Thursday, November 20, 2014

Duxford Blenheim moves under its own power

Following several years of hard work, the Duxford Blenheim project achieved a significant milestone on 19th November, when the Blenheim Mk.I made its first taxy trials. In the setting sun, the Blenheim moved under its own power from the ARCo site out to the airfield and back. It has now been painted with a squadron code, YP-Q, which was the code carried by Blenheim Mk.I L6739 when it was with 23 Squadron in 1940. Although much of the material in the rebuild comes from the previously airworthy long-nose Bolingbroke, G-BPIV, the opportunity has been taken to graft on the shorter nose of a Mark I, which originally came from L6739. Blenheim L6739 was broken up shortly after the Second World War, but the nose was acquired by a Bristol Aeroplane Company employee and turned into a roadworthy car, using an Austin 7 chassis.

Photo from AJCDuxman on Flickr.

Wednesday, August 06, 2014

New B.E.2s in UK

Although not Bristol-designed aircraft, two new arrivals in the UK are worthy of mention here, for reasons explained below.

In June this year, two flying reproduction First World War aircraft were unloaded at Old Warden in Bedfordshire. These were B.E.2 aircraft, built by TVAL in New Zealand. Both are due to be based at Stow Maries, have been kept at Old Warden until hangar space is available. They are due to relocate in mid-August. They are painted to represent B.E.2s built in 1917: A2767 (actual registration ZK-KOZ) is painted in 37 Squadron RFC colours, which was based at Stow Maries in 1917. The other (actual registration ZK-TFZ) is in 7 Squadron markings as A2943. It is hoped the the former will remain at Stow Maries, and the latter, which is owned by Oliver Wulff, a German collector, will eventually go to Germany, but will stay at Stow Maries until 2018.

The Bristol connection comes from the aircraft they represent. Although designed by Geoffrey de Havilland of the Royal Aircraft Factory at Farnborough, production of the B.E.2 was assigned to several factories in the UK. The British & Colonial Aeroplane Company at Filton built over 1,000 of the type, more than any other factory. The original A2767 was delivered from Filton to 37 Squadron in February 1917, and A2943 was dispatched to France the following month.

More information on Stow Maries here, and the WW1 Aviation Heritage Trust here.

Hendon M1C moves to Cosford

The Bristol M1C, behind the two Sopwiths, at Cosford (RAF Museum)

The RAF Museum's Bristol M1C monoplane has recently moved from Hendon to Cosford, to be part of the a new First World War exhibition. The M1C, along with the Museum's Sopwith 1½ Strutter and Sopwith Pup, arrived at Cosford on 15 July 2014. The exhibition, entitled 'First World War In The Air', will open in December 2014. More information on Cosford can be found here.

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Beaufort restoration progress at Australian National Aviation Museum

The project to restore the oldest surviving Bristol Beaufort, A9-13, for the Australian National Aviation Museum has reached its fund-raising target for the first stage, but is still accepting pledges for the next steps. The Australian Aircraft Restoration Group (AARG) has been using Kickstarter to raise funds to restore the stern frame, with an initial target of 5000AUD, which was reached 10 days before the fund-raising deadline. However, the Kickstarter campaign is still running, and additional funds will go towards the next step, which is to restore the turret.

AARG acquired the partially restored Beaufort  in 2011, for restoration and eventual display in the Australian National Aviation Museum at Moorabbin in Melbourne. Prior to that, the fuselage had been held by the Flypast Museum of Australian Army Flying at Oakey in Queensland. The Museum also has a Bristol Sycamore and Freighter, and one of the best preserved Bristol Beaufighters in the world.

A9-13 was one of 180 Beauforts destined for the Royal Air Force in Singapore. Although allocated RAF serial T9552, the order was cancelled in the early stages, and it rolled off the production line as A9-13 for the RAAF. It was delivered in January 1942, and served with 6 Squadron with code FX-F. It crashed on landing at Tadji in Papua New Guinea in 1945, while transporting fruit and vegetables, the cockpit and wings being damaged by fire in the accident. The remains were recovered from Tadji in the 1970's, and moved initially to Auckland, New Zealand, then Melbourne, Australia. Restoration commenced in 1977 by Monty Armstrong, and includes the forward fuselage from Beaufort A9-210, recovered from Tadji at the same time.

Regular progress reports are posted on the Key Publishing Historic Aviation (i.e. Flypast) Forum.

The Kickstarter page can be found here:

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Bristol Boxkite celebrates RAAF centenary

The Royal Australian Air Force has celebrated its centenary by flying a reproduction Bristol Boxkite exactly 100 years after a Bristol Boxkite made the first military flight in Australia. The event took place during at air show over the weekend of 1st and 2nd of March at Point Cook in Victoria, the same location where original flight took place. The flight was the culmination of several years of work to build the Boxkite, to the original design using authentic materials. The Boxkite is fitted with a locally-built 110 h.p. Rotec R2800 radial engine, instead of a Gnome rotary engine, and visually fits in with the period. When the project started in 2006, working rotary engines were extremely rare, and the Rotec is much more reliable.

To mark the occasion, the project has produced a book covering the conception, design and construction of the Boxkite, along with original news accounts and photographs, and is a must for all Boxkite-lovers. The book can be shipped worldwide, and more details are available on the project website. The project also has its own Facebook page.

Sunday, January 19, 2014

Moorabbin Sycamore engine run

The engine of Bristol Sycamore Mk.3 A91-1 has been run for the first time in around 25 years. The helicopter is with the Moorabin Air Museum in Melbourne, Australia. The helicopter was acquired by the museum in 1967, after it was wrecked in an accident. It has been fully restored, and the video shows the Alvis Leonides engine being turned over in January 2014.

The Sycamore was delivered to the Royal Australian Air Force in 1951 in the hold of a Bristol Freighter. It was disposed of in 1965, and operated as a heavy lifting vehicle as VH-GYR in Victoria until its accident. The museum's Bristol Freighter has also been undergoing some TLC, including the fitting of its flying surfaces. More information can be found on their Facebook page.

Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Britannia prototype presented to Bristol Aero Collection

On 23rd December 1953, the second prototype Bristol Britannia took off from Filton's runway. Just over a month later, on 4th February 1954, G-ALRX belly-landed on the Severn Estuary mudflats after a dramatic in-flight engine fire. Thanks to the skills of test pilot Bill Pegg, none of the thirteen people on-board were hurt, however the aircraft's reputation was little bruised by the impromtu landing. 'RX was damaged beyond repair when the tide came in, but the forward fuselage section lived on as an instructional aid until 1995, when it was acquired for preservation by the Britannia Aircraft Preservation Trust and loaned to the Bristol Aero Collection Trust.
Britannia G-ALRX during dismantling on the Severn mudflats.
On 23rd December 2013, exactly sixty years since its first flight, ownership of the Britannia was transferred to the Bristol Aero Collection in a ceremony at Filton, when the Collection is in store. The Britannia is now guaranteed a future in the Bristol Aerospace Centre, the planned museum at Filton, which will open in a few years time. 
Roger Hargreaves (left), chairman of the Britannia Aircraft Preservation Trust, hands over Britannia G-ALRX to Oliver Dearden (right) of the Bristol Aero Collection Trust.

Friday, November 29, 2013

Bristol Aircraft in 2013

The biggest news item of the year has been the go-ahead for a new museum and learning centre at Filton, the spiritual home of Bristol aircraft. Named the Bristol Aerospace Centre, it will tell the story of the history of aviation and aerospace on the site. Centrepiece will of course be Concorde 216, which made the last Concorde flight when it flew into Filton in 2003. In addition to Concorde, the centre will house the contents of the former Bristol Aero Collection museum at Kemble, which went into storage in 2012 and is now housed in the Brabazon Hall at Filton. New additions to the Collection this year have been the reproduction Bristol Fighter built by employees of Airbus, Rolls-Royce and GKN in 2010, and the (unofficial) last aircraft to be built at Filton: the Whitakker MW4 microlight.
Some of the Bristol Aero Collection exhibits in store at Filton.

2013 has also been a significant year for a number of individual Bristol aircraft. The world's last airworthy Sycamore helicopter made it's first flight after several years of storage and a major overhaul. Now registered OE-SXY, the Flying Bulls team at Salsburg in Austria have done a great job bringing it back to flight. The Sycamore made its return to flight in July, flown by top aerobatic helicopter pilot Sigi 'Blacky' Schwarz.
Bristol Sycamore OE-XSY in flight at Salsburg

Another significant first this year was made on 11 September at Point Cook in Australia, when reproduction Bristol Boxkite VH-XKT took to the air for the first time. This doubles the number of airworthy Boxkites, the other being the Shuttleworths reproduction built in 1965. The Australian Boxkite has a number of differences from the Shuttleworth example, the most obvious being the upper wing extensions that became standard on most Boxkites from 1911. It also does not have the central vertical tail surface the was added to the Shuttleworth Boxkite during filming of Those Magnificent Men... More details of the build and flight can be found on the Boxkite 2014 website.
Bristol Boxkite VH-XKT on its first flight at Point Cook

The rebuild of the sole airworthy Bristol Blenheim (actually a Canadian-built Bolingbroke) achieved a visual landmark moment when it was rolled out in camouflage at Duxford in August. The restored Bristol Mercury engines had not yet been fitted, but the airframe itself now is very close to completion. The long-nose Blenheim Mk.IV (G-BPIV) suffered damage from a landing accident in August 2003, and the opportunity has been taken to rebuild the aircraft as a Mk.I, replacing the 'long nose' with a 'short nose' which had been converted to a car in the 1940s. More details on the Blenheim Society website.

Also worthy of mention is the Bristol Scout project currently underway by Rick and David Bremner in the Shropshire. Regular updates can be found on their blog. Great progress has been made in 2013, with the airframe itself complete and just the fitting of equipment and fabric covering to go.


After a break of a couple of years, I have decided to resuscitate this blog to report on the goings on in the world of Bristol aircraft. The blog was originally part of the Filton Airfield website that I ran from 2000 to 2011, which included a large section on surviving Bristol-designed and built aircraft around the world. with less and less spare time, and fewer goings on at Filton, the website was only occasionally updated, and when the host decided to cease business I decided to let fade away (although some of it can still be found using the Wayback Machine).

Filton Airfield may now be closed, but there is still plenty in the world of Bristol aircraft to write about, so with a bit more spare time and the prospect of a book that will include much of the information from the old website, the blog have been revived!