Avro 504

The Avro 504 was a First World War biplane aircraft made by the Avro aircraft company and under licence by others. Production during the war totalled 8,970 and continued for almost 20 years,[1] making it the most-produced aircraft of any kind that served in the First World War, in any military capacity, during that conflict. More than 10,000 were built from 1913 until production ended in 1940.[3]

Avro 504
Role Trainer, Fighter, Bomber
Manufacturer Avro
First flight 18 September 1913[1]
Introduction 1913
Retired 1934
Primary users Royal Flying Corps
Royal Naval Air Service
Produced 1913–1932
Number built 11,303 including Japanese, Soviet and other foreign production[2]

Design and development

First flown from Brooklands by Fred "Freddie" Raynham on 18 September 1913,[4] powered by an 80 hp (60 kW) Gnome Lambda seven-cylinder rotary engine, the Avro 504 was a development of the earlier Avro 500, designed for training and private flying. It was a two-bay all-wooden biplane with a square-section fuselage.

Operational history

Small numbers of early aircraft were purchased by the Royal Flying Corps (RFC) and the Royal Naval Air Service (RNAS) prior to the start of the First World War, and were taken to France when the war started. One of the RFC aircraft was the first British aircraft to be shot down by the Germans, on 22 August 1914. The pilot was 2nd Lt. Vincent Waterfall and his navigator Lt Charles George Gordon Bayly (both of 5 Sqn RFC)[5][6] The RNAS used four 504s to form a special flight in order to bomb the Zeppelin works at Friedrichshafen on the shores of Lake Constance. Three set out from Belfort in north-eastern France on 21 November 1914, carrying four 20 lb (9 kg) bombs each. While one aircraft was shot down, the raid was successful, with several direct hits on the airship sheds and the destruction of the hydrogen generating plant.[7]

Soon obsolete as a frontline aircraft, it came into its own as a trainer, with thousands being built during the war, with the major production types being the 504J and the mass production 504K, designed with modified engine bearers to accommodate a range of engines in order to cope with engine shortages. 8,340 Avro 504s had been produced by the end of 1918.[8]

In the winter of 1917–18 it was decided to use converted 504Js and 504Ks to equip Home Defence squadrons of the RFC, replacing ageing B.E.2cs, which had poor altitude performance. These aircraft were modified as single-seaters, armed with a Lewis gun above the wing on a Foster mounting, and powered by 100 hp (75 kW) Gnome or 110 hp (80 kW) Le Rhône engines. 274 converted Avro 504Js and Ks were issued to eight home defence squadrons in 1918, with 226 still being used as fighters at the end of the First World War.[9]

Following the end of the war, while the type continued in service as the standard trainer of the RAF, large numbers of surplus aircraft were available for sale, both for civil and military use. More than 300 504Ks were placed on the civil register in Britain. Used for training, pleasure flying, banner towing and even barnstorming exhibitions (as was ongoing in North America following World War I with the similar-role, surplus Curtiss JN-4s and Standard J-1s); civil 504s continued flying in large numbers until well into the 1930s.

The embryonic air service of the Soviet Union, formed just after the First World War, used both original Avro 504s and their own Avrushka (" Little Avro") copy of it for primary training as the U-1 in the early 1920s, usually powered by Russian-made copies of the Gnome Monosoupape rotary engine. This Russian version of the 504 was replaced by what would become the most produced biplane in all of aviation history, the Polikarpov Po-2, first known as the U-2 in Soviet service in the late 1920s.

Although Avro 504s sold to China were training versions, they participated in battles among warlords by acting as bombers with the pilot dropping hand grenades and modified mortar shells .

The improved, redesigned and radial-engined 504N with a new undercarriage was produced by Avro in 1925. After evaluation of two prototypes, one powered by the Bristol Lucifer and the other by the Armstrong-Siddeley Lynx, the Lynx-powered aircraft was selected by the RAF to replace the 504K. 592 were built between 1925 and 1932, equipping the RAF's five flying training schools, while also being used as communication aircraft. The 504N was also exported to the armed forces of Belgium, Brazil, Chile, Denmark, Greece, Siam and South Africa, with licensed production taking place in Denmark, Belgium, Canada, Siam and Japan.

The RAF's 504Ns were finally replaced in 1933 by the Avro Tutor, with small numbers continuing in civilian use until 1940, when seven were impressed into RAF service, where they were used for target- and glider-towing.

The 504 was the first British aeroplane to strafe troops on the ground[10] as well as the first British aircraft to make a bombing raid over Germany.[1] It was also the first Allied aeroplane to be downed by enemy anti-aircraft fire and was the first aircraft flown by many future aces, including Billy Bishop.

The 504 is easily recognisable because of the single skid between the wheels, referred to as the "tooth pick" in the RAF.


Original model
  • 504A:
Modified with smaller ailerons and broader struts. 80 hp (60 kW) Gnome engine.
  • 504B
Version for RNAS with larger fin. 80 hp (60 kW) Gnome or Le Rhône engine.
  • 504C
Single-seat anti-zeppelin aircraft for the RNAS. The 504C was fitted with an extra fuel tank, in place of the observer.
  • 504D
Single-seat anti-zeppelin aircraft for the Royal Flying Corps. Six built.
Used for catapult trials. 80 hp (60 kW) Gnome engine.
  • 504J
Used as a trainer. 100 hp (75 kW) Gnome or 80 hp (60 kW) Le Rhône engine.
  • 504K
Two-seat training aircraft. The 504K had a universal mount to take different engines. Single-seat fighter (Comic) conversion used for anti-zeppelin work. Several were assembled in Australia by Australian Aircraft & Engineering.[11] 130 hp (97 kW) Clerget 9B, 100 hp (75 kW) Gnome Monosoupape or 110 hp (82 kW) Le Rhône 9J engines.
  • 504K Mk.II
Hybrid trainer based on 504K fuselage with 504N undercarriage and wings and powered by rotary engine. Built under licence in Mexico as Avro Anahuac.[12]
  • 504L
Floatplane version. 150 hp (110 kW) Bentley BR1, 130 hp (97 kW) Clerget or 110 hp (82 kW) Le Rhône engines.
  • 504M
Three-seat cabin biplane. Only one was ever built. 100 hp (75 kW) Gnome engine.
  • 504N
Two-seat training aircraft. Redesigned postwar trainer for RAF with 160 hp (120 kW) Armstrong Siddeley Lynx engine. 598 built.
  • 504O
Floatplane version of 504N. First aircraft to fly above the Arctic Circle in 1923 Oxford Expedition.
  • 504P
Unbuilt version of the 504N with side-by-side seating.[13]
  • 504Q
Three-seat cabin biplane. The 504Q was built for the Oxford University Arctic Expedition. Only one was ever built, powered by an Armstrong Siddeley Lynx engine.
  • 504R Gosport
Reworked trainer with revised, lightweight structure. Five prototypes flown 1926 to 1927 with various engines (100 hp/75 kW Gnome Monosoupape, 100 hp/75 kW) Avro Alpha, (140 hp/104 kW) Armstrong Siddeley Genet Major and (150 hp/110 kW) Armstrong Siddeley Mongoose), with the Mongoose chosen for production aircraft. Ten were sold to Argentina, with 100 more built by FMA under licence in Argentina. Twelve were exported to Estonia, remaining in service until 1940, and an unknown number to Peru.[14]
  • 504S
Two-seat training aircraft. Built under licence in Japan by Nakajima.
  • Yokosuka K2Y1
Japanese version of the Avro 504N, given the long designation Yokosuka Navy Type 3 Primary Trainer, powered by a 130 hp (97 kW) Mitsubishi-built Armstrong Siddeley Mongoose radial piston engine, 104 built.
  • Yokosuka K2Y2
Improved version of the K2Y1, powered by a 160 hp (120 kW) Gasuden Jimpu 2 radial piston engine. 360 built (K2Y1 and K2Y2).[15] Watanabe built aircraft were given the long designation Watanabe Navy Type 3-2 Land-based Primary Trainer.
  • U-1 (Uchebnyi - 1) Avrushka
Russian copy of the 504K. Over 700 built.[16]
  • MU-1 (Morskoy Uchebnyi - 1)
Russian seaplane version.
  • Orlogsværftet Flyvemaskineværksted LB.I - Danish production at the Royal Naval Dockyard (Orlogsværftet)[17]


  • Belgian Air Force purchased 50 British-built 504Ks from 1920 to 1922, with a further 27 being built under license by SABCA[19] These were replaced by the 504N, 17 being built by Avro in 1929–31,[20] and 31 being built under license.[21]
British India
 Federated Malay States
 New Zealand
 Russian Empire
 South Africa
 Soviet Union
  • Soviet Air Force - With original British-built examples, and Soviet built U-1 Avrushka copy.
Kingdom of Spain
 Siam (Thailand)
 United Kingdom
 United States

Surviving aircraft and replicas

New Zealand
  • ZK-ACU – 504K purchased by the New Zealand Permanent Air Force in 1925, allocated serial A202, and subsequently operated as a civilian aircraft. The restored aircraft is airworthy and owned by The Vintage Aviator.[31]
  • Unknown – 504K on static display at the Norwegian Aviation Museum in Bodø, Nordland. It was in service from July 1921 to 1928 and has been on display at the museum since 1995. It is painted with the registration number 103, which belonged to 504A that crashed in 1919.[32]
United Kingdom
  • BK892 – 504K airworthy at the Shuttleworth Collection in Old Warden, Bedfordshire. It was originally given the serial number H5199, but was converted to a 504N and sold into civilian ownership. However, it was later impressed into RAF service during World War II as a glider tug, at which point it was given a new serial number. Again returned to civilian use after the war, it was used in the filming of Reach for the Sky.[35][36][37]
  • C4451 - Replica 504J on static display at Solent Sky in Southampton built by ADJ, BAPC No 210
  • D7560 – 504K on static display at the Science Museum in London.[38]
  • G-ABAA (H2311) – 504K on static display at the Museum of Science and Industry in Manchester.[39][40]
  • Composite – 504K on static display at the Royal Air Force Museum London in London. It is made up of the fuselage of G-EBJE and the wings of G-EBKN.[41][42]
  • G-AACA - Replica 504K originally built as a taxiable replica for the 1970s BBC TV series 'Wings'; later acquired by the RAF Museum, Hendon and stored at RAF Henlow then loaned to Brooklands Museum c.1987. Later donated to Brooklands Museum, fitted with a genuine rotary engine and restored to represent one of two 504s used by the Brooklands School of Flying in the late 1920s and early 1930s. Displayed in the Fight Shed exhibition hall from late 2017.
United States
  • A company in Virginia named Blue Swallow Aircraft is building two reproduction Avro 504s.[43][44]
  • Original Avro 504 serial number A201 under restoration by Blue Swallow Aircraft, LLC in Earlysville, VA. Sister ship to Stuart Tantrums A202 restored in New Zealand prior to his death.
  • Replica – 504K undergoing work to airworthy at the Old Rhinebeck Aerodrome in Red Hook, New York.[45][46] It has been flying since 1971.[47]
  • Replica – 504K on static display at the National Museum of the United States Air Force in Dayton, Ohio. It was built in 1966-1967 by the Royal Canadian Air Force's Aircraft Maintenance & Development Unit and arrived at the museum in May 2003. It was previously registered as G-CYEI.[48][27]

Specifications (Avro 504K)

Data from The Encyclopedia of World Aircraft[49]

General characteristics


1 fixed .303 Lewis atop upper wing (single-seat night fighter variants) [50]


The following companies are recorded as manufacturing the Avro 504 under licence.[51][52]

Notable appearances in media

See also

Related development

Aircraft of comparable role, configuration and era

Related lists


  1. The 504 is listed in several sources as having been used by the Argentine Air Force. This is because its predecessor, the Army Aviation Service, was established in 1912 and dissolved in 1945 when the Air Force was created.


  1. Holmes, 2005. p 23.
  2. http://britishaviation-ptp.com/avro504.html accessdate: 23 January 2019
  3. http://britishaviation-ptp.com/avro504_foreignderiv.html accessdate: 23 January 2019
  4. Jackson 1990, p.52.
  5. "Casualty Details:Vincent Waterfall". Commonwealth War Graves Commission. Retrieved 10 January 2010.
  6. Jackson 1990, p.56.
  7. Mason 1994, p.21.
  8. Bruce 16 July 1954, p.87.
  9. Mason 1992, p.127.
  10. Bruce 9 July 1954, p.43.
  11. Wilson, Stewart (1994). Military Aircraft of Australia. Weston Creek, Australia: Aerospace Publications. p. 216. ISBN 1875671080.
  12. Jackson 1990, p.105.
  13. Jackson 1990, p.127.
  14. Jackson 1990, p. 129-133.
  15. Mikesh and Abe 1990, p. 276.
  16. Jackson 1990, p. 104.
  17. "DANISH AIRCRAFT MANUFACTURE" (PDF). ole-nikolajsen.com. Copenhagen. Retrieved 29 December 2018.
  18. Ay, Carlos (15 August 2013). "Catálogo Ilustrado de Aeronaves de la Fuerza Aérea Argentina". Gaceta Aeronautica (in Spanish).
  19. Jackson 1990, p.88.
  20. Jackson 1990, p.123.
  21. Jackson 1990, p.124.
  22. Morgała, Andrzej (1997). Samoloty wojskowe w Polsce 1918-1924 [Military aircraft in Poland 1918-1924] (in Polish). Warsaw: Lampart. p. 118. ISBN 83-86776-34-X.
  23. Garlicki, Jarosław (2001). Historia lotnictwa wojskowego Królestwa Tajlandii w latach 1912 - 1945. Część 2. "Militaria i Fakty". 1-2/2001, p. 34-35 (in Polish)
  24. World Air Forces – Historical Listings Thailand (THL), archived from the original on 25 January 2012, retrieved 30 August 2012
  25. "Avro 504K two-seat biplane elementary trainer : A3-4". Australian War Memorial. Retrieved 23 May 2017.
  26. "AVRO 504K (G-CYFG)". Canada Aviation and Space Museum. Canada Science and Technology Museums Corporation. Retrieved 23 May 2017.
  27. Hine, Colin (August 2013). "Canada Aviation and Space Museum Aircraft: Avro 504K RCAF Registrations: G-CYFG & G-CYCK" (PDF). Retrieved 23 May 2017.
  28. "AVRO 504K (G-CYCK)". Canada Aviation and Space Museum. Canada Science and Technology Museums Corporation. Retrieved 23 May 2017.
  29. "KUVIA BREGUET-PROJEKTISTA". Suomen Ilmavoimamuseo (in Finnish). Retrieved 23 May 2017.
  30. "Avro 504K". Ilmailumuseot.fi (in Finnish). Retrieved 23 May 2017.
  31. http://www.airport-data.com/aircraft/ZK-ACU.html
  32. "Avro 504". Norsk Luftfartsmuseum. Archived from the original on 19 August 2016. Retrieved 23 May 2017.
  33. "WWI - Aircraft". Military Aviation Museum. Military Aviation Museum. Archived from the original on 2 October 2016. Retrieved 23 May 2017.
  34. "FAA REGISTRY [N504K]". Federal Aviation Administration. U.S. Department of Transportation. Retrieved 23 May 2017.
  35. "AVRO 504K". Shuttleworth. Shuttleworth. Retrieved 23 May 2017.
  36. "Airframe Dossier - Avro 504K, s/n BK892 RAF, c/n R3/LE/61400, c/r G-ADEV". Aerial Visuals. AerialVisuals.ca. Retrieved 23 May 2017.
  37. "GINFO Search Results [G-ADEV]". Civil Aviation Authority. Retrieved 23 May 2017.
  38. "Avro 504K biplane D7560 with 130hp Clerget engine, c 1917". Science Museum. Archived from the original on 3 July 2014. Retrieved 23 May 2017.
  39. "Avro 504K Plane". Science Museum. Retrieved 23 May 2017.
  40. "Airframe Dossier - Avro504, s/n H2311 RAF, c/n H2311, c/r G-ABAA". Aerial Visuals. AerialVisuals.ca. Retrieved 23 May 2017.
  41. "Avro 504K". Royal Air Force Museum. Trustees of the Royal Air Force Museum. Retrieved 23 May 2017.
  42. Simpson, Andrew (2014). "INDIVIDUAL HISTORY [E449]" (PDF). Royal Air Force Museum. Royal Air Force Museum. Retrieved 23 May 2017.
  43. Von Reuter, Jennifer (22 September 2009). "Company Making Antique Airplanes". NBC29.com. Frankly Media. Retrieved 24 May 2017.
  44. Gaertner, John, "Building The Avro 504... A 25 Year Dream", WW1 Aero
  45. McCullough, Patrick; Haggerty, Tim. "World War I (1914-1918)". Cole Palen's Old Rhinebeck Aerodrome. Rhinebeck Aerodrome Museum. Retrieved 23 May 2017.
  46. "FAA REGISTRY [N4929]". Federal Aviation Administration. U.S. Department of Transportation. Retrieved 23 May 2017.
  47. Air Progress: 20. September 1971. Missing or empty |title= (help)
  48. "Avro 504K". National Museum of the US Air Force. 7 April 2015. Retrieved 23 May 2017.
  49. Donald 1997, p.77.
  50. Jane's Fighting Aircraft of World War I. London: Jane's Publishing Company, 1919; republished 2001 by Random House Group Ltd. ISBN 1-85170-347-0
  51. Flight 1954 p87
  52. Manufacturers of the 504
  • Bruce, J.M. (9 July 1954). "The Avro 504: Historic Military Aircraft No. 8, Part I" (pdf). Flight. pp. 41–44.
  • Bruce, J.M. (16 July 1954). "The Avro 504: Historic Military Aircraft No. 8, Part II" (pdf). Flight. pp. 83–88.
  • Bruce, J. M. Warplanes of the First World War - Fighter, Volume One, Great Britain. London: Macdonald, 1965.
  • Donald, David (ed.). The Encyclopedia of World Aircraft. Aerospace Publishing, 1997. ISBN 1-85605-375-X.
  • Holmes, Tony. Jane's Vintage Aircraft Recognition Guide. London: Harper Collins, 2005. ISBN 0-00-719292-4.
  • Jackson, A.J. Avro Aircraft since 1908 (Second ed.). London: Putnam,1990. ISBN 0-85177-834-8.
  • Mason, Francis K. The British Fighter since 1912. Annapolis, Maryland: Naval Institute Press, 1992. ISBN 1-55750-082-7.
  • Mason, Francis K. The British Bomber since 1914. London: Putnam Aeronautical Books, 1994. ISBN 0-85177-861-5.
  • Mikesh, Robert C.; Shorzoe Abe. Japanese Aircraft 1910–1914. London: Putnam, 1990. ISBN 0-85177-840-2.
  • Taylor, M. J. H. (ed.). Jane's Encyclopedia of Aviation. Jane's Publishing Company, 1980.
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