One of the world's first aircraft builders, A.V.Roe and Company was established at Brownsfield Mills, Manchester, England by Alliot Verdon Roe and his brother H.V.Roe on 1st January 1910. Alliot had already made a name for himself as a pilot at Brooklands near Weybridge in Surrey and Farnborough in Hampshire, England. The company built the world's first totally enclosed monoplane in 1912 but it was the well-proportioned, wooden biplane known as the Avro 504 that kept the firm busy throughout the First World War and beyond. Production totalled 8,304 at several factories: Hamble, Failsworth, Miles Platting and Newton Heath and continued for almost twenty years. This was a substantial achievement considering the novelty of powered aircraft in this period.
In the 1920s the Company left Alexandra Park aerodrome in south Manchester where test flying had taken place during its early years. A rural site to the south of the growing city was found at New Hall Farm, Woodford, Cheshire which continues to serve aviation British Aerospace to this day. In 1928 A.V.Roe formed the Saunders-Roe company that developed several radical designs for combat jets and, eventually, a range of powerful hovercraft.
Maintaining their skills in designing trainer aircraft, the company built a more robust biplane called the Avro Tutor in the 1930s that the RAF also bought in quantity. A twin piston-engined airliner called the Anson followed but as tensions rose again in Europe the firm's emphasis returned to combat aircraft. The Avro Lincoln, Manchester, Lancaster and post war WWII Vulcan bombers were particularly famous Avro designs. Over 7,000 Lancasters were built and their bombing capabilities led to their use in the famous Dam Busters raid. The civilian Lancastrian and maritime reconnaissance Shackleton were derived from the successful Lancaster design. The Tudor was a pressurised but problematic post-war Avro airliner that faced strong competition from designs by Bristol, Canadair, Douglas, Handley Page and Lockheed. With the same wings and engines as the Lincoln, it achieved only a short (34 completed) production run following a first flight in June 1945 and the cancellation of an order from BOAC. The older Avro York was somewhat more successful in both the RAF and in commercial service, being distinguished by a fuselage square in cross-section. Both Tudors and Yorks played an important humanitarian part in the Berlin Airlift. The Vulcan saw service as a conventional bomber and flight-refueller during the British campaign to recapture the Falkland Islands in 1982. Although none has flown since 1992, several are prized as museum exhibits.
A twin turboprop airliner, the Avro 748, was developed during the 1950s and sold widely across the globe, powered by two Rolls Royce Dart engines. The Royal Flight of the United Kingdom bought a few and a variant with a rear-loading ramp and a "kneeling" main undercarriage was sold to the RAF and several members of The Commonwealth as the Andover, named after a town in Hampshire.
In the 1950s A.V.Roe's Canadian Division developed the Avro Arrow, the most advanced fighter ever developed. The Canadian government stopped production of the Arrow, however, deciding instead to purchase missiles from the United States.
When the company was absorbed into Hawker Siddeley Aviation in July 1963, the Avro name seemed to have disappeared for ever but the brand had such a strong heritage appeal that the marketing name "Avroliner" was applied to a Hawker Siddeley STOL airliner (the 146 Whisperjet) during the latter years (1994-2001) of its long production run (by BAe at Woodford). The BAe ATP (Advanced Turbo Prop) design evolved from the Avro 748 and examples continue in use on shorter, mainly domestic, scheduled air services. A few Avro 504, Tutors, Ansons and Lancasters are lovingly maintained in flying condition as reminders of the heritage of this influential English company. The noisy and impressive Shackleton has the distinction of being the aircraft with the longest period of active service in the RAF - 41 years. During 2003 that record may be overtaken by the English Electric Canberra.