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A.V. Roe and Company (Avro)
Industry Aviation

Subsidiary of Hawker Siddeley 1935

Merged into Hawker Siddeley Aircraft 1963
Successor(s) Hawker Siddeley Aviation
Founded 1910 – Brownsfield Mill, Manchester
Defunct 1963
Headquarters Alexandra Park, Woodford,
Stockport, United Kingdom
Key people A.V. Roe, Roy Chadwick, Roy Dobson, Harry Broadhurst

Avro was a British aircraft manufacturer founded in 1910 whose designs include the Avro 504 used as a trainer in the First World War, the Avro Lancaster, one of the pre-eminent bombers of the Second World War, and the delta wing Avro Vulcan, a stalwart of the Cold War.

Avro was founded on 1 January 1910 by Alliott Verdon Roe at the Brownsfield Mill on Great Ancoats Street in Manchester. The company remained based primarily in Lancashire throughout its 53 years of existence with key developmental and manufacturing sites in Alexandra Park, Chadderton, Trafford Park and Woodford.


Early history

The A.V. Roe Type I Triplane, Roe's first successful aircraft

One of the world's first aircraft builders, A.V. Roe and Company was established at Brownsfield Mill, Great Ancoats Street, Manchester, by Alliott Verdon Roe and his brother Humphrey Verdon Roe on 1 January 1910.[1] Humphrey's contribution was chiefly financial and organizational; funding it from the earnings of the family webbing business and acting as managing director until he joined the RFC in 1917.[2] Alliot had already constructed a successful aircraft, the Roe I Triplane, named The Bullseye after a brand of braces manufactured by Humphrey.[3] The first Avro aircraft to be produced in any quantity was the Avro E or Avro 500, first flown in March 1912, of which 18 were manufactured, most for the newly formed RFC. The company also built the world's first aircraft with enclosed crew accommodation in 1912, the monoplane Type F and the biplane Avro Type G in 1912, neither progressing beyond the prototype stage. The Type 500 was developed into the Avro 504, first flown in September 1913. A small number were bought by the War Office before the outbreak of the First World War and the type saw some front-line service in the early months of the war, but is best known as a training aircraft, serving in this role until 1933. Production lasted 20 years and totalled 8,340 at several factories: Hamble, Failsworth, Miles Platting and Newton Heath.

The inter-war years

After the boom in orders during the First World War, the lack of new work in peacetime caused severe financial problems and in August 1920, 68.5% of the company's shares were acquired by nearby Crossley Motors which had an urgent need for more factory space for automotive vehicle body building.[4] In 1924, the Company left Alexandra Park Aerodrome in south Manchester where test flying had taken place during the period since 1918 and the site was taken over by a mixture of recreation and housing development. A rural site to the south of the growing city was found at New Hall Farm, Woodford in Cheshire, which continued to serve aviation builders BAE Systems until March 2011, (the site has now been earmarked for a mixed use development). In 1928, Crossley Motors sold AVRO to Armstrong Siddeley Holdings Ltd.[4] In 1928, A.V.Roe resigned from the company he had founded and formed the Saunders-Roe company that after World War II developed several radical designs for combat jets, and, eventually, a range of powerful hovercraft. In 1935, Avro became a subsidiary of Hawker Siddeley.

The Second World War

The Avro Lancaster

Maintaining their skills in designing trainer aircraft, the company built a more robust biplane called the Avro Tutor in the 1930s which the Royal Air Force (RAF) also bought in quantity. A twin piston-engined airliner called the Anson followed but as tensions rose again in Europe the firm's emphasis returned to combat aircraft. The Avro Manchester, Lancaster, and Lincoln were particularly famous Avro designs. Over 7,000 Lancasters were built and their bombing capabilities led to their use in the famous Dam Busters raid. Of the total, nearly half were built at Avro's Woodford (Stockport) and Chadderton (Oldham) sites, with some 700 Lancasters built at the Avro "shadow" factory next to Leeds Bradford Airport (formerly Yeadon Aerodrome), northwest Leeds. This factory employed 17,500 workers at a time when the population of Yeadon was just 10,000. It was the largest building in Europe at the time, at 1.5 million square feet, and its roof was disguised by the addition of fields and hedges to hide it from enemy planes.[5] The old taxiway from the factory to the runway is still evident.

The Avro Lancaster carried the heaviest bomb loads of the war, including the Grand Slam bomb.

Postwar developments

Avro Vulcan

Blue Steel missile

The civilian Lancastrian and maritime reconnaissance Shackleton were derived from the successful Lancaster design. The Tudor was a pressurised but problematic post-war Avro airliner which faced strong competition from designs by Bristol, Canadair, Douglas, Handley Page, and Lockheed. With the same wings and engines as the Lincoln, it achieved only a short (34 completed) production run following a first flight in June 1945 and the cancellation of an order from BOAC. The older Avro York was somewhat more successful in both the RAF and in commercial service, being distinguished by a fuselage square in cross-section. Both Tudors and Yorks played an important humanitarian part in the Berlin Airlift.

The postwar Vulcan bomber, originally designed as a nuclear-strike aircraft, was used to maintain the British nuclear deterrent, armed with the Avro Blue Steel stand-off nuclear bomb. The Vulcan saw service as a conventional bomber during the British campaign to recapture the Falkland Islands in 1982. Recently, Vulcan XH558 flew again after several years of refurbishment, and several are prized as museum exhibits.

A twin turboprop airliner, the Avro 748, was developed during the 1950s and sold widely across the globe, powered by two Rolls-Royce Dart engines. The Royal Flight bought a few and a variant with a rear-loading ramp and a "kneeling" main undercarriage was sold to the RAF and several members of the Commonwealth as the Andover.

Avro regional jets

The Avro name would subsequently be resurrected by British Aerospace when this aircraft manufacturer renamed its BAe 146 family of regional jetliners as Avro regional jets (Avro RJ). Three differently sized versions of the four engine jetliner were produced: the Avro RJ70, the Avro RJ85 and the largest example, the Avro RJ100.

Avro Canada

In 1945, Hawker Siddeley Group purchased the former Victory Aircraft firm in Malton, Ontario, and renamed the operation A.V. Roe Canada Limited.[6] Commonly known as Avro Canada, it was actually a subsidiary of the Hawker Siddeley Group and used the Avro name for trading purposes.


When the company was absorbed into Hawker Siddeley Aviation in July 1963, the Avro name ceased to be used. The brand still had a strong heritage appeal, and as mentioned above the marketing name "Avro RJ" (regional jet) was used by British Aerospace from 1994 to 2001 for production of the RJ70, RJ85 and RJ100 models which were respectively based on the BAe 146-100, BAe 146-200 and BAe 146-300. This four engine jet aircraft type is sometimes also loosely called the "Avro 146".

The BAe ATP (Advanced Turbo Prop) design evolved from the Avro 748 and examples continue in use on shorter, mainly domestic, scheduled air services. A few Avro 504s, Tutors, Ansons and Lancasters, along with a single Vulcan, XH558, are maintained in flying condition as reminders of the heritage of this influential English company. At 39 years, the noisy but impressive Shackleton held the distinction of being the aircraft with the longest period of active RAF service, until overtaken by the English Electric Canberra in 1998.

Avro aeroplanes

Unbuilt projects

  • Avro 720 – planned rocket interceptor, to OR.301 as for the SR.53. Cancelled before flight.
  • Avro 730 – planned supersonic bomber, never completed
  • Avro 734 – planned long-range decoy air-launched by Vulcans[7]
  • Avro 771 - proposed 60-seat airliner powered by two Bristol Siddeley BS.75 turbofans.[8]


  • Avro 574 – Cierva C.6
  • Avro 586 – Cierva C.8
  • Avro 576 – Cierva C.9
  • Avro 612 – Cierva C.17
  • Avro 620 – Cierva C.19
  • Avro 671 Rota – Cierva C.30
  • Avro 665 – cierva C.33
  • Avro 668 – Cierva C.38
  • Cierva C.12

Avro Canada

Unbuilt projects

  • Avro Canada CF-103 (mock-up only)
  • Avro Canada Project Y-1 (mock-up only)
  • Avro Canada Project Y-2 (scale test models only)
  • Avro Canada PV-704 (built as engine test model only)
  • Avro Canada TS-140


Car production

Avro also built motor vehicles in the immediate post-World War 1 era. Avro produced the three-wheeler Harper Runabout, and also their own light car, which was powered by a 1,330 cc 4-cylinder engine. Wood and aluminium were used in an integral construction, similar to an aircraft. Approximately 100 were built.

In 1927 Alliott Verdon-Roe designed a two-wheeler car powered by a 350cc Villiers air-cooled engine. An outrigger wheel kept the car upright when stationary. The Mobile did not go into production.


AVRO F.C. was founded at the Chadderton factory and still exists today.

See also

  • Aerospace industry in the United Kingdom



  1. "Alliott Verdon-Roe." Retrieved: 5 April 2010.
  2. "H.V. Roe." Flight, 4 August 1949, p. 145.
  3. Winthrop, John. Technical World Magazine, Volume 13. Armour Institute of Technology, 1910, p. 223. Retrieved: 23 June 2009.
  4. 4.0 4.1 Eyre, M., Chris Heaps and Alan Townsin. Crossley. Hersham, Surrey, UK: OPC Railprint, 2002. ISBN 0-86093-574-4.
  5. Bowyer, Laura (19 June 2013). "Motion to celebrate Leeds factory's war efforts". Yorkshire Evening Post. Retrieved 20 June 2013. 
  6. Campagna 2003, p. 19.
  7. Chris Gibson Vulcan's Hammer p. 33
  8. "Avro 771 and BAC-107". 16 September 1960. p. p. 449. 


  • Baldwin, Nick. A-Z of Cars of the 1920s. Bideford, Devon, UK: Bay View Books, 1998. ISBN 1-901432-09-2.
  • Campagna, Palmiro. Requiem For a Giant: A.V. Roe Canada and the Avro Arrow. Toronto, Ontario and Oxford, UK: Dundurn Press, 2003. ISBN 1-55002-438-8
  • Harlin, E.A. and G.A. Jenks. Avro: An Aircraft Album. Shepperton, Middlesex, UK: Ian Allen, 1973. ISBN 978-0-7110-0342-2.
  • Holmes, Harry. Avro: The History of an Aircraft Company. Wiltshire, UK: Crowood Press, 2004. ISBN 1-86126-651-0.
  • Jackson, Aubrey J. Avro Aircraft since 1908. London: Putnam, 1965. ISBN 0-85177-797-X.
  • Molson, Ken M. and Harold A. Taylor. Canadian Aircraft since 1909. Toronto: Putnam, 1982. ISBN 0-09-200211-0.
  • Wood, Derek. Project Cancelled: British Aircraft That Never Flew. New York: The Bobbs-Merrill Company, Inc., 1975. ISBN 0-672-52166-0.

External links

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