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Westland Lysander’s funky cousin — the P.12 Delanne

16 October 2013

Westland Lysander’s funky cousin — the P.12 Delanne

Westland P.12 Delanne — San Diego Air & Space Museum archive photo

Westland P.12 Delanne, bob-tailed with a gun turret and an extra wing! — San Diego Air & Space Museum archive photo

The Westland P.12 Delanne was unusual given the tandem wing design (successful in a flying model of the Langley Aerodrome, John Montgomery’s gliders and Henri Mignet’s Flying Flea) as well as being named after an aircraft designer — Maurice Henri Delanne — which was not in keeping with the British naming convention of the time.

Why the redesign of the Lysander which was so successful in World War II? The motivation was that the Lysander was not successful in the early days of the war and the concept of a rear gunner in light attack aircraft (e.g., Douglas SBD Dauntless, Fairey Firefly, Aichi D3A “Val”, Junkers Ju 87 and Imam Ro.43 Grillo “Cricket”) as well as fighter designs (e.g., Boulton Paul Defiant) was still in favor. Half the Lysanders in the Battle of France were shot down and quite easily when encountering the modern Luftwaffe fighter designs. What to do?

Westlands’s chief designer, Arthur Davenport, knew a solution to better protect the Lysander was to place a rear gun turret on the aircraft and to counter the too-far-aft shift of weight he compensated by shortening the fuselage as well as adding a rear wing — á lá the designs he knew of by France’s Maurice Henri Delanne. Refreshingly, the results of the July 1941 maiden flight by Harald Penrose were more than acceptable and was topped off with a loop! He reported the aircraft was stable and did not fly appreciably differently than the Lysander though the rudders required more airspeed before becoming effective.

June 1944 was the end of the Delanne’s service — though successful in its own right, aviation aircraft design had evolved away from rear turret defenses in all but the largest of aircraft.

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Our thanks to Koen Van de Kerckhove who writes the well researched blog Nest of Dragons — and specifically this post on the Delanne which was sourced from the June 1990 edition of Aeroplane Monthly (which nicely, and unusually, included pilot observations and impressions).

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