Avro 652A Anson Mk.I
United Kingdom — Twin-engine advanced training monoplane

Archive Photos

Avro 652A Anson Mk.I (K6152, Jane’s All the World’s Aircraft 1936)

Avro Anson Mk.I (G-AMDA) at the Imperial War Museum Duxford, Cambridgeshire, England, c. 1994

Avro 652 Anson, K6152 (Aeroplanes & Carriers, Amalgamated Press, 1936, UK, Card 6 of 32)

Avro 652 Anson (Aeroplane Series, SYS-1, Sydney Whole Wheat Bloks, Australia, 7 of 56)


The Avro Anson was a British Twin-engine, multi-role aircraft that served with the Royal Air Force, Fleet Air Arm and numerous other air forces during the Second World War and afterwards. Named for British admiral George Anson, it was originally designed for maritime reconnaissance, but was soon rendered obsolete. However it was rescued from obscurity by its suitability as a multi-engine air crew trainer, becoming the mainstay of the British Commonwealth Air Training Plan. By the end of its production life in 1952, the Anson spanned nine variants and a total of 8,138 had been built in Britain by Avro and, from 1941, a further 2,882 by the Canadian Federal Aircraft Ltd.

Design and Development

The Anson was evolved from the Avro 652 commercial monoplane which was designed and built to the order of Imperial Airways in 1933. The Avro 652A, or Anson Mk.I, went into service in the RAF in 1936 as a General Reconnaissance monoplane. It was also adapted for certain specialized training duties. Before the end of its operational career with Coastal Command the Anson had been earmarked to be the standard Twin-engine trainer for the Commonwealth Air Training Plan then being organized in Canada. Production of the trainer was originally to be undertaken in England but owing to the grave war situation and the shortage of shipping space in 1940 the decision was taken to build the Anson in Canada and to equip it with engines of American design which were then readily available.

A Government-owned company, Federal Aircraft, Ltd., was set up to handle Anson production in Canada, the Dominion being responsible for the production of the Anson II, III, V and VI. The Mark numbers VIT, VIII and IX were allotted for use in Canada but they were never used. Production continued in England to meet domestic needs, the British versions being the Mk. I, X, XI, and XII.

A distinctive feature of the Anson Mk.I was its landing gear retraction mechanism which required no less than 140 turns of the hand crank by the pilot. To forgo this laborious process, early model Ansons often made short flights with the landing gear extended at the expense of 30 mph (50 km/h) of cruise speed.

A total of 11,020 Ansons were built by the end of production in 1952, making it the second-most-numerous (after the Vickers Wellington) British multi-engine aircraft of the war.

Operational History

At the start of the Second World War, there were 26 RAF squadrons operating the Anson I; ten with Coastal Command and 16 with Bomber Command. However, by this time, the Anson was obsolete in the roles of bombing and coastal patrol and in the process of being superseded by the Armstrong Whitworth Whitley and Lockheed Hudson.

Limited numbers of Ansons continued to serve in operational roles such as coastal patrols and air/sea rescue. Early in the war, an Anson scored a probable hit on a German U-boat. In June 1940, a flight of three Ansons was attacked by nine Luftwaffe Messerschmitt Bf.109s. Remarkably, the Ansons downed two German aircraft and damaging a third before the ‘dogfight’ ended, without losing any of their own. The aircraft’s true role, however, was to train pilots for flying multi-engine bombers such as the Avro Lancaster. The Anson was also used to train the other members of a bomber’s air crew, such as navigators, wireless operators, bomb aimers and air gunners. Postwar, the Anson continued in the training role and light transport roles. The last Ansons were withdrawn from RAF service with communications units on 28 June 1968.

The Royal Australian Air Force operated 1,028 Ansons, mainly Mk.Is, until 1955. The Royal Canadian Air Force and Royal Canadian Navy operated Ansons until 1952. The USAAF employed 50 Canadian-built Ansons, designated as the AT-20.

The Royal New Zealand Air Force operated 23 Ansons as navigation trainers in the Second World War, (alongside the more numerous Airspeed Oxford), and acquired more Ansons as communication aircraft immediately after the war. A preserved navigation trainer is in the Royal New Zealand Air Force Museum at Wigram.

The Egyptian Air Force operated Ansons in communications and VIP duties. A specially outfitted Anson was gifted to the then King by the Royal Air Force. The Royal Afghan Air Force obtained 13 Anson 18 aircraft for various duties from 1948. These aircraft survived through 1972.

Postwar Civil Use

After the war, Ansons continued in civilian use as light transports for small charter airlines and as executive aircraft for industrial companies. Countries which saw civilian operations with Ansons included Great Britain, Canada, Australia and Denmark. Railway Air Services operated Ansons on scheduled services from London via Manchester to Belfast during 1946-1947.

India ordered twelve new Anson 18Cs in 1948 for use by the Directorate of Civil Aviation as trainers and communications aircraft, and these were delivered from Woodford in spring 1949. Avro Ansons continued to be used by the RAF in the role of Station Communications Aircraft, well into the 1960’s.


The main Anson variant was the Mk I, of which 6,704 were built in Britain. The other variants were mainly distinguished by their powerplant with Canadian-built Ansons using local engines. To overcome steel shortages, the 1,051 Canadian-built Mk.V Ansons featured a plywood fuselage.

Military Anson Operators

Specifications (Avro 652A Anson Mk.I)




Tail Unit

Landing Gear

Power Plant



Weights and Loadings



  1. Shupek, John. Avro 652A Anson Mk.I, The Skytamer Archive, Copyright © 2009 Skytamer Images. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED
  2. Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia. Avro Anson
  3. Bridgman, Leonard, Avro: The Avro 652A Anson. Jane’s All The World’s Aircraft 1945/6. Sampson Low Marston &amo; Company Limited, London, 1946. pp. 17c-19c
  4. Grey, C.G. and Leonard Bridgman, Avro: The Avro ‘Anson.&sdquo; Jane’s All The World’s Aircraft 1936. Sampson Low Marston &amo; Company Limited, London, 1936. pp. 23c-24c

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