Avro Manchester

The Avro 679 Manchester was a British twin-engined heavy bomber developed during the Second World War by the Avro aircraft company in the United Kingdom. The Manchester was a failure due to its under-developed, under-powered and unreliable engines, but it was the forerunner to the famous Avro Lancaster, one of the most successful bombers of the war.

Design and development

The Manchester was originally designed to the Air Ministry Specification P.13/36 which was the same specification that Handley Page followed in their design of the Halifax bomber. The specification called for a twin-engined heavy bomber using the powerful Rolls-Royce Vulture 24-cylinder X-type engine which was essentially two Rolls-Royce Peregrine Vee-type cylinder blocks on top of each other, the bottom one inverted to give the \"X\" shape. When developed in 1935, the engine had promise — it was rated at 1,760 hp — but it proved woefully unreliable and had to be derated to between 1,480 and 1,500 hp. Avro's prototype Manchester L7246 first flew at Manchester's Ringway Airport on 25 July 1939 with the second aircraft following on 26 May 1940.
While the Manchester was designed with twin tails, the first production aircraft, designated the Mk I, had a central fin added and a total of 20 aircraft with this configuration were completed. They were succeeded by the Mk IA which reverted to the twin-fin system but using enlarged, taller fin and rudders and this configuration carried over to the Lancaster.
Avro built 177 and Metropolitan-Vickers completed 32; plans for Armstrong Whitworth and Fairey to build the Manchester were abandoned.

Operational service

Handley Page's response to the engine's faults was to switch the Halifax to four of the less powerful but more reliable Rolls-Royce Merlin X engines. Avro however persisted with the Vulture and the Manchester went into production, entering service with No. 207 Squadron of RAF Bomber Command in November 1940. Eventually 209 Manchesters entered service, equipping eight bomber squadrons, serving with two others and also being used by Coastal Command.
The Mk III Manchester, BT308, which first flew on January 9 1941, was essentially the first Lancaster, being powered by four Merlin engines and with increased wingspan, although initially retaining the three fins and rudders of the Manchester I. The second prototype Manchester III, DG295, (by then renamed Lancaster) featured the twin, enlarged, fins and rudders of the Manchester IA. Manchester production continued until November of that year but some aircraft still in production were completed as Lancasters.
Manchesters flew 1,269 operations with Bomber Command, dropping 1,826 tons of bombs and losing 63 aircraft in action.


  • United Kingdom
    • Royal Air Force ( RAF )

General characteristics ( Mk I/IA )

  • Crew: 7
  • Length: 70 ft (21.34 m)
  • Wingspan: 90 ft 1 in (27.46 m)
  • Height: 19 ft 6 in (5.94 m)
  • Wing area: ft² ( m²)
  • Empty: 31,200 lb (14,152 kg)
  • Loaded: lb ( kg)
  • Maximum takeoff: 50,000 lb (22,680 kg)
  • Powerplant: 2 x Rolls-Royce Vulture I 24-cylinder X-type, 2 x 1,500 hp ( kW)

Performance ( Mk I/IA )

  • Maximum speed: 250 mph (402 km/h)
  • Range: 1,200 miles (1,930 km)
  • Service ceiling: 19,500 ft (5,852 m)
  • Rate of climb: ft/min ( m/min)
  • Wing loading: lb/ft² ( kg/m²)
  • Power/mass: hp/lb ( kW/kg)

Armament ( Mk I/IA )

  • 8 x .303 in Browning machine guns, (2 in nose, 2 in mid-upper and 4 in tail turrets)
  • 10,350 lb (4,695 kg) bomb load