The single-engine Avro 626 biplane is one of the rarest aircraft in our collection. It is not only the oldest surviving fully-intact RNZAF aircraft, but is also the last Avro 626 in existence anywhere in the world.

The 626 was developed during the 1920s, when British aircraft company, Avro, sought to create a multi-functional training aircraft. They took their already-successful Avro Tutor and made some minor adjustments to the design, which meant the 626 could be used for all aspects of air crew training, including flying, air navigation, wireless and gunnery. The first 626 flew in 1930.

Four brand-new Avro 626 aircraft arrived in New Zealand in 1935 and went into service with the New Zealand Permanent Air Force as advanced pilot trainers. The original order was for eight aircraft, but, with war clouds on the horizon in Europe, the remaining four were retained in Britain for the rapidly-expanding Royal Air Force. The 626s saw several years of front-line service, before the introduction of the Fairey Gordon in 1940 relegated them to second-line training duties. By 1943 all four had been withdrawn from service.