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.