The Avro Manchester … and on. The Manchester was a twin engined medium/heavy bomber built by the A.V.Roe aircraft company designed to meet the Air Ministry specification P.13/36. This was the same specification which the Handley Page company used to design the Halifax. Avro built some 202 Manchesters between 1939 and 1941 with the aircraft being in service with the RAF for a mere 3 years from 1939 and 1942. To say that the Manchester was an unmitigated disaster is a little unfair but the facts were that it was under-powered, difficult to fly and the engines were to say the least, unreliable. One pilot of the day was quoted as saying “If one engine failed there was only one way you were going – down.” The basic airframe of the Manchester embodied the Avro concepts of ease of manufacture, maintenance and repair employing a thin aluminium skin flush riveted to longitudinal stringers, twin spar wing support and twin tail-fins. There were a few modifications applied to the Manchester including the very noticeable central tail-fin added in an attempt to improve lateral stability. The most important modification resulted in the Manchester MkIII. The size of the tail fins was increased, the wing span had been increased allowing for another two engines to be installed, the Rolls-Royce Vulture engines were replaced by four Rolls-Royce Merlins and the aircraft was “rebadged” as the iconic and majestic “Lancaster”. Much has been written about the Lancaster and its wartime operations, and no doubt much will be written in the future too so I’ll leave that to other posts. But what happened to the Lancaster towards and following the end of hostilities? As early as 1943 a Lancaster was used as a “flying test bed” for early jet engines, and at the end of the war modified and enlarged Lancasters became the Avro Lincoln which became the RAF’s main strategic bomber until into the 1950s. The Lancaster also developed into the Avro York which was largely deployed by RAF Transport Command mainly on the Middle and Far East routes. Even then the Lancaster wasn’t “pensioned off” completely, but modified yet again to meet the requirements of the maritime anti-submarine role. Those Lancasters were to become the basic design for the highly successful “Old Growler”; the Shackleton with its four engines and eight contra-rotating props. The Shackleton was eventually replaced by the Nimrod, itself an upgrade of an early design of airliner, the Comet 4b. In a civilian role, Lancasters were once again modified to remove all the war fittings and the front and rear gun turrets faired off (apparently passengers took a dim view of four Browning .303 machine guns poking out of the front and back) and the Lancaster was rebadged as the “Lancastrian” and operated out of Heathrow as high speed trans-Atlantic passenger and airmail airliners. Sadly there are only two airworthy examples of the Lancaster in the world, one in Canada and of course the “City of Lincoln” operated by the RAF Battle of Britain Memorial Flight. I believe that there is also one in civilian ownership which following a complete rebuild has so far gained its CAA taxi-ing under power approval.