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Avro 504


Avro 504K R3/LE/61400 G-ADEV H5199 at Old Warden Air Show 2007

Avro 504K R3/LE/61400 G-ADEV H5199 at Old Warden Air Show 2007. Photo by Bob Franklin


The Avro 504 (a World War I biplane) was built by The Avro Aircraft Company. The production of this aircraft started in 1913 and spanned almost twenty years. By 1932 over 10000 were built. This made it the most produced aircraft of any kind to serve in any military capacity around World War I time.

The Avro 504 (first flown on 18th September 1913) was a development from the Avro 500. The aircraft was almost entirely made of wood.

A few Avro 504s were taken to France when the war started, after being purchased by the Royal Flying Corps (RFC) and the Royal Naval Air Service (RNAS). One of the Royal Flying Corps aircraft was the first British aircraft to be shot down by the Germans. The Royal Naval Air Service used four 504s to make up a special flight in order to bomb the Zeppelin Works at Friedrichshafen on the shores of Lake Constance.

The Avro 504 (originally designed as a front line aircraft) came into its own as a training aircraft. A number of variants were built, mostly the 504J and 504K. The 504K was a two-seat version of the aircraft and was equipped with a universal mount which enabled it to take different engines.

Avro 504K R3/LE/61400 G-ADEV H5199

Avro 504K R3/LE/61400 G-ADEV H5199
Photo Colin Sayce

After World War I the Avro 504 was still being used by the Royal Air Force as a standard trainer, with a large amount of them being available for civil and military use. Over 300 504Ks were placed on the British civil register. Civil 504Ks were still being used into the late 1930s for pleasure flying and various other uses.

Various training versions of the 504 were sold to China, which participated in the Warlord Era being used as bombers in which the pilots dropped hand grenades and mortar shells by hand.

In 1933 the Avro 504N was replaced by the Avro Tutor for RAF service.

The 504 was the first aircraft to strafe troops on the ground and also the first aircraft to make a bombing raid over Germany. The 504 was the first allied airplane to be shot to the ground by enemy anti-aircraft fire. It was also the first Army aircraft of Air Marshal William Avery "Billy" Bishop, a Canadian First World War flying ace.