The Argosy Series 100 entered service with the American cargo airline Riddle Airlines, who planned to use them to meet contracts to provide logistics support to the United States Air Force within the United States, at the end of 1960, Riddle purchasing seven Argosies. When Riddle lost the logistics contract in 1962, its Argosies were repossessed by Armstrong Whitworth and sold on to other airlines who had taken over the contracts from Riddle.
BEA ordered Armstrong Whitworth’s three remaining Series 100s as a stopgap until it could receive its definitive Series 220s, for which it placed an order for five in 1964. It lost two Series 220s in crashes and purchased another to replace the lost aircraft. The small fleet of Argosies remained unprofitable, even when BEA received the more capable series 220s, and BEA withdrew its Argosy fleet in April 1970, replacing them with a freighter conversion of its Vickers Vanguards.
Two aircraft operated later by SAFE Air in New Zealand as the main link between the Chatham Islands and the mainland, were fitted with a purpose-built “passenger capsule”, built in the Christchurch workshops of Air New Zealand. One of these aircraft was damaged beyond repair in a landing accident on April Fool’s Day 1990, and a third Argosy was leased as a replacement from IPEC of Australia for five months during 1990. The last flight by a New Zealand Argosy was made from Wellington to Woodbourne on 30 September 1990with Captains Allan Graham and Ian Pirie on the flight deck. The aircraft was then partially demolished, its engines, avionics and systems being removed before it was saved from the scrap yard by aviation enthusiasts Paul Davidson and Anne Morrison. It is now on display next to an Argosy-themed restaurant near Blenheim Airport in Marlborough, New Zealand.
The very last Argosies, operated by American cargo airline Duncan Aviation, were withdrawn from service in 1991. It is a curious coincidence that the first Argosy to fly was also the very last to fly, Captain Harry Barr taking it to its final home at the San Diego Museum of Flight.
The military Argosy was used by the Royal Air Force for its capability to accommodate 69 troops, 48 stretcher cases or 29,000 lb (13,000 kg) of freight. This meant it could carry military equipment such as the Saracen or Ferret armoured cars, or artillery such as the 105 mm (4.13 in) howitzer or Wombat.
The earliest deployments were in 1962 to 105 Squadron in the Middle East and 114 and 267 Squadrons at RAF Benson. The following year, 215 Squadron received its Argosies when based at RAF Changi, Singapore. The squadron was disbanded on New Year’s Eve 1967, and the aircraft went to 70 Squadron at RAF Akrotiri, Cyprus. This was the last squadron to operate the aircraft in the transport role when it disposed of them in February 1975 in favour of Lockheed Hercules. The E.1 version of the Argosy was with 115 Squadron from 1968 to 1978, most of the time based at RAF Cottesmore and used in the calibration role