The British Executive & General Aviation Limited
(trading as BEAGLE) was the brainchild of Peter G. Masefield, then managing director of Bristol Aircraft. The deputy chairman of Pressed Steel at that time, A.H. Bellhouse, had a substantial interest in aviation, so the outcome
of talks between the two was the foundation of what was virtually an aviation division of that company.
BEAGLE ideals were based on the principle, proven by the American industry, of providing a full range of light aircraft. From
the start this was the policy BEAGLE tried to follow. However, at the time of BEAGLE’s inception, the Air Ministry's
had issued GOR. 220 for an Anson replacement and it is probably without this GOR there would never have been a BEAGLE. While a full range of light aircraft
was envisaged, it was the Anson replacement which gave life and possibility of financial stability to the whole idea.
BEAGLE was formed in 7 October 1960, with Pressed Steel acquiring the whole share capital of Auster Aircraft Ltd, and arranging a technical and manufacturing liaison with F.G. Miles Ltd., Shoreham Airport, Sussex. Chairman of BEAGLE was A. H. Bellhouse with Masefield managing director and also chairman of
Auster Aircraft. Frank Bates became deputy chairman of Auster while retaining his position as its managing director. George
H. Miles became technical director of a coordinating board formed under the chairmanship of Masefield. In November the BEAGLE
Group formally acquired F. G. Miles Ltd, and in the same month appointed R.J.B. Woodhams as BEAGLE’s chief designer.
George Miles was appointed chief engineer of the BEAGLE Group. By spring of 1961 the two BEAGLE subsidiaries had been rebranded
BEAGLE-Auster Aircraft Ltd, under newly appointed Marcus Langley as Chief Engineer, and BEAGLE-Miles Aircraft Ltd. Initially
the three parts of the company operated independently but his did not last long and the three parts of the company were merged
at Shoreham as Beagle Aircraft Limited on 10 May 1962.
Masefield brought to the new company Bristol
light-aircraft designs discarded with the formation of BAC. One of these, the Type 220, was bought from Bristol and grew into
the B.206. The incorporation of Auster and Miles led to an eight-strong range of aircraft. Of these, four were the interim
Auster derivatives—Airedale, AOP.11, Terrier and Husky—and two were Miles projects, the M.117 single and the M.218
twin, plus the Wallis autogyro.
Misfortune hit the 206 project when the Anson replacement programme was shelved in 1961 and 1962, ostensibly
as an economy measure, even though the prototype 206 had flown successfully in August 1961. When the RAF bought only 22 B.206
Bassets instead of the expected 120 there was no longer any chance of R&D costs being recovered on that contract alone.
The aircraft was heavily criticized as not being able to do the job required of it, particularly in hot and high conditions.
A supercharged-engine version was developed for the civil market.
The M.117 and M.218 were to be founders of a
new range, but both designs involved extensive use of plastics which, with the state of the art insufficiently advanced, proved
expensive, heavy and unreliable. Strangely the decision was made to build the M.218 twin before the M.117. The difficulties
with plastics led to work being abandoned on the types in 1964 but the decision was then taken to re-tool the M.218 for conventional
all-metal construction, when it became the M.242, which flew in 1964. It was found that it is not a simple matter simply to
substitute alloy for plastic and, with extensive re-design becoming necessary, the project was abandoned.
development of the large number of aircraft types involved required a great deal of capital outlay by Pressed Steel, i.e.
£2.4M, whereas only £1/4M was recouped from sales during the first 2 1/2 years. Putting the B.206 into production
proved the most expensive and by the end of 1964 costs had reached £3M with further expenditure inevitable. The directors
of Pressed Steel Fisher (as it had since become) were then being faced with a situation way beyond their original expectations,
despite the fact that in 1965 a small portion of the B.206s costs were being underwritten by the Government. Pressed Steel
Fisher were eventually absorbed into the British Motor Corporation who, having reviewed the aviation side, realised that its
full potential could not be exploited without a substantial investment of funds and they were not willing to do this. Discussions
with the Government for additional financial support proved fruitless and eventually escalated to the point where, on the
12 December 1966, assets of Beagle Aircraft were handed over by Pressed Steel Fisher to the Ministry of Technology for £1
million and it became private company with shareholding wholly owned by the Ministry of Technology though with the board having
responsibility for running it. On 16 November 1967, the Ministry of Technology appointed K.M. Myer as the new managing director.
In 1967 a completely redesigned M.117 finally appeared as the B.121 Pup, which first flew from Shoreham Airport on
8 April, so after six years there was only one of the new light aircraft range which had been the basis of the original aims
and theories, and which was essential if Beagle and a British light-aircraft industry were to survive. Unfortunately the Pup
was a more complex design to manufacture and was correspondingly more expensive to build, yet was sold at a competitive price.
Its maintenance requires more care (i.e. expense) and its early days were troubled by issues with the doors and spares availability.
In an effort to reduce costs and to concentrate all efforts on B.206 and Pup production, in November 1968 Beagle sold its
interest in Auster aircraft to Hants and Sussex Aviation, Portsmouth. The prototype Bulldog first flew on 19 May 1969 at Shoreham Airport. The first order for the type was for 78
from the Swedish Air Board and significant further orders were anticipated. However, under capitalisation had remained the
main problem to the point where the Government refused to grant an additional £6M for further development and the company
was placed in the hands of the receiver.
Beagle's earliest chance of survival had been centred on the discussions
with Ling-Temco-Vought of Dallas, Texas, which were going on before the Government announced its withdrawal. This company
proposed to acquire a substantial share capital in the company provided that the Government maintained background support.
As soon as the receiver was appointed to Beagle, the LTV negotiations ended. During 1969 there had been discussions with other
overseas companies about possible opportunities for collaboration, especially on distribution and marketing. Apart from LTV,
these companies included Grumman in the USA and Sud, Dornier and MBB in Europe.
Although production continued,
albeit at a very low rate while the receiver tried to revive and sell the company (now re-named Beagle Aircraft (1969) Limited),
it was of no avail and the assets were gradually disposed of. Production rights for the Bulldog, along with the Swedish order,
were taken over by Scottish Aviation (Bulldog) Limited in May 1970 (though for completeness its production details are covered here). All subsequent aircraft were built at Prestwick
Airport by Scottish Aviation, or in later years, British Aerospace.
- A Production History, Midland Counties Aircraft Research Group (Midland Counties Publications, 1974)
14 October 1960
Flight, 14 October 1960
Flight, 2 December 1960
23 March 1961
Flight, 26 September 1968
Flight, 17 October 1968
21 November 1968
Flight 8 January 1970
Flight, 30 April 1970
British Private Aircraft, 1946-1970, Volume 1, Arthur W.J.G. Ord-Hume (Mushroom
Model Publications, 2013)
Beagle used an alpha-numeric type designation - a single letter followed by a three digit number. The letter defined the company from which the design emanated (A: Auster, B: Beagle, M: Miles,
WA: Wallis), the first digit defined the number of engines and the second two digits formed a continuous numerical
The first Beagle aircraft
was the B.206 (Beagle designed, 2 engines) and possibly was
designated B.206 as it was originally intended to be a 6 seater. All further projects followed on
numercally from 06. The only two anomalies were the B.242, possibly so designated as it was considered a twin engined partner
to the B.121 (although the true single engined projected development of the B242 was the B.123), and the A.61 Terrier, said
to be so designated as being Austers 61st design, but more possibly that it was a derivative of the Auster 6.