Avro York

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Type 685 York
Avro York.jpg
LV633 "Ascalon," Churchill's personal aircraft.
Role Transport
Manufacturer Avro
Designer Roy Chadwick
First flight 5 July 1942
Introduction 1944
Retired 1964
Status Two examples on display
Primary users Royal Air Force
BOAC
British South American Airways
Skyways Ltd
Produced 1943 - 1949
Number built 259 (including prototypes)
Developed from Avro Lancaster

The Avro York was a British transport aircraft that was derived from the Second World War Lancaster heavy bomber, and used in both military and civilian roles between 1943 and 1964.

Design and development[edit]

Development began in 1941 of the Type 685 which paired the wings, tail and undercarriage of the Lancaster bomber with a new square section fuselage of much greater capacity. Production was undertaken by Avro with the hopes of sales to the Royal Air Force and in the postwar civil airliner market.

To meet Operational Requirement OR.113 for a transport aircraft Specification C.1/42 was issued to Avro in 1942 and three further prototypes were ordered in different configurations.

The prototype, LV 626, was assembled by Avro's experimental flight department at Manchester's Ringway Airport and first flew from there on 5 July 1942. It had initially been fitted with the twin fins and rudders of the Lancaster but the increased fuselage side area forward of the wing compared to the Lancaster necessitated fitting a third central fin to retain adequate control and directional stability. Initial assembly and testing of production Yorks mainly for the RAF, was at Ringway, later Yeadon (Leeds) and Woodford (Cheshire).[1]

RAF York

One pattern aircraft was built at Victory Aircraft in Canada but no further orders were received. Victory tooled up for 30 aircraft and built parts for five with one ultimately being completed about the time the war came to an end.[2]

BOAC York operating a freight schedule at Heathrow in 1953
Air Charter York taking off from London Stansted in 1955 on a trooping flight to the Suez Canal Zone

Operational history[edit]

The first civilian York (G-AGJA), initially built for the RAF as MW 103, was delivered from Ringway to British Overseas Airways Corporation (BOAC) in February 1944. In RAF Transport Command service, the York was used on the EnglandIndia route.

Production orders included 50 civilian Yorks and 208 military versions for the RAF – many of which subsequently passed into civilian hands. During the Berlin Airlift, Yorks flew over 58,000 sorties – close to half of the British contribution, alongside the Douglas Dakota and Handley Page Hastings. During the wartime years the York also served as a VIP transport aircraft.

In the postwar years, BOAC used Yorks on their Cairo to Durban service, which had previously been operated by Shorts flying-boats.[3] They were also used by British South American Airways (BSAAC) on their routes to the Caribbean and South America, until their merger into BOAC in September 1949. BOAC's Yorks continued to operate freight schedules until November 1957 when the last example was withdrawn.[4]

After disposal by BOAC and BSAAC, their York fleets were purchased by several UK independent airlines and operated on both passenger and freight flights. These included long distance trooping flights to Jamaica and other UK garrisons. The last Yorks were retired from service by Skyways and Dan Air in 1964.

When the Distant Early Warning Line (Dew Line) was being constructed in Canada in the late 1950s, the York was introduced as a freighter by Associated Airways. At least one of the Yorks, CF-HAS, was retained, and was in service with Transair as late as 1961.

Members of the Governor-General's Flight RAAF in front of the Vice-Regal Avro York in June 1945

Specials[edit]

The Avro York was, like its Lancaster and Lincoln stablemates, a very versatile aircraft. One of the prototypes, LV 633, Ascalon, was custom-built as the personal transport and flying conference room for Prime Minister Winston Churchill. Ascalon was to be fitted with a special pressurised "egg" so that VIP passengers could be carried without their having to use an oxygen mask. Made of aluminium alloy, the aircraft had eight perspex windows to reduce claustrophobia. It also had a telephone, an instrument panel, drinking facilities and an ashtray with room for cigars, a thermos flask, newspapers and books. Testing at RAE Farnborough found the "egg" to work satisfactorily. However, Avro said it was too busy with the new Lancaster IV (Avro Lincoln) work so it was never actually installed in Ascalon. It was considered for installation in the successor aircraft, a Douglas C-54B, but the contractor Armstrong Whitworth decided it was impractical and the project was shelved. The whereabouts of "Churchill's Egg" is currently unknown.[5]

MW 140, Endeavour, flew to Australia in 1945 to become the personal aircraft of HRH The Duke of Gloucester, Australia's then Governor-General. It was operated by the Governor-General's Flight from 1945 to 1947; it was the Royal Australian Air Force's only York.

Another York, MW 102 was fitted out as a "flying office" for the use of the Viceroy of India and C-in-C South East Asia Command, Lord Mountbatten. During its first major overhaul by Avro at Manchester (Ringway) in 1945, the aircraft was re-painted a light duck egg green, a shade intended to cool down the aeroplane, instead of its former normal camouflage colour scheme.

South African leader Jan Smuts also used a York as his personal transport.

Air Chief Marshal Sir Trafford Leigh-Mallory was killed on 14 November 1944 while flying to his new posting in Ceylon to take command of Allied air operations in the Pacific, when York, MW 126, struck a ridge in the French Alps in a blizzard, 30 mi (48 km) south of Grenoble, France. His wife Dora and eight aircrew also died. The wreckage was found by a villager in June 1945.

Variants[edit]

Avro 685 prototypes
LV 626 - prototype first flown with twin tail and later converted to C.II standard
LV 629 - prototype fitted with passenger seats
LV 633 - prototype fitted as a flying converence room, later used by Winston Churchill
LV 639 - prototype fitted as a paratroop drop variant with a drop hatch in the floor
York I
Four-engined civilian transport aircraft, 44 built
York C.I
Four-engined military transport aircraft for the RAF, 208 built by Avro and one by Victory Aircraft.
York C.II
One prototype York aircraft fitted with four Bristol Hercules XVI radial piston engines.

Operators[edit]

Military operators[edit]

 Australia
 France
 South Africa
 United Kingdom

Civil operators[edit]