Spartan Cruiser

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Spartan Cruiser over Melbourne, 1934
Role Light Transport
Manufacturer Spartan Aircraft Limited
Designer Edgar Percival
First flight 1932
Introduction 1933
Retired 1942
Primary users Spartan Air Lines
British Airways Ltd
Number built 17
Developed from Spartan A.24 Mailplane

The Spartan Cruiser was a 1930s British three-engined transport monoplane for 6 to 10[1] passengers built by Spartan Aircraft Limited at East Cowes, Isle of Wight. It was a development of the Saro-Percival Mailplane for passenger use.

Design and development[edit]

The Saro-Percival Mailplane was a three-engined monoplane mail plane designed by Edgar Percival, and built by Saunders-Roe Limited (Saro) at Cowes in 1931, the aircraft first flying early in 1932. It was a low-winged monoplane with a wooden wing[2] and plywood fuselage powered by three 120 hp (89 kW) de Havilland Gipsy III engines.[3] When Saro was financially re-organised, Percival sold his interest in the aircraft to Saro, who re-designated it as the Saro A.24 Mailplane. Due to the close ties between Saro and Spartan Aircraft, the development of the aircraft was transferred to Spartan, and the aircraft was re-designated again as the Spartan Mailplane.[4] The aircraft was modified to accommodate two passenger seats. Starting on 15 June 1932, the Mailplane (G-ABLI) flew from Stanley Park Aerodrome (Blackpool) to Karachi, India taking a total of 5 days 23 hours 50 minutes.[5]

The Mailplane had produced no commercial interest, so the design was re-worked as a passenger carrier. This was designated the Spartan Cruiser, and the prototype (G-ABTY) first flew in May 1932, piloted by Louis Strange. The original three-engined low-wing layout had been retained, but the plywood fuselage was replaced with an all-metal fuselage to carry six passengers and two crew.[4]

Just one example was built of the basic Cruiser (G-ABTY, later known as the Cruiser I). Both the new Cruiser and the Mailplane were displayed at the first Society of British Aircraft Constructors (SBAC) Show at Hendon Aerodrome on 27 June 1932. It was then used for demonstrations, including a 3,593 mile (5,782 km) European sales tour. The Yugoslavia airline Aeroput ordered two aircraft and a licence to build further examples in Yugoslavia[5] at the Zmaj aircraft factory.[6]

The Cruiser was re-designed as the Spartan Cruiser II, featuring a modified fuselage and cockpit. The first Cruiser II (G-ACBM) flew in February 1933, powered by Cirrus Hermes IV engines, and G-ACKG/VT-AER[7] also used that engine type. Most Spartan-built Cruiser IIs were powered by three Gipsy Major engines, but G-ACOU/OK-ATM was powered by Walter Major engines. In 1933 and 1934, twelve Cruiser IIs were built by Spartan, five of which were exported.[4] Just one licence-built Cruiser II (YU-SAP)[8] was built in Zemun, Yugoslavia, by Zmaj Aircraft, in 1935.[9][10]

One further development was the Spartan Cruiser III, with an aerodynamically-refined fuselage accommodating eight passengers, a modified windscreen and a trousered main undercarriage. Only three Cruiser IIIs were built (G-ACYK, G-ADEL and G-ADEM), for Spartan Air Lines.[4]

Operational history[edit]

Spartan Air Lines Ltd was formed to operate Cruisers between London and Cowes, Isle of Wight. In April 1933, Spartan Air Lines initially operated the one Cruiser I (G-ABTY) and two Cruiser IIs (G-ACDW and G-ACDX) from Heston Aerodrome.[4] Iraq Airwork Limited ordered one aircraft for an experimental air route between Baghdad and Mosul, with a further aircraft being ordered by Misr Airwork, the Egyptian branch of Airwork.[5] Two Cruiser IIs and one Cruiser III were impressed into RAF service in 1940.[4]


Civil operators[edit]

  • Maharajah of Patiala
 Kingdom of Yugoslavia
 United Kingdom

Military operators[edit]

 Kingdom of Yugoslavia
 United Kingdom

Surviving aircraft[edit]

The fuselage of a Cruiser III (G-ACYK) is on display at the National Museum of Flight, East Fortune, Scotland. This aircraft crashed on 14 January 1938; in 1973, the cabin section was moved by helicopter from the crash site on the Hill of Stake near Largs to the museum.[12][13]

Specifications (Cruiser II)[edit]

Spartan Cruiser 3-view drawing from NACA-AC-168

Data from British Civil Aircraft since 1919 [4]

General characteristics

  • Crew: Two
  • Capacity: Six passengers
  • Length: 39 ft 2 in (11.94 m)
  • Wingspan: 54 ft 0 in (16.46 m)
  • Height: 10 ft 0 in (3.05 m)
  • Wing area: 436 sq ft (40.50 m2)
  • Empty weight: 3,650 lb (1,656 kg)
  • Max takeoff weight: 6,200 lb (2,812 kg)
  • Powerplant: 3 × de Havilland Gipsy Major inverted inline piston engine, 130 hp (97 kW) each


  • Maximum speed: 133 mph (214 km/h, 115.5 kn)
  • Cruise speed: 115 mph (185 km/h, 100 kn)
  • Range: 310 mi (499 km, 270 nmi)
  • Service ceiling: 15,000 ft (4,570 m)
  • Rate of climb: 630 ft/min (3.2 m/s)

See also[edit]

Aircraft of comparable role, configuration, and era


  1. ^ Flight 1933
  2. ^ Cruiser wing under construction Archived 8 October 2011 at the Wayback Machine
  3. ^ Flight 10 July 1931
  4. ^ a b c d e f g h Jackson (1988), pp.188-191.
  5. ^ a b c Lowe (1994), pp.52-53.
  6. ^ Yugoslavia - The Aviation Industry at, Retrieved 4 December 2013
  7. ^ VT- is the prefix for Indian registered aircraft - in this case the aircraft was owned by His Highness the Maharaja of Patiala
  8. ^ Image of YU-SAP
  9. ^ Zmaj Aircraft
  10. ^ Zmaj aircraft company
  11. ^ Flight, 5 May 1935
  12. ^ "Spartan Cruiser forward fuselage". National Museums Scotland. Retrieved 28 July 2020.
  13. ^ Stroud (1985), p. 549


  • The Illustrated Encyclopedia of Aircraft (Part Work 1982-1985). Orbis Publishing.
  • Jackson, A.J. (1974). British Civil Aircraft since 1919 Volume 3. London: Putnam. ISBN 0-370-10014-X.
  • Jackson, A.J. (1988). British Civil Aircraft since 1919 Volume 3. London: Putnam. ISBN 0-85177-818-6.
  • Janić, Čedomir; O. Petrović (2011). Short History of Aviation in Serbia. Beograd: Aerokomunikacije. ISBN 978-86-913973-2-6.
  • Lowe, Malcolm V. (1994). "Island Hopper: The Spartan Aircraft Cruiser tri-motor". Air Enthusiast. No. 56, Winter 1994. Stamford, UK: Key Publishing. pp. 52–55. ISSN 0143-5450.
  • "The Spartan Cruiser". 22 July 1932.
  • Stroud, John (October 1985). "Wings of Peace". Aeroplane Monthly. Vol. 13, no. 10. pp. 545–549. ISSN 0143-7240.

External links[edit]