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Avro Lancastrian


Avro Lancastrian

Avro Sapphire Lancastrian testbed demonstrating on its two jets with its Merlins feathered at Coventry Airport in June 1954
Role Passenger and mail transport
Manufacturer Avro
Designer Roy Chadwick
First flight 1943
Introduction 1945 (BOAC)
Retired 1960
Primary users BOAC
Trans Canada Airlines
Royal Air Force
Rolls-Royce (engine test-beds)
Produced 1943-1945
Number built 91 (including conversions)
Developed from Avro Lancaster

The Avro 691 Lancastrian was a Canadian and British passenger and mail transport aircraft of the 1940s and 1950s developed from the Avro Lancaster heavy bomber. The Lancaster was named after Lancaster, Lancashire; a Lancastrian is an inhabitant of Lancashire.

The Lancastrian was basically a modified Lancaster bomber without armour or armament and with the gun turrets replaced by streamlined metal fairings, including a new nose section. The initial batch was converted directly from Lancasters; later batches were new builds.


  • Design and development 1
  • Operational history 2
    • Lancastrian engine testbeds 2.1
    • "Star Dust" 2.2
  • Variants 3
  • Operators 4
    • Civil Operators 4.1
    • Military Operators 4.2
  • Specifications (Lancastrian C.1) 5
  • See also 6
  • References 7
  • Further reading 8
  • External links 9

Design and development

In 1943, Canada's Victory Aircraft converted a Lancaster X bomber for civil transport duties with Trans-Canada Airlines (TCA).[1] (After the war Victory Aircraft was purchased by what became Avro Canada). This conversion was a success resulting in eight additional Lancaster Xs being converted. The "specials" were powered by Packard-built Merlin 38 engines and featured a lengthened, streamlined nose and tail cone. Range was increased by two 400 gal (1,818 L) Lancaster long-range fuel tanks fitted as standard in the bomb bay. These Lancastrians were used by TCA on its MontrealPrestwick route.[2]

The modification of abundant military aircraft into desperately needed civil transports was common in the United Kingdom in the immediate postwar period: the Handley Page Halton was a similar conversion of the Halifax heavy bomber.

Operational history

Avro Lancastrian "Aries"

In 1945, deliveries commenced of 30 British-built Lancastrians for BOAC. On a demonstration flight on 23 April 1945, G-AGLF flew 13,500 mi (21,700 km) from England to Auckland, New Zealand in three days, 14 hours at an average speed of 220 mph (354 km/h).

The Lancastrian was fast, had a long range, and was capable of carrying a heavy load, but space inside was very limited as the Lancaster had been designed with space for its seven crew dispersed throughout the fuselage, and the 33 ft (10.05 m) long bomb bay. Consequently, it was not suited to carry large numbers of passengers, but was suitable for mail and a small number of VIP passengers. BOAC used it for flights between England and Australia from 31 May 1945. It also served with the RAF; RAF Lancaster I serial number PD328, was converted to a Lancastrian and renamed Aries, as well as serving with QANTAS and Flota Aérea Mercante Argentina.

Lancastrians were used during the Berlin Airlift to transport petrol; 15 aircraft made over 5,000 trips. In 1946 a Lancastrian operated by BSAA was the first aircraft to make a scheduled flight from the then-newly opened London Heathrow Airport.

Lancastrian engine testbeds

Data from:[3]

With the advent of gas turbine engines there emerged a need to test the new engines in a controlled flight environment in well instrumented installations. An ideal candidate emerged as the Avro Lancastrian which could easily accommodate the test instrumentation as well as fly on the power of two piston engines if required. Several Lancastrians were allocated for engine test-bed work with turbojet engines replacing the outer Merlin engines or test piston engines in the inner nacelles. Fuel arrangements varied but could include Kerosene jet fuel in outer wing tanks or fuselage tanks, with AVGAS carried in remaining fuel tanks.

Name Serial Test engine First flight Notes
Nene-Lancastrian VH742 2x Rolls-Royce Nene + 2x Rolls-Royce Merlin 14 August 1946 Flew the first international all-jet passenger flight from London to Paris on 23 November 1946.[4]
Nene-Lancastrian VH737 2x Rolls-Royce Nene + 2x Rolls-Royce Merlin
Avon-Lancastrian VM732 2x Rolls-Royce Avon + 2x Rolls-Royce Merlin
Avon-Lancastrian VL970 2x Rolls-Royce Avon + 2x Rolls-Royce Merlin Latterly used to test the Rolls-Royce Avon 502 civil turbojet for the de Havilland Comet 2 airliner.
Ghost-Lancastrian VM703 2x de Havilland Ghost 50 + 2x Rolls-Royce Merlin + 2x Walter HWK 109-500 RATOG packs 24 July 1947 Testing the Engines and takeoff-boost system proposed for the de Havilland Comet 1 airliner
Ghost-Lancastrian VM729 2x de Havilland Ghost 50 + 2x Rolls-Royce Merlin Used for afterburner research and later development and certification of the Ghost 50 for the Comet 1 a.
Sapphire-Lancastrian VM733 2x Armstrong Siddeley Sapphire + 2x Rolls-Royce Merlin 18 January 1950
Griffon-Lancastrian VM704 2x Rolls-Royce Griffon 57 inboard + 2x Rolls-Royce Merlin T.24/4 outboard Used for testing the Griffon installation for the Avro Shackleton
Griffon-Lancastrian VM728 2x Rolls-Royce Griffon 57 inboard + 2x Rolls-Royce Merlin T.24/4 outboard Used for testing the Griffon installation for the Avro Shackleton
Merlin 600-Lancastrian VM704 2x Rolls-Royce Merlin 600 + 2x Rolls-Royce Merlin Used for testing the civil Merlin 600-series for use in the Canadair C4M and Avro Tudor

"Star Dust"

The B.S.A.A Lancastrian 3, Star Dust

On 2 August 1947 Lancastrian G-AGWH Star Dust of British South American Airways was lost in the Argentine Andes, whilst en route from Buenos Aires, Argentina, to Santiago, Chile. The probable cause of the crash was a navigation error due to the then-unknown effect of the fast-moving jetstream.


Lancaster XPP
Nine built by converting Lancaster Mk.Xs at Victory Aircraft Ltd Canada.
Lancastrian C.1
Nine-seat transport aircraft for BOAC and Qantas. Royal Air Force designation Lancastrian C.1 to Specification 16/44. A total of 23 built by Avro
Lancastrian C.2
Nine-seat military transport aircraft for the RAF. A total of 33 built by Avro
Lancastrian 3
13-seat transport aircraft for British South American Airways. A total of 18 built by Avro
Lancastrian C.4
Ten to 13-seat military transport aircraft for the RAF. Eight built by Avro


Civil Operators

  • Alitalia - six Lancastrians operated circa 1948
 United Kingdom

Military Operators

 United Kingdom

Specifications (Lancastrian C.1)

Data from

General characteristics
  • Crew: five
  • Capacity: nine passengers
  • Payload: mail (3,560 kg)
  • Length: 76 ft 10 in (23.4 m)
  • Wingspan: 102 ft (31.1 m)
  • Height: 19 ft 6 in (5.9 m)
  • Wing area: 1,297 ft² (120.5 m²)
  • Empty weight: 30,423 lb (13,800 kg)
  • Loaded weight: 64,991 lb (29,480 kg)
  • Powerplant: 4 × Rolls-Royce Merlin 12 piston engine, 1,250 hp (930 kW) each


See also

Related development
Aircraft of comparable role, configuration and era
Related lists


  1. ^ Milberry 1982, p. 13.
  2. ^ Milberry 1982, pp. 14–15.
  3. ^ Jackson, A.J. (1965). Avro Aircraft since 1908 (1st ed.). London: Putnam & Company Ltd. pp. 388–392. 
  4. ^ Franks 2000, pp. 92–93.
  • Franks, Richard A. The Avro Lancaster, Manchester and Lincoln: A Comprehensive Guide for the Modeller. London: SAM Publications, 2000. ISBN 0-9533465-3-6.
  • Holmes, Harry. Avro Lancaster (Combat Legend series). Shrewsbury, UK: Airlife Publishing Ltd., 2002. ISBN 1-84037-376-8.
  • Jackson, A.J. Avro Aircraft since 1908, 2nd edition. London: Putnam Aeronautical Books, 1990. ISBN 0-85177-834-8.
  • Mackay, R.S.G. Lancaster in action. Carrollton, Texas: Squadron/Signal Publications Inc., 1982. ISBN 0-89747-130-X.
  • Milberry, Larry. The Canadair North Star. Toronto: CANAV Books, 1982. ISBN 0-07-549965-7.
  • 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.
  • Taylor, John W. R. "Avro Lancaster." Combat Aircraft of the World from 1909 to the present. New York: G.P. Putnam's Sons, 1969. ISBN 0-425-03633-2.
  • Jackson, A.J. (1965). Avro Aircraft since 1908 (1st ed.). London: Putnam & Company Ltd. pp. 388–392. 

Further reading

  • Benedetto, Fernando (2009). Núñez Padin, Jorge Felix, ed. Avro Lancaster, Lancastrian & Lincoln. Serie Fuerza Aérea (in Spanish) 17. Bahía Blanca, Argentina: Fuerzas Aeronavales.  

External links

  • British Aircraft Directory
  • British Aircraft of WWII
  • article on the Avro LancastrianFlight"The Lancastrian," a 1945
  • magazineFlight"The Pathfinder goes by Star Light," a 1946 AVRO advertisement for the Lancastrian in
  • magazine for the BOAC Lancastrian service to AustraliaFlight"England to Australia in 3 Days!" - a 1945 advertisement in
  • "Flight in the Nene Lancastrian" a 1946 Flight article
  • article on theFlight"Nene Installation," a 1947 Rolls-Royce Nene jet engine experimental installation on the Lancastrian
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