But back to the Envoy and its operation in Japan started with the sale of four Series 1 aircraft in July 1935 to Mitsubishi. The Series I Envoy had no flaps and seating for 6-8 passengers depending on whether a toilet was installed. Flown by a single pilot, passenger seats had to be sacrificed if a navigator and/or wireless operator or steward were to be carried. Envoy c/n 37 with Wolseley Aries AR.9 Mk.II 200hp nine-cylinder radials was first registered in UK as G-ADCB and then registered in Japan as J-BDDO for service with NKYKK (Nihon Koku Kabushiki Kaisha - Japan Air Transport Company Ltd.) from October 1935. In December 1938 most Envoys were incorporated into DNKKK (Greater Japan Airways Co., Ltd.). It was re-registered as J-DDDO for use in Formosa during 1940 and at some point re-engined with Armstrong Siddeley Lynx IVC 240hp seven-cylinder radials.
The second Envoy c/n 38 registered in UK as G-ADCC was initially registered in Japan to NKYKK as J-BDAO but the registration was cancelled in September 1935 when the aircraft was transferred to Kwantung and re-registered as J-EDAO. On 12 December 1935 this aircraft crashed and was destroyed by fire at Shingishu airfield during a test flight. The third Envoy c/n 40 was registered in the UK as G-ADCE and commenced operations with NKYKK as J-BDEO in October 1935 (one of the subjects in the RS Models kit - see below). It was destroyed in a hangar fire at Seoul, Korea on 7 March 1936. Envoy c/n 43 went direct to Mitsubishi in Japan as J-BDCO without registration in the UK and then to NKYKK in September. It was re-registered in Kwantung as J-EDCO and ultimately operated by DNKKK from December 1938. These three Envoys all had the Lynx engines.
Two more Envoys went to Japan in September and October 1935. Envoy c/n 42 was registered directly as J-BDBO by Mitsubishi for NKYKK but also went to Kwantung with re-registration J-EDBO on 18 September 1935. In 1940 it was used for structural testing. Envoy c/n 41 was registered by Mitsubishi as J-BEYG in October 1935 but the registration was cancelled on transfer to the Imperial Japanese Navy in June 1936. It was then re-registered as J-BAOH to NKYKK in September 1936 and ultimately operated by DNKKK from December 1938. Both these Envoys also had the Lynx engines. Envoy passenger services with NKYKK commenced in November 1935 with domestic flights. To re-cap the six Airspeed Envoys operated in Japan were registered as follows:-
- c/n 37 G-ADCB > J-BDDO > J-DDDO
- c/n 38 G-ADCC > J-BDAO > J-EDAO
- c/n 40 G-ADCE > J-BDEO
- c/n 43 J-BDCO > J-EDCO
- c/n 42 J-BDBO > J-EDBO
- c/n 41 J-BEYG > IJN > J-BAOH
J-BEYG may have been used as a pattern aircraft by Mitsubishi in their licence manufacture of the type but the process is murky as the licence rights were acquired in June 1935. Mikesh and Abe* assert that two aircraft were imported for evaluation, one by NKYKK and the other by the IJN under the designation LXM1 (possibly J-BEYG). One of the Mitsubishi-built aircraft, which were designated Hinazuru-type Passenger Transport, incorporated flaps and new Gasuden Jimpû 5A 240 hp engines. Possibly registered J-BAOX it was reportedly first flown in November 1936 but tested until 27 October 1937 when it crashed during take-off at Kagamigahara, seriously injuring the pilot and killing an engineer on board. The crash was reported to be from a stall caused by the enlarged cowlings designed to accommodate the Japanese engines which had disrupted airflow over the wings.
However, the first Hinazuru (雛鶴 - Young Crane) received its Certificate of Airworthiness in September 1936 which suggests that the flight testing referred to above was part of a development process and not prototype testing. Most Hinazuru appear to have had licence-built Lynx or Aries engines and no flaps although a photo of J-BAOX appears to show the lengthened engine nacelles associated with the Gasuden engines. The mystery is compounded by the fact that J-BAOX crashed at Seran airfield, Formosa, on 24 June 1938 killing the pilot and four passengers. It seems possible therefore that the aircraft tested by Mitsubishi during 1937 was one of the original Airspeed imports which had been modified. Additional information or comments about this are welcome. The 11 Hinazuru registrations are as follows:-
- J-BAOL > J-DAOL
- J-BAOQ > J-DAOQ
- J-BAOS > J-DAOS
- J-BAOX > J-DAOX