Avro 685 York prototype LV626
Avro 685 York prototype LV626 in July 1942 showing the original twin tail fins.


The prototype A.V. Roe and Company Type 685 Avro York (LV626) was built at Avro Lancaster, Manchester before being assembled and first flown at Ringway (now Manchester Airport) on 5th July 1942.


Built as a private venture and making extensive use of Avro 683 Lancaster parts and tooling, the initial production rates were low, with a priority being given to the Avro Lancaster bomber for the war effort. 


That said however, Designer Roy Chadwick had foreseen the post war need for transport aircraft and the private Avro venture was seen as ambitious as there were shortages in materials and production space.


The Avro 685 York featured a high wing mounted on a new square-section boxy fuselage with a considerably increased internal volume when compared with the Avro 683 Lancaster. The first two prototypes had twin fins (as did the Lancaster) but all subsequent aircraft were fitted with a third central fin to improve directional stability.


Avro 685 York C1 MW103
The third production Avro York C.1 MW103 was delivered to BOAC as G-AGJA.


The Avro 685 York was built both in Manchester (with final assembly at Ringway), Woodford and at Yeadon near Leeds, who built the final seventy-seven aircraft from October 1945.


The type was the most effective British transport during the Berlin Airlift, in both RAF and charter use.


One particular Skyways aircraft (G-AHLV) flew 467 sorties during the Airlift and many of the RAF aircraft astonishingly exceeded this figure. In fact, Avro 685 York aircraft from seven different RAF squadrons, flew supplies into Gatow during the Berlin Airlift.


The last RAF York sortie of the operation was flown on 26th August 1949.


Avro 685 York MW329 Berlin Airlift
Avro 685 York MW329 photographed at RAF Fuhlsbuttel during the Berlin Airlift.


Never glamorous, the Avro 685 York was widely used by a number of post-war airlines including BOAC, BSAA, FAMA in Argentina, Skyways Ltd (at peak, a thirty-strong fleet), Dan Air, Lancashire Aircraft Corporation Ltd (twenty-eight aircraft), South African Airways, Air Charter Ltd, Eagle Aviation Ltd, Scottish Aviation Ltd, Hunting, etc.


In total, some 46 ex-RAF aircraft were ultimately transferred for civil use, many of them being subsequently used on trooping contracts.


Avro 685 York G-AGJC
Avro 685 York G-AGJC 'Malmesbury' in BOAC service.


The Avro 685 York was used in BOAC passenger service through until October 1950, but it still continued in cargo service until November 1957. Overall, BOAC operated the type for 13 years, carrying some 90,000 passengers and flying some 44 million miles.


Although the Avro 685 York can be regarded as an 'interim' transport aircraft in the absence of new British civil transport designs, this is not to overlook the hard work that it performed, often flying unglamorous cargoes on some very unglamorous routes.


Skyways Ltd achieved some very high utilisation rates, with Avro advertising referring specifically to two Skyways aircraft (G-AHFI Skyway) and (G-AHLV Sky Courier) which achieved 2,177, and 2,402 hours utilisation respectively during 1947. The mainstay of the advertisements read... ‘By day and night, in fair weather and foul, Avro airliners are carrying their precious cargoes to the far corners of the earth’.


Avro 685 York G-ANTK Dan Air Duxford
Dan Air Avro 685 York G-ANTK is currently on display at Duxford.


A total of 257 Avro 685 York aircraft were built, comprising four prototypes, 208 aircraft for the RAF (five of which were diverted to BOAC), 25 'new-build' aircraft for BOAC, 12 British South American Airways, 3 Skyways (one of which was diverted from RAF order), and 5 FAMA. One additional aircraft was built by Victory Aircraft Ltd in Canada.


Avro 685 York Specification

Powerplants           Four 1,620 hp R-R Merlin T.24 or 502
Span 102 ft 0 in
Maximum Weight 68,000 lb
Capacity  Civil use: typically 24 to 30 passengers or in mixed passenger / cargo operations freight forward with 12 passengers aft.
Maximum Speed 298 mph
Cruising Speed 233 mph
Range 2,700 miles


Avro 685 York Variants & Numbers Built

Avro York C Mk.1      Civil & military transport based on the Avro Lancaster. Four 1,620 hp Rolls-Royce Merlin T.24 or 502 engines. 256 built
Avro York C.Mk.2 As C.Mk.1 with four 1650 hp Bristol Hercules VI engines. (One conversion only)
Avro York C.Mk.3 As C.Mk.1 with modified cabin floor for RCAF. One only by Victory Aircraft Ltd.
Grand total 257 aircraft (256 C.Mk.1. 1 C.Mk.3, one C.Mk.2 converted from C.Mk.1)


Avro 685 York Survivors

Avro York C.Mk.1
RAF Museum, Cosford (previously preserved at Staverton with the Skyfame Museum). Ex-BOAC and Skyways Ltd (G-AGNV).
York C.Mk.1
Imperial War Museum, Duxford. Ex-Dan Air London. Previously MW232, which served during the Berlin Airlift.

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