The Avro 504 was a 2-seat biplane designed for training and private flying and first flew on 18th September 1913. A few machines purchased by both the Royal Flying Corps and Royal Naval Air Service were taken to France for reconnaissance duties at the outbreak of the 1st World War in 1914. Only a short time later, on 22nd August an RFC Avro 504 became the first British aircraft shot down by enemy ground fire. Thereafter, in November 1914, three RNAS aircraft carried out a raid on the Zeppelin Works at Friedrichshafen each dropping 4 x 20 lb bombs and so began the use of flying machines to attack ground targets.
Soon obsolete as a front line aircraft, the Avro 504 nevertheless excelled as an elementary trainer with a succession of variants eventually leading to the mass-produced 504K. In 1917 some 270 of these aircraft were modified as single-seat fighters and armed with a Lewis machine gun to replace the BE2s of eight RFC Home Defence Squadrons. At the time of the armistice in 1918, some 8,340 Avro 504s had been produced.
After the war, whilst it continued in service as a trainer, a considerable number were sold and with over 300 being placed on Britain’s civil register. An improved design, the Avro 504N, took over as the RAF’s elementary trainer in 1925 and continued in the role until 1935 at which time it was replaced by the Avro Tutor. Five years later in 1940, seven aircraft were recovered by the RAF for use in developing target and glider towing techniques.
The Avro 504 was operated by the air arms of no fewer than 36 other countries. When production ceased in 1932, over 10,000 aircraft had been built of which 6,350 were the K version. A fair number are on display at museums around the world and a few airworthy examples still exist, one of which is owned by the Shuttleworth collection. There are also increasing numbers of reproduction Avro 504s taking to the air.