Alfred Cyril Lovesey was the king of British speed. He was the man that checked the Rolls-Royce R engines that won Britain the Schnieder Trophy. He was the man that doubled the power of the war-winning Merlin. Following the war he began work on Rolls-Royce’s first axial flow jet 

(Put very simply, in an axial turbojet the air goes straight through the engine, rather than wiggling around.)

The very first British axial-flow engine was the Metropolitan-Vickers F.2 of 1940/1, however this was considered too unreliable and Britain instead opted for the centrifugal flow jet. The centrifugal flow jet proved a technological cul-de-sac (so far, engine history moves in cycles, pun intended). The F.2 had been the right approach after all, but was used to power another technological cul-de-sac, the Saunders-Roe SR.A/1. The F.2 was refined into the Armstrong Siddeley Sapphire (which powered the early Hunters and Victors, and the piss-poor Javelin).

Rolls-Royce also wanted a piece of the axial pie, and in 1945 had put their best team on the case. Alan Arnold Griffith headed the effort, which was only fair, as he had been one of the very earliest proponents of axial flow (back in the 1920s), but had been elbowed out of the way by Whittle, who had had other ideas. By 1948 the engine (initially dubbed the AJ65, Axial Jet 6,500 lbs, but by first flight known as the Avon RA.2) was flying on a Avro Lancastrian.

The Avon entered service in 1950 on the English Electric Canberra B.2. With the great Lovesey now at the helm of the Avon programme, it was further refined into the best engine of its generation.

It would go on to power the Hunter, Comet and Lightning among many aircraft types (see gallery below). It was in production as an aero-engine from 1950-74, with over 11,000 produced. The most powerful version was the Swedish-built RM6, which developed a mighty 17,110 lbs of thrust in reheat, enabling the the SAAB Draken to reach Mach 2 on a single engine.

In a magnificent curtain call, it won Britain the land speed record in 1983, as the heart of the Thrust2 car.

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  • English Electric Canberra – Avon Mk 109 / RA.3
  • Hawker Hunter – Avon Mk 104 & Mk 107
  • Supermarine Swift – Avon Mk 105
  • CAC CA-26 Avon Sabre – Rolls-Royce Avon Mk 26
  • de Havilland Comet 2 – Rolls-Royce Avon Mk 502 (6500lbs thrust)
  • de Havilland Comet C.2 – Rolls-Royce Avon Mk 117 (7350lbs thrust)
  • Vickers Valiant – Rolls-Royce Avon Mk 201
  • de Havilland Comet 3 – Rolls-Royce Avon RA.26 (10,000lbs thrust)
  • Fairey Delta FD.2 – Rolls-Royce Avon RA.14R
  • Fairey Delta FD.2 – Rolls-Royce Avon RA.28
  • Vickers Valiant – Rolls-Royce Avon RA.28
  • Ryan X-13 Vertijet
  • English Electric Canberra PR.9 – Rolls-Royce Avon RA.28
  • de Havilland Sea Vixen – Rolls-Royce Avon RA.28
  • English Electric Lightning F.1 – Rolls-Royce Avon RA.24R Mk 210
  • J32B Lansen – Rolls-Royce Avon Mk 48 (15,190lbs with reheat)
  • SAAB J35 Draken – Rolls-Royce Avon Mk 48 built  by Svenska Flygmotor as the RM6B
  • Supermarine Scimitar F.1 – Rolls Royce Avon Mk 202
  • De Havilland Comet 4 – Rolls-Royce Avon RA.29 Mk 524
  • Caravelle 3 – Rolls-Royce Avon RA.29/3 Mk 527
  • Caravelle 4 – Rolls-Royce Avon RA.29/6 Mk 533R
  • English Electric Lightning – Rolls Royce Avon Mk 301 & Mk 302
  • Thrust2

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  3. duker

    Leaves out the parts where the Sapphire was the more advanced engine than early Avons- they got help from Armstrong Siddeley to properly design their compressor. In fact the RA 200 series was a complete redesign from the earlier models and was largely based on the Sapphire.
    I thought the references had Hooker was the lead designer of the early Avons before he went to Bristol engines and among others and came up with the little Orpheus, now that was full of great ideas for the time. Much later Hooker came out of retirement to save RR after its bankruptcy.
    These sort of people were giants of their time, sadly now days its mediocrity mostly at the top of engine/airframe companies

  4. Geoffrey Gunning

    It was Stanley Hooker that doubled the power of the Merlin, not Lovesey.. See his book “Not much of an Engineer.”

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