Avro Anson Light Transport / Coastal Reconnaissance / Crew Trainer / Communications Aircraft
The Avro Anson served a multitude of roles during its time aloft including coastal reconnaissance, crew trainer and communications platform.
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The Avro Anson was a militarized version of the commercial passenger transport Avro 652. The Anson itself was produced to fulfill Specification 18/35 brought about by the British Air Ministry and originally intended for use as a maritime reconnaissance platform. As the 1930's saw such great change in both technology and dedicated roles, the Avro Anson nearly (and quite quickly) fell away to oblivion were it not for its inherent rugged qualities and multi-faceted capabilities that made it useful in the training of pilots, bombardiers and gunners. The arrival of the Second World War sealed the future of the Anson as a primary trainer and multi-role platform for Britain, her Commonwealth nations and nations across the globe.
The Anson (Avro 652A) achieved first flight in this new militarized form on March 24, 1935. Evaluation of the system led to first-run production of the Anson Mk I model series with first deliveries occurring in March of 1936. The Royal Air Force's No.48 Squadron became the types first user.
Operationally, the Anson showcased her grit despite the arrival of more advanced twin engine systems. Many-an-aircrew saw their first taste of flight in an Anson while many of these aircrew were further defined as specialists in their roles through pilot, gunnery and bombardier training. For pilots, this meant a first-hand look at what awaited them in the multi-engined bombers they would be called upon to operate. For gunners, the Anson was a stable enough platform for which these aces would hone their skills in. Bombardiers were taught the finer points of target recognition, aiming and accuracy in their Ansons.
As with any other operational system used in a time of war, it was not wholly unheard of for Ansons to be involved in combat-related skirmishes against enemy aircraft. In one such amazing incident, no fewer than nine Messerschmitt BF 109 single-engine monoplane fighters dropped down on three Ansons, losing two of their own fighters with no losses on the part of the Ansons. Beyond this, the Anson could be called upon to carry a light bomb load for strike missions or undertake a coastal patrol sortie as needed. Both the Royal Air Force and Fleet Air Arm utilized Ansons.
Outwardly, the Anson was as utilitarian as her base functions. The fuselage was rounded and decidedly streamlined (sometimes showcasing rounded cabin windows - five windows to a side). Perhaps the most distinct feature of the aircraft's profile was its "duckbill" nose assembly, protruding well past the front windscreen. The aircraft sported low-mounted monoplane wings with rounded wingtips. Each wing held a radial piston engine housed in nacelles powering two-bladed propellers. The engines were placed well-forward of the wing leading edge and met up nearly at the length of the fuselage nose. The undercarriage was typical of the time, featuring two main landing gears and a tail wheel. The main landing gears retracted forward into the bottom of each engine nacelle. The Anson became the first RAF aircraft to feature a fully-retractable undercarriage, this accomplished via manual hand-crank controlled by the pilot. The empennage was of a conventional sort, with a rounded vertical tail fin and low-mounted horizontal planes. Typical crew accommodations amounted to 3 or 4 personnel. Armament consisted of up to 4 x 7.7mm (.303 cal) Vickers-type machine guns in the front fuselage, a dorsal turret and at two other cabin locations. Additionally, the Anson could be fitted with up to 500 lb of internal ordnance.
The legacy of the Anson was solidified by its sheer production numbers and quantity of variants the line evolved into. The Mk I represented the most quantitative Anson, with 6,688 examples seeing delivery. This version was powered by the Armstrong Siddeley Cheetah series engines of 350 (Cheetah IX) or 395 (Cheetah XIX) horsepower. Maximum speed for Cheetah IX-powered Ansons was reported to be around 188 miles-per-hour with a range topping off at 790 miles. Service ceiling figures put the Anson Mk I at a respectable 19,000 feet with a rate-of-climb nearing 750 feet-per-minute.