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Avro 701
Athena

A training aircraft for the RAF, intended to replace the Prentice, which was only built in small numbers.
 
 
Avro 701 Athena T Mk 1 VM125 Prototype Mamba-powered Avro 701 Athena T Mk 1 VM125 at the 1948 SBAC show.

 

The Avro 701 Athena was designed against Specification T17/45 which sought a turboprop powered basic three-seat trainer to replace the Percival Prentice. The two contenders were submitted in the Avro 701 Athena and the Boulton Paul Balliol.

 

The Athena was an all-metal, low-winged monoplane with a side-by-side cockpit and initial prototypes of both types were built with turboprop powerplants.  Three Athena prototype were built:  Two Avro 701 Athena T.1s with Armstrong Siddeley Mamba 1 engines (VM125, VM132) and a single Athena T.1A (VM129) powered by a Rolls-Royce Dart engine.

 

The first (VM125) was flown for the first time at Woodford on 12th June 1948 and it quickly became apparent that slow planned development of turbine engines to a production standard would delay the programme considerably. As a result (and taking into consideration the readily availability of quantities of Rolls-Royce Merlin 35 engines, then being held in stock) the decision was taken to re-issue the requirement as T.14/47, identifying the specific the use of this engine.

 

Avro 701 Athena T Mk 2 prototype VW890 The Merlin-powered Avro 701 Athena T Mk 2 prototype VW890 at the 1948 SBAC Show.

 

Significant redesign included moving the wing forward by 27 inches, as was required to accommodate the much heavier Merlin engine. The modified aircraft was then designated as the Athena T.2, of which four prototypes were built. The first Merlin-powered aircraft (VW890) flew for the first time on 1st August 1948.

 

During the development phase it became apparent that a greater fin and rudder area was required and subsequently a taller fin and rudder, plus a small dorsal fin, were added to all production aircraft.

 

The initial requirement for three seats was eliminated and this resulted in the production aircraft also having a shorter canopy than was used on the early prototypes. The Athena was fitted with a single 0.303 Browning machine gun with 300 rounds as well as a gun camera.  The aircraft also had provision for the carriage of underwing stores such as bomb racks and 45-gallon drop tanks.

 

Although the Boulton Paul Balliol was eventually selected as the preferred design (of which some 229 were built), the Avro 701 Athena was also ordered into 'limited production' with a total of 15 aircraft entering RAF service in 1950 where they were used for armament training at the RAF Flying College at Manby. For this purpose, they were also equipped to carry two 60 lb unguided rockets under each wing.

 

Avro 701 Athena T Mk 2 VR566 VR567 The first two production Avro 701 Athena T Mk 2 VR566 & VR567.

 

One aircraft briefly carried a civil registration (G-ALWA) and undertook a promotional tour to India.  Despite this final campaign, no further orders were received.

 

A total of 22 Athena aircraft were built, made up of three turboprop prototypes, four Merlin-powered prototypes and 15 production Athena T.2s.

Avro 701 Athena Specifications

  Avro 701 Athena T.1 Avro 701 Athena T.2
Powerplants One 1,010 AS Mamba 1 One 1,280 hp RR Merlin 35
Span 40 ft 0 in 40 ft 0 in
Maximum Weight 7,191 lb 9,383 lb
Capacity and armament 3 crew; 0.303 Browning machine gun, provision for underwing stores 2 crew, 0,303 machine gun, underwing stores including bombs and up to four 60 lb rockets
Maximum Speed 291 mph at 20,000 ft 293 mph at 20,000 ft
Cruising Speed 256 mph 223 mph
Range 620 miles 550 miles

Variants & Numbers

Designation                Number built 
Athena T.1 Two prototypes VM125, VM132
Athena T.1A One prototype VM129
Athena T.2 Four prototypes VW890 to VW893; 15 production aircraft VR566 to VR580
Total 22 aircraft (7 prototypes and 15 production aircraft)

Survivors

No Avro 701 Athena aircraft survive.

Other information

Avro Heritage Museum (www.avroheritagemuseum.co.uk