Airspeed Oxford Mk.I & Mk.II (Airspeed A.S. 65 Consul)
299 aircraft (NZ250-290, NZ1201-1399, NZ2100-2157, R6226 + 3 aircraft not flown), 1938-1954.
The first five Oxfords were ordered in 1937 for training crews for the 30 Wellington bombers that were due to arrive in New Zealand in 1939. These bombers were handed over to the RAF at the outbreak of World War Two and never reached New Zealand. More Oxfords were ordered in 1939 to cater for the large number of aircrew required under the Empire Air Training Scheme.
The Oxford was used for all aspects of advanced aircrew training, including gunnery. An Armstrong Whitworth dorsal turret was fitted for this latter purpose. The MkII was intended for advanced pilot training and did not have the turret fitted. However, the RNZAF were experts in modifying aircraft to suit their requirements. Consequently, in RNZAF service not all Mk.Is had turrets, and some Mk.IIs did have a turret fitted. The Oxfords other roles included general reconnaissance, communications, surveying, beam approach training and calibration flights. Over 100 Oxfords were based at Wigram alone.
Between 1948 and 1952 six Oxfords were converted to ‘Consul’ configuration to serve in the role of a light freight/passenger transport/communications aircraft. From 1944 onwards large numbers of Oxfords were placed in storage at Woodbourne, with 112 of these being sold in 1947. By the early 1950s old age was overtaking these wooden trainers, and during 1954 the last Oxfords (and the six Consuls) were sold off. During their RNZAF service 72 Oxfords were destroyed in accidents and 36 (mainly early aircraft) were scrapped due to deterioration.
History of Oxford/Consul PK286/G-AIKR:
Manufactured at Portsmouth, England by Airspeed Limited as an Oxford Mk.I, for the RAF, PK286 saw little service and was sold back to Airspeed for conversion to civil ‘Consul’ standard in 1946. Registered as G-AIKR it was first leased to Chartair Limited (London) then purchased in 1947 by ‘Airwork Limited’ (later Air Service Training) where it was used for aircrew training and various military contracts.
In 1962 it was sold to the ‘Rapid Flying Group Limited’ at Baginton Airport, Coventry. After failing to acquire a new certificate of airworthiness in mid-1965, it was destined to become a children’s playground attraction. Thankfully G-AIKR escaped this fate and was purchased by the Canadian War Museum (now the Canada Aviation Museum) and was shipped to Canada and placed in storage at the museum.
In late 2000 the Air Force Museum arranged for the long-term loan of G-AIKR and the aircraft was shipped to New Zealand in consignments in 2001 and 2004.
As the aircraft is primarily built of wood with plywood and fabric coverings, the restoration is being undertaken by the woodwork section of the Collection's technical team. This aircraft will be restored as a Mk.I as used by the RNZAF. This involves reversing the changes undertaken to make the aircraft into a Consul. The major changes are as follows:
- Removal of all passenger seating and fore/aft cabin bulkheads.
- Remove ‘Consul’ style cabin windows and replace with ‘Oxford’ type windows (built from original plans).
- Reinstalling the bomb bays into the wing centre section (built from original plans).
- Removal of the elongated nose/baggage section and reinstalling the Perspex bomb aimer’s nose section (from museum spares).
- Reinstalling the turret fittings (built from original plans).
- Reinstalling sundry aircraft systems and military fittings, e.g. Flare Chutes.
During restoration most of the original woodwork will be retained, along with the metal fasteners. These are refurbished as required and refitted to the aircraft. Any replacement fasteners are of the correct type and material for the era. Likewise, any wooden parts/structure that requires replacing will be of the correct grade of aircraft spruce and plywood. Repairs will follow authorised repair schemes for this type of aircraft/structure. Other fittings and systems will be repaired, or replaced from the museum’s stock of genuine Oxford parts. The finished artefact will be as historically complete as possible.
As PK286 has no RNZAF provenance, its final paint scheme will reflect its true identity and be the same as it would have worn when leaving the Airspeed factory for RAF service.
If you believe that you may have any parts or information that would be useful to the restoration of PK286, please contact the museum.