Avro 504
Single-engine two-seat World War I fighter-bomber-Trainer biplane

Archive Photos - Airplane Cards 1

1914 Avro 504 (4315) Tobacco Card, A History of Aviation, 1932, Lambert & Butler, Card 18 of 25

Overview of Avro 504 Series 2

Avro 504

The Avro 504 was a World War I biplane series of aircraft made by the A.V. Roe and Company Ltd. and under license by others. Production during the War totalled 8,970 aircraft and continued for almost twenty years, making it the most-produced aircraft of any kind that served in World War I, in any military capacity, during that conflict. Over 10,000 aircraft were built from 1913 to the time production ended in 1932.

Design and Development 2

First flown in July 1913, powered by a 80-hp Gnôme Lambda seven-cylinder rotary engine, engine, the Avro 504 was a development of the earlier Avro 500, designed for training and private flying. it was a two-bay all-wood and biplane with the square-section fuselage.

Operational History 2

Small numbers of early aircraft were purchased both by the Royal Flying Corps (RFC) and the Royal Naval Air Service (RNAS) prior to the start of World War I, 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). The RNAS used four Avro 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.

Soon obsolete as a front-line 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.

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) Gnôme or 110-hp (80 kW) Le Rhône engines. 274 converted Avro 504Js and 504Ks were issued to eight home defence squadrons in 1918, with 226 still being used as fighters at the end of World War I.

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 Avro 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 Avro 504s continued flying in large numbers until well into the 1930s.

The embryonic air service of the Soviet Union formed just after World War I 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 with Russian-made copies of the Gnôme Monosoupape rotary engine. This Russian version of the Avro 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, Thailand and South Africa, with licensed production taking place in Denmark, Belgium, Canada and Japan.

The RAF’s Avro 504Ns were finally replaced in 1933 by the Avro 621 Tutor, with small numbers continuing in civilian use until 1940, when seven were impressed into RAF service, where they were used for target-towing and glider-towing.

The Avro 504 was the first aeroplane to strafe troops on the ground as well as the first to make a bombing raid over Germany. It was also the first Allied aeroplane to be downed by enemy anti-aircraft fire and was Billy Bishop’s first army aircraft.

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

Variants 2

Avro 504 Series Operators 2

Avro 504 Specifications 4




Weights and Performances


  1. Shupek, John. Avro 504 card images via The Skytamer Archive,. All Rights Reserved
  2. Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia. Avro 504
  3. Grey, C.G. Avro, Aeroplanes: The Avro Standard Training Plane. Jane’s All the World’s Aircraft 1919 (reprint). Arco Publishing Company, New York, 1969, Library of Congress 69-14964, 1931. pp. 65a - 69a
  4. Jackson, A.J. Avro 504 to Avro 504H Avro Aircraft since 1908. Putnam Aeronautical Books, London, second edition 1990, ISBN 0-85177-797-X, 1990. pp. 52-62

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