A logical development of the Avro 626 Prefect aircraft that served with the RAF and an improvement on the Avro 631 Cadet used by several other airforces, the Avro 643 Cadet II was powered by a more powerful 150 hp (110 kW) Genet Major 1A engine; had a structurally stronger fuselage; a raised rear seat; improved parachute egress; and, tail wheel steering.  All of which increased the overall performance and made it roughly comparable with the de Havilland Tiger Moth aircraft, arguably one of the best ab initio training aircraft available at that time.

The Cadet Mk II entered production in 1935 and was therefore available at the right time to fit the RAAF requirement.  Moreover, Avro unlike its main rival De Havilland, did not demure at the Australian Government’s demand that the aircraft be produced in Australia following an initial small purchase. The Australian Government therefore ordered 12 Cadet Mk II aircraft in May 1935, followed by another 10 ordered in August 1937 and a further 12 in August 1938, all 34 were delivered between December 1935 and April 1939.  As it turned out further orders from Avro and/or local production did not eventuate owing to the advent of WWII.

Fully aerobatic and fitted with a fuel system that permitted prolonged inverted flight, the Cadet [or Avro Trainer as it was officially known in RAAF Service] was well liked by Instructors and Trainees alike.  The Cadet was a particular favourite performer at airshows of the era because of the spectacular displays when the aircraft were tied together with cable whilst performing formation aerobatic manoeuvres. The Cadets did not have a prolonged service tenure; the first aircraft entering service in early 1936 and the last leaving service life in August 1944.  The longest serving aircraft was 103 months, the shortest was four months with an average aircraft life span of 64 months.

The RAAF’s Cadets were used primarily as instructor trainers by Central Flying School at Camden, NSW. To ensure adequate engineering support for the aircraft, spare engines were obtained from Canada and reverse engineering techniques were used to assist local manufactures in the production of essential spares such as pistons, rings, valves, valve guides and seats. All surviving Cadets were withdrawn from service by late-1944 and flown initially to RAAF Station Narromine, NSW and finally to the Care & Maintenance Unit at RAAF Station Narrandera, NSW. Of the 32 aircraft in service at the outbreak of WW II, four were lost in accidents; 11 aircraft were reduced to components for various reasons; and, the remaining 17 aircraft and 25 spare Genet Mk.1A engines listed for disposal on the first Commonwealth Disposals Commission’s tender which closed on 20 February 1945.

Following ‘civilianization’ of the aircraft, DCA approval was given for Cadets to be sold to civilian operators and bought onto the Australian Civil Register where most of them performed steadfastly for their owners for many years.  The Cadet survives to this day in the Australian sky and of the 17 aircraft that survived WWII, an amazing 10 complete airframes or partial airframes are still extant despite the years of use and abuse inflicted by crop spraying operations, novice pilots, obsolescence, neglect and lack of attention over the last seven decades.  At the time of writing, three are airworthy in Australia and one in the USA; one is on static display; and, five are in pieces that may or may not become complete aircraft in the future.  Surely a fitting tribute to a largely unheralded aircraft that played such a niche role in the early years of Australian Aviation for both military and civilian operators.

Source: ADF Serials