The Avro company is a familiar one in British History, forging so many of memorable plane over decades of engineering imagination. In the cold war, Avro forged the "V" bombers, an infamous family that assured British dissuasion power during the early cold war, and made the equally successful Lancaster in WW2, pioneered pilot-less fighters and missiles as well as the Concorde. But its started as A.V. Roe and Company on 1 January 1910 at Brownsfield Mill, Great Ancoats Street, Manchester. The company was funded by Alliott Verdon Roe and his brother Humphrey Verdon. Alliot constructed a successful aircraft, the Roe I Triplane "Bullseye"
which was followed by early production models such as the Avro E
or Avro 500
(March 1912, 18 built) for the RFC which had just been created. The world's first enclosed cockpit also was pioneered in 1912, and the monoplane Avro Type F
and biplane Avro Type G
also appeared this year as prototypes. The Avro 504
(September 1913) was evaluated by the War Office and entered service in the early months of the war first as observation plane, then for training aircraft. Amazingly it remained in that role until 1933, with a production which lasted 20 years and 8,340 produced also by Hamble, Failsworth, Miles Platting and Newton Heath. Nothing came close in this area but De Havilland's Tiger Moth.
The Roe Bulls eye triplane, 1911, one of the first production of the firm, and the Type F and G.
It should be noted that the company also tested a pusher in april 1915, the Avro 508, drew plans for a new seaplane, the 509, produced six 510 seaplanes in July 1914 for the RNAS, tested a fast scouting aircraft, the 511, later 514 in 1914, tested and produced four Avro 519 in 1916, two 523 Pike, two 529, two Avro 533 Manchester bombers, a single two-seat fighter Avro 521 in late 1915 and Avro 527 in 1916, but also a reconnaissance model for the RNAS (Avro 528), another 2-seats biplane 530 in 1917, a prototype one-seat fighter Avro 531 Spider in 1918
The firm produced during the war a dozen interesting models of prototypes, ranging from single-seat fighters to four engine bombers, like this Avro 529 of April 1917.
The legendary Avro 504
Although the company Avro will turn a hundred types of planes before being absorbed into Hawker Siddeley Aviation in 1963 and disappear as a name, its most iconic model before, through and after WW1 would remain the 504. This very plane totalled 8,970 during the war and production went on for almost 20 years (10,000 from 1913 until 1932). It was by all means the most-produced aircraft of any kind during the great war, and one of the most produced airplane worldwide prior to WW2. And this fantastic twits of fate proceeded from humble beginnings, the Avro 500 of 1912.
Avro 500 (12 built)
The first production model designed by Alliott Verdon Roe was the 500, which made its fist flight on March, 3, 1912. It was a development of the Type E biplane, a prototype which was developed in parallel to the Avro Duigan. The latter was tailored by Roe as a two-seats tractor biplane for the pioneer Australian aviator John Robertson Duigan in 1911. It was powered by a 35 hp (26 kW) E.N.V. V-8 motor for 40 mph (65 km/h) and later after reconstruction by a 50 h (37 kW ) Gnome engine. It was considered as a basis for the 500. The latter was a single seat biplane with the same characteristics, but crucially, a 60 hp (45 kW) E.N.V. meeting success in 1912. If at first the prototype's top speed and rate of climb were not impressive, the pilot was dithyrambic about its agility and other corners of flight. The second prototype used a lighter 50 hp (37 kW) Gnome air-cooled rotary engine and flew on 8 May 1912. It was able to climb to 2,000 ft (610 m) in five minutes and later covered 17 miles (28 km) in 20 minutes. This met the War Office requirements for a "Military Aircraft" published for the Military Aeroplane Competition. Therefore an order was placed for two more, and later the model renamed the Avro 500, received nine more orders, including five single-seats. In addition to the No. 3, 4 and 5 Squadrons of the RFC and the Royal Naval Air Service, a single plane was purchased to serve with the Portuguese Air Force.
Avro 501/503 (3)
Very close to the Avro Type H, the 501 and 503 were early British military seaplanes developed from the succeful Avro 500 design. They were designed as amphibious planes, with a single large main float and wheels under the fuselage. The first flew over Windermere in January 1913, later rebuilt in a twin-float configuration and tested further by the British Admiralty and later converted. The improved version, type 503 impressed the Inspector of Naval Aircraft, order three, and later Avro showcased it to the Imperial German Navy staff in June 1913. One was purchased for evaluation and flew from Wilhelmshaven to Heligoland in September 1913, later licence-built by Gotha as the WD.1 or Wasser Doppeldecker-1 while others were turned (without licence) by Albatros, AGO, and Friedrichshafen and later were eventually given to the Ottoman Empire during the war after being declared obsolete. So in all five airplanes of both types were produced. These single-seat biplanes were propelled by a Gnome Omega Omega 14-cyl two row air-cooled rotary piston engine, 100 hp (75 kW) which gave them a top speed of 55 mph (89 km/h).
Success story: The 504
It seems amazing that only after producing a dozen Avro of all models for the military, the firm should be entrusted to turn so many of the next iteration in the lineage. This process however took some time before the merits of the plane were fully recognized. It first flew on 18 September 1913, at that time powered by an 80 hp (60 kW) Gnome Lambda. This was a proven seven-cylinder rotary engine. It was designed for training and private flying, a reliable two-bay all-wooden design with a solid square-section fuselage. Although not revolutionary, this made for a sturdy, dependable and very stable aircraft. In particular it was given the trademark of training planes of that era to prevent bad landings, a central ski fitted between the wheels, called "tooth pick". It was of course, declined in two and one-seat versions, and largely deployed by Royal Flying Corps (RFC) and Royal Naval Air Service (RNAS) before the war. It was sent in France soon and rapidly became the #1 British military plane in availability, performing many useful tasks like observation outside training. One Avro 504 became the first British plane to be shot down, on 22 August 1914.
Also in November 1914, several 504s took off from from Belfort in north-eastern France to perform the first bombing attack against Zeppelin works at Friedrichshafen (Lake Constance). They carried then four 20 lb (9 kg) bombs each and the mission was a success. Later on, because of a growing number of encounters, the Avro 504 was armed with the Lewis gun, with a Foster mount for night fighting. This model was known as the Avro 504K. There were many other wartime variants. The most famous and current were the 504K and 504J. Both were equipped with 100 hp (75 kW) Gnome or 110 hp (80 kW) Le Rhône because of shortages, and these models ended in the Home Defence squadrons of the RFC by 1917. In Russia, White Russian Type 504 captured became Soviet planes, rapidly copied like th U-1 in the early 1920s, leading later to the ubiquitous Polikarpov Po-2. In Japan it became the Yokosuka K2Y1 and successors. During all its production, the 504 will be declined into 23 major variants, and sold to 38 countries. It became overnight the first plane of many air forces around the globe, from Australia to Japan, Sweden to Russia, Argentina to Malaysia. The most popular export model from 1925 was the 504N. The 504 was ultimately replaced by the Avro Tutor (only 600 built). Many replicas are still flying today.
-Length: 29 ft 5 in (8.97 m), Wingspan: 36 ft (10.97 m), Height: 10 ft 5 in (3.18 m), Wing area: 330 ft² (30.7 m²)
-Empty weight: 1,231 lb (558 kg), load 180 lb (82 kg)
-Crew: 1 or 2
-Powerplant: Le Rhône 9J Rotary, 110 hp (82 kW)
-Performances: Top speed 90 mph (145 km/h), Cruise 75 mph (121 km/h), Range 250 mi (402 km), Ceiling: 16,000 ft (4,876 m), Climb: 700 ft/min (3.6 m/s)
-Armament: 2x synchonized 0.303 Vickers machine guns.