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Bristol Aeroplane Company

Bristol Aeroplane CompanyThe firm Bristol was founded by Sir George White - the owner of Bristol Tramways - in the year 1910 by the name British and Colonial Aeroplane Company. The British and Colonial Aeroplane Co. began its existence as a Private Company with a nominal capital of 25000. The works of the new British and Colonial Aeroplane Company were put up at Filton, near Bristol. Bristol Aeroplane Company built among others the famous Bristol Blenheim bomber airplane which was used during World War two.

In April 1911 the War Office possessed only six aeroplanes, of which three, the Wright, the Bleriot, and the Howard-Wright were of an obsolete type. By the end of 1911 France would possess over 150, Germany over 100, and Russia over 250 aeroplanes, whereas the British Army would only possess ten. The four biplanes ordered from the Bristol Company were to be delivered by the end of April 1911. When it was officially announced that Bristol biplanes were to be delivered by the company in April 1911, two of these machines were on the 7th instant still in the sheds of the Bristol Company on Salisbury Plain awaiting the fitting of the engines; what was the cause of the two months' delay. By 04 July 1911 two of these aeroplanes had not yet been delivered owing to the great difficulty which the Bristol Company experienced in obtaining the Renault engines with which the machines were to be fitted. The fitting of Renault engines to Bristol biplanes was in the nature of an experiment, and that the others are mostly fitted with the Gnome engine.

Aviation service at the outbreak of the war was largely in the experimental stage, with the Germans having rather the better of it . The French caught up when the trained civilian air pilots came in, and the British Flying Corps had no defects of personnel to be remedied. The Germans lost the "Command of the Sky" on the western front. The results of allied supremacy were however not at first apparent, for the simple reason that the Allies had nothing to oppose to the German heavy artillery. The discovery of enemy artillery was often useless, because no weapons were available to smash the positions. In the meantime, the airmen of the Allies by combat superiority robbed the Germans of the advantage they had in their guns. One of the elements of British air supremacy was the small high speed scouting Sopwith and Bristol aeroplane. These were faster than the German. One of the fastest British scouts, commonly called the bullet, used a rotary Rhone engine. There is also a Bristol two-seater which has two pairs of struts at either side of the body and is equipped with a fixed engine.

The original Bristol scout had an area of only 156 square feet, whereas the type D has an area of 200. Type D is very similar to the original, the rudder tail plane, fins and body being almost identical. The development of the type D scout takes the form of a single-seater tractor, with a more powerful engine. The type F shows variations in nearly all its component parts and has practically no resemblance to the original scout.

Efficiency is the keynote of the Bristol monoplane, with head resistance reduced to a minimum. Although the monoplane is the most efficient type of aeroplane aerodynamically, it fell into disrepute about 1912 on account of several fatal accidents which occurred in use, owing principally to structural defects. It is therefore very creditable that Captain Barnwell, the designer of the Bristol machines, has produced, in the face of much opposition and prejudice, a pleasing and efficient monoplane. As will be seen, the wing section employed allows of deep spars, the wing being fitted with aileron surfaces instead of with warping arrangements as is usual in monoplane practice. Especial care has been devoted to streamlining, and openings are provided in the inner portion of the wings near the sides of the fuselage, resulting in a further increase in the natural range of visibility of the monoplane type.

The Bristol Fighter illustrates a machine designed primarily for fighting purposes. The F 2 B, as it was also called, was very largely used for fighting, scouting, and other purposes during the war, and the illustrations show the modifications that have been made in the design of the fuselage and other components in order to render this machine efficient for its specific purpose.The best known of the Bristol products is the Fighter (F2b). This machine was extensively used for fighting, recommaissance. etc. It is fitted with a RollsRoyce "Falcon" engine. Altho not in the least sluggish on the controls, this machine is endowed with a remarkable amount of inherent stability. The Bristol type MRI is an all metal biplane of somewhat larger dimensions than the Fighter; the loaded weight of the two machines is practically the same. The object of the Bristol bomber was to provide a high speed machine for bombing or passenger carrying, capable of lifting a considerable load in addition to the weight of the crew and fuel. The "Braemer" is driven by four Siddeley-Deasy "Puma" engines, developing a total of 1000 horsepower at 1500 feet.

The Bristol Triplane ws a four-engined machine driving two tractor and two pusher airscrews. It was primarily designed for bombing purposes, but is being adapted for other uses.

At Wright Field, near Dayton, Ohio, on September 18, 1918, Major R. W. Schroeder, of the United States Air Service, in an American-built aeroplane driven by an American-made Hispano-Suiza motor, climbed to a new world's altitude record of 28,900 feet, only 102 feet short of the highest peak of the Himalaya Mountains. In December, 1918, Captain Lang and Lieutenant Willets claimed to have ascended to 30,500 feet in a Bristol aeroplane.

The necessities of the war enabled British manufacturers to indulge in practical experimentation on a scale impossible for American firms whose planes were never put to actual use at the front. Many of the improvements developed in English factories during the war period had lasting effect and proved as important to the development of commercial flying as to that of scouting. This circumstance brought England well to the fore and it is the general impression among manufacturers there that America is only marking time.

Active development of aircraft engines by Bristol dated back to around 1920. Before that time, Bristol planes were equipped variously with the 110 hp. Le Rhone, the 275 hp. Rolls-Royce, the 240 hp. Siddeley Puma, and the 300 hp. Mercury. In beginning the construction of its own engines, Bristol took over the entire business of the Cosmos Engineering Company, Ltd., located on the Filton training field near the outskirts of Bristol proper, together with all patents, designs and rights in connection with the various engines previously manufactured by that organization.

Bristol devoted its attention from the start to the radial type of engine as likely to develop the greatest power with a minimum of weight, always the great dqsideratum in aircraft design. The additional advantages of the air-cooled engine influenced the trend of subsequent experiments. The reasons which decided the Bristol company to devote its attention to the radial engine are possibly obvious. Experimentation proved that the grouping of many cylinders around a single throw crankshaft would permit the use of the smallest possible shaft and crankcase, and, as these are two of the heaviest single parts in an aero engine, the saving thus effected in motors of radial design is considerable. Another important feature is the short stiff crankshaft in which periodic vibration is cut to a minimum.

By the early 1920s Parliament was appropriating little or nothing and the British aircraft factories are living on the crumbs that fell from the London to Paris commercial and passenger lines and from certain distant principalities which were engaged in wars or expect to be so occupied in time. At that time Great Britain's greatest airplane factory was the Bristol Aeroplane Company, Ltd., whose engines were recognized as the official standard in use by the British Government. The 400 hp. Bristol "Jupiter," a nine cylinder air-cooled radial engine, virtually every part of which is manufactured and assembled in the company's shops, is said to be the only airplane engine that has ever passed both the French and British official tests. It weighed only 698 lb. or 1,745 lb. per hp., an unusually low proportion.

In anticipation of extensive passenger-carrying operations on the Continent, the Bristol factory turned out an air limousine capable of carrying sixteen persons in addition to the pilot and mechanic. The cabin of the machine represented the nth degree of twentieth century luxuriousness. There was but one thing the matter with it. There were no passengers. Only on rare occasions was it possible to collect sixteen passengers at the same time who wanted to make the trip. For the time being, therefore, Bristol is compelled to concentrate on the ten-passenger machine, which was amply spacious to meet the demands of the immediate future. This temporary check has left the inventive faculty free to experiment with new types of engines, which has now reached its culmination in the huge air cooled static radial, the "Jupiter."

In the years during the Second World War the managing board at Bristol decided to branch out to building automobiles once the war had ended. In 1944 the first prototype was ready and in 1947 the first Bristol automobile saw the light of day; the Bristol 400. It teamed up with AFN which made Frazer Nash sports cars, but the company that became Bristol Cars kept its links to aircraft manufacturing throughout its 65 years, with simple aluminium construction and names such as Fighter. Staple models such as the Blenheim have barely changed over the decades.

Although many of the most important early developments in helicopter technology were made in Europe, and Germany made several important helicopter advances, rotary wing development in Great Britain was stagnant until 1944, when the Bristol Aeroplane Company established its Helicopter Division (eventually renamed Bristol Helicopters). Bristol's first helicopter was the Type 171, which first flew in July 1947. The Type 171, also named the Sycamore, was in some ways more advanced than the Sikorsky R-5 and R-6 then flying in the United States and by far the most popular and successful helicopters of the time.

British military forces soon evaluated the Sycamore, which was then produced in quantity as the HR. Mk.14. It entered service in 1953 and served in search and rescue and medical evacuation missions. It also soon entered service with the Royal Australian Navy and the German Air Force and Navy.

While the Sycamore was under development, Bristol began developing a tandem-rotor helicopter somewhat similar to the Piasecki "Flying Banana." Known as the Type 173, this aircraft was soon developed into the Type 192 Belvedere, which had a rounded fuselage that looked like a baguette with four-bladed rotors on either end. The Belvedere, designated the HC.1 in Royal Air Force (RAF) service, was delivered in 1961 and saw service in the Middle East and Far East. It suffered from engine reliability problems and its high landing gear made loading cargo in the cabin difficult.

In 1954 the Minister of Supply gave his permission for the Bristol Aeroplane Company to take a holding in the previously Government-owned aircraft company of Short Brothers of Belfast. The approval of the Capital Issues Committee was sought in June 1954 to an increase in the issued share capital of Short Brothers and Harland Limited from 2 million to 2,360,000, and shortly afterwards 360,000 new 1 shares were sold to the Bristol Aeroplane Company. The Government retained a majority holding in Short Brothers and Harland Limited, which had never been entirely Government owned.

In 1958 the Bristol Aeroplane Company and the Aerojet General Corporation of the United States made a commercial agreement for the common exploitation of each other's techniques for making solid propellants and rocket motors. The Government were consulted and saw no objection. This was done so that Bristol Aerojets Limited could manufacture Polaris and the solid propellant polyurethane.

In 1959 Bristol was forced by the Government to merge with the English Electric Co, Hunting and Vickers-Armstrongs to form the British Aircraft Corporation (BAC). At the same time, Bristol Aero Engines merged with Armstrong Siddeley to form Bristol Siddeley. BAC went on to become a founding component of the nationalised British Aerospace, now BAE Systems. In March 1960, Bristol Helicopters was taken over by Westland.

By 1962 the British Aircraft Corporation and Sud-Aviation had jointly produced a basic design for a slender-wing, light-alloy aircraft with a cruising speed of Mach 2.2, powered by four Bristol-Siddeley turbo-jet engines. There would be two versions of it, one for the longer ranges and one for medium-long range, with only minor structural modifications separating them. The firms have also put forward proposals for the management of a joint project covering development and production, the essence of which would be equal sharing by the two countries of costs, work and returns on the whole project.

Bristol Siddeley was purchased by Rolls-Royce in 1966, who continued to develop and market Bristol-designed engines. The BAC / Bristol works were located in Filton, about 4 miles north of Bristol city centre. BAE Systems still operate from Filton. In 1977, BAC was nationalised, along with Scottish Aviation and Hawker Siddeley to form British Aerospace (BAe). BAe later became BAE Systems.

Bristol remained a car maker from another generation, and that proved an enduring appeal for a small number of fans who lapped up the exclusivity and clubby atmosphere of their handcrafted luxury cars. Bristol Cars collapsed into administration in March 2011. The curio car maker from Bristol just couldn't make ends meet as sales dried up and the company's directors were forced to call in the administrators when it couldn't afford to keep the business alive.

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Page last modified: 10-01-2012 19:22:40 ZULU