Scottish Aviation Ltd
Scottish Aviation Ltd was the last Scottish aircraft manufacturing company remaining in production at the end of World War II, and survived as such until April 29, 1977, when it merged with the British Aircraft Corporation, Hawker Siddeley Aviation and Hawker Siddeley Dynamics to form the nationalised corporation of British Aerospace.
The company began in 1935, when Group Captain Duncan McIntyre and the Marquess of Douglas and Clydesdale (later 14th Duke of Hamilton, Douglas Douglas-Hamilton) acquired some 348 acres of land adjacent to Orangefield House, Monkton, near Prestwick. The two were pioneers of aviation, and had made the first flight over Everest in 1933, in an open biplane. The 80th anniversary of this flight was reported in The Guardian.
They had selected the location because it already had an aviation history, with records of flyers operating from the site from c. 1913, which was only about ten years after the Wright brothers made their first powered flight in 1903. The site saw little development until the 1930s, when flight staff of the Midland and Scottish airline would land there, in a field known as the Meadow near Monkton, and take refreshments at the nearby Orangefield Hotel (the former Orangefield House), which opened in 1933.
The pair began by began by installing hangars, a small control tower, offices and lecture facilities. Operating Tiger Moth biplanes, they began pilot training for the RAF in 1936, as No 12 Elementary Flying Training School, and later expanded to include No 1 Air Observer Navigation School, operating twin engined Avro Ansons. Together with the schools, Scottish Aviation was also developing repair and overhaul operations.
World War II
With the arrival of World War II, the RAF took over the site, which became RAF Prestwick. The airport developed rapidly in order to handle the large volume of American aircraft ferry traffic.
Scottish Aviation became involved in the service and maintenance of aircraft on behalf of the RAF, working both on the airfield itself, and providing staff to work at other facilities around the area, such as the Largs seaplane base. Much of the work involved the conversion of American aircraft to use British weapons systems, fitting aircraft such as the PBY Catalina flying boat with British machine guns, bomb racks, and avionics.
In 1941, the Palace of Engineering, which had been a feature of the 1938 Empire Exhibition held in Bellahouston Park, Glasgow, was dismantled and rebuilt at Prestwick, providing the business with the factory space it needed to develop its rapidly expanding aircraft manufacturing business.
The end of the war also saw the end of training operations at the airfield, when a major air base was installed on the site to serve the USAF.
Following the end of the war, the company built robust military STOL (short take-off and landing) utility aircraft such as the Pioneer (1950, 59 were built) and larger Twin Pioneer, (1955, 87 were built), later producing navigational training aircraft following the collapse of the Handley Page Aircraft Company. The wood-framed training aircraft remained in production until the mid 1960s, and remained in service with the RAF until 1968.
The company bought the rights to build the two-seat, side-by-side, Bulldog single engine trainer aircraft from Beagle Aircraft, which was produced at Prestwick throughout the 1970s, with some 320 aircraft completed. Their main customer was the RAF, which placed an order for 130 Bulldog T.1 trainers in 1972.
Scottish Aviation also took over production of the Handley Page Jetstream aircraft, a small twin turboprop airliner featuring a pressurised fuselage. The original aircraft ran into problems with the engines, which raised the development costs from £3 million to £13 million. Although it was re-engined with American power units in place of the French originals, making it acceptable to the American market, Handley Page still went bankrupt in 1970, with the prototype having only taken to the air in December 1969. Scottish Aviation saw sufficient interest in the completed design to make it a viable prospect, and purchased the aircraft as part of a consortium named Jetstream Aircraft.
Scottish Aviation was subsequently nationalised in a move first proposed in 1975, which saw British Aircraft Corporation, Hawker Siddeley Aviation, and Hawker Siddeley Dynamics become merged into into a single national enterprise, British Aerospace (BAe), in 1977. BAe decided the Jetstream design was worth further development, and the aircraft went on to progress through a number of designations over the years: the Jetstream 1, 2, 200, 201, with the T.1 and T.2 for the RAF. Since 1980, it became known as the BAe Jetstream 31, 32, and then 41.
In the later years of production at Prestwick, the site took on work for production of the BAe ATP (Advanced Turboprop) aircraft from the Woodford, Manchester site. A total of 63 ATP aircraft were built between the two sites before production ended in 1994. Work diversified in later years, and aircraft modification came to be the main activity, together with with the construction of buses (some of which were delivered to Glasgow Corporation), caravans, electric fires, and bottle coolers.
Aircraft production finally came to an end at Prestwick when, in May 1997, BAe announced the closure of the Jetstream 41 production line. The last new aircraft came off the assembly line in 1998, marking the end of nearly 60 years of aircraft production on the Scottish site.
The company also took on related projects, and was involved in the development and production of the Scottish Aviation Scamp electric car for the Electricity Council in 1965, but was only to produce 12 prototypes before the project was ended.
1 ⇑ The first flight over Everest: a physiologist's dream | Vanessa Heggie | Science | guardian.co.uk Retrieved April 04, 2013.
- First flight over Everest
- Local history
- RMAF, Royal Malaysian Air Force Museum, Twin Pioneer newsletter archive
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