One of the last two airworthy Shackletons, an AEW.2 WL790 (N790WL) named
"Mr. McHenry," is owned by Air Atlantique and The Shackleton
Preservation Trust, and is hosted by the Commemorative Air
Force in Midland, Texas, USA. (Image by Max Haynes -
History: Designed and built as the RAFs first dedicated four-engine long-range
maritime patrol aircraft, the Avro Shackleton was the final expression of Avros
classic heavy bombers, the Lancaster and Lincoln. Retaining the wing and landing gear of
the Lincoln, the Shackleton had a larger, rounder and shorter fuselage, which provided
space for a crew of 10. Armament included two 20mm cannon in the nose, two in a dorsal
turret, and two machine guns in the tail plus bombs or depth charges, depending on the
Entering service in 1951, the plane underwent two primary
modifications over the years. The MR.2 gained a semi-retractable
dustbin radome, allowing a 360-degree scan as well as changes allowing the
plane to fly with three engines feathered. The Shackleton MR.3
added greater overall capabilities with improved ailerons, wing tip tanks and better crew
quarters. By the late 1960s the Shackleton was being replaced by the Nimrod jet
patrol aircraft. However, this grand dame was not finished yet.
Responding to the loss of Airborne Early Warning (AEW)
capability with the demise of the Royal Navys carriers, twelve Shackletons were
pressed into service as AEW.2 aircraft in 1971. The radome was
replaced by a guppy radar unit forward of the weapons bay, and many internal
changes were made to accommodate the electronic gear and radar operators. From 1974 to
1991, the Shackleton AEW.2 flew missions over the North Sea, Arctic Ocean and western
Atlantic until relieved by the Boeing E-3D Sentry.
A single Shackleton (WL790) is operated in the USA and,
until recently, a second one flew in South Africa as a part of the SAAF
Another Shackleton, "WR963" (the sister ship to
WL790), is based at Coventry Airfield in the UK, and is undergoing a
refurbishment program which should make it airworthy again in the next few
years. For now, WR963 makes weekly engine runs and is available for tours.
For more information, contact the "Friends of Shackleton WR963" at
tonybove [at] dialstart.net. [History
by Jeff VanDerford]
Nicknames: Shack; The Growler; Flying
Spark Plug; Old Grey Lady; Shacklebomber; Contra-Rotating Nissen Hut; Bear-Hunter.
Engine: Four 2,455-hp Rolls-Royce Griffon 57A V-12 piston engines (Later versions also
had two 2,500-pound thrust Rolls-Royce Viper 203 turbojets)
Weight: Empty 57,800 lbs., Max
Takeoff 98,000 lbs.
Wing Span: 119ft. 10in.
Length: 92ft. 6in.
Height: 23ft. 4in.
Two 20-mm cannon
Up to 10,000
pounds of weapons in under-fuselage bomb bay
Number Built: ~188
Number Still Airworthy: One
The Shackleton Association
Shackleton WL795, RAF St.
Mawgan, UK -- Interior and restoration photos.
Shackleton WR963, Coventry, UK
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