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Afternoon walkaround with a Westland Lysander

2 January 2013

Afternoon walkaround with a Westland Lysander

Named for the famed ancient age Spartan general Lysander this aircraft excelled well beyond the original liaison role for which it was designed. Westland’s Lysander had excellent short field performance lent by lightweight construction, advanced wing features and powerful Bristol Mercury 870 hp (649kW) radial engine. Fabric covered most of the fuselage as well as the high mounted wing, which had slotted flaps as well as slats allowing the Lysander to fly slowly — as slow as 65 mph (104kph). Defensive armament and armor were almost nonexistent, range and speed were not bragged about either — yet it was the Lysander which most often flew clandestine missions into occupied France during WW II to insert or extract agents or deliver equipment and supplies. These missions were flown by dead reckoning, during periods around a full moon and landing in meadows simply lit by, hopefully, French resistance fighters. The pilot sat high under the forward portion of a greenhouse canopy, and with excellent visibility, while behind was a station for a radio operator/gunner — or space for a passenger (two in a pinch).

This Lysander, with a sea schemed camouflage livery, is displayed at the Florida Air Museum and was photographed during a beautiful November afternoon day when it had  luckily been pulled out of the hangar for an event.

— photo by Joseph May

Westland Lysander at the Florida Air Museum — photo by Joseph May

— photo by Joseph May

The  Lysander’s  powerful Bristol Mercury engine  is plainly seen from this perspective  as are the spats mounted landing lights  and strut braced wing — photo by Joseph May

— photo by Joseph May

Large  elevator surfaces as well as variable incidence tailplane lent excellent low speed control characteristics to the Lysander pilot — photo by Joseph May

— photo by Joseph May

The  pilot’s cockpit has excellent views to the sides, up  and to the rear as well as forward (once in flight) — photo by Joseph May

— photo by Joseph May

The rear position has a footstep (in the lighter colored ventral area  just forward of the  roundel ) as well as another (just to the rear of the “B”) and also note the fabric  covering the fuselage) — photo by Joseph May

— photo by Joseph May

Perhaps a unique wing shape  of the Lysander? — photo by Joseph May

— photo by Joseph May

Rear profile view showing the rear canopy rails — photo by Joseph May

6 Comments leave one →
  1. 2 January 2013 02:16

    One of my favorite WWII anecdotes came from a former RAF Lysander pilot. Apparently the lifting qualities of the Lysander wing were such that if you had a good wind, you could just point the plane into it, set the wing and elevator controls and bring the engine power up and the wind would do the rest so that the plane could get off the ground without any sort of take off role.

    He told me about seeing a Harrier take off vertically and wondering what all the fuss was about “We were doing the same thing in Lysanders years before and using a lot less fuel in the process!”

    • travelforaircraft permalink*
      11 January 2013 14:07

      Nice! Even more reason to love the Lysander 🙂 I think I read somewhere that with any sort of wind the Lysander rose off the ground as opposed to being flown into the air.

  2. 2 January 2013 08:49

    What a wonderful Post. Again Joe may you bless us!
    I had a friend who was a WWII Lysander Pilot and a fine bloke. He and I shared a pint or two while he told me many war stories that could have been embleshed a tad the more we drank and the longer we talked as time pasted. But he often said the plane was like a kite, if the wind was strong enough one could almost tie a string to it and point it into the wind and fly it like a kite, which made it a bear to land in crosswind conditions. But Philip did say that if you lost an engine, you had all day to find a “proper place to set ‘er down” since the glide angle was so great. He said there were a lot of times they would cut off their engines and do dead stick landings behind enemy lines… (I always wondered if that wasn’t a stetch though 🙂 )
    Thanks for this post Joe, The Florida Air Museum is one of the best and we are so proud to have it here in Lakeland at the Sun n Fun Campus.
    “JR” Hafer

    • travelforaircraft permalink*
      11 January 2013 14:08

      It is a great museum and a very friendly one at that 🙂 Nice recollections of your friend as well and thanks for them 🙂

  3. Edward Kiker permalink
    15 June 2013 12:02

    The ability of the Lysander to glide quietly for great distances made it very useful in inserting and extracting spies and saboteurs in France to support the French resistance.
    E. Kiker

    • travelforaircraft permalink*
      17 June 2013 19:08

      Thanks, too true 🙂 A wonderful aircraft wonderfully used 🙂

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