The Airspeed Ambassador was a medium range British airliner, powered by a pair of Bristol Centaurus 661 engines. First flying on 10 July 1947, the aircraft had an unusual feature in that it could be operated pressurised or unpressurised.
Particular attention was paid to soundproofing the cabin, which in standard configuration held 47 passengers, though up to 60 could also be carried. This made it quiet for a piston engine plane, though not as quiet as the new turboprops coming into service at the same time, such as the Vickers Viscount.
Airspeed Ambassador Video
Following on from the last video about the Martin 4-0-4, this week we head across to the UK for a look at the Airspeed Ambassador. Produced by British Pathé and running for four minutes, this presentation is called “The Duke Flies BEA”.
This covers the Duke of Edinburgh visiting Malta and Rome before heading back to Great Britain. The majority of the footage is of the aircraft, which in BEA service was referred to as the Elizabethan, in honor of the new British Queen, who, of course, is still the Queen today.
The first scheduled services began on 13 March 1952, with a flight from London Heathrow to Paris Le Bourget. The long period between the initial flight of the prototype and entry into service was due to various design changes that were required after flight testing.
Unfortunately the aircraft was involved in two high profile accidents. One was the Munich Air Disaster in 1958, which killed members of the Manchester United football team, and the other was in 1968 where a cargo version was filmed crashing at Heathrow.
The only airline to order the Airspeed Ambassador was BEA, which ordered 20. The three prototypes made up the rest of the production run, which ended in 1953. BEA retired the “Elizabethan” from service on 30 July 1958, as the Vickers Viscount proved more popular with passengers.
Other airlines such as Dan-Air London, BKS Air Transport, Autair International Airways, Butler Air Transport and a couple of others used the plane after BEA. The last scheduled flight operated on 28 September 1971, and the last commercial flight on 3 October 1971 with Dan-Air. Just one remains on display today, at the Imperial War Museum in Duxford.
Did you ever fly on board an Airspeed Ambassador? What did you think of the video? Thank you for reading and if you have any comments or questions, please leave them below.
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Featured image by Christian Volpati on Airlinefan.com via Wikimedia Commons.