The Avro Baby was a single-bay biplane of conventional configuration with a wire-braced wooden structure covered in canvas. It had equal-span, unstaggered wings which each carried two pairs of ailerons. Initially, the aircraft was finless and had a rudder of almost circular shape. There were later variations on this. The main undercarriage was a single-axle arrangement and there was the usual tailskid.
The first Babies were powered by a water cooled in-line Green engine of pre-1914 design that had previously been installed in the Avro Type D, though thoroughly remodelled post-war by the Green Engine Co. Ltd. It produced 35 hp (26 kW). Most of the later Babies also used this engine design, new-built from original Green drawings by Peter Brotherhood Ltd. of Peterborough, though some variants used either a 60 hp (45 kW) ADC Cirrus 1 or a 80 hp (60 kW) le Rhone. These new build Greens were about 6 lb (3 kg) lighter.
The type 534A Water Baby was a floatplane version with an altered rudder and large fin. The fourth (counting the short-lived prototype) Baby was designated Type 534B, distinguished by its plywood-covered fuselage and reduced-span lower wing. The Type 534C had both wings clipped for racing in the 1921 Aerial Derby. The 534D was a Baby modified for hot climates and was used by a businessman in India. All 534s were Green engined single seaters.
The Type 543 Baby was a two-seater with a 2 ft 6 in (76 cm) fuselage extension. It too was initially Green-powered, but in 1926, this was replaced by an 80 hp (60 kW) ADC Cirrus 1 air-cooled upright in-line engine.
The final version of the Baby was the type 554 Antarctic Baby built as photographic aircraft for the 1921-2 Shackleton-Rowett Expedition to Antartica. This had a 80 hp (60 kW) le Rhone engine, raised tailplanes, rounded wingtips and tubular steel struts replacing rigging wires to avoid the problems of tensioning rigging wires with gloved hands. Like the Water Baby, it was a floatplane.
By far, the strangest Baby was one modified by H.G. Leigh in 1920. The original wing were removed and instead the aircraft had a short, conventional, shoulder-mounted wing, bearing projecting, full-span ailerons. Above it was a strongly forward staggered stack of six very narrow chord wings of about the same span as the lower wing, hence each of very high aspect ratio and therefore with low induced drag. This complicated structure added about 60 lb (30 kg) to the weight. This "Venetian blind" wing design was proposed and previously explored by Horatio Phillips in the last decade of the 19th century.
The Babies were raced in the early 1920s by a variety of pilots but are best remembered for the flights of G-EACQ in the hands of Bert Hinkler. On 31 May 1920 he made a non-stop flight from Croydon to Turin in 9 hours 30 minutes - a flight of 655 mi (1,050 km) and celebrated at the time as "the most meritorious flight on record". On 24 July, he won second place in the Aerial Derby at Hendon, and on 11 April 1921 set a new distance record in Australia when he flew the Baby non-stop from Sydney to his home town of Bundaberg 800 mi (1,280 km) away, making the flight in 8 hours 40 minutes. Hinkler's Baby is preserved at the Queensland Museum in Brisbane.
The Antarctic Baby Baby (or most of it) accompanied Ernest Shackleton on his final expedition to the Antarctic. Unfortunately, their ship, the Quest, delayed by engine trouble was not able to pick up the missing parts previously transported to Rio de Janeiro and the Avro was not used at the Pole.
Specifications (534 Baby, post-war Green engine)
Published - July 2009
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