Wills’s Aviation Card #84 – “Avro” Aerial Taxicab.

Wills Aviation 84F.jpgHistory Behind The Card: “Avro” Aerial Taxicab.

Card #84 of 85, W.D.& H.O Wills, Aviation series 1912 – Black-back issue

  • Sir Edwin Alliott Verdon Roe OBE, Hon. FRAeS, FIAS, April 26, 1877 in Patricroft, Eccles, England, Great Britain – January 4, in Portsmouth, Great Britain.

There is, admittedly, some guesswork by my self on his one simply because I do not own a copy of this card yet.

As such, I have no idea if the reverse of the card notes exactly just what type of aircraft this is… but it looks like the Avro Type F, an experimental aircraft of which just one was built by the A.V. Roe Company.

Built in 1912, it made its first flight on May 1, 1912, which means that Wills’s took a chance on this aircraft being a feasible working aircraft when it went to print for its run of overseas (Australia and New Zealand) 85-card series of aviation cards.

Here’s what the Avro Type F looked like – bearing a striking similarity to the Wills’s card.


A pretty cool-looking aircraft, the single-seat aircraft was the first aircraft in the world to successfully fly with a completely enclosed cabin for the pilot as an integral part of the design.

Although… there was the Vedovelli Multiplane – but it crashed soon after takeoff in January of 1911… and while there were later versions of the Multiplane, it appears as though none were successful in flight. As such, the Avro Type F is credited with being the first enclosed cabin aircraft to successfully take off and land.

As a single-seat aircraft, it seems difficult to imagine it being a “taxicab” as envisioned by the Wills’s tobacco card. Perhaps that was the plan eventually… which is why the aircraft featured an enclosed cabin – you can’t have the passengers subjected to elements of the weather.

However… perhaps the word taxicab is being considered to literally by modern-day me. Perhaps it simply meant the taxiing around of goods and materials.

Room for a pilot and cargo. Could the Avro Type F have been meant to fly as the first cargo plane?

I really wish I had the card so I could see what the Wills’s editors had in mind for a write-up on this aircraft.

It’s actually a pretty sweet-looking aircraft, and for all intents and purposes looks quite similar to modern day personal aircraft – just not as streamlined, of course.

This monoplane had a wire-braced mid-wing, and used a tail skid undercarriage. It’s fuselage was tear-shaped but flat-sided. It’s windows were made of cellophane – so lightweight, but not necessarily strong.

Because aeroplanes of this era suffered from the engines and motors spewing oil – usually up into the pilot, the engineers anticipated that it would be difficult for the pilot of the Avro Type F to lean around and wipe it off… what with the enclosed cabin and all… so the cabin windows were all coated so the oil would easily slide away mostly… but provided the side windows for the pilot (at head level) the ability to be opened up so the pilot could stick his head out to see – if necessary.

It kind of defeats the purpose of enclosed cabin if the pilot has to open a window to stick his head out, but we are still in the pioneer age of aviation – so baby steps.

There were no doors, per se on the aircraft. To enter and exit, one used an aluminum sheet trapdoor in the fuselage top.

Limited by the strength of the engines then being built, the aeroplane was still small and cramped, and if Wills’s every truly saw this as an aerial taxi, anyone riding in it was going to have a scrunched up ride, as the Avro Type F was only 60-centimetres (two-feet) across at its widest.

My chest is that wide (just the front… obviously)… and that would mean I could only ride in it if I help my arms over my head. I know I’m no shrinking violet, and that this model was just that… a model… but shouldn’t Avro have at least tried to make the aircraft wide enough to provide some passenger comfort if you are going to conceptually call it an aerial taxi. Though perhaps that was the eventual goal, and Wills’s merely jumped the gun with its description of the aircraft.

During 1912, the Avro Type F made a few test flights, but on September 13, 1912 – it landed so hard it was not worth repairing, and the project was shelved.

Avro Type F general characteristics

  • Crew: one pilot;
  • Length: 23 feet (7.01 meters);
  • Wingspan: 28 ft 0 in (8.53 meters);
  • Height: Seven feet six inches (2.29 meters);
  • Wing area: 158 square feet (14.7 square meters);
  • Empty weight: 550 pounds (250 kilograms);
  • Gross weight: 800 pounds (360 kilograms);
  • Powerplant: 1 × Viale 35 hp five-cylinder radial, pushing out 35 horsepower;
  • Maximum speed: 65 miles per hour (105 kilometers per hour);
  • Rate of climb: 300 feet/min (1.5 meters/second).


Manufactured by Frencman Spirito Mario Viale, the Viale 35 hp engine (see image above), was a five-cylinder, air-cooled, radial engine, though Viale also built three- and seven cylinder variations of the same motor.

With just 35 horsepower for lifting plane and pilot, it would have been hard-pressed to carry passengers – even if it could owing to its cramped quarters.

As evidenced by the above photo, the Vial 35 hp motor still exists, on display at the Science Museum in London, UK. The Avro Type F‘s rudder was also preserved by the UK’s Royal Aero Club.

We will just have to chalk up this card’s drawing as a flight of fancy… something Avro wished to could build and implement. I propose that the Type F was merely a test aircraft to determine the practicality of utilizing an enclosed cabin.

While the plane was not deemed worthy enough to continue constructing, obviously the enclosed cabin would eventually become a standard feature on modern day airplanes.

And cargo planes the norm.

I will update this article when I purchase my own card #84.


About mreman47

Andrew was born in London, UK, raised in Toronto, Canada, and cavorted in Ohtawara, Japan for three years. He is married, has a son and a cat. He has over 35,000 comic books and a plethora of pioneer aviation-related tobacco and sports cards and likes to build LEGO dioramas. He has written and been an editor for various industrial magazines, has scripted comic books, ghost-written blogs for business sectors galore, and hates writing in the 3rd person. He also hates having to write this crap that no one will ever read. He works on his Pioneers Of Aviation - a cool blog on early fliers - even though it takes him so much time to do. He also wants to do more writing - for money, though. Help him out so he can stop talking in the 3rd person.
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