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Avro 500 / AvroType E / Avro 502




The Type E biplane was designed in response to a War Office specification for a two-seat aircraft capable (amongst other things) of carrying a 350 lb (160 kg) payload, at a speed of 55 mph, and with a total endurance of 4.5 hours. There was one major stipulation: the aircraft had to be designed, built and tested within nine months.
The Avro submission was based on the Avro Duigan design, differing principally in being slightly larger and having a more powerful (60 horsepower (45 kW)) water-cooled E.N.V. engine, and was originally named "Military Biplane 1". It was a two-bay biplane with equal-span, unstaggered wings, and a box-girder rectangular-section fuselage that tapered toward the tail section. The front engine section was covered in a metal plate, while the rear section was fabric covered. The undercarriage, with its centre skid, was taken from the Duigan model and a rubber-sprung skid supported the tail section. Like the Duigan model, celluloid panels were set into the floor to give the pilot and the observer downward vision. The two-bay mainplanes were of equal length, and were constructed in three sections for ease of transport. Lateral control was by wing warping. In service, most were fitted with ailerons and a revised rudder.

The 60 hp E.N.V. water-cooled engine, which was mounted on top of the longerons, and was cooled by two-spiral tube radiators mounted on each side of the front section of the fuselage. Two gravity fuel tanks were mounted on the centre section struts, while the main fuel tank was fitted in front of the observer’s position.




The aircraft was first flown on 3 March 1912 by Wilfred Parke from Brooklands, and while top speed and rate of climb did not meet expectations, the aircraft excelled in every other way.
It climbed to 1000 ft in six minutes, which for its time was spectacular. A number of successful test flights were carried out over the following weeks, but on taking off for Hendon to take part in a competition for the Mortimer Singer Prize, the aircraft suffered engine failure. Wilfred Parke managed to carry out an emergency landing which demolished the undercarriage and wings. The fuselage rolled onto its side, trapping W.H.Sayers, the engineer travelling with the aircraft, inside. He had to be freed by cutting a large hole in the side of the fuselage and removing auxiliary radiators. When the aircraft was rebuilt, the auxiliary radiators were moved to a lower position. The re-built Avro Type E was put through its paces at the Farnborough trial in June, and then returned to Brooklands to be used as a testbed for the new 60 hp A.B.C. A number of trials were carried out using the engine, causing a number of modifications to be made to the airframe. At the beginning of 1913 the E.N.V. engine was re-installed, and the aircraft was assigned to the Avro School, by now at Shoreham, to be used for instruction. The aircraft was later destroyed in the first fatal accident involving an Avro aircraft.
A second example was built, modified to take the much lighter 50 hp (37kW) Gnome air-cooled radial engine. This first flew on 8 May 1912, and a height of 2,000 ft (610 m) was reached in five minutes. The next day the aircraft was flown from Brooklands to Laffan's Plain, covering the 17 miles (28 km) in 20 minutes. The same day it demonstrated its ability to meet the requirements laid down by the War Office in the requirements for a "Military Aircraft" that had been published in connection with the forthcoming Military Aeroplane Competition, and the authorities were impressed enough to buy the aircraft and placed an order for two more examples of the aircraft, which Roe now renamed the Avro 500.


Avro 500

The type proved an immediate success, and orders for another four machines plus five single-seat derivatives (designated 502 by Avro) soon followed. Other examples produced included six for the British Admiralty's Air Department, one presented to the government of Portugal (paid for by public subscription), one kept by Avro as a company demonstrator, and one bought by a private individual, J. Laurence Hall (commandeered by the War Office at the outbreak of World War I). The first prototype was destroyed in a crash on 29 June 1913 that killed its student pilot.
18 examples of different versions were produced between May 1912 and January 1914, most used by the UK armed forces.



Avro 500s were flown by the British armed forces during the first years of the war, mostly as trainers. In service, most were fitted with ailerons and a revised rudder.


United Kingdom

Royal Flying Corps
No. 3 Squadron RFC
No. 4 Squadron RFC
No. 5 Squadron RFC
Royal Naval Air Service


Avro 500
Engine: 1 × Gnome rotary, 50 hp (37 kW) each
Length: 29 ft 0 in (8.84 m)
Wingspan: 36 ft 0 in (10.97 m)
Height: 9 ft 9 in (2.97 m)
Wing area: 330 ft2 (30.7 sq.m)
Empty weight: 900 lb (409 kg)
Gross weight: 1,300 lb (590 kg)
Maximum speed: 61 mph (98 km/h)
Rate of climb: 440 ft/min (2.2 m/s)
Crew: one pilot
Seats: 2




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