Airspeed AS.51 & 58 Horsa Glider

Aircraft overview:

In World War 2, towed transport gliders were built in large numbers to air-land troops with their heavier weapons  behind enemy lines, without using parachutes , and with far less scattering of the troops. The Airspeed Horsa carried two pilots, and 25 or more troops or loads like a jeep and anti-tank gun. It had a cylindrical plywood fuselage, a high wing with very large flaps, and jettisonable main undercarriage, the glider then landing on a central skid and the nosewheel.


It was built mainly of spruce and plywood, often in sub-assemblies by furniture makers. It was towed by a variety of different aircraft, namely,  Stirling, Halifax , Albemarle and later ,the Dakota. The AS.51 Horsa Mk.I of 1941 had a broad port-side door/ramp with a sliding personnel door. Later, rear unloading was adopted, with the tail removed by unbolting quick-release bolts.


The AS.58 Mk.II of 1944 introduced a nose/cockpit assembly which could be swung to one side for loading and unloading. Some 3,655 Horsas of both types were built. The Horsa has strong connections with the Salisbury Hall site, having been designed there by Airspeed, and the first two built there and then taken away to what is now London Heathrow Airport for assembly and flight test.


Aircraft specifications:

Power Unit: None

Wing Span: 88 ft (26.8 m)

Length: 67 ft (20.4 m)

Loaded Weight: 15,250 lb (6,917 kg)

Gliding Speed: 100 mph (161 kph)


On display at the Museum:

The Museum’s exhibit, acquired in 1975, is a hybrid consisting of the cockpit of a Mk.II Horsa and the forward part of the fuselage of a Mk.I Horsa. The fuselage shows the port side ramp/door, the interior plywood bench seating for the troops along the sides, a folding bicycle for use by airborne troops , the extra section of ramp needed to fill the doorway, and the main skid. Also on view are the air cylinders for the flaps.