Avro 691 Lancastrian
British four-engine transport/airliner

Archive Photos 1,21

Airplane Card: Avro 691 Lancastrian, Barbers Teas, UK, 1956, Card 10 of 25. (The Skytamer Archive copyright © 2013 Skytamer Images) 2

Overview 2

The Avro 691 Lancastrian was a Canadian and British passenger and mail transport aircraft of the 1940s and 1950s developed from the Avro Lancaster heavy bomber. The Lancaster was named after Lancaster, Lancashire; a Lancastrian is an inhabitant of Lancashire.

The Lancastrian was basically a modified Lancaster bomber without armor or armament and with the gun turrets replaced by streamlined metal fairings, including a new nose section. The initial batch was converted directly from Lancasters; later batches were new builds.

Design and Development 2

In 1943, Canada’s Victory Aircraft converted a Lancaster × bomber for civil transport duties with Trans-Canada Airlines (TCA). (After the war Victory Aircraft was purchased by what became Avro Canada). This conversion was a success resulting in eight additional Lancaster Xs being converted. The "specials" were powered by Packard-built Merlin 38 engines and featured a lengthened, streamlined nose and tail cone. Range was increased by two 400 gal (1,818 L) Lancaster long-range fuel tanks fitted as standard in the bomb bay. These Lancastrians were used by TCA on its Montreal-Prestwick route.

The modification of abundant military aircraft into desperately needed civil transports was common in the United Kingdom in the immediate post-war period: the Handley Page Halton was a similar conversion of the Halifax heavy bomber.

Operational History 2

In 1945, deliveries commenced of 30 British-built Lancastrians for BOAC. On a demonstration flight on 23 April 1945 (G-AGLF) flew 13,500 mi (21,700 km) from England to Auckland, New Zealand in three days, 14 hours at an average speed of 220 mph (354 km/h).

The Lancastrian was fast, had a long range, and was capable of carrying a heavy load, but space inside was very limited as the Lancaster had been designed with space for its 7 crew dispersed through the fuselage, and the 33 ft (10.05 m) long bomb bay. Consequently it was not suited to carry large numbers of passengers, but for mail and a small number of VIP passengers. BOAC used it for flights between England and Australia from 31 May 1945. It also served with the RAF; RAF Lancaster I (PD328) was converted to a Lancastrian and renamed Aries, as well as serving with QANTAS and Flota Aérea Mercante Argentina.

Lancastrians were used during the Berlin Airlift to transport petrol; 15 aircraft made over 5,000 trips. In 1946 a Lancastrian operated by BSAA was the first aircraft to make a scheduled flight from the then-newly opened London Heathrow Airport.

Lancastrian Engine Test-beds 2

With the advent of gas turbine engines there emerged a need to test the new engines in a controlled flight environment in well instrumented installations. An ideal candidate emerged as the Avro Lancastrian which could easily accommodate the test instrumentation as well as fly on the power of two piston engines if required. Several Lancastrians were allocated for engine test-bed work with turbojet engines replacing the outer Merlin engines or test piston engines in the inner nacelles. Fuel arrangements varied but could include Kerosene jet fuel in outer wing tanks or fuselage tanks, with AVGAS carried in remaining fuel tanks.

Name Serial Test Engine First Flight Notes
Nene-Lancastrian VH742 2 × Rolls-Royce Nene + 2 × Rolls-Royce Merlin 8/14/1946 Flew the first international all-jet passenger flight from London to Paris on 23 November 1946.
Nene-Lancastrian VH737 2 × Rolls-Royce Nene + 2 × Rolls-Royce Merlin    
Avon-Lancastrian VM732 2 × Rolls-Royce Avon + 2 × Rolls-Royce Merlin    
Avon-Lancastrian VL970 2 × Rolls-Royce Avon + 2 × Rolls-Royce Merlin   Latterly used to test the Rolls-Royce Avon 502 civil turbojet for the de Havilland Comet 2 airliner.
Ghost-Lancastrian VM703 2 × de Havilland Ghost 50 + 2 × Rolls-Royce Merlin + 2 × Walter HWK 109-500 RATOG packs 7/24/1947 Testing the Engines and take-off boost system proposed for the de Havilland Comet 1 airliner
Ghost-Lancastrian VM729 2 × de Havilland Ghost 50 + 2 × Rolls-Royce Merlin   Used for afterburner research and later development and certification of the Ghost 50 for the Comet 1a.
Sapphire-Lancastrian VM733 2 × Armstrong Siddeley Sapphire + 2 × Rolls-Royce Merlin 1/18/1950  
Griffon-Lancastrian VM704 2 × Rolls-Royce Griffon 57 inboard + 2 × Rolls-Royce Merlin T.24/4 outboard   Used for testing the Griffon installation for the Avro Shackleton
Griffon-Lancastrian VM728 2 × Rolls-Royce Griffon 57 inboard + 2 × Rolls-Royce Merlin T.24/4 outboard   Used for testing the Griffon installation for the Avro Shackleton
Merlin 600-Lancastrian VM704 2 × Rolls-Royce Merlin 600 + 2 × Rolls-Royce Merlin    

The B.S.A.A Lancastrian 3, Star Dust 2

On 2 August 1947 Lancastrian Star Dust (G-AGWH) of British South American Airways was lost in the Argentine Andes, whilst en route from Buenos Aires, Argentina, to Santiago, Chile. The probable cause of the crash was a navigation error due to the then-unknown effect of the fast-moving jetstream.

Variants 2

Operators 2

Civil Operators

Military Operators

Avro 691 Lancastrian Specifications 4





Tail Unit

Landing Gear




Weights and Loadings


Under still air conditions with no allowance for take-off and climb and using 3,174 Imp. gallons of fuel and caring 3,597 lbs payload at 15,000 ft).


  1. Shupek, John. Avro 691 Lancastrian 3-view drawing via The Skytamer Archive (3-view drawing by John Shupek copyright © 2013 Skytamer Images. All Rights Reserved)
  2. Barbers Teas, Airplanes, Airplane Trade Cards, 1956, UK
  3. Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia. Avro Lancastrian
  4. Bridgman, Leonard, Avro: The Avro 688 Tudor I (Avro XX). Jane’s All the World’s Aircraft 1945/1946. Sampson Low, Marston & Company Limited, London, 1946. pp. 13c-14c

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