Tin Lizzie

One of the more fascinating aircraft to visit the Warbirds neighborhood at EAA AirVenture Oshkosh 2022 was the focus of Thursday morning’s Warbirds in Review presentation. The Westland Lysander, a liaison aircraft that excelled in the clandestine role of transporting British special operations agents into occupied France during World War II, took center stage and was discussed at length by Vintage Wings of Canada Chief Pilot Dave Hadfield, EAA 1348244.

Named after the Spartan admiral Lysander, the “Lizzie” initially struggled while performing spotting and light bombing duties early in the war, as it made for an easy target for German Bf 109s. But with its exceptional STOL capabilities, the British army began utilizing it for special operations missions in support of the French Resistance starting in 1941, painting the aircraft in black camo for night ops.

The Lysander that visited Oshkosh is the only flying example in North America, making its visit a unique treat for attendees. With a reverse-tapered wing at the root (which gives a gullwing appearance from certain angles), the Lysander’s appearance is distinct and almost a tad goofy looking, but it served its mission well.

“It looks a little unusual to our eyeball,” Dave explained, “but in 1935 it was an innovation and cutting edge.”

Powered by a Bristol Mercury engine, the Lysander is a large, tall airplane, with about a 50-foot wingspan and anything but an easy climb for the pilot to reach the cockpit, which Dave demonstrated. Owned by collector Michael Potter, the Lysander that visited AirVenture is based in Canada and was built in 1942 under license by National Steel Car in Ontario as an IIIa. It’s the only flying example in North America, and uses the only known operational Mercury engine on the continent.

As for how the airplane flies, Dave said that it has tremendous visibility and handles normally in flight, but landing it can certainly be tricky, as evidenced by some of the historic photos from World War II in which the airplane came up well short of the runway.

“As you change your pitch attitude, you change the lift vector, which influences where the slots and flaps go. If you’re on approach and you’re a little high, the tendency is to lower the nose. As soon as you do that, the angle of attack decreases, the slats and flaps come in, the airspeed shoots up, and you go way long. On the converse side, if you’re a little bit short, you pull the nose up, angle of attack increases, they deploy to the maximum, the speed drops, and you start this tremendous descent. … There’s lots of World War II pictures of this thing plunked down in the ground 300 feet short of the runway with the wings draped over it. It’s unusual, this whole slats and flaps thing. When you’re just maneuvering, like over the battlefield, it’s a piece of cake. It’s wonderful. But in this landing environment, you can’t move the nose up and down on approach.”

As part of the 2022 Lindy Awards, the Lysander earned the Phoenix Award, which recognizes the highest achievement in craftsmanship and dedication in the preservation of aviation history accomplished in restoration.

Post Comments