Flight Journal




This is the 80th anniversar­y of the Avro Lancaster. The first prototype Lancaster, BT308, took to the air on its maiden flight on January 9, 1941, from RAF Ringway, Cheshire. A conversion of the unsuccessf­ul twin-engine Avro Manchester, BT308 had a new wing center section, which increased its wingspan to 102 feet to accommodat­e four Rolls Royce Merlin engines. Designed by Roy Chadwick, the Chief Designer and Engineer of A. V. Roe & Company Limited, this first prototype Lancaster, or Avro 683 as it was known at that stage, was very much a hybrid. It was originally designated as the Manchester Mk III before being renamed “Lancaster.” It was immediatel­y obvious that it was a successful design that offered great potential. The second prototype, DG595, was much more representa­tive of the production standard Lancaster and first took to the air on May 13, 1941. This second prototype had an increased span tail plane with larger twin tail fins, a new undercarri­age, uprated Merlin XX engines, and an increased fuel capacity of 2,154 gallons. The true potential of the aircraft could now be explored. The test pilots at the Aeroplane and Armament Experiment­al Establishm­ent at Boscombe Down were duly impressed, not least when they took it to 360mph in a dive—an astonishin­g speed for a heavy bomber. The first production Lancaster B1 flew on the last day of October 1941, and the first deliveries to the RAF, to 44 Squadron at Waddington, commenced on Christmas Eve 1941. Eventually, 7,377 Lancasters were built. Of the 6,500 that flew on bombing operations, 3,249 were shot down and another 200 or so crashed. Today, only 17 surviving and largely intact Lancasters are known to exist worldwide. Only two are airworthy: the RAF BBMF’s PA474 and the Canadian Warbird Heritage Museum’s FM213 C-GVRA.

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