The third prototype York LV633 “Ascalon” (the first of the type with triple fins) was used by Winston Churchill and had square windows instead of the usual round ones. Allocated the civil registration G-AGFT, it was never applied.
One of the wartime agreements concluded between Britain and the United States allocated to the Americans responsibility for building all transport aircraft for Allied use, enabling the British aircraft industry to concentrate on fighters and bombers. Despite this, at Avro’s Chadderton Factory in February 1942, designer Roy Chadwick and his team completed the drawings for the Avro 685 York, four-engined long-range transport. This united the wings, tail assembly, engines and landing gear of the Lancaster with a new square section fuselage.
Shortly before the prototype flew at Ringway, Manchester, on 5 July 1942, an official order was placed for four aircraft, the first two were to have 1,280 hp (954 kW) Rolls-Royce Merlin XXs and the others 1,615 hp (1205 kW) Bristol Hercules VIs. All four were in fact ultimately flown with the Merlin engines, the sole Hercules-powered aircraft being the prototype which was re-engined with 1,615 hp (1205 kW) Bristol Hercules XVls late in 1943 to become the York II. To compensate for the additional side area forward of the centre of gravity, a central third fin was added from the third aircraft which, named Ascalona, was delivered to No. 24 Squadron at RAF Northolt in March 1943. Equipped as a flying conference room, principally for the use of Prime Minister Winston Churchill, it carried him to Algiers in May and, just a few days later, His Majesty King George VI used it for his visit to troops in North Africa.
Production built-up slowly, first at Ringway but transferred to Yeadon in October 1945, and the first two aircraft were delivered to No. 24 Squadron for VIP duties. Other VIP-configured Yorks included those allocated for official duties to Louis Mountbatten, Field Marshal Smuts and the Duke of Gloucester. Five early aircraft were delivered to BOAC for the operation of a UK-Morocco-Cairo service from April 1944 and a further 25 were delivered from August 1945 for joint operation with Transport Command.
During 1945 No. 511 Squadron at Lyneham became the first to receive a full complement of Yorks, with 10 squadrons eventually flying the aircraft in RAF service, and seven of these squadrons were equipped in time to take part in the Berlin Airlift from 1 July 1948. Production ceased with the delivery of the 257th York to RAF Honington on 29 April 1948. This total comprised four prototypes, 208 for the Royal Air Force, 25 for BOAC, 12 for British South American Airways Corporation, five for FAMA of Argentina and two for Skyways Ltd. One York was built in Canada by Victory Aircraft Ltd.
When finally replaced in RAF service by the Handley Page Hastings, the type saw continued service with civilian companies, operating in their old roles as Troop Transports under government contract.
York Prototypes – First four aircraft powered by four 1,280 hp (954 kW) Rolls-Royce Merlin XX 12-cylinder Vee liquid-cooled inline piston engines. Starting with the third prototype, a third fin was added to compensate for the additional side area forward of the centre of gravity.
York Mk I – The main production aircraft powered by four 1,280 hp (954 kW) Rolls-Royce Merlin XX 12-cylinder Vee liquid-cooled inline piston engines. It was built in three variants; an all-passenger, all-freight and a mixed passenger/freight.
York Mk II – One of the prototypes was re-engined to accept the 1,615 hp (1205 kW) Bristol Hercules XVls late in 1943, being redesignated York Mk II.
Specifications (Avro 685 York Mk I)
Type: Long Range Passenger & Cargo Transport
Accommodation/Crew: (Passenger) One or two Pilots, Navigator, Wireless Operator and Steward. (Cargo) One or two Pilots, Navigator and Wireless Operator
Design: A.V. Roe & Company Limited with Lead Designer Roy Chadwick
Manufacturer: A.V. Roe & Company Limited (Chadderton Factory) and a single prototype produced by Victory Aircraft Limited in Canada.
Powerplant: Four 1,280 hp (954 kW) Rolls-Royce Merlin XX 12-cylinder Vee liquid-cooled inline piston engines driving three-bladed constant speed full-feathering propellers. Engines were mounted on welded steel-tube nacelles bolted to the front spar of the centre-section. Some aircraft flew using Merlin 22 engines (which were virtually identical to the Merlin XX engines) and a few aircraft reportedly used the 1,640 hp (1223 kW) Merlin 24 which was an uprated Merlin XX. These were not experiments, but reflected the usage of whatever engine was available at the time.
Performance: Maximum speed 298 mph (480 km/h) at 21,000 ft (6400 m); cruising speed 210 mph (338 km/h); service ceiling 23,000 ft (7010 m).
Range: 2,700 miles (4345 km) on internal fuel.
Weight: Empty 42,040 lbs (19069 kg) with a maximum overload take-off weight of 68,597 lbs (31115kg).
Dimensions: Span 102 ft 0 in (31.09 m); length 78 ft 6 in (23.93 m); height 17 ft 10 in (5.44 m); wing area 1,297.0 sq ft (120.49 sq m).
Variants: York (prototype), York Mk I, York Mk II.
Equipment/Avionics: Standard communications and navigation equipment.
History: First flight (prototype) 5 July 1942; end production (257th aircraft) 29 April 1948; retired from service 1957.
Operators: Great Britain (208 for the RAF), BOAC (25), British South American Airways Corporation (12), FAMA (5), Skyways Limited (2), Victory Aircraft (1).