Military Wiki
Type 685 York
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
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

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

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 England–India 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


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 104, 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.


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 Churcill
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.


Military operators

 South Africa

Civil operators

  • Aden Airways
  • Flota Aérea Mercante Argentina
  • Aerolíneas Argentinas
  • Arctic Wings
  • Associated Airways
  • Maritime Central Airways
  • Pacific Western Airlines
  • Spartan Air Services
  • Transair (Canada)
  • Persian Air Services
  • Air Liban
  • Middle East Airlines
  • Trans Mediterranean Airways
 South Africa
  • South African Airways
  • Tropic Airways
  • Air Charter
  • BOAC
  • British South American Airways
  • Dan Air
  • Eagle Aviation
  • Hunting-Clan Air Transport
  • Scottish Airlines
  • Skyways
  • Surrey Flying Services


Restored Rolls-Royce Merlin engine of G-ANTK

Dan Air York at Duxford

While there are no flying examples of the Avro York, there are two complete examples on display. Currently at the RAF Museum Cosford Collection is Avro 685 York C1, TS 798 (cn 1223) which was initially intended for the RAF as TS 798, but quickly passed to BOAC as G-AGNV and later to Skyways. It was previously preserved at Skyfame (Staverton), Brize Norton and Shawbury.

Another example on public display is held at the Imperial War Museum Duxford: Avro 685 York C1, G-ANTK is an ex-Dan Air London aircraft. This airframe was built at Yeadon, near Leeds, in January 1946 and entered RAF service with 242 Squadron as MW 232 that August. It joined the fleet of Allied aircraft engaged in the Berlin Airlift and in May 1947, the York moved to 511 Squadron at Lyneham, where it served until May 1950 when it was used by Fairey Aviation for flight refuelling research. It then retired to 12 Maintenance Unit at Kirkbride for storage prior to disposal. In July 1954, MW 232 became G-ANTK with Dan-Air and it was used for freight work until its retirement in May 1964. It was ferried to Lasham Airfield and used as a bunk house by the local Air Scouts until 1974. The Dan-Air preservation group took it over and began to restore the aircraft in their spare time. In the mid-1980s, Dan-Air realised the impracticality of the restoration work being undertaken and began negotiations with the Duxford Aviation Society. In May 1986, the aircraft was dismantled and on 23 May made its journey to Duxford on seven low-loaders.

Accidents and incidents

The Avro York had 87 hull-loss accidents or incidents with the following list of accidents involving fatalities and major hull-losses. This information is primarily derived from: Piston Engine Airliner Production List (1991) [6] and Aviation Safety Network.:[7]

  • 29 December 1945: An RAF York crashed and was destroyed by fire near New Milton, Hampshire, England.
  • 11 April 1946: An RAF York crashed and burned on take off from RAF Woodbridge, one of the six crew on board was killed.[8]
  • 7 September 1946: A British South American Airways York Star Leader on a flight from London to Buenos Aires via Lisbon, Bathurst, Natal, Rio de Janeiro and Montevideo, crashed shortly after takeoff from Bathurst, The Gambia. The captain lost control of the aircraft as it was climbing. The accident killed all 24 passengers and crew on board.[9][10]
  • 6 October 1946: An RAF York crashed in the Bay of Bengal.
  • 20 October 1946: An RAF York crashed on take off from Dum Dum, Calcutta, India.
  • 20 November 1946: An RAF York crashed in the desert south of Helwan, Egypt.
  • 23 December 1946: A Flota Aérea Mercante Argentina York crashed into a mountain 31 km from Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.
  • 18 March 1947: An RAF York crashed and burnt out near Negombo Town after departure from Negombo, Ceylon.
  • 13 April 1947: British South American Airways York Star Speed crashed on landing at Dakar, Senegal.
  • 1 July 1947: An RAF York crashed after overshooting at RAF Oakington.
  • 16 July 1947: A BOAC York crashed near Basra, Iraq.
  • 17 November 1947: An RAF York crashed after overshooting at RAF Dishforth, Yorkshire.
  • 16 February 1948: An RAF York was damaged beyond repair during a landing at RAF Hullavington.
  • 4 July 1948: An RAF York collided with a Scandinavian Airlines System DC-6 over Northwood, London, killing all seven passengers and crew on the York and 31 passengers and crew on the DC-6. See Northwood mid-air collision.
  • 19 September 1948: An RAF York crashed on take off from Wunstorf, West Germany.
  • 5 January 1949: British South American Airways York Star Venture crashed at Caravellos Bay, Brazil.
  • 15 March 1949: A Skyways York crashed on approach to Gatow, (southwest of West Berlin), West Germany.
  • 2 February 1953: A Skyways York crashed into the sea off Newfoundland, Canada after an SOS was sent by the pilots. The wreck of the aircraft was never found; all 39 passengers and crew died.
  • 26 June 1954: An Skyways York crashed landed at Kyritz, East Germany.
  • 26 May 1955: An Associated Airways York was damaged beyond repair after hitting an obstacle on take off from Edmonton Municipal Airport, Canada.[11]
  • 29 September 1955: An Associated Airways York was damaged beyond repair after ditching into the Thoa River near Yellowknife, North West Territories, Canada.
  • 18 February 1956: A Scottish Airlines York crashed at Malta due to pilot error, killing all 50 passengers and crew. See 1956 Scottish Airlines Malta air disaster
  • 30 April 1956: A Scottish Airlines York crashed on take off from Stansted Airport, Essex.
  • 13 September 1956: A Pacific Western Airlines York was damaged beyond repair after an accident at Cape Perry, North West Territories, Canada.
  • 26 September 1956: A Maritime Central Airways York was damaged beyond repair in a forced landing in Quebec, Canada.
  • 8 January 1957: A Transair (Canada) York was destroyed by fire after crash landing on a lake in Hudson Bay, Canada.
  • 23 December 1957: A cargo Scottish Airlines York crashed near Stansted on approach to the airport, killing all four crew.
  • 25 May 1958: A Dan-Air York crashed at Guragon, Punjab, India.
  • 29 September 1958: A Middle East Airlines York went missing over the Mediterranean Sea somewhere between Beirut and Rome.
  • 15 March 1963: A Trans Mediterranean Airways York crashed seven miles southeast of Karai, Iran.

Specifications (Avro York)

Avro York

Data from Jane's Fighting Aircraft of World War II[12]

General characteristics
  • Crew: five (two pilots, navigator, wireless operator, cabin steward)
  • Capacity: 56 passengers
  • Payload: 20,000 lb (9,100 kg)
  • Length: 78 ft 6 in (23.9 m)
  • Wingspan: 102 ft 0 in (31.1 m)
  • Height: 16 ft 6 in (5 m)
  • Wing area: 1,297 ft² (120.5 m²)
  • Empty weight: 40,000 lb (18,150 kg)
  • Loaded weight: 65,000 lb (29,480 kg)
  • Powerplant: 4 × Rolls-Royce Merlin 24 liquid-cooled V12 engines, 1,280 hp (950 kW) each


  • Maximum speed: 298 mph (258 kn, 479 km/h) at 21,000 ft (6,400 m)
  • Range: 3,000 mi (2,600 nmi, 4,800 km)
  • Service ceiling: 23,000 ft (7,010 m)
  • Rate of climb: 820 ft/min (4.2 m/s)
  • Wing loading: 54 lb/ft² (260 kg/m²)
  • Power/mass: 0.079 hp/lb (130 W/kg)

See also



  1. "Avro York C1." Royal Air Force Museum. Retrieved: 24 October 2006.
  2. Stewart 1991, p. 14.
  3. "Avro 685 York." British Aircraft of World War II via Retrieved: 22 December 2010.
  4. Jackson 1990, p. 379.
  5. Aeroplane Monthly January 1983.
  6. Eastwood and Roach 1991, pp. 21–29.
  7. "Accidents: Avro 685 York." Aviation Safety Network. Retrieved: 22 February 2010.
  8. "News in Brief." The Times, 13 April 1946, Issue 50426, p. 2, column C.
  9. "Accident description G-AHEW." Aviation Safety Network. Retrieved: 12 May 2011.
  10. "23 Killed in Crash of Plane in Africa." Pittsburg Press, 7 September 1946, p. 1.
  11. "Associated Airways Avro York accident." Retrieved: 21 December 2010.
  12. Bridgeman 1946, p. 105.


  • Bridgeman, Leonard. “The Avro Type 685 York.” Jane's Fighting Aircraft of World War II. London: Studio, 1946. ISBN 1-85170-493-0.
  • Eastwood, Tony and John Roach. Piston Engine Airliner Production List. West Drayton, UK: The Aviation Hobby Shop, 1991. ISBN 0-907178-37-5.
  • Hannah, Donald. The Avro York (Aircraft in Profile number 168). Leatherhead, Surrey, UK: Profile Publications Ltd., 1967.
  • Holmes, Harry. Avro: The History of an Aircraft Company, Second edition. Marlborough, UK: Crowood Press, 2004. ISBN 1-86126-651-0.
  • Jackson, A.J. Avro Aircraft since 1908, 2nd edition. London: Putnam Aeronautical Books, 1990. ISBN 0-85177-834-8.
  • Ottaway, Susan and Ian. Fly With the Stars – A History of British South American Airways. Andover, Hampshire, UK: Speedman Press, 2007. ISBN 978-0-7509-4448-9.
  • Stewart, Greig. Shutting Down the National Dream: A.V. Roe and the Tragedy of the Avro Arrow. Toronto: McGraw-Hill-Ryerson, 1991. ISBN 0-07-551119-3.

External links

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