Skip to main content

By 1945, the Bristol Aeroplane Company had been one of the giants of British aviation for decades, producing engines and aircraft which were often game changers. The Bristol Blenheim (itself derived from the Type 142 ’Britain First’ monoplane, ordered by Lord Rothermere, the British press baron) was a major advance when it flew in 1935, and the Bristol Beaufighter of WW2 was a pugnacious brute. The bad news was that the company laid an egg with the attempt to change the game after WW2. The Brabazon Committee had been set up in1943 while Europe was still ablaze. This Government committee was intended to make recommendations for aircraft to be used by civil operators AFTER the war. One of the specifications (the Type 1) was for a giant airliner carrying a limited number of first-class passengers across the Atlantic. Power came from 8 coupled Centaurus engines (four pairs) – think eight Sea Furies worth! The plan was a huge dud, the Brabazon was cancelled…..and the company suffered. Obviously, the future lay with the jet engine, but these were not yet economical enough, so Bristol turned to the turboprop, and built what was to become known as the ‘Whispering Giant’.

The Britannia was built to another Brabazon Committee recommendation (the Type III) intended to be a long-range commercial airliner, powered by turboprops and built to Specification C2/47. There were some useful left-overs from the Brabazon programme that came in handy for the Britannia – the extended, 8000 foot runway at Filton, near Bristol and the massive, new, assembly building, big enough to take any commercial aircraft YET built. The first flight took place on 16th August 1952, but it wasn’t put into service until 1957, a deadly gap, as the Boeing 707 was on the horizon. There were constant problems, however, with the new ‘free turbine’ Bristol Proteus turboprops and they gave endless trouble at the start. For example, the second prototype, G-ALRX, suffered an uncontrolled engine fire, when the reduction gear of No. 3 engine exploded, and the ‘plane had to make a crash-landing onto the mud of the Severn Estuary. Embarrassingly, a technical team from KLM, the Dutch airline, where on board at the time….no-one was hurt, but the Dutch order went to the Lockheed Electra! British Overseas Airways Corporation took the first batch off the Filton line (the ‘Brit’ was also built in Northern Ireland by Short Brothers and Harland) and it sold in small quantities. According to the Britannia Pilots’ Notes, 108 passengers could be carried at a rather generous 39″ pitch, or a suitable load of palletized freight, or a combination of both. It was also obvious that the Royal Air Force would find such an aircraft useful in support of far-flung British bases (this was the days when the UK still had ‘legacy’ bases scattered around the world) and RAF Transport Command – No. 99 and 511 Squadrons - took delivery of the first of 23 Britannia aircraft on 19th March 1959. The total Britannia production run of 85 aircraft (the last one built in 1960) went through a remarkable number of owners and leasees; to the ex-BOAC aircraft were added the RAF machines as they were withdrawn and sold. Amongst the slew of users were, Transcontinental SA (Argentina), Canadian Pacific Air Lines (Canada), Cubana de Aviacion (Cuba), CSA (Czechoslovakia), Aer Turas (Ireland), El Al (Israel), Aeronaves de Mexico (Mexico), Transair Cargo (Zaire) and a whole raft of British passenger and freight operators including Air Charter, BOAC, Britannia Airways, British Eagle, Caledonian Airways, Monarch Airlines and Redcoat Air Cargo.

Here we can see a superb example of aircraft preservation; XM496, named ‘Regulus’ (RAF Britannias were named after stars), served at RAF Lyneham (the Britannia’s main base) until bought by Monarch Airlines in 1976. After many trials and tribulations, she is in the caring hands of the ‘XM496 Preservation Society’, and may be visited on her base at Cotswold Airport, Kemble, Gloucestershire, home of the Great Vintage Flying Weekend.  Strangely, there is a major part of ANOTHER Britannia on the same airport. Remember the second prototype, G-ALRX, which crashed on the mudflats? Well, the nose section was re-used as a crew trainer, and eventually disposed of to the Britannia Aircraft Preservation Trust, which is now at Kemble, on display with the Bristol Aero Collection!

Finally, there was the odd case of Canadair, who had acquired a license to build their version of the ‘Brit’, the CL-44 (RCAF, CC-106 Yukon), and then a piston-engined derivative (4 x Wright R-3350 TC18EAI Turbo-Compound of 3700 hp), with a new fuselage, as a superlative anti-submarine aircraft, the CP-107 Argus (Mk 1 and 2).

http://peoplesmosquito.org.uk

http://shortfinals.wordpress.com

EMAIL TO A FRIEND X
Your Email has been sent.
You must add at least one tag to this diary before publishing it.

Add keywords that describe this diary. Separate multiple keywords with commas.
Tagging tips - Search For Tags - Browse For Tags

?

More Tagging tips:

A tag is a way to search for this diary. If someone is searching for "Barack Obama," is this a diary they'd be trying to find?

Use a person's full name, without any title. Senator Obama may become President Obama, and Michelle Obama might run for office.

If your diary covers an election or elected official, use election tags, which are generally the state abbreviation followed by the office. CA-01 is the first district House seat. CA-Sen covers both senate races. NY-GOV covers the New York governor's race.

Tags do not compound: that is, "education reform" is a completely different tag from "education". A tag like "reform" alone is probably not meaningful.

Consider if one or more of these tags fits your diary: Civil Rights, Community, Congress, Culture, Economy, Education, Elections, Energy, Environment, Health Care, International, Labor, Law, Media, Meta, National Security, Science, Transportation, or White House. If your diary is specific to a state, consider adding the state (California, Texas, etc). Keep in mind, though, that there are many wonderful and important diaries that don't fit in any of these tags. Don't worry if yours doesn't.

You can add a private note to this diary when hotlisting it:
Are you sure you want to remove this diary from your hotlist?
Are you sure you want to remove your recommendation? You can only recommend a diary once, so you will not be able to re-recommend it afterwards.
Rescue this diary, and add a note:
Are you sure you want to remove this diary from Rescue?
Choose where to republish this diary. The diary will be added to the queue for that group. Publish it from the queue to make it appear.

You must be a member of a group to use this feature.

Add a quick update to your diary without changing the diary itself:
Are you sure you want to remove this diary?
(The diary will be removed from the site and returned to your drafts for further editing.)
(The diary will be removed.)
Are you sure you want to save these changes to the published diary?

Comment Preferences

Subscribe or Donate to support Daily Kos.

Click here for the mobile view of the site