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!