Gliders and Equipment
General Aircraft Hotspur
Feltham-based General Aircraft wasted no time in getting their prototype built and the first trial flight took place on 5 November, 1940. The aircraft was given the name Hotspur (after Henry 'Hotspur' Percy 1st Earl of Northumberland) and so began the trend for naming British gliders after soldiers from antiquity.
The first Hotspur arrived at Ringway on 6 February, 1941. As specified, it could accommodate eight fully-armed troops and had the ability to carry a cargo of 1,880 lbs (850kg). It had a wing-span of 45ft (14m) and a length of 39ft (12m). Fully loaded it weighed in at 3598lbs (1630kg).
Towing trials began with a Boulton & Paul Overstrand but the Hotspur was well matched with all tug planes which were available at the time - Hawker's Hector and Hart and the Miles Magister. In all, 1015 Hotspurs were built during the war.
Above: Hotspur Gliders (Source: Imperial War Museum)
Above: Airspeed Horsa (Source: Imperial War Museum)
Airspeed Ltd was given the task of producing a 25-seater, which could also be used for carrying materiel, such as jeeps, trailers etc. The finished glider had a total of 32 seats, though the operational maximum fitted was 28, which was the number of men in a standard Airborne platoon.
The glider was named Horsa, after the 5th Century German mercenary. The prototype took to the air on 12 September, 1941, with the first production model appearing in June, 1942. In all, some 3500 were produced during the War.
With a wing-span of 88 feet (27m) and a total length of 67 feet (20m), a fully-laden Horsa weighed in at 15,250 lbs (6917kg). It was constructed almost entirely of 3-ply wood. The pilots sat side by side. Visibility was excellent through the large perspex windscreen. Passengers sat facing each other on benches.
Passengers entered the Horsa through two doors (one forward of the port wing and one aft of the starboard wing) which slid up inside the fuselage.
The tail section was designed to be removed and ramps were then attached to the fuselage to allow the load to be taken out. Occasionally, a cordtex explosive was used to blow the tail off.
The nose section of the later MkII swung open to allow loading and unloading of equipment.
General Aircraft Hamilcar
The specification for the fourth glider was given the code X.27/40 and called for a glider capable of carrying a light tank.This was not a new idea. As early as 1935, the Russians had slung pallet-borne T-37 tanks under TB-3 bombers. The Air Ministry and War Office gave the X.27/40 contract to General Aircraft without going to tender. Initially designated GAL49, the new glider was soon known as the Hamilcar (a famous Carthaginian general and father of Hannibal).
412 Hamilcars were built during the War. Only a foot (0.3m) longer than the Horsa it had a mighty wingspan of 110 feet (33.5m) and, fully laden, weighed in at 36,000 lbs (16329kg).
The pilots sat in tandem some 25 feet (7.5m) above the ground. Passengers were rarely carried, but a total of forty troops could be accommodated in the barn-like cargo area. The glider's main load was the Tetrarch light tank.
Above: General Aircraft Hamilcar (Source: Imperial War Museum)
The Weaver Aircraft Company (WACO) of Troy, Ohio, did not begin construction of its CG-4A (rechristened 'Hadrian' by the British) until mid-1941. The first was delivered in April, 1942 and, by the end of the war, close on 14000 had been built. Of these, 750 were supplied to the GPR.
The CG-4A had a wingspan of 83 feet (25m), was 48 feet (14m) long and had an all up weight of 7500lbs (3400kgs). Its fuselage was built of steel tubing. The wings were of a wooden rib construction and covered in plywood. The floor was a honey-combed plywood pattern. The whole aircraft was covered in cotton fabric. The cockpit lifted to allow loading and unloading of the cargo section.
Above: WACO CG-4A