capability allowed the aircraft to provide access to many remote areas. The aircraft has remained popular (particularly in the South Island) for farmers as a utility runabout. A number of civilian Austers continue to operate in New Zealand, as illustrated below. In addition, a number of ex-RAF AOP.5 and AOP.6 Auster aircraft have been imported. A rough list of New Zealand Austers can be found here.
One of the aircraft illustrated below (ZK-AUX) has a rather special history. Although it has never seen military service, it has operated from not one, but two aircraft carriers. Built in 1946, the aircraft was purchased by the Temple Press, publishers of 'Aeroplane' magazine, and registered as G-AERO. Utilised as the office 'hack', the aircraft in the course of its duties was flown aboard HMS Illustrious in 1946, and then aboard HMCS Magnificent in 1948. After ending its duties with the magazine, the aircraft was subsequently imported to New Zealand, where it was operated by the owners of Wanganui Aerowork for some years. The aircraft moved to the South Island where it had several owners before moving North again in 1983. ZK-AUX was operated by the Vintage AeroClub who purchased the aircraft in 1989, and based in Hamilton until 1999. Unfortunately late in 1999 the aircraft was in an accident departing from Russ Ward's strip at Mercer and seriously damaged. The aircraft was tendered by the insurance company,and is know in storage, hopefully awaiting restoration.
Last Text Update:- 22 May, 2001
Last Picture Update:- 2 December, 2002
Data is for the Auster IV