Avro 701 Athena

1st Flight 1941

The Avro 701 Athena was designed against Specification T17/45 which sought a turboprop powered basic three-seat trainer to replace the Percival Prentice. The two contenders were submitted in the Avro 701 Athena and the Boulton Paul Balliol.

The Athena was an all-metal, low-winged monoplane with a side-by-side cockpit and initial prototypes of both types were built with turboprop powerplants.  Three Athena prototype were built:  Two Avro 701 Athena T.1s with Armstrong Siddeley Mamba 1 engines (VM125, VM132) and a single Athena T.1A (VM129) powered by a Rolls-Royce Dart engine.

The first (VM125) was flown for the first time at Woodford on 12th June 1948 and it quickly became apparent that slow planned development of turbine engines to a production standard would delay the program considerably. As a result (and taking into consideration the readily availability of quantities of Rolls-Royce Merlin 35 engines, then being held in stock) the decision was taken to re-issue the requirement as T.14/47, identifying the specific the use of this engine.

Significant redesign included moving the wing forward by 27 inches, as was required to accommodate the much heavier Merlin engine. The modified aircraft was then designated as the Athena T.2, of which four prototypes were built. The first Merlin-powered aircraft (VW890) flew for the first time on 1st August 1948.

During the development phase it became apparent that a greater fin and rudder area was required and subsequently a taller fin and rudder, plus a small dorsal fin, were added to all production aircraft.

The initial requirement for three seats was eliminated and this resulted in the production aircraft also having a shorter canopy than was used on the early prototypes. The Athena was fitted with a single 0.303 Browning machine gun with 300 rounds as well as a gun camera.  The aircraft also had provision for the carriage of under wing stores such as bomb racks and 45-gallon drop tanks.

Although the Boulton Paul Balliol was eventually selected as the preferred design (of which some 229 were built), the Avro 701 Athena was also ordered into ‘limited production’ with a total of 15 aircraft entering RAF service in 1950 where they were used for armament training at the RAF Flying College at Manby. For this purpose, they were also equipped to carry two 60 lb unguided rockets under each wing.

One aircraft briefly carried a civil registration (G-ALWA) and undertook a promotional tour to India.  Despite this final campaign, no further orders were received.

A total of 22 Athena aircraft were built, made up of three turboprop prototypes, four Merlin-powered prototypes and 15 production Athena T.2s.


Crew: 2

Length: 37 ft 4 in (11.37 m)

Wingspan: 40 ft 0 in (12.2 m)

Height: 12 ft 11 in (3.93 m) a/c level with tail up

Wing area: 270 sq ft (25 m2)

Aspect ratio: 5.93

Airfoil: root: H/1414/37.5 (14%) ; tip: H/1410/37.5 (10%)

Empty weight: 6,384 lb (2,896 kg)

Gross weight: 8,130 lb (3,688 kg)

Fuel capacity: 110 imp gal (130 US gal; 500 l) in two flexible wing tanks and 30 imp gal (36 US gal; 140 l) in a fuselage collector tank, with provision for 90 imp gal (110 US gal; 410 l) in two under-wing drop tanks; Oil: 15 imp gal (18 US gal; 68 l)

Powerplant: 1 × Rolls-Royce Merlin 35 V-12 liquid-cooled piston engine, 1,280 hp (950 kW) for take-off

1,245 hp (928 kW) combat rating at 11,500 ft (3,500 m)

1,060 hp (790 kW) continuous cruise at 9,250 ft (2,820 m)

Propellers: 4-bladed constant-speed propeller


Maximum speed: 293 mph (472 km/h, 255 kn) at 20,000 ft (6,100 m)

Cruise speed: 223 mph (359 km/h, 194 kn) max at 10,000 ft (3,000 m)

Stall speed: 81 mph (130 km/h, 70 kn) flaps down

Range: 550 mi (890 km, 480 nmi)

Service ceiling: 29,000 ft (8,800 m) service ceiling

Rate of climb: 2,050 ft/min (10.4 m/s) initial; 2,030 ft/min (10.3 m/s) at 10,000 ft (3,000 m)

Wing loading: 30.1 lb/sq ft (147 kg/m2)

Power/mass: 6.4 lb/hp (3.9 kg/kW)

Take-off run to clear 50 ft (15 m): 745 yd (681 m) off concrete; 770 yd (700 m) off grass

Landing run over 50 ft (15 m): 740 yd (680 m) on concrete; 710 yd (650 m) on grass


Guns: 1x 0.303 in (7.70 mm) Browning machine gun

Rockets: Provision for two 60 lb (27 kg) RP-3 rockets


Bae Systems

Mike Rowels

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