DALLAS – Today in Aviation, the British-built Miles M.57 Aerovan prototype took to the skies for the first time in 1945. The aircraft took off from the manufacturer’s Woodley Facility, Berkshire, piloted by Tommy Rose.
Towards the end of World War II, numerous British aircraft manufacturers looked at creating new civilian airliners to meet the growing demand for air travel. One of these was George Miles, who developed the Aerovan without permission from the Air Ministry, who then controlled the British aviation industry. He was subsequently ordered to cease production until the war was over.
Production of the aircraft resumed following Victory Day in Europe on May 8, 1945. The Aerovan was a high-wing monoplane of wooden construction powered by a pair of Blackburn Cirrus Major III piston engines. Miles made changes to the original prototype, including an 18-inch fuselage extension and porthole windows instead of rectangular ones.
The low cost of the aircraft saw numerous orders placed from the UK and overseas. It was particularly popular with French, Belgian, and Swiss operators.
Miles would produce six variants of the Aerovan with numerous modifications, including a longer fuselage for the MK.2 model and advanced engines for MK.5 and MK.6.
Sadly, the Aerovan was not a commercial success. The type was involved in several incidents. Six were destroyed due to engine failures in flight, and six were lost due to strong winds. Seventeen further airframes were destroyed following other incidents, usually on take-off if the aircraft had been overloaded. The last known Aerovan to survive was an MK. 6 model, still operated in Italy in 1968.