Gordon Whitehead’s Avro 504K

Alliott Verdon Roe designed what became one the world’s most successful and best loved trainers. The initial drawings were made in a notebook in the Spring of 1913. The prototype was tested at Brooklands in July 1913. The handling was judged to be superb apart from inadequate lateral control. This was improved by hinged ailerons. Many types of the 504 were made, the most famous being the 504K. This was built to allow the fitting of a variety of rotary engines.

Basic flying of the aircraft was simple, although it suffered to some extent from poor harmonisation of its controls and this could make it challenging for the student pilot. The rudder was especially sensitive whilst the ailerons were sluggish, ineffective and provoked much adverse yaw. Students were taught to balance the turn by the breeze on their faces. Cold air on the cheek to the inside of the turn meant the aeroplane was slipping whilst a draft on the outside cheek was evident of a skid. A breeze-free turn meant the turn was balanced.

Mastery of control of the engine was certainly not simple. Learning to master the needs of a cantankerous 100 hp Gnome Monosoupape engine took considerable time. There was no carburetor or throttle; control was via a petrol lever. In the hands of the experienced it would respond perfectly, but to a trainee pilot there were embarrassing silences or sudden bursts of energy if the fuel-air mixture was not correct.


Model Details

The model took 12 months from design to test flying. It was built using conventional techniques as can be seen in the photographs. It is a replica of the Avro 504K operated by The Shuttleworth Collection.

The fuselage is in two pieces and bolts together; the joint being reinforced with carbon fibre. The servo connections for the rudder and two elevator halves are made using a standard 9 pin plug and socket. Access is via a hatch under the fuselage.

There are nine servos in total. The electrical system was taken care of by using a SM Services large model board.

Cowl and other details were made using fibre glass. In July of 1998 the model was ready to fly, but missing a lot of the detailed finishing. The first flight showed that the handling was responsive and similar to previous 6ft and 9ft wingspan models Gordon had made over the years. As usual with a high drag aeroplane, some power was required on the landing approach.

There were some problems with the initial exhaust which was made from Gaz cans and bendy pipe. This was temporarily replaced with a standard ‘silencer’, but silent it wasn’t! By mid September seven flights had been completed and 1 1/4 hours flying time. Some mild aerobatics had been tried including loops, stall turns and reversals. The silencer was replaced again with a superb one made by Mike Jackson.

Since then the model has had many flights. In August of 2000 the model was sold and since then has been flown at many of the LMA events by its new owner, Tony Hooper.


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