A.V. Roe and Co. Ltd. with its factory just outside of Manchester, England formulated a design for a small air-taxi or feeder-liner to an Imperial Airways requirement, in 1933. The aircraft was an alteration of their existing Fokker-inspired line of airliners which they were building under licence from the Dutch company, and dropped the wooden, fabric covered, shoulder-mounted wing to a low position, whilst retaining the welded steel-tube fuselage.
It was to be powered by the reliable Bristol-Siddeley Cheetah VI radial engines of 290 hp, and carry just four passengers with a crew of two. Just as the first two examples of the Avro 652 were rolling off the production line, the RAF issued a specification for a land-based maritime reconnaissance aircraft for the newly formed Coastal Command. The competition for this pre-war order was incredibly fierce, including a militarized version of the Dragon Rapide, called the DH 89m, but the Avro design won. Called the Avro 652A Anson by the RAF (after Admiral of the Fleet, Lord Anson – 1697-1762) it became that force’s first monoplane with a retractable undercarriage; it flew for the first time in March, 1935.
The Anson gave immense service during the Second World War, first as a patrol aircraft, which – amazingly – had some success against marauding Me109s, then as a crew trainer, air ambulance and communications machine with such organizations as the Air Transport Auxiliary and the enormous British Commonwealth Air Training Plan, which operated in countries all over the world. It wasn’t until 1945 that Avro modified the basic design into what they hoped would become a post-war feeder liner, to satisfy one of the requirements of the Brabazon Committee. This aircraft, known as the Avro 652A Nineteen, had twin 420 hp Armstrong Siddeley Cheetah 15 engines, and carried nine passengers. The major visual changes were a raised roofline to give more headroom for passengers and oval windows; also, there were hydraulics for flap and undercarriage, rather than the tedious manual operation of these in the original Anson 1. A total of 56 Avro Nineteens were built in two series; the Series 1 aircraft had the original wooden wings, and Series 2 machines metal ones. The design was also adopted by the RAF as the C.19 transport and communications machine (along with the C.21, T.20, T.21, and T.22 varients). The Nineteen – sometimes styled XIX – was quite successful in the immediate after-war period until superceded by the classic De Havilland Dove (a genuine ‘Brabazon Report’ type). Airlines which used the Avro Nineteen included British South American Airways – G-AIKM, ‘Star Visitant’; Sivewright Airways, out of Ringway Airport, Manchester, with G-AIXE, ‘Mancunia’ and G-AHYN, ‘Salfordia’; and Misrair out of Cairo, Egypt, with SU-ADN, ‘Tanta’, SU-ADO, ‘Arafat’, and SU-ADP, ‘Radwa’. It was also the favoured communications ‘hack’ of firms in the aviation sector such as Smiths Aircraft Instruments Ltd. – G-AHKX, Bristol Siddeley Engines Ltd – G-AGUH, and Sperry Gyroscope Co. Ltd – G-AHIJ. As well as this, many examples performed valuable service with survey firms like as Kemp’s Aerial Surveys Ltd, who had G-AGWE.
Here we can see the superbly restored Avro Nineteen Series 2, G-AHKX on display at Shuttleworth Trust, Old Warden, Bedfordshire. After service with Smiths Aircraft Instruments Ltd. from 1946, it was sold in 1960 to a Canadian owner. When it came back to Britain in 1961, it was owned by a series of survey companies including Kemp’s and Meridian Airmaps Ltd. In 1967 it was based for a while at my local airport, East Midlands International (ICAO – EGNX). It eventually formed part of the ill-fated Strathallan Aircraft Collection, in Scotland, and was purchased by what is now BAE Systems for only £600, during the famous sale which followed the closure of that museum in 1980. It was intended that the aircraft be restored to flight status by apprentices at the ex-Avro factory near Manchester, but it was found that they lacked the necessary skills to do this, so a group of retired volunteers undertook the intricate task. Now ‘Kilo Xray’ performs at air shows around the country (I saw it at the Woodford Air Show in 1994, when it was parked next to the Soko J-20 Kraguj!) and it is a credit to both those who restored it and the Shuttleworth engineers who maintain it.