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Bristol Britannia

By Wikipedia,
the free encyclopedia,

Bristol Britannia was also a car produced by Bristol Cars from 1982 to 1993.
Type 175 Britannia
Royal Air Force Bristol Britannia Spica in 1964.
Role Airliner
Manufacturer Bristol Aeroplane Company
First flight 16 August 1952
Introduced 1957
Retired 1975
Primary users British Overseas Airways Corporation
Royal Air Force
Number built 85
Variants Canadair Argus
Canadair CL-44

The Bristol Type 175 Britannia was a British medium/long-range airliner built by the Bristol Aeroplane Company in 1952 to fly across the British Empire. Soon after production the turboprop engines proved susceptible to inlet icing and two prototypes were lost while solutions were found. By the time it was cleared, jets from France, UK and the US were about to enter service and only 85 Britannias were built before production ended in 1960. Nevertheless, the Britannia is considered the high point in turboprop design and was popular with passengers, earning itself the title of "The Whispering Giant" for its quiet and smooth flying.

Design and development

In 1942, during the Second world War, the US and UK agreed to split aircraft construction; the US would concentrate on transport aircraft, the UK would on heavy bombers. This left the UK with little experience in transport construction at the end of the war, so in 1943, a committee under Lord Brabazon of Tara, investigated the future of the British civilian airliner market. The Brabazon Committee called for four main types of aircraft.

Bristol won the Type I and Type III contracts, delivering their Type I design, the Bristol Brabazon in 1949. The initial requirement for the Type III, Specification C.2/47, was issued by the Minister of Supply for an aircraft capable of carrying 48 passengers and powered with Bristol Centaurus radial engines. Turboprop and compound engines were also considered, but they were so new that Bristol could not guarantee the performance specifications. After wrangling between the Ministry of Supply and British Overseas Airways Corporation (BOAC) over costs, the go-ahead was given in July 1948 for three prototypes, although the second and third were to be convertible to Bristol Proteus turboprops.

Ex-RAF Bristol Britannia Regulus (seen here in 2007) is being restored by the Bristol Britannia Preservation Society at Kemble Airport, England.
Ex-RAF Bristol Britannia Regulus (seen here in 2007) is being restored by the Bristol Britannia Preservation Society at Kemble Airport, England.

In October, with work already underway, BOAC decided that only a Proteus-engined aircraft was worth working on, and the project was redrawn to allow both turboprop and piston aircraft. BOAC purchased options for 25 aircraft in July 1949, the first six with the Centaurus engine and the rest with the Proteus, now enlarged for 74 passengers.

By the time the first prototype, registered G-ALBO, first flew on 16 August 1952 at Filton, BOAC and Bristol had dropped the Centaurus because the turboprop Proteus had shown such promise. The Britannia was now a 90-seater and BOAC ordered 15 of these Series 100s. In 1953 and 54, three de Havilland Comets disappeared without explanation, and the Air Ministry demanded the Britannia undergo lengthy tests. Further, delays were caused by engine problems, mostly related to icing and the loss of the second prototype G-ALRX in an accident caused by a failed engine in December 1953. This delayed the in-service date until February 1957, when BOAC put their first Britannia 102s into service on the London to South Africa route, with Australia following a month later.

Bristol then upgraded the design as a larger transatlantic airliner for BOAC, resulting in the Series 200 and 300. The new version had a fuselage stretch of 10 ft 3 in (3.12 m) and upgraded Proteus engines, and was offered as the all-cargo Series 200, the cargo/passenger (combi) Series 250, and the all-passenger Series 300.

Operational history

The first public service was operated on the 1 February 1957 with a BOAC flight between London and Johannesburg. By August 1957 the first 15 Series 102 aircraft had been delivered to BOAC. The last ten aircraft of the order were built as Series 300 aircraft for transatlantic operations.

The first 301 flew on 31 July 1956. BOAC ordered seven Model 302s but never took delivery - instead they were taken on by airlines including Aeronaves de México and Ghana Airways. The main long-range series were the 310s, of which BOAC took 18 and, after deliveries began in September 1957, put them into service between London and New York. The 310 series (318) also saw transatlantic service with Cubana de Aviación starting in 1958. In total 45 Series 300s were built, the first jet-powered, albeit in turboprop form, airliner to enter regular non-stop transatlantic service in both directions.

Royal Air Force Bristol Britannia Acrux in 1964
Royal Air Force Bristol Britannia Acrux in 1964

A further 23 Model 252 and 253 aircraft were purchased by the RAF, as the Britannia C.2 and C.1 respectively. Those in RAF service were allocated the names of stars, "Arcturus", "Sirius", "Vega" etc. The last retired in 1975, and were used by civil operators in Africa, Europe and the Middle East into the late 1990s.

Most aircraft were built by Bristol at Filton Aerodrome but 15 were built at Belfast by Short Brothers and Harland.

A licence was also issued to Canadair to build a maritime reconnaissance aircraft , the Canadair Argus and long-range transport, the Canadair Yukon. Unlike the Britannia, the Argus was built for endurance, not speed, and used four Wright R-3350-32W Turbo-Compound engines which use less fuel at low altitude. The unpressurized interior was left with almost no room to move, packed with sensors and weapons. Canadair also built 37 turboprop Rolls Royce Tyne-powered CL-44 variants for the civil market similar those built for the RCAF in CC-106 Yukon guise, most of which were used as freighters. Four were built as CL-44-Js had their fuselages lengthened, making them the highest capacity passenger aircraft of the day, for service with the Icelandic budget airline Loftleiðir. One, a modified Guppy version, remains airworthy, but not flying. Several were built with swing-tails to allow straight-in cargo loading.

Accidents and incidents

Fourteen Type 175s were lost with a total of 365 fatalities between 1954 and 1980. The worst accident was the 20 April 1967 crash of a Globe Air Britannia, near Nicosia Airport, Cyprus, with 126 fatalities.

  • G-ALRX (cn 12874), February 1954 - crashed at Severn Beach, Gloucestershire while on approach to Filton Airport. Whilst operating for the UK Ministry Of Supply, a fire broke out in the No.3 engine. The fire could not be contained so No.4 was shut down as a precaution, on approach to Filton No.1 and 2 failed, an emergency landing was made on the mud flats of the Severn Estuary.
  • Air Crash at Winkton G-AOVD 24th Dec 1958‎
  • G-AOVO February 1964 - crashed into the Glungezer mountain near Innsbruck, killing all 83 people aboard.

Of other types:

  • G-ANBB (sn 12903) Type 102, 1966 Sept 1 - crashed while landing at Ljubljana, Slovenia with a total of 117 fatalities. The cause was the flight crew having failed to set their altimeter to allow for the 300 metres (980 ft) altitude.


Series 100

Ninety-passenger airliner with 114ft (35m) fuselage and powered by four Bristol Proteus 705

Prototypes, initially powered by Proteus 625, later 705
Production aircraft for BOAC, 25 ordered with the last ten were cancelled in favour of the 300 series, 15 built.

Series 200

All cargo variant with a 124 ft 3 in (38 m) fuselage, BOAC had an option for 5 later cancelled, none built.

Series 250

Similar to the 200 series, but mixed passenger and freight.

Originally ordered by the Ministry of Supply but delivered to the Royal Air Force, as the Britannia C2. Fitted with a heavy duty floor and cargo door, three built.
Passenger/freight variant for the Royal Air Force, designated Britannia C1. Capacity for 115 troops or equivalent in cargo, 20 built. Aircraft later sold on the civil market as freighters designated Series 253F.

Series 300

Passenger only version of the 200 series, capable of carrying up to 139 passengers. Medium-fuel capacity.

One Filton-built company prototype.
Belfast-built production, ten ordered by BOAC but cancelled in favour of 305, two built and delivered to Aeronaves de Mexico.
Five Belfast-built 302s modified for longer-range but with limited take-off weight due to thinner fuselage skin and lighter landing gear. All modified to other variants.
One former Series 305 leased to El Al pending delivery of last Series 315.
One former Series 305 and one 306 for troop charters.
1960's conversion of 307 to freighter (both converted).
Two former 305s ordered by Transcontinental in 104-passenger configuration.
1960's conversion of 308 to freighter (both converted).
One former 305 ordered by Ghana Airways.

Series 310

As 305 series, but with strengthened fuselage skin and undercarriage. Long-range fuel capacity and was originally known as 300LR.

The cockpit of the Bristol Britannia 312 G-AOVT
The cockpit of the Bristol Britannia 312 G-AOVT
One prototype originally known as a 300LR
Production aircraft for BOAC, 18 built.
1960s conversion of 312 to freighter (five converted).
Production aircraft for El Al, 4 built.
Production aircraft for Canadian Pacific, six built.
Production aircraft for Hunting-Clan Air Transport in 124 passenger trooping configuration, two built.
Production aircraft for Cubana, four built.
Variant for North American market, order for Trans World Airways not concluded, two built were completed as Series 324s.
Two proposed Series 320s built for Canadian Pacific Series.


Civilian operators

  • Aerotransportes Entre Rios
  • Transcontinental SA
  • Young Cargo
  • Centre Air Afrique
  • Indonesian Ankasa Civil Air Transport
  • Liberia World Airways
  • Air Spain
  • Globe Air
 United Arab Emirates
  • Gaylan Air Cargo (United Arab Emirates)
 United Kingdom
  • Domaine de Katale
  • Katale Air Transport
  • Transair Cargo

Military Operators

 United Kingdom


Nose of second prototype Britannia G-ALRX at the Bristol Aero Collection, Kemble Airfield
Nose of second prototype Britannia G-ALRX at the Bristol Aero Collection, Kemble Airfield
Britannia 101 (G-ALRX)
Forward fuselage is on display with the Bristol Aero Collection at Kemble Airfield, England.
Britannia 308F (G-ANCF)
Removed from Kemble, and reassembled in early 2007 in Liverpool, England. Under restoration on the former airside apron behind the Crowne Plaza Liverpool John Lennon Airport Hotel, which was the original terminal building of Liverpool Speke Airport.
Britannia 312 (G-AOVF)
On display at the Royal Air Force Museum, RAF Cosford, England in Royal Air Force Air Support Command colours as XM497 "Schedar".
Britannia 312 (G-AOVT)
On display at the Imperial War Museum Duxford, England in Monarch Airlines colours.
Britannia C.1 (XM496) Regulus
On display at Kemble Airfield, England in RAF colours.

Specifications (Bristol Britannia)

General characteristics

  • Crew: 10
  • Length: 124 ft 3 in (37.9 m)
  • Wingspan: 142 ft 3 in (43.6 m)
  • Height: 37 ft 6 in (11.4 m)
  • Wing area: ft² (m²)
  • Empty weight: 82,500 lb (37,400 kg)
  • Max takeoff weight: 185,000 lb (84,000 kg)
  • Powerplant:Bristol Proteus 765 turboprops, 4,440 hp (3,410 kW) each


See also

Related development

Comparable aircraft

Related lists

External links

Text from Wikipedia is available under the Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License; additional terms may apply.

Published in July 2009.

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