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Avro Avro 691 Lancastrian 3 G-AGWH cn 1280 'Stardust' BSAA (British South American Airways)
Role Passenger and mail transport
Manufacturer Avro
First flight 1943
Introduction 1945 (BOAC)
Retired 1960
Primary users BOAC
Trans Canada Airlines
Royal Air Force
Rolls-Royce (engine test-beds)
Produced 19431945
Number built 91 (including conversions)
Developed from Avro Lancaster

The Avro 691 Lancastrian was a British and Canadian passenger and mail transport aircraft of the 1940s and 1950s developed from the Avro Lancaster heavy bomber. The Lancastrian was basically a modified Lancaster bomber without armour 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

In 1943, Canada's Victory Aircraft converted a Lancaster X bomber for civilian transport duties with Trans-Canada Airlines (TCA).[1] (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 MontrealPrestwick route.[2]

The modification of abundant military aircraft into desperately needed civilian transports was common in the United Kingdom in the immediate postwar period; the Handley Page Halton was a similar conversion of the Halifax heavy bomber.

Operational history

Avro Sapphire Lancastrian testbed demonstrating on its two jets with its Merlins feathered at Coventry Airport in June 1954
Young boy watching a Lancastrian aircraft. St. Hubert airstrip, Montreal. 1947

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 seven crew dispersed throughout the fuselage, and with the majority of the load being carried in the 33 ft (10.05 m) long bomb bay. Consequently, as passengers are bulky but low in weight, it was not suited to carry large numbers of passengers, but was suitable 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 serial number 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 testbeds

Data from: Avro Aircraft since 1908[3]

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 2x Rolls-Royce Nene + 2x Rolls-Royce Merlin 14 August 1946 Flew the first international all-jet passenger flight from London to Paris on 23 November 1946.[4]
Nene-Lancastrian VH737 2x Rolls-Royce Nene + 2x Rolls-Royce Merlin
Avon-Lancastrian VM732 2x Rolls-Royce Avon + 2x Rolls-Royce Merlin
Avon-Lancastrian VL970 2x Rolls-Royce Avon + 2x Rolls-Royce Merlin Latterly used to test the Rolls-Royce Avon 502 civil turbojet for the de Havilland Comet 2 airliner.
Ghost-Lancastrian VM703 2x de Havilland Ghost 50 + 2x Rolls-Royce Merlin + 2x Walter HWK 109-500 RATOG packs 24 July 1947 Testing the Engines and takeoff-boost system proposed for the de Havilland Comet 1 airliner
Ghost-Lancastrian VM729 2x de Havilland Ghost 50 + 2x Rolls-Royce Merlin Used for afterburner research and later development and certification of the Ghost 50 for the Comet 1 a.
Sapphire-Lancastrian VM733 2x Armstrong Siddeley Sapphire + 2x Rolls-Royce Merlin 18 January 1950
Griffon-Lancastrian VM704 2x Rolls-Royce Griffon 57 inboard + 2x Rolls-Royce Merlin T.24/4 outboard Used for testing the Griffon installation for the Avro Shackleton
Griffon-Lancastrian VM728 2x Rolls-Royce Griffon 57 inboard + 2x Rolls-Royce Merlin T.24/4 outboard Used for testing the Griffon installation for the Avro Shackleton
Merlin 600-Lancastrian VM704 2x Rolls-Royce Merlin 600 + 2x Rolls-Royce Merlin Used for testing the civil Merlin 600-series for use in the Canadair C4M and Avro Tudor

Accidents and incidents

The Aviation Safety Network, part of the Flight Safety Foundation, records 23 hull loss accidents involving the Lancastrian occurring between 1946 and 1964 resulting in a total of 91 fatalities.[5]

Notable accidents include

Lancastrian T-102

Lancastrian T-102 of the Argentine Air Force crashed on 11 December 1960 near San Andrés de Giles, Argentina. All 31 on board were killed. This was the worst accident involving this type of aircraft.[6]

Lancastrian G-AGWH , Star Dust

Main article: 1947 BSAA Avro Lancastrian Star Dust accident

The BSAA Lancastrian 3, Star Dust

On 2 August 1947 Lancastrian G-AGWH Star Dust of British South American Airways was lost in the 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.[7][8]

Lancastrian G-AGLX

On 23 March 1946, Lancastrian G-AGLX was lost over the Indian Ocean en route between British Ceylon and Cocos (Keeling) Islands, all 10 on board died.[9]


Lancaster XPP
Nine built by converting Lancaster Mk. Xs at Victory Aircraft Ltd Canada.
Lancastrian C.1
Nine-seat transport aircraft for BOAC and Qantas. Royal Air Force designation Lancastrian C.1 to Specification 16/44. A total of 23 built by Avro
Lancastrian C.2
Nine-seat military transport aircraft for the RAF. A total of 33 built by Avro
Lancastrian 3
13-seat transport aircraft for British South American Airways. A total of 18 built by Avro
Lancastrian C.4
Ten to 13-seat military transport aircraft for the RAF. Eight built by Avro


Civil operators

 United Kingdom

Military operators

 United Kingdom

Specifications (Lancastrian C.1)

Data from Jane's All the World's Aircraft 1947,[11] Avro Aircraft since 1908[3]

General characteristics


285 mph (248 kn; 459 km/h) at sea level
300 mph (261 kn; 483 km/h) at 3,500 ft (1,067 m)
280 mph (243 kn; 451 km/h) at 11,000 ft (3,353 m)
245 mph (213 kn; 394 km/h) at sea level
3,280 mi (2,850 nmi; 5,279 km) at 280 mph (243 kn; 451 km/h) and 20,000 ft (6,096 m) with 4,340 lb (1,969 kg) payload
3,600 mi (3,128 nmi; 5,794 km) at 280 mph (243 kn; 451 km/h) and 20,000 ft (6,096 m) with 2,190 lb (993 kg) payload (maximum weak mixture)
3,200 mi (2,781 nmi; 5,150 km) at 280 mph (243 kn; 451 km/h) and 20,000 ft (6,096 m) with 4,850 lb (2,200 kg) payload (maximum weak mixture)
19,000 ft (5,791 m) on three engines
20,500 ft (6,248 m) on three engines
950 ft/min (4.8 m/s) at sea level
250 ft/min (1.3 m/s) at 15,000 ft (4,572 m)

See also

Related development

Aircraft of comparable role, configuration, and era

Related lists


  1. ^ Milberry 1982, p. 13.
  2. ^ Milberry 1982, pp. 14–15.
  3. ^ a b Jackson, A.J. (1965). Avro Aircraft since 1908. London: Putnam. pp. 385-392.
  4. ^ Franks 2000, pp. 92–93.
  5. ^ Ranter, Harro. "Aviation Safety Network > ASN Aviation Safety Database > Aircraft type index > Avro Lancastrian > Avro Lancastrian Statistics". Retrieved 15 October 2019.
  6. ^ Ranter, Harro. "ASN Aircraft accident Avro 691 Lancastrian C.4 T-102 San Andrés de Giles, BA". Retrieved 15 October 2019.
  7. ^ "British Avro Lancastrian was one of the world's great aviation mysteries". Associated Press. 2000.
  8. ^ "What happened to the Star Dust". 17 September 2012.
  9. ^ "Flight Safety Foundation database report, Type: Avro 691 Lancastrian C.1, Operating for: Qantas, Saturday 23 March 1946". Retrieved 2 August 2022.
  10. ^ "Avro Lancastrian". AZ Fleet. Retrieved 13 June 2019.
  11. ^ Bridgman, Leonard, ed. (1947). Jane's All the World's Aircraft 1947 (35th ed.). London: Sampson Low, Marston & Co. pp. 18c–19c.
  12. ^ Lednicer, David. "The Incomplete Guide to Airfoil Usage". Retrieved 16 April 2019.


Further reading