- Bristol Aeroplane Company
Infobox Defunct Company
company_name = Bristol Aeroplane Company
fate = Split and merged
British Aircraft Corporation, Bristol Siddeley
foundation = 1910 (as British and Colonial Aircraft Company)
defunct = 1959
location = flagicon|UK
Filton, England, UK
industry = Aerospace
key_people = Sir George White,
Henri Coandă, Frank Barnwell, Roy Fedden
subsid = Bristol Engine Company
Bristol Helicopters (1945-)
Bristol Cars(1945-1960) Bristol Aerospace(1957-)The Bristol Aeroplane Company, originally British and Colonial Aeroplane Company, was a major British aviation company. In 1956 its major operations were split into Bristol Aircraft and Bristol Aero Engines. In 1959 Bristol Aircraft merged with several major British aircraft companies to form the British Aircraft Corporation(BAC), and Bristol Aero Engines merged with Armstrong Siddeleyto form Bristol Siddeley.
BAC went on to become a founding component of the nationalised
British Aerospace, now BAE Systems. Bristol Siddeley was purchased by Rolls-Royce in 1966, who continued to develop and market Bristol-designed engines. The BAC / Bristol works were in Filton, about 4 miles north of Bristolcity centre. BAE Systems still operate from Filton.
The British and Colonial Aeroplane Company, Ltd was founded in 1910 by Sir George White - the owner of Bristol Tramways - to manufacture aircraft, at Filton in Bristol. Unlike most aviation companies at the time, started by enthusiasts with little financial backing or business organization, British and Colonial was from its outset well funded and run by experienced businessmen. The Company's initial venture was a licensed and improved version of the Voisin brothers' Zodiac 'Boxkite' biplane, which was shown at the Aero Show at Olympia in March 1910. Unfortunately the Zodiac was extremely underpowered, and never flew.
Production of Bristol's first successful design, the
Bristol Boxkite, started in a former tramway shed at Filton in June 1910. A month later the Company formed a flying school, with premises at Brooklandsnear London, and Larkhillon Salisbury Plain. This flying school was regarded as one the best in the world between 1910 and 1914. By 1914, 308 of the 664 Royal Aero Clubcertificates issued had been gained at the Company's schools.
First World War
The Company expanded rapidly, reaching a payroll of 200 by the outbreak of the
First World War. The chief designer (styled "chef technique") from January 1912 until October 1914 was the Romanian engineer Henri Coandă. Coandă was succeeded by Frank Barnwell, who was to become one of the world's foremost aeronautical engineers. One of Barnwell's first designs, the Bristol Scout, was one of the first fighter aircraft to enter British service. Later in the war came the mass-produced two-seat Bristol Fighter, which was one of the backbones of the Royal Flying Corps(RFC), later the Royal Air Force(RAF).
By the end of the war, the Company employed over 3000 at its production works at Filton and
Brislington. Its products had always been referred to by the name 'Bristol' and this was formalized in 1920, when British and Colonial was liquidated and its assets became the Bristol Aeroplane Company, Ltd. At this time the Company bought the failing Cosmos Engineering Company, also of Bristol, to form the nucleus of its new aero-engine operations, the Bristol Engine Company.
A major product during the interwar years was the
Bristol Bulldogfighter, which formed the mainstay of RAF fighters between 1918 and 1935. During this time Bristol was noted for its policy of 'all-steel' airframes, preferring steel to the light alloys generally used in aircraft construction. Bristol airframes were built up from high-tensile strip steel rolled into section, and were powered exclusively by Bristol engines.
15 June1935 the Bristol Aeroplane Company became a public limited company. By this time the Company had a payroll of 4200, mostly in the engine factory, and was well positioned to take advantage of the huge re-armament ordered by the British Government in May of that year. Bristol's most important contribution to the expansion of the RAF at this time was the Blenheim light bomber.
In August 1938 Frank Barnwell was killed in a light plane crash, and was succeeded as Chief Designer by
Leslie Frise. By the time war broke out in 1939 the Bristol works at Filton were the largest single aircraft manufacturing unit in the world, with a floor area of nearly 25 hectares (2,691,000 square feet).
Second World War
Second World WarBristol's most important aircraft was the Beaufighter heavy two-seat multirole aircraft, a long-range fighter, night fighter, ground attack aircraftand torpedo bomber. It was used extensively by the RAF and Commonwealth air forces and by the USAAF. The Beaufighter was derived from the Beaufort torpedo bomber, a derivative of the Blenheim.
In 1940 a
shadow factoryhad been set up at Weston-super-Marefor the production of Beaufighters.
The company's war-time headquarters were in the
Royal West of England Academy.
When the war ended Bristol set up a separate helicopter division in the Weston-super-Mare factory, under helicopter pioneer
Raoul Hafner. It was taken over by Westlandin 1960.
Other post-war projects included
Bristol Cars, which used pre-war BMWdesigns as the basis for the Bristol 400. The engine developed from this project found its way into many successful motor cars manufactured by other companies, such as Cooper, Frazer Nashand AC, and in 24hLM|1954 and 24hLM|1955 powered the Bristol 450sports prototype to class victories in the 24 Hours of Le Mansrace. In 1960 the late Sir George White and Tony Crookrescued the car division from being lost in the BAC merger - Sir George's family were founders of the British and Colonial Aeroplane Company in 1910. Sir George and Crook formed a new company, Bristol Cars Limited, remaining within the Filton complex. Sir George retired in 1973 and Crook purchased his share, becoming sole proprietor and Managing Director. [ [http://www.boc.net/history.html Bristol Owners Club : History of the Bristol Marque ] ]
Pre-fabricated buildings, marine craft and plastic and composite materials were also early post-war activities, but these were eventually sold off.
Bristol was involved in the post-war renaissance of British civilian aircraft as inspired by the
Brabazon Committeereport. In 1949, the Bristol Brabazonairliner prototype, at the time one of the largest aircraft in the world, first flew. This project was a step in the wrong direction and was cancelled in 1953. At the same time the Bristol Britanniaturboprop-powered airliner proved a huge success, and it and the Bristol Freightertransport aircraft were produced in quantity during the 1950s. Bristol was also involved in helicopterdevelopment, with the Bristol Belvedereand Bristol Sycamoregoing into quantity production.
Another post-war activity was
missiledevelopment, culminating in the production of the Bristol Bloodhoundanti-aircraft missile. Bristol Aero Engines produced a range of rocket motors and ramjets for missile propulsion. The guided weapons division eventually became part of Matra BAe Dynamics Alenia ( MBDA).
In the late 1950s the Company undertook supersonic transport (SST) project studies, which were later to contribute to
Concorde. A research aircraft, the Bristol 188, was constructed in the 1950s to test the feasibility of stainless steelas a material in a Mach 2.0 airframe. By the time the aircraft flew in 1962 the Company was already part of BAC.
Merger into BAC
In 1959 Bristol was forced by Government policy to merge with
English Electric, Hunting Aircraftand Vickers-Armstrongsto form the British Aircraft Corporation(BAC). In 1977, BAC was nationalised along with Scottish Aviationand Hawker Siddeleyto form British Aerospace(BAe). BAe later became part of the now-privatised BAE Systems.
Bristol Engine Company
The Bristol Engine Company was originally a separate entity,
Cosmos Engineering, formed from the pre-First World War automobile company Brazil-Straker. In 1917 Cosmos was asked to investigate air-cooled radial engines, and produced what became the Bristol Mercury, a 14-cylinder two-row (helical) radial, which they launched in 1918. This engine saw little use, but the simpler 9-cylinder version known as the Bristol Jupiterwas clearly a winning design.
With the post-war rapid contraction of military orders Cosmos Engineering went
bankrupt, and the Air Ministrylet it be known that it would be a good idea if the Bristol Aeroplane Company purchased it. The Jupiter competed with the Armstrong Siddeley Jaguarthrough the 1920s, but Bristol put more effort into their design and by 1929 the Jupiter was clearly superior. In the 1930s the company developed the new Bristol Perseusnew line of radials based on the sleeve valveprinciple, which developed into some of the most powerful piston engines in the world, and continued to be sold into the 1960s.
In 1956 the division was renamed Bristol Aero Engines, and then merged with
Armstrong Siddeleyin 1958 to form Bristol Siddeleyas a counterpart of the airframe-producing company mergers that formed BAC. In 1966 Bristol Siddeley was purchased by Rolls-Royce, leaving the latter as the only major aero-engine company in Britain. Rolls-Royce continues to produce aircraft engines as Rolls-Royce plc. A number of Bristol Siddeley engines of Bristol heritage continued to be developed by Rolls-Royce, notably the Olympus turbojet and the Pegasus. The classical names favoured by Bristol indicated their heritage in a Rolls-Royce lineup named after British rivers
pre-World War I
World War I
*Type 23 Badger
*Types 24 and 25 Braemar
*Type 26 Pullman
*Types 27-29, 47 and 48 Tourer
*Types 30 and 46 Babe
*Type 32 Bullet
*Type 36 Seely
*Type 37 Tramp
*Types 52 and 53 Bullfinch
*Types 62 and 75 Ten-Seater
*Type 72 Racer
*Type 76 Jupiter Fighter
*Type 73 Taxiplane and Type 83/183 Primary Trainer
*Type 84 Bloodhound
*Type 90 Berkeley
*Type 91 Brownie
*Types 93 Boarhound and 93A Beaver
*Type 95 Bagshot
*Type 99 Badminton
*Type 105 Bulldog
*Type 107 Bullpup
*Types 123 and 133
*Type 130 Bombay
*143 'Britain First'
*Types 146, 147 and 148
World War II
Bristol Engine designs include:
*Theseus turboprop with heat exchanger
*Proteus two-shaft turboprop
*Olympus two-spool turbojet
Bristol Orpheussingle-spool turbojet
*Orion two-shaft turboprop
*Pegasus two-spool vectored thrust turbofan
Bristol missile designs include:
Bristol Aerospace, Canadian subsidiary
Roy Fedden, engine designer
Harry Ricardo, engine designer
title=Bristol Aircraft Since 1910
isbn=0 370 00015 3
* [http://www.britishaircraft.co.uk/companypage.php?ID=9 British Aircraft Directory entry for Bristol]
* [http://www.bristol-aeroplane.com/ The Bristol Aeroplane Company] , the founder's family's website
* [http://www.1903to2003.gov/essay/Aerospace/Bristol/Aero50.htm Bristol Aircraft and Engines]
* [http://www.stobbe.dk/library/engines/bristol/bristol.asp Bristol Aircraft Engines]
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