The Avro Anson first took to the skies in March 1935, following a new specification issued by the Air Ministry for a maritime reconnaissance aircraft. Avro were already working on an airliner design project which fitted the requirements well. The Anson (or Avro652a as it was then known) successfully outperformed the DH89 in trials and the government promptly placed an order.
Early Ansons were a very different aircraft to that seen flying at the collection today. Though broadly the same design it featured a less “stocky” appearance, with a thinner fuselage. Other notable features would have been the inclusion of a bomb bay and upper turret. The Anson was powered by two Amstrong Siddeley Cheetah radial engines, each providing 350hp.
Having entered operational service in March 1936 the Anson quickly became the type of choice for operational training squadrons, playing a vital part in training up new pilots and aircrew on multi engine types. By the time the war came around in 1939 almost all Ansons had been relegated to training roles, but a few still remained in front line service. This generally consisted of maritime patrols and assisting with air/sea rescue. One impressive story from that period was in 1940 when three anions were attacked by a flight of Messerschmitt 109s. Incredibly the Anson crews managed to shoot down two of the German fighters without suffering any losses.
The Anson continued on in service post war with the RAF as well, though Avro soon capitalised on the civilian market as well. All manner of civilian companies were making use of the Anson as an airliner as well as an aerial survey platform and the type was key in production until 1952. Amazingly over 10,000 examples of the type were produced during its lifetime.
Today only three Ansons remain in flying condition. One of those is based at Old Warden as part of BAE System’s Heritage Flight. This airframe is a post-war civilian Avro XIX which first flew in 1946. The airframe’s working life came to an end in 1973.
When the Anson came up for sale in the 1980s BAE Systems secured the aircraft and work began to return the Anson to the skies. The moment finally came in March 2002 when the Anson flew again. The airframe was a familiar sight at shows all over the country in its distinctive blue colour scheme. Fittingly, as part of the RAF100 celebrations, the Anson has received a new paintscheme. The aircraft now represents TX176, a station flight aircraft for RAF Coningsby. This distinctive post-war colour scheme helps the Anson to tell a different story of the RAF’s history.
Other airworthy examples are the wonderful Mk I example in New Zealand which wears wartime colours alongside the other UK based example G-VROE.