The Auster B.4 was an unusual cargo aircraft was derived from the family of Auster light aircraft which included the familiar Auster J1 Autocrat. Of unorthodox design, the B.4 featured a boom and pod configuration. The pod contained the cockpit and a capacious rear cargo cabin with clamshell doors at the rear. The tail was mounted on a thin boom behind the fuselage pod. The undercarriage was the most unusual feature. Besides the regular main gears similar to the Autocrat, the rear of the fuselage pod was supported by two tailwheels, creating a quadricycle undercarriage. Although evaluated by the British Army, there were no military or civil orders and only one prototype was built.
The Auster B.4 and BigglesEdit
Somehow the sole Auster B.4 prototype ended up being bought by Hugo Bikstein who must have found it ideal for his poaching operations in The Case of the Ambitious Fishmonger. Bikstein flew the aircraft regularly from his residence at Bardswell House, Essex to the Culbin Sands in Scotland, returning with loads of poached salmon for sale at Billingsgate Market. He became a member of several English and Scottish flying clubs to ensure a convenient source of fuel.
Johns described the B.4 accurately in the story, mentioning the four wheels touching down gently and the big rear loading door of the aircraft opening up.
- Crew: One pilot, three passengers or freight
- Length: 37 ft
- Wingspan: 24 ft 8 in
- Max. takeoff weight: 2,600 lb
- Engine: 1 × Blackburn Bombardier 702 inverted inline engine, 180 hp (134 kW)
- Maximum speed: 120 mph (194 km/h)
- Range: 300 miles
- Service ceiling: ?