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Avro Anson
A restored Avro Anson Mk I in flight
Role Multirole aircraft, primarily a trainer
Manufacturer Avro
First flight 24 March 1935
Introduction 1936
Retired 28 June 1968 (RAF)
Primary users Royal Air Force
Fleet Air Arm
Produced 1930s–1952
Number built 11,020

The Avro Anson is a British twin-engine, multi-role aircraft that served with the Royal Air Force, Fleet Air Arm, Royal Canadian Air Force and numerous other air forces before, during, and after the Second World War. Named after British Admiral George Anson, it was originally designed as an airliner as the Avro 652 before being redeveloped for maritime reconnaissance, but was soon rendered obsolete in both roles. However, it was rescued from obscurity by its suitability as a multi-engine air crew trainer, becoming the mainstay of the British Commonwealth Air Training Plan. By the end of production in 1952, the Anson spanned nine variants; a total of 8,138 were built in Britain by Avro. From 1941, a further 2,882 were built by Federal Aircraft Ltd. in Canada.

Design and development

A restored Avro Anson Mk I on the ground at an airshow

The Anson was derived from the commercial six-seat 652 model; the militarised version, which first flew on 24 March 1935, was built to Air Ministry Specification 18/35. It was the first RAF monoplane with a retractable undercarriage. Avro allotted the type number 652A to the Anson. The first production run resulted in 174 Mk I aircraft for service with Coastal Command. No. 48 Squadron RAF was the first to be equipped in March 1936. A distinctive feature of the Anson I was its landing gear retraction mechanism which required no less than 140 turns of the hand crank by the pilot. To forgo this laborious process, early model aircraft often made short flights with the landing gear extended at the expense of 30 mph (50 km/h) of cruise speed.[1]

A total of 11,020 Ansons were built by the end of production in 1952, making it the second-most-numerous (after the Vickers Wellington), British multi-engine aircraft of the war.[1]

Operational history

At the start of the Second World War, there were 26 RAF squadrons operating the Anson I: 10 with Coastal Command and 16 with Bomber Command. However, by this time, it was obsolete in the roles of bombing and coastal patrol and was being superseded by the Armstrong Whitworth Whitley and Lockheed Hudson.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 Ansons 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 Ansons was attacked by nine Luftwaffe Messerschmitt Bf 109s. Remarkably, before the dogfight ended, the Ansons destroyed two German aircraft and damaged a third without losing any of their own.[2] 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 air crew, such as navigators, wireless operators, bomb aimers and air gunners. Postwar, the Anson continued in the training and light transport roles. The last Ansons were withdrawn from RAF service with communications units on 28 June 1968.[1] The Royal Australian Air Force operated 1,028 Ansons, mainly Mk Is, until 1955. The Royal Canadian Air Force and Royal Canadian Navy operated the aircraft until 1952. The United States Army Air Forces (USAAF), employed 50 Canadian-built Ansons, designated the AT-20. The Royal New Zealand Air Force operated 23 Ansons as navigation trainers in the Second World War, (alongside the more numerous Airspeed Oxford), and acquired more Ansons as communication aircraft immediately after the war. A preserved navigation trainer is in the Royal New Zealand Air Force Museum at Wigram.

Avro Anson 11 G-ALIH of Ekco Electronics at Blackbushe, Hants, in September 1955

The Egyptian Air Force operated Ansons in communications and VIP duties. A specially outfitted Anson was gifted to the then King by the Royal Air Force. The Royal Afghan Air Force obtained 13 Anson 18 aircraft for various duties from 1948. These aircraft survived until 1972.

Postwar civil use

After the war, Ansons continued in production with Avro at Woodford for civilian use as light transports with small charter airlines and as executive aircraft for industrial companies. Countries which saw civilian operations with Ansons included Great Britain, Canada, Australia and Denmark.

Avro Anson XIX operated for aerial survey work in the United Kingdom up to 1973

Railway Air Services operated Ansons on scheduled services from London's Croydon Airport via Manchester to Belfast (Nutts Corner) in 1946 and 1947. Sivewright Airways operated three Mk XIX aircraft from their Manchester Airport base on charter flights as far as Johannesburg and on scheduled flights to Ronaldsway Airport in the Isle of Man until 1951. Finglands Airways operated an ex-RAF Anson I on inclusive tour flights and on scheduled flights from Manchester Airport to Newquay Airport between 1949 and 1952. Kemps Aerial Surveys operated several Anson XIXs on survey work within the UK until their retirement in 1973.[3]

India ordered 12 new Anson 18Cs in 1948 for use by the Directorate of Civil Aviation as trainers and communications aircraft, these were delivered from Woodford in the spring of 1949.

Ansons continued to be built by Avro at Woodford for the RAF until March 1952 and were used as trainers and served in the role of Station communications aircraft until 1968.

The wooden wings of Ansons flying in Australia were found to fail at a high rate. The phenolic glue bonds parted, and it was speculated that the problem was due to the high humidity. The Commonwealth Government grounded most wooden-winged aircraft types in 1962, in particular, Ansons and Mosquitos. No aircraft were re-registered as the government mandated a test that essentially destroyed the wings, requiring new wings to be fitted. Most owners had voluntarily scrapped their aircraft well before this time.

Although Ansons have mainly been retired from flying, a 1936 Avro Anson Mk.I was recently made airworthy, fitted with later metal wings and returned to the air on 18 July 2012 in Nelson, New Zealand.[4]

Accidents and incidents

  • On 29 September 1940, Avro Ansons L9162 and N4876 of No. 2 Service Flying Training School RAAF collided in mid-air and became locked together in flight. A successful emergency landing was made at Brocklesby, New South Wales. L9162 became a ground instructional airframe, whilst N4876 was repaired and returned to service (see 1940 Brocklesby mid-air collision).
  • On 19 December 1945, a Companhia Meridional de Transportes Avro Anson Mk. II registration PP-MTA crashed in the neighborhood of Itaipu, Niterói, Brazil killing all passengers and crew, including the pilot and owner of the airline, Álvaro Araújo.[5]
  • On 11 June 1948, Avro XIX G-AGNI of Lancashire Aircraft Corporation ditched off Bradda Head, Isle of Man due to fuel exhaustion. The aircraft was operating a scheduled passenger flight from Squires Gate Airport, Blackpool to Ronaldsway Airport, Isle of Man via RAF Walney Island, Lancashire. All nine people on board were rescued by a trawler from Port Erin and the MV Silkthorn.[6]
  • On 16 February 1944 Avro Anson Mark I No: N5130 was flying over Llandudno on a training exercise from Mona field, Anglesey, when a part of the wing ripped off at 5,000 ft and the plane plummeted to the ground at Marl Farm, killing all five onboard.(


The main Anson variant was the Mk I, of which 6,704 were built in Britain. The other variants were mainly distinguished by their powerplant with Canadian-built Ansons using local engines. To overcome steel shortages, the 1,051 Canadian-built Mk V Ansons featured a plywood fuselage.

G-VROE an Anson C.21 operated by the Air Atlantique Classic Flight

Mk I
6,688 Mk Is were built. Powered by two 350 hp (261 kW) Armstrong Siddeley Cheetah IX or 395 hp (295 kW) XIX engines.
1,822 Mk IIs were built in Canada; powered by two 330 hp (246 kW) Jacobs L-6MB R-915 engines and fitted with hydraulic landing gear retraction rather than the manual system used on the Anson I.
Powered by two 330 hp (250 kW) L-6MB R-915 engines; British-built.
Powered by two Wright Whirlwind engines; British-built.
Mk V
1,069 Mk Vs were built in Canada for navigator training; powered by two 450 hp (340 kW) Pratt & Whitney Wasp Junior R-985 engines and given a new locally developed wood monocoque fuselage.
One aircraft was built in Canada for bombing and gunnery training; it was powered by two 450 hp (340 kW) Wasp Junior engines.
Mk X
104 Anson Mk Is were converted into Mk Xs.
90 Anson Mk Is were converted into Mk XIs.
20 Anson Mk Is were converted into Mk XIIs, plus 221 new Mk XII aircraft built.
Gunnery trainer powered by two Cheetah XI or XIX engines; never built.
Gunnery trainer powered by two Cheetah XV engines; never built.
Navigation trainer; never built.
Bombing trainer; never built.
C 19
264 were built for the RAF; used as communications and transport aircraft.
T 20
Navigation trainer for the RAF, a variant of the Mk XIX to meet Air Ministry Specification T.24/46 for an overseas navigation trainer, one pilot two wireless operators (one trainee and one instructor) and five navigator positions (three trainees and two instructors). Used for bombing and navigation training in Southern Rhodesia, 60 built.
T 21
Navigation trainers for the RAF, a variant of the Mk XIX to meet Air Ministry Specification T.25/46 for a home navigation trainer, one pilot two wireless operators (one trainee and one instructor) and five navigator positions (three trainees and two instructors). A prototype was flown in May 1948, 252 were built.
Modification of T.21s for communications and transport duties.
T 22
Radio trainers for the RAF, a variant of the Mk XIX to meet Air Ministry Specification T.26/46, one pilot and four wireless operator stations (three for trainees and one for an instructor), a prototype was flown in June 1948, 54 built.
Anson 18
Developed from the Avro Nineteen; 12 aircraft were sold to the Royal Afghan Air Force for use as communications, police patrol and aerial survey aircraft.
Anson 18C
13 aircraft were built for the Indian government; used for training civil aircrews.
Avro Nineteen
(Also known as the Anson XIX): Civil transport version; 56 aircraft were built in two series.
United States military designation for Canadian-built Anson IIs used by the United States Army Air Forces, 50 built.


Military Anson operators

Royal Afghan Air Force - 13 Anson 18 aircraft were delivered to the Afghan Air Force from 1948 and retired by 1972
At least one, LV-FBR, in use in 1960
Royal Australian Air Force - 1,028 Ansons were operated by the Royal Australian Air Force, retired in 1955
  • Brain & Brown Airfreighters (one Anson until at least 1977)
  • East-West Airlines, one preserved (non-flying), at Tamworth Airport
  • Gulf Aviation
Companhia Meridional de Transportes (three Avro Anson Mk. IIs operated between 1945 and 1946)
Royal Canadian Air Force and Royal Canadian Navy Ansons were retired in 1952
three Canadian-built Ansons were transported to Cuba, operated by ANSA-Aerolíneas del Norte S.A., a regional airline from 1947 until the mid-1950s
Czechoslovakian Air Force three aircraft, in service from 1945 to 1948
Egyptian Air Force
Estonian Air Force
Ethiopian Air Force
Finnish Air Force
French Air Force and Aeronavale
Hellenic Royal Air Force
Royal Indian Air Force
Imperial Iranian Air Force
Royal Iraqi Air Force
Irish Air Corps
Israeli Air Force
Royal Netherlands Air Force and Dutch Naval Aviation Service
 New Zealand
Royal New Zealand Air Force
Royal Norwegian Air Force
Paraguayan Air Arm one Mk.V bought in Argentina in 1947.
Portuguese Air Force
Royal Rhodesian Air Force
 Saudi Arabia
Royal Saudi Air Force
 South Africa
South African Air Force
 Southern Rhodesia
Southern Rhodesian Air Force
Syrian Air Force
Turkish Air Force
Royal Air Force and Royal Navy
  • Blue Line Airways
  • British European Airways
  • Finglands Airways
  • Ministry of Civil Aviation
  • Railway Air Services
  • Sivewright Airways
  • Starways
  • Transair
United States
50 Canadian built Ansons were delivered to the USAAF as the AT-20.
SFR Yugoslav Air Force

Surviving Aircraft


  • Camden Aviation Museum, Camden, NSW -
  • RAAFA Aviation Heritage Museum, Bull Creek, WA - Mk.I


  • Aero Space Museum of Calgary, Calgary, Alberta - Mk.II 7401
  • Alberta Aviation Museum, Edmonton, Alberta - Mk.II 886
  • Canada Aviation and Space Museum, Ottawa, Ontario - Mk.V 12518
  • Canadian Warplane Heritage Museum, Hamilton, Ontario - Mk.V 12417
  • Commonwealth Air Training Plan Museum, Brandon, Manitoba - Mk.II stripped of fabric and Mk.V 12125
  • Greenwood Military Aviation Museum, Greenwood, Nova Scota - Mk.II 7135
  • Saskatchewan Western Development Museum, Moose Jaw, Saskatchewan - Mk.I R9725


  • Irish Air Corps -

New Zealand

Avro Anson, Shuttleworth Collection, 2013

  • Royal New Zealand Air Force Museum, Christchurch - composite of several examples marked as NZ406
  • Mk I/XIX composite painted as MH120

United Arab Emirates

  • Al Mahatah Museum, Sharjaw - Mk.19 G-AKVW

United Kingdom

  • Imperial War Museum, Duxford, Cambridgeshire - Mk.XI N4877
  • Shuttleworth Collection, Bedfordshire - Mk.XIX G-AHKX
  • Classic Air Force, Newquay - T 21 G-VROE

Specifications (Mk I)

Avro Anson T20

Data from , David. The Hamlyn Concise Guide to British Aircraft of World War II [7]

General characteristics

  • Crew: Three-four
  • Length: 42 ft 3 in (12.88 m)
  • Wingspan: 56 ft 6 in (17.22 m)
  • Height: 13 ft 1 in (3.99 m)
  • Wing area: 463 ft² (43.1 m²)
  • Empty weight: 5,512 lb (2,500 kg)
  • Loaded weight: 7,955 lb (3,608 kg)
  • Max. takeoff weight: 8,500 lb (3,900 kg)
  • Powerplant: Two × Armstrong Siddeley Cheetah IX radial engines, 355 hp (260 kW) each


  • Maximum speed: 188 mph (163 kn, 303 km/h) at 7,000 ft (2,100 m)
  • Range: 790 mi (690 nmi, 1,300 km)
  • Service ceiling: 19,000 ft (5,791 m)
  • Rate of climb: 750 ft/min (3.8 m/s)
  • Wing loading: 17.2 lb/ft² (83.9 kg/m²)
  • Power/mass: 0.088 hp/lb (140 W/kg)


See also



  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 Gunston, Bill. Classic World War II Aircraft Cutaways. London: Osprey, 1995. ISBN 1-85532-526-8.
  2. Murphy, Kevin. "Avro 652 Anson". Warbird Alley. Retrieved: 13 February 2007.
  3. Sturtivant, 1988, p. 294.
  4. Neal, Tracy. "Restored-bomber-returns-to-the-skies." Nelson Mail, 18 July 2912. Retrieved: 19 July 2012.
  5. Pereira, Aldo. Breve História da Aviação Comercial Brasileira (in Portuguese).] Europa, (Rio de Janeiro), 1987, p. 290.
  6. Poole 1999, pp. 123-24.
  7. Mondey 1994, p. 26.


  • Donald, David and Jon Lake, eds. Encyclopedia of World Military Aircraft. London: AIRtime Publishing, 1996. ISBN 1-880588-24-2.
  • Gunston, Bill. Classic World War II Aircraft Cutaways. London: Osprey, 1995. ISBN 1-85532-526-8.
  • Jackson, A.J. Avro Aircraft since 1908, 2nd edition. London: Putnam Aeronautical Books, 1990. ISBN 0-85177-834-8.
  • Hall, Alan W. Avro Anson Mks. 1-22 (Warpaint Series No. 53). Blechley, Buckinghamshire, UK: Warpaint Books Ltd., 2006.
  • Hall, Alan W. and Eric Taylor. Avro Anson Marks I, III, IV & X. London: Almark Publishing Co. Ltd., 1972. ISBN 0-85524-064-4.
  • Holmes, Harry. Avro Anson (Images of Aviation). London: Tempus Publishing Ltd., 2000. ISBN 0-7524-1738-X.
  • Mondey, David. The Hamlyn Concise Guide to British Aircraft of World War II. London: Chancellor Press. 1994. ISBN 1-85152-668-4.
  • Poole, Stephen. Rough Landing or Fatal Flight. Douglas, Isle of Mann, UK: Amulree Publications, 1999. ISBN 1-901508-03-X. 
  • Sturtivant, Ray C. The Anson File. Tonbridge, Kent, UK: Air-Britain (Historians) Ltd., 1988. ISBN 0-85130-156-8.

External links

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