Avro Anson

Avro 652A Anson I - N4877
Avro 652A Anson Mk.I - N4877
Design and Development

The Avro Anson was originally designed as a light, four-passenger civil transport and mail aircraft. The first three were built to civil specifications, and first flew in 1935 for Imperial Airways. However, its promise was recognised by the British Air Ministry and, in 1936, the Avro 652A entered service with both the RAF and the RAAF (Royal Australian Air Force) Coastal Commands, where it was the first low-wing monoplane, and the first operational aircraft with retractable (manually) landing gear.

Named after a 18th Century Royal Navy Admiral, George Anson, the Avro Anson Mk I was used initially as a coastal patrol reconnaissance aircraft, with a manually operated, enclosed gun turret mounting a single .303 machine gun, two internally carried 100lb bombs, and external racks that could carry eight 20lb bombs, flares or smoke generators. The Anson was woefully under gunned for its task, as was embarrassingly demonstrated when one accidentally bombed a Royal Navy submarine (H.M.S. "Snapper") with 100lb bombs that merely broke four light bulbs on the undersea craft.

Thus, as quickly as possible, the Anson was replaced as a patrol craft by the Lockheed Hudson and reassigned as a training aircraft, a role for which it proved to be ideally suited, and in which it performed for nearly 3 decades. Initially intended to be the standard twin-engine pilot trainer for the British Commonwealth Air Training Plan (BCATP), the Anson II was also used for training radio operators, navigators, and bombardiers. When Canada began manufacturing the complete aircraft at their own Federal Aircraft Ltd site, the turret was dropped from their variant. The Anson Mk II was the first variant to be completely built in Canada, differing from the Mk I in its Jacobs engines, hydraulically powered flaps and landing gear, and a moulded plywood nose. Fifty of the Canadian-manufactured Mk II's were supplied to the U. S. Army as the AT-20 crew trainer.

Subsequent Anson’s manufactured in Canada under the BCATP were fitted with either Jacobs L-6MB (Mk III) or Wright Whirlwind R-975-E3 (Mk IV) radial engines. Canada also manufactured an Anson (Mk V) that used plywood completely in its fuselage, which proved useful in Canadian magnetic surveying after the war. A single gunnery training sample (Mk VI) was built in 1943. Mark numbers VII, VIII and IX were set aside for future Canadian varieties that never materialized. While Britain resumed manufacturing with the Anson Mk X, which was a Mk I with a stronger cabin floor, intended for freight and passenger use, while Marks XI and XII saw the raising of the cabin roof for passenger comfort, and the addition of all metal wings (MK XII, series 2), with both marks also being produced in ambulance variations. Marks XIII, XIV, XV and XVI were assigned but never produced, while MK XVII was never allotted.

A civilian variety of the Anson, the Avro Nineteen, built on a MK XI airframe, was produced in limited quantities for British internal routes, while its RAF version was designated Anson C.19. A police patrol and survey variant, the Anson C.18 was developed for both the Royal Afghan Air Force and for the Indian government where it was to be used for civilian crew training. A bomber trainer version, Anson T.20, was developed for use in Southern Rhodesia, and a similar T.21 was produced, differing primarily in the removal of a transparent nose and bomb racks, while the final variant, the T.22, was built as a radio trainer.

Operational History

At the start of the Second World War, there were twenty six RAF Squadrons operating the Anson I, ten with Coastal Command and sixteen with Bomber Command. However, by this time, the Anson was obsolete in the roles of bombing and coastal patrol and was being superseded by the Armstrong Whitworth Whitley and Lockheed Hudson.

Limited numbers of Anson's continued to serve in operational roles such as coastal patrols and air/sea rescue. Early in the war, an Anson scored a probable hit on a German U-boat. In June 1940, a flight of three Anson's were attacked by nine Luftwaffe Messerschmitt Bf 109s. Remarkably, the Anson's downed two German aircraft and damaged a third before the dogfight ended, without losing any of their own. The aircraft's true role, however, was to train pilots for flying multi-engine bombers such as the Avro Lancaster. The Anson was also used to train the other members of a bomber's aircrew, such as navigators, wireless operators, bomb aimer's and air gunners. Postwar, the Anson continued in the training role and light transport roles. The last Anson's were finally retired from the RAF on 28th June 1968, when the RAF decommissioned six aircraft of the Southern Communications Squadron, at Bovington, Hampshire.

Production Summary
Mk. I6,688 built
Mk. II1,822 built (all in Canada)
Mk. III123 built
Mk. IV100 built
Mk. V1,069 built (all in Canada)
Mk. VI1 built (in Canada)
Mk. X104 Mk. I conversions
Mk. XI90 Mk. I conversions
Mk. XII241 built (including 20 Mk. I conversions)
Mk. XIIINever Built
Mk. XIVNever Built
Mk. XVNever Built
Mk. XVINever Built
C.19264 built
T.2060 built
T.21252 built
T.2254 built
Anson 1812 built (all were sold to the Royal Afghan Air Force)
Anson 18C13 built (all for the Indian Government)
Mk. XIX56 built
AT-2050 built (all built in Canada for the USAAF)
Specifications(Anson Mk.1)
Length:42ft 3in (12.88m)
Width:56ft 6in (17.22m)
Height:13ft 1in (3.99m)
Empty Weight:5,512 lb (2,500kg)
MTOW:8,500 lb (3,900kg)
Max Speed:188mph (163kn, 303km/h) at 7,000ft (2,100m)
Max Range:790mi (690nm, 1,300km)
Rate-of-Climb:750ft/min (3.8m/s)
Service Ceiling:19,000ft (5,791mi)
Engine:2 x Armstrong Siddeley Cheetah IX radial engines, 350hp (260kW) each
Armament Standard:1 × .303 in (7.7 mm) machine gun in front fuselage 1 × .303 in (7.7 mm) Vickers K machine gun in dorsal turret
Armament Optional:None