Avro York C.1 (TS798)

Avro York C.1 (TS798)  [@ RAF Cosford]

In 1941, Avro designer Roy Chadwick began to sketch out a long-range transport aircraft based on the Avro Lancaster and the result became the Avro Type 685 York.  In a remarkable short time of only 5 months the prototype, LV626, flew on 5th July 1942 and was in fact later converted to the only C.II prototype powered by four Bristol Hercules XVI radial piston engines [photograph - below].  Prototype LV629 was fitted with passenger seats, LV633 was fitted out as a flying conference room and the final prototype LV639 was fitted as a paratroop drop variant with a drop hatch in the floor.  Incorporating the wings, tail, undercarriage and Merlin engines of the Avro Lancaster bomber but with a new square-section fuselage of much greater capacity, the York was to prove a useful military and civilian transport aircraft in war and peace.  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.  The Avro York was initially produced only in small numbers due to the shortages of materials and the need prioritise the Lancaster, but the type went into mass production in 1944 and 252 were eventually built (all Avro except one was built by Victory Aircraft in Canada), of which 44 were the York 1 civil transport variant.  During 1945 511 Squadron based at RAF Lyneham, Wiltshire, became the first squardron to receive a full complement.  The York C.1 variant eventually equipped nine squadrons at RAF Transport Command with 7 York squadrons being the mainstay of the RAF contribution to the Berlin Airlift in 1948/49 flying 58,000 sorties, close to half of the British contribution, alongside the Douglas Dakota and Handley Page Hastings.  In RAF Transport Command service the York was used on the England – India route.  The Handley Page Hastings had replaced the RAF York by the early 1950s with many ex-RAF C.1s subsequently passing into civilian hands.  Production of the type ceased on the 29th April 1948.

TS798 was built by Avro at Yeadon, Yorkshire, for RAF/BOAC use.  The first flight of TS798 was on the 19th October 1945 at Yeadon and was delivered to BOAC at Croydon Airport on the 8th November 1945 in overall silver with RAF roundels.  Surplus to RAF requirements TS798 was issued with a civil registration, G-AGNV, on the 9th December 1945 and initially used for training by BOAC.  TS798 then entered scheduled BOAC service as “Morville” on the Calcutta route on the 1st February 1947.  When BOAC withdrew Yorks from passenger service during 1949/50 TS798 was converted into to a freight variant with double freight doors on the port side and was operated by BOAC from London Heathrow.  On the 30th March 1955 TS798 was sold to Skyways Ltd for tour and charter work and operated from Stansted and Heathrow.  LaterTS798 was used for carrying spare engines around the world for Skyways' own Lockheed Constellations as well as BOAC and Pan American Airways aircraft.  TS798 retired from use as Skyways' last York during May 1964 and was temporally placed into storage at Luton.  Sold to the Skyfame aircraft collection on the 9th October 1964, TS798 made the last flight ever by an Avro York by flying from Heathrow to Staverton Airport, Gloucestershire.  During the flight TS798 was escorted by 2 Handley Page Hastings from 24 and 36 Squadrons RAF Colerne, Wiltshire.  In the spring of 1965 TS798 was painted in the markings of prototype LV633 `Ascalon' to represent the York used by Winston Churchill and King George VI during the war.  Purchased by the museum on the 16th May 1972 and was transferred to RAF Brize Norton by road for restoration.  During the restoration TS798 was repainted (see photograph) in the livery of “MW100”, the first production York, which was delivered to 24 Squadron RAF in 1943 and served as a VIP aircraft.

Bristol Hercules radial piston engine

During WW2 the York also served as a VIP transport aircraft.  Prototype, LV633 (Ascalon) was customised as the personal transport and flying conference room for Prime Minister Winston Churchill.  Delivered to 24 Squadron at RAF Northolt in March 1943 LV633 carried Churchill to Algiers in May and just a few days later it carried George VI for his first visit to troops in North Africa.  LV633 was to be fitted with a pressurised "egg" so that VIP passengers could be carried without having to use oxygen masks.  Testing at RAE Farnborough found the "egg" to work well; however Avro stated it was too busy with the new Avro Lincoln so the “egg” was never installed.  MW140 (Endeavour) flew to Australia in 1945 to become the personal aircraft of Australia's then Governor-General, HRH The Duke of Gloucester.  Operated by the Governor-General's Flight from 1945 to 1947 MW140 was the only York to be operated by the RAAF.  Another York, MW102 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.  On the 14th November 1944 Air Chief Marshal Sir Trafford Leigh-Mallory was killed when his York, MW126, struck a ridge in the French Alps during a blizzard.  He was on his way to Ceylon to take command of the Allied air operations in the Pacific.  In addition, the South African leader Jan Smuts also used a York, ZS-DGN, as his personal transport as did General De Gaulle.  When the Distant Early Warning Line (Dew Line or Early Warning Line) was being constructed in Canada in the late 1950s, the York was introduced as a freighter by Associated Airways.  At least one, CF-HAS, was retained and remained in service with Transair until 1961.  The DEW Line was a system of radar stations in the far northern Arctic region of Canada, with additional stations along the North Coast and Aleutian Islands of Alaska, in addition to the Faroe Islands, Greenland, and Iceland.  It was set up to detect incoming Soviet bombers during the Cold War and provide early warning of any sea-and-land invasion.  The line was operational from 1957 to the late 1980s and was most capable of the three radar lines in Canada and Alaska.

Avro York C.1 (MW232)

Avro York C.1 (MW232)  [@ RAF Duxford]

The first civilian York 1, which was initially built for the RAF as MW103, was delivered from Ringway to British Overseas Airways Corporation (BOAC) in February 1944 as G-AGJA.  A further four Yorks were delivered to BOAC from April 1944 and a further 20 being delivered from August 1945 for Joint operations with RAF transport command.  Twelve were built for the British South American Airways Corporation, five for FAMR of Argentina and two for Skyways Air Freight.  BOAC Yorks took over the Shorts Empire Class flying boat routes from Cairo to Durban in late 1946.  British South American Airways (BSAA) operated the York on their routes to South America until their merger into BOAC in September 1949.  The York performed airliner services in the same era as the Boeing Stratocruiser, Convair 240 & 340 and the Douglas DC6.  The type seated 24 passengers and was powered by four 1620hp Merlin 502 engines which provided a 210mph cruising speed.  BOAC operated freight schedules until November 1957 but the type flew on with Skyways and Dan Air London until 1964.  Skyways Air Freight became the largest York operator with 30 aircraft by purchasing additional ex-RAF York C.1s.  Four ex-RAF C.1s were purchased in April 1947 for use with the French Aeronaval and were not retired until 1963.  Yorks were used by a number of British and Commonwealth airlines and charter companies during the 1940s and 1950s including Scottish Aviation Limited, Hunting Air Transport Limited, Dan Air Ltd and Eagle Aviation Ltd.

Built at Yeadon, Yorkshire, MW232 entered RAF service with 242 Squadron in August 1946.  During May 1947 MW232 was transferred to 511 Squadron which was based at RAF Lyneham and was used for trooping and cargo flights, including flights to the Far East.  511 Squadron became the first squadron to operate the Avro York transport and operated then until September 1949 when the squadron was re-equipped with the Handley Page Hastings C.1.  MW232 flew in the Berlin Airlift (24th June 1948 to 12th May 1949) and had the distinction of carrying the 100,000th ton of supplies into the city.  Following an undercarriage collapse during a landing in January 1949 MW232 was repaired and then placed into storage.  During May 1950/51 MW232 was used by the Fairey Aviation for flight refuelling research before being transferred to 12 MU at RAF Kirkbride, Cumbria, for storage waiting disposal.  In 1954 MW232 was purchased by Dan Air and registered as G-ANTK and was used for freight work until retirement in May 1964.  Based at Blackbushe until its closure to commercial airlines MW232 then moved to Gatwick in 1960.  MW232 was mainly used on long-range freight charters to Africa and the Far East, including many flights under a MoD contract to the Woomera Rocket Range in Australia.  G-ANTK became the last operational Dan Air York and flew the last commercial flight on the 23rd April 1964.  On the 30th April 1964 MW232 was ferried to Lasham Airfield, Hampshire, to be used as a bunk house by the local Air Scouts until 1974.  Initially the Dan Air preservation group began to restore MW232 but the project was too extensive so on the 23rd May 1986 MW232 was transferred in sections to the Duxford Aviation Society by road for restoration.