Luton Minor

The Luton L.A.4 Minor was a 1930s British single-seat high-wing ultra-light aircraft. The prototype was built by the Luton Aircraft Limited, and design plans were later adapted and copies sold for homebuilding.

Luton Minor
Role Ultralight
Manufacturer Light Aircraft Association
Designer C.H. Latimer-Needham
First flight 3 March 1937
Produced 30
Unit cost
£85 (plans only, 2015)

Design and development

The L.A.3 Minor ultralight was powered by a 35 hp Anzani inverted-vee air-cooled engine, and was of spruce, ply and fabric construction. It was designed by C.H. Latimer-Needham, and built by Luton Aircraft at Barton-in-the-Clay, Bedfordshire in 1936, using the fuselage and components of the earlier experimental L.A.2 tandem-wing aircraft. The prototype L.A.3 Minor, registered G-AEPD, first flew on 3 March 1937 at Heston Aerodrome.[1] The aircraft was a successful flyer despite the low-powered engine, and it was then redesigned for home construction. Designated the L.A.4 Minor, it had a strutted undercarriage and parallel wing struts. The first L.A.4 Minor was built at the company's new factory (the Phoenix Works) at Gerrards Cross in Buckinghamshire. It was fitted with a 40 hp ABC Scorpion two-cylinder horizontally-opposed engine. All subsequent Luton Minors were home-built from plans sold by the company.

The Phoenix Works had burnt down during 1943, and Luton Aircraft had closed, so designer C.H. Latimer-Needham and A.W.J.G. Ord-Hume created a new company in March 1958 to take over the design rights for the Luton Minor. Latimer-Needham updated the design to take more modern lightweight four-cylinder engines and an increased all-up weight. The redesigned aircraft was designated L.A.4A Minor. The design, and subsequently the aircraft, has been built all over the world as a homebuilt aircraft with a wide variety of engines, with the plans for the aircraft being passed on to the Popular Flying Association (now the Light Aircraft Association) in the UK.[2][3][4]

Operational history

Reviewers Roy Beisswenger and Marino Boric described the design in a 2015 review, saying, "it has a great deal of period charm and gives a back-to-basics feel, although performance doesn't match more modern designs. Predictable handling and sturdy construction make it a joy to own. A white scarf is a compulsory accessory.".[4]


L.A.3 Minor
Prototype ultralight, one built.
L.A.4 Minor
Homebuilt version, one factory built and numerous homebuilt examples.
L.A.4A Minor
Updated homebuilt version to take more modern engines, all homebuilt.
Knowles Duet
The Knowles Duet was a side-by-side two seat version built by Alf Knowles in 1971, registered G-AYTT.
Coates Swalesong S.A.I
A Luton Minor built by James Coates, registered as G-AMAW.
Gowland Jenny Wren
A Luton Minor with enclosed cockpit and tricycle landing gear; registered G-ASRF it first flew on 13 OCtober 1966 at Panshanger.

Specifications (L.A.4A)

Data from British Civil Aircraft 1919–1972: Volume III[5]

General characteristics

  • Crew: 1
  • Length: 20 ft 0 in (6.10 m)
  • Wingspan: 25 ft 0 in (7.62 m)
  • Height: 6 ft 3 in (1.91 m)
  • Wing area: 125 sq ft (11.6 m2)
  • Airfoil: RAF 48 [2]
  • Empty weight: 450 lb (204 kg)
  • Max takeoff weight: 750 lb (340 kg)
  • Powerplant: 1 × Aeronca J.A.P J-99 air-cooled flat-twin, 40 hp (30 kW)


  • Maximum speed: 85 mph (137 km/h, 74 kn)
  • Cruise speed: 75 mph (121 km/h, 65 kn)
  • Range: 180 mi (290 km, 160 nmi)
  • Rate of climb: 450 ft/min (2.3 m/s)


  1. Smith (2002)
  2. Taylor 1988, pp. 546–547.
  3. Bayerl, Robby; Martin Berkemeier; et al: World Directory of Leisure Aviation 2011–12, page 107. WDLA UK, Lancaster UK, 2011. ISSN 1368-485X
  4. Tacke, Willi; Marino Boric; et al: World Directory of Light Aviation 2015-16, page 114. Flying Pages Europe SARL, 2015. ISSN 1368-485X
  5. Jackson 1988, p. 27.


  • Jackson, A.J. (1974). British Civil Aircraft since 1919 Volume 3. London: Putnam. ISBN 0-370-10014-X.
  • Jackson, A. J. (1988). British Civil Aircraft 1919–1972: Volume III. London: Putnam. ISBN 0-85177-818-6.
  • Smith, R. 2002. British Built Aircraft Vol.1 Greater London. Tempus. ISBN 0-7524-2770-9
  • Taylor, John W. R., ed. (1988). Jane's All the World's Aircraft, 1988–1989. Jane's Information Group. ISBN 0-7106-0867-5.
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