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Avro 555 Bison



The Bison was designed to meet the British Specification 3/21 for a carrier based fleet spotter and reconnaissance aircraft. An order for three prototypes was placed in October 1921, together with three of the competing design from Blackburn Aircraft, the Blackburn Blackburn. Avro's design, the Type 555 Bison, was a two-bay biplane, powered, like the Blackburn, by a Napier Lion engine. The deep slab-sided fuselage was constructed of steel tube, with the pilot sitting in an open cockpit forward of the wings, and the engine cowling sloping steeply down ahead of the pilot. An enclosed cabin with large rectangular windows on each side housed the navigator and radio operator and all their equipment, with sufficient room room to stand upright, while a cockpit for a gunner armed with a Lewis gun on a Scarff ring was provided in the rear fuselage. The upper wings were mounted directly on the top of the fuselage.


The first prototype flew in 1921, with an order for 12 Bison Is following. The aircraft had handling problems, however, caused by interference of the pilots cockpit with the airflow over the upper wing. This was resolved by revising the wing design of the second prototype, raising the centre section of the upper wing by 2 ft (0.6 m) and removed dihedral from the upper wings, flying in this form in April 1923. Further production orders followed with these modification incorporated as the Bison II, while some Bison Is were modified to a similar standard, sometimes known as the Bison IA. A Bison I was fitted with floats and retractable wheels but tests proved the design was not suitable for seaborne use.


Although designed for a naval requirement the first deliveries were to the Royal Air Force in 1922 to replace the Westland Walrus for coastal reconnaissance work with No. 3 Squadron RAF. In April 1923, 3 Squadron was broken up to form a number of Fleet Spotter Flights of the Fleet Air Arm, Naval aircraft served on HMS Argus,HMS Eagle and Furious and on-shore at Gosport, England and Hal Far, Malta. The aircraft were retired in 1929 when they were replaced by the Fairey IIIF.



Fleet Air Arm
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Avro 555 Bison
Three prototypes to Air Ministry specification 3/21.

Avro 555 Bison I
Twelve Lion II powered production aircraft, survivors re-built as Ias

Avro 555 Bison IA
Bison Is modified with a biplane gap and additional dorsal fin.

Avro 555A Bison II
Improved variant with biplane gap modification, 23 built.

Avro 555B Bison I
One Bison I converted to an amphibian to meet Air Ministry Specification 8/23, not ordered into production.



Bison IA

Engine: 1 x Napier Lion II, 336kW
Take-off weight: 2631 kg / 5800 lb
Empty weight: 1887 kg / 4160 lb
Wingspan: 14.02 m / 46 ft 0 in
Length: 10.97 m / 36 ft 0 in
Height: 4.22 m / 14 ft 10 in
Wing area: 57.6 sq.m / 620.00 sq ft
Max. speed: 177 km/h / 110 mph
Cruise speed: 145 km/h / 90 mph
Ceiling: 4265 m / 14000 ft
Range: 547 km / 340 miles
Armament: 1 x 7.7mm machine-gun


Bison II
Engine: 1 × Napier Lion II, 480 hp (358 kW)
Wingspan: 46 ft 0 in (14.02 m)
Length: 36 ft 0 in (10.98 m)
Height: 14 ft 2 in (4.32 m)
Wing area: 630 sq.ft (58.6 sq.m)
Empty weight: 4,116 lb (1,871 kg)
Max. takeoff weight: 6,132 lb (2,787 kg)
Maximum speed: 108 mph (94 knots, 174 km/h)
Cruise speed: 90 mph (78 knots, 145 km/h)
Range: 360 mi (313 nmi, 580 km)
Service ceiling: 12,000 ft (3,660 m)
Rate of climb: 450 ft/min (2.3 m/s)
Armament: 1 × fixed forward firing .303 in Vickers machine gun and 1 × .303 in (7.7 mm) Lewis Gun on Scarff ring
Crew: 4



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