Friday, November 26, 2010

Forgotten Aircraft - The 1957 Lascurain Aura

Sometimes one discovers a type and story that one had never previously encountered. Although a sad story, the brief career of the Lascurain Aura was a fascinating - and to me - new tale.

Angel Lascurain y Osio (March 26, 1882, December 24, 1957) was a prominent Mexican aeronautical engineer. After an interesting pre-war career (outlined here, and in translation here) he designed one more machine post-war.

This was the 1957 Lascurain Aura. The Aura was at the time the most advanced design from the tiny Mexican aircraft industry, but only one was built. It was lost in a fatal accident that killed the test pilot and also the designer Lascurain - undoubtedly a key reason the machine is not more widely known.

Lascurain's aircraft was an ambitious project: to provide Mexico with a twin-engine aircraft with capacity for 14 passengers able to operate on short routes at high altitude and off rudimentary runways. He called it 'Aura' (Dawn) and it was equipped with two 245 hp Jacobs engines enabling a cruising speed of 200 km/h (125mph).

Tragically, during a test flight on 24 December 1957, Lascurain decided to accompany the test pilot, one Carlos Castillo Segura. On take off the Aura's engines stopped and the pilot tried to turn back to the runway, but the landing gear hit a ditch, causing the aircraft to crash and the death of their two occupants Lascurain and Castillo.

A remarkable insight into this unique aircraft is this five minute film, which shows rare detail of the machine, and gives, I think, a flavour of the excitement and optimism of the designer and pilot - featured as two subjects in this movie.

What would have happened if there had not been this tragic crash? The Aura has the look of a Lockheed 10 or Beech 18 but with a fixed tricycle undercarriage, and a thick wing (incorporating baggage containers, seen in the film, just like the Lockheed 10). The fuselage interior seems narrow (for two rows of seats) but may have been viable.

It would have been difficult to have been competitive with the war-surplus light transports available, and bigger aircraft like the DC-3. One thinks of another fixed-gear specialised postwar feederliner (the DHA Drover) that found it difficult to expand its niche into a profitable space.

Aesthetically, the design has some lovely cues, with a delicate tail 'signature' and a curvaceous structure, although the nose seems a little stumpy, and I'm nonplussed as to the purpose of the wingtip blocks. It would have been a complex aircraft to build, although perhaps with simple systems.

But who knows? The crash brought a remarkable designer's life to a premature end, and also ended the dream of a successful specialised Mexican airliner.


[With thanks to 'aguilanegra4' on YouTube, and 'Kwinopal' on the Key Forum, the latter bringing the aircraft to my attention, and posting the attached images in this thread.]


  1. Hi there, fantastic photos and info on the Lascurain Aura, the last in a series of aircraft designed and built in Mexico by Ángel Lascurain y Osio. A failed promise too... One can only imagine what might have happened had this design been successful and produced in series. Possibly a similar path to the one actually followed by the Brazilian aviation industry (now that Argentina has become a 2nd league player in this field, after so many years of interesting designs).



  2. I can't believe I a ran into this video. The pilot was my father. He died on Christmas Eve 1957. My father went to the airport that morning to bring gifts for his friends and encountered Lascurain there. Lascurain insisted in testing the plane again. Destiny is a bitch...........

  3. Thanks for the kind comments. I would like to add that I didn't originate any of the images or core data, I'm just passing on something I found thanks to other online sharing!

    Anonymous, that's a sad connection, but thank you for posting.

  4. To Anonymous: that's really sad. Do you have any recollections from your father regarding Aura's flight behaviour? I am asking this because Lascurain remained very attached to his "blanded wing" concept till the very end, the Aura being the apex of his twin engined designs.

    To Vintage Aero Writer: a book on Ing. Ángel Lascurain could be interesting, even if some details might prove hard to dig, as most of his research was done on a private basis, although sometimes with input from the state-owned TNCA. Unfortunately, I am not aware of any title on this fascinating page of Latin American aviation.
    P.S.: I think we first met each on Airminded blog (remember that thread about gas use in air control operations?)

  5. 14 passengers-hi and hot on 490 hp?