As will be recalled David Brown‘s involvement with aircraft rowing tractors began back in 1940 with the Air Ministry Tracklayer, which was hardly the most auspicious of starts. However, by the time the company ceased production of its successor in the 1950s, the firm’s reputation had been considerably enhanced. As Herbert Ashfield remembers ‘We kept on with the wheeled Air Ministry tractors until long after the war, and it was always a source of pleasure to me when I was on a flight that the towing tractor would invariably be an old David Brown, even abroad.
The last ones were made in 1958 but these lasted well into the sixties, and many even longer.’ The story of the Cropmaster variant, which appeared as the Taskmaster, has already been told, but the success of these highly-dependable low-geared tractors was sufficient in its own right to justify the full confidence which the Ministry of Defence placed in the company.
Yet, added to this came the bonus that here was an all-British tractor, which was another major plus point in those cold war days of the early 1950s. ‘It was an area which bred its own success’ recalls Tom Lazenby, ‘we did a lot of Ministry work for all branches of the armed forces, from towing heavy prototype planes at Farnborough to producing towing tractors for use on aircraft carriers.’
The first of the new generation of heavy towing tractors appeared in late 1952, when three prototype versions were produced for the Ministry of Defence; naturally they were allocated to the three main branches of the armed forces, with one each going to the Royal Air Force, the Royal Navy’s Fleet Air Arm, and the Royal Corps of Engineers for evaluation. They were a development of the Taskmaster, but they incorporated a number of features which had been demanded by the users, including an improved winch and featured the engine unit which was to appear in the David Brown 30 series tractors.
This development saw the creation of a new aircraft towing tractor available in two engine types the diesel version being the 30ID and the petrol being the 30IC. A large number of these were purchased for the Royal Air Force and the Fleet Air Arm and these also incorporated special Ministry requirements.
Turbo models were also produced, as were twin rear wheel versions and medium wheeled towing tractors. According to Leonard Craven’s summary of tractor production, in total 320 aircraft towing tractors were built in the period leading up to October 1958 when the 950 variant came out.