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Bristol B.167 Brabazon


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The Brabazon was a large trans-Atlantic airliner project, designed to meet one of the postwar requirements formulated by the Inter-Departmental Committee under the chairmanship of Lord Brabazon of Tara. This committee was set up in 1943 to decide on the types of aircraft likely to be needed after the end of the war, able to carry 100 passengers non-stop from London to New York. Filton's submission for an eight-engined, 160-ton aeroplane drew extensively upon design studies that had been made in 1942 for a long-range bomber. The Bristol Aeroplane Company was given leave to proceed with two fully pressurised prototypes, the name Brabazon chosen for the type.


In 1945 construction of the prototype commenced in October. Many problems were encountered during the next four years leading up to the first flight on 4 September 1949. There was extensive testing of design innovations both on the ground and in the air. The huge Brabazon Hangar was built at Filton to accommodate the assembly of the two prototypes and a new runway was laid, involving the demolition of a village and closure of a dual carriageway. Six and a half years later, in 1949, the first Brabazon was ready at Filton. The only aircraft to be completed, G-AGPW, had flown only 400hr when it was decided to abandon the project in 1953. Structural and flight control problems associated with gust alleviation were behind the political and financial decision to scrap the giant.


With a 70-m (230-ft) wing span and 15.25 m (50 ft) high to the tip of its fin, eight 2500-hp Bristol Centaurus piston engines driving contra-rotating propellers were mounted in pairs within its wing. The maiden flight took place on 4 September 1949. The second aircraft would have been powered by Bristol Proteus turboprops in coupled pairs. It was expected that the Mk 1 would be retained for experimental flight research into the problems associated with very large aircraft, while the Mk 2 would be furnished to carry 100 passengers by day or night, plus a flight crew of seven and eight stewards. However, although the Mk 1 flew well and BEA wanted to use it between London and Nice, France, fatigue cracks in the propeller mounting and other problems ended the project.

 

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The Brabazon was flown to the Farnborough Air Show with only three hours' total flying time, before touring seaside resorts to give taxpayers a sight of the aircraft their money had paid for. Its thick wing was designed to lift at low airspeeds (160 kph/100 mph) at take-off, but was hopelessly inefficient for high-speed flight. The Brabazon was too slow, and American airliners then reaching the market offered better performance at much lower cost. Late in 1952 the British government reported that 'neither the civil airlines nor fighting services could foresee any economic use for it' and ordered the prototype, with 400 hours of flight time, and a second unfinished Brabazon to be broken up. The two machines and all the jigs were sold for £10,000, though they cost £12,500,000.

Bristol 167 Brabazon
Engines: 8 x Bristol Centaurus 20, 1863kW, 2466 hp
Max Take-off weight: 131542 kg / 290002 lb
Empty weight: 65816 kg / 145100 lb
Wingspan: 70.1 m / 229 ft 12 in
Wing load : 54.53 lb/sq.ft / 266.00 kg/sq.m
Length: 53.95 m / 177 ft 0 in
Height: 15.24 m / 50 ft 0 in
Wing area: 493.95 sq.m / 5316.83 sq ft
Max. speed: 483 km/h / 300 mph
Cruise speed: 402 km/h / 250 mph
Cruising altitude : 24934 ft / 7600 m
Ceiling: 7620 m / 25000 ft
Range: 8850 km / 5499 miles
Passengers: 50-180
Crew: 3

 

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