|AESL Airtourer 100/A1 inflight near Shepparton Airport|
|Role||Light utility aircraft|
|Manufacturer||Aero Engine Services Ltd|
|First flight||31 March 1959 (100)
17 September 1962 (115)
September 1968 (150)
November 1968 (Super 150)
|Produced||1962-1966 (100 and 115, Victa)
1967-1973 (115 and 150, AESL)
|Number built||168 (Aust); 80 (NZ)|
The AESL Airtourer is an all-metal light low-wing monoplane touring aircraft that was developed in Australia, and was manufactured in both Australia and New Zealand.
Design and development
The Airtourer was the winning design, submitted by Henry Millicer, the chief aerodynamicist of Australia's Government Aircraft Factories, in a competition organised by Britain's Royal Aero Club in 1953. A wooden prototype was constructed by a small group of enthusiasts (the Air Tourer Group of the Australian Ultra Light Aircraft Association) in the Melbourne suburb of Williamstown during the late 1950s. This prototype, registered VH-FMM (also well known as Foxtrot Mickey Mouse in Australian aviation history) was first flown on 31 March 1959.
The Airtourer design is of cantilever low-wing monoplane configuration, with a fixed tricycle landing gear. It has interconnected ailerons and flaps, with both systems functioning as both ailerons and as flaps when operated. The nosewheel was steerable. Space was available for luggage (45 kg weight limit).
The prototype was demonstrated to aero clubs and flying schools as a possible replacement for existing training aircraft, mostly Tiger Moths and Chipmunks. After trial flights over Melbourne and then to the Latrobe Valley Airport development continued to the all-metal version. The all-metal prototype to production standard (VH-MVA) followed on 12 December 1961.
Interest was shown in the design by Mervyn Richardson, Chairman of Victa Ltd, which at that time was best known for making lawn mowers and light two-stroke engines. Richardson was interested in entering an aviation-related industry. During the period 1961 to 1966, Victa Ltd. undertook production of the all-metal Airtourer, building both 100 hp and 115 hp models. Victa production continued until 1966.
As the Australian Government had rejected Victa’s appeals for tariff protection assistance, and for funding assistance to keep the production lines open, the company had no choice other than to close down its Aviation Division in February 1966, by which time it had built 168 aircraft.
The manufacturing rights to the Airtourer were purchased the following year by the maintenance firm Aero Engine Services Ltd (AESL) in New Zealand where further production of 115 hp and 150 hp models took place until 1973. Ironically, one of its largest offshore orders came from the Royal Australian Air Force which purchased fifty-one uprated Airtourers (known as CT/4 Airtrainers) between 1975 and 1982. These remained in service as the RAAF’s ab initio trainer until 1993 and indeed, the CT4 is still being used (in Tamworth) as the basic trainer for all Australian military pilot training.
A total of 168 were completed or significantly completed by Victa in Sydney and a further 80 built by AESL in Hamilton NZ. Actually it would be correct to say that 170 serial numbers were issued by Victa and 80 by AESL.
Examination of the records show that some of the late serial numbers issued by Victa were completed in NZ and issued with a NZ serial number (starting at 501). In addition, some of the Victa-built aircraft were rebuilt in the factory by AESL and issued with NZ serial numbers which accounts for some duplication.
Some 90 aircraft remain in Australia with around 20 or so elsewhere, mainly in New Zealand and the United Kingdom.
AESL produced 7 Airtourers from parts provided by Victa, before launching production of its own aircraft, ultimately produced in 7 different variants:
- T1 powered by a 100 hp Continental O-200 engine
- T2 powered by a 115 hp Lycoming O-235 engine
- T3 powered by a 130 hp Rolls-Royce O-240 engine
- T4 powered by a 150 hp Lycoming O-320-E1A - fixed pitch propeller
- T5 powered by a 150 hp Lycoming O-320-E1A - Constant Speed propeller
- T6 initially a small run of 4 aircraft for the RNZAF, powered by a 150 hp Lycoming O-320-E1A - Constant Speed propeller with gross weight increased from T-5, and with a 24 volt electrical system.
- T8 powered by a 160 hp Lycoming AEIO-320 with fuel injection.
The T7 was offered as a fixed-pitch T6, but no orders were received for this configuration.
AESL delivery pilot Cliff Tait used an Airtourer for a record breaking flight, circumnavigating the world between May and August 1969 and covering 53,097 km in 288 flying hours in ZK-CXU.
Victa produced a higher-powered variant, the Aircruiser, in 1966. Ownership of this aircraft passed to AESL who rebuilt it as a prototype of the successful CT/4 Airtrainer, production of which continues by AESL descendant, Pacific Aerospace.
AESL production of the Airtourer commenced in July 1967 and terminated after the delivery of 87 aircraft in July 1973. Rights to produce the Airtourer were sold to Edge Aviation of Australia, who rebuilt a single AESL aircraft, but no further production followed. Several Airtourers are still in service.
Specifications (Victa Airtourer AT.115)
- Crew: 1
- Capacity: 1 passenger
- Length: 6.55 m (21 ft 5⅞ in)
- Wingspan: 7.92 m (26 ft 0 in)
- Height: 2.13 m (7 ft 0 in)
- Wing area: 11.15 m2 (120 ft2)
- Empty weight: 490 kg (1,080 lb)
- Gross weight: 748 kg (1,650 lb)
- Powerplant: 1 × Lycoming O-235-C1B air-cooled flat four piston engine, 86 kW (115 hp) each
- Maximum speed: 230 km/h (142 mph)
- Cruising speed: 200 km/h (124 mph)
- Range: 1,140 km (710 miles)
- Service ceiling: 4,265 m (14,000 ft)
- Rate of climb: 4.6 m/s (900 ft/min)
VH-CFE in the Queensland Air Museum collection
VH-MVA was later re-engined and was the first Airtourer 115 around 1963. As for FMM, it is owned by the Museum of Victoria having last been displayed at the Australian Naval Aviation Museum in Nowra, NSW.
The Air Tourer was produced with a 'square hand grip' on the centrally-located control stick.
- Ewing, Ross and MacPherson, Ross The History of New Zealand Aviation, Heinemann, 1986
- Knowles, Alan, New Zealand Aircraft, IPL Books, Wellington, 1990
- Mondey, David, Encyclopedia of The World's Commercial and Private Aircraft, Crescent Books, New York NY (1981). p. 244.
- Taylor, John W. R. Jane's All The World's Aircraft 1966–67. London: Sampson Low, Marston & Company, 1966.
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to AESL Airtourer.|
- The Airtourer Association Australia
- List of production Airtourers and Airtrainers at the Wayback Machine
- RAAF CT-4s