Note: This is a sub-section of Avro
Heavy bomber powered by two Rolls-Royce Vulture engines.
The weight of the aircraft and engines increased beyond that originally conceived, and engine output was below expectations. Thus the aircraft was underpowered, making it vulnerable on bombing raids. Worse, the engines were prone to failure.
The aircraft was designed and developed on an urgent basis, and was dogged by continuing changes in requirements and specification by the Air Ministry and the RAF. It was initially required that in addition to its primary role as a long range heavy bomber, it was also to serve as a dive bomber, torpedo aircraft, troop carrier, and to be suitable to catapult-assisted launching. The first production order was placed on 1 July 1937. On 4 August it was decided that the first prototype would have Bristol Hercules engines, and the second Rolls-Royce Vultures. In January 1937 the Air Ministry wrote to inform Avro that the aircraft had to capable of conversion to either the Napier Sabre or Bristol Centaurus within 48 hours. By August 1938 the torpedo, catapult and dive bombing requirements had been cancelled. However, the strengthening for catapult assistance had already been designed in, with the associated weight penalty. These, and countless other changes imposed a considerable load on the design staff, and caused appreciable delays.
The first flight was in July 1939.
Pre-production examples were plagued with problems, including failures of the hydraulic systems, controllable-pitch propellers, and adverse aerodynamic effects involving the gun turrets. Many of the hydraulic system pipework failures were associated with the Ermeto pipe couplings. These were selected for being simpler and quicker to fit than the previous type (which required the ends of the pipes to be flared before coupling).
Production at the Avro Woodford factory was supplemented by the purpose-built Metropolitan-Vickers factory at Mosley Road, Trafford Park. Their first fully-assembled aircraft was finished on 21st December 1940, but the factory was bombed by the Luftwaffe on the night of the 23rd.
The first operational flight was on 24 February 1941, in a raid on the battleship Hipper at Brest.
In mid-1940 Avro embarked on the design of a four engined version to be powered by Rolls-Royce Merlin engines. This was initially known as the Mk III Manchester, and first flew on 9 January 1941. It had longer wings, and initially retained the central tail fin. It was soon renamed the Lancaster.
Production of the Manchester was halted in November 1941. 209 aircraft had entered service with the RAF.
The 193 operational Manchesters flew 1,269 sorties with Bomber Command, and lost 78 aircraft in action. A further 45 were non-operational losses of which 30 involved engine failure.
For an outstanding detailed account of the aircraft and its history, see 'Avro Manchester' by Robert Kirby . This examines the design, development and operational problems in great detail, with gripping accounts of crews' experience.
See also the Wikipedia entry.
Sources of Information
- 'Avro Manchester - The Legend behind the Lancaster' by Robert Kirby. First edition: Midland Publishing Ltd., 1995; Revised and enlarged second edition, Fonthill Media, 2015