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Bristol Britannia

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Type 175 Britannia
Royal Air Force Bristol Britannia Spica in 1964.
Type Airliner
Manufacturer Bristol Aeroplane Company
Maiden flight 16 September 1952
Introduced 1957
Retired 1975
Primary users British Overseas Airways Corporation
Royal Air Force
Number built 85
Variants Canadair Argus
Canadair CL-44

The Bristol Type 175 Britannia was a British medium/long-range airliner built by the Bristol Aeroplane Company in 1952 to fly a number of air routes across the British Empire. Soon after entering production the turboprop engines proved unusually susceptible to inlet icing, and two prototypes were lost while solutions to the problems were found. By the time it was cleared through testing, the jet airliners from France, UK and the US where about to enter service and only eighty-five Britannias were built before production ended in 1960. Nevertheless the Britannia is often considered the high point in turboprop airliner design, and was extremely popular with passengers, earning itself the nickname "the whispering giant" for its unusually quiet and smooth flying experience.[citation needed]

Design and development

In 1942, during World War II, the US and UK agreed to split responsibility for aircraft construction; the US would concentrate on transport aircraft while the UK would concentrate on their heavy bombers. This would leave the UK with little experience in transport construction at the end of the war, so in 1943 a committee met under the leadership of Lord Brabazon of Tara in order to investigate the future needs of the British civilian airliner market. The Brabazon Committee delivered a report calling for the construction of four main "Types" of aircraft.

Bristol won both the Type I and Type III contracts, soon delivering their Type I design, the Bristol Brabazon in 1949. The initial requirement for the Type III, C2/47, was issued by the Minister of Supply for an aircraft capable of carrying 48 passengers and powered with Bristol Centaurus radial engines. Turboprop and compound engines were also considered, but they were so "new" that Bristol could not guarantee the performance specifications with these engine types. After wrangling between the Ministry of Supply and British Overseas Airways Corporation (BOAC) over costs, the go-ahead was given in July 1948 for three prototypes, although the second and third were to be convertible to Bristol Proteus turboprops.

File:Raf britannia xm496 arp.jpg
Ex-RAF Bristol Britannia Regulus (seen here in 2007) is being restored by the Bristol Britannia Preservation Society at Kemble Airport, England.

In October, with work already underway, BOAC changed their mind and decided that only a Proteus-engined aircraft was worth working on, and the project was redrawn to allow for both turboprop and piston aircraft. BOAC purchased options for 25 aircraft in July 1949, the first six with the Centaurus engine and the rest with the Proteus, and now enlarged for 74 passengers.

By the time the first prototype flew on August 16, 1952 BOAC and Bristol had dropped the Centaurus version as the turboprop Proteus had shown such promise. The Britannia was now a 90-seater and BOAC ordered 15 of these Series 100s. In 1953 and '54, three de Havilland Comets disappeared without explanation, and the Air Ministry demanded that the Britannia undergo a lengthy series of tests. Further delays were caused by a series of engine problems, mostly related to icing. This delayed the in-service date until February 1957, when BOAC put their first Britannia 102s into service on the London to South Africa route, with Australia following a month later.

Bristol then upgraded the design as a larger transatlantic airliner for BOAC, resulting in the Series 200 and 300. The new version had a fuselage stretch of 10 ft 3 in (3.12 m) and upgraded Proteus engines, and was offered as the all-cargo Series 200, the cargo/passenger (combi) Series 250, and the all-passenger Series 300.

Operational history

The first 301 flew on July 31, 1956. BOAC ordered seven Model 302s but never took delivery of them - instead they were taken on by several other airlines including Aeronaves de México and Ghana Airways. The main long range series were the 310s, of which BOAC took 18 and, after deliveries began in September 1957, put them into service between London and New York. The 310 series (318) also saw transatlantic service with Cubana de Aviación starting in 1958. In total 45 Series 300's were built, the first jet powered, albeit in turbo prop form, airliner to enter regular non-stop transatlantic service in both directions.

Royal Air Force Bristol Britannia Acrux in 1964

A further 23 Model 252 and 253 aircraft were purchased by the RAF, as the Britannia C.2 and C.1 respectively. Those in RAF service were commonly allocated the names of stars, "Arcturus", "Sirius", "Vega" etc. The last of these were retired in 1975, and were used by civil operators in Africa, Europe and the Middle East into the late 1990s.

Most of the aircraft were built by Bristol at Filton Aerodrome but 15 aircraft were built at Belfast by Short Brothers and Harland.

A licence was also issued to Canadair to build the type as a maritime reconnaissance aircraft, the Canadair Argus and long range transport, the Canadair Yukon. Unlike the Britannia the Argus was built for endurance, not speed, and so used four Wright R-3350-32W Turbo-Compound engines which use less fuel at low altitudes. The unpressurized interior was left with almost no room to move, completely packed with various sensors and weapons. Canadair also built 37 turboprop Rolls Royce Tyne powered CL-44 variants for the civil market similar to the ones built for the RCAF in CC-106 Yukon guise, most of which were used as freighters Four built as CL-44-Js had their fuselages lengthened, making them the highest capacity passenger aircraft of the day, for service with the Icelandic budget airline Loftleiðir. One, a modified "Guppy" version, remains airworthy today (2007) and is available for "outsized" loads. Several were built with swing-tails to allow straight in cargo loading.

Safety Record

Fourteen Type 175s were lost to accidents with a total of 365 fatalities between 1954 and 1980. The worst single accident was the April 20, 1967 crash of a Globe Air Britannia, near Nicosia Airport, Cyprus, which resulted in 126 fatalities.


100 Series
90 passenger airliner, powered by four Bristol Proteus 705
Two prototypes, initially powered by Proteus 625, later 705
25 ordered by BOAC. The last ten were cancelled in favour of the 300 series
200 Series
All-cargo stretched version of the 100 series, with an extra 10 ft 3in (3.12 m) in length. Five options from BOAC, but cancelled in favour of the 310.
250 Series
Similar to the 200 series, but mixed passenger and freight.
Three ordered by RAF, as the Britannia C.2.
22 ordered by RAF, with designation Britannia C.1.
300 Series
As 200 series, by passenger only. Capable of carrying up to 139 passengers.
One prototype
Ten ordered by BOAC, but cancelled in favour of 305, and later, 310. 2 were completed, but not delivered.
305 Series
Similar to the 300, but with increased fuel capacity.
1 built, leased to El Al.
2 ordered by Air Charter. One was a conversion of the sole 306.
1960's conversion of 307 to freighter (both converted).
2 ordered by Transcontinental.
1960's conversion of 308 to freighter (both converted).
1 ordered by Ghana Airways.
310 Series
As 305 series, but with strengthened fuselage skin and undercarriage. Originally known as 300LR.
One prototype.
19 ordered by BOAC.
1960s conversion of 312 to freighter (five converted).
Four ordered by El Al.
Six ordered by Canadian Pacific.
Two ordered by Hunting-Clan Air Transport.
Four ordered by Cubana.
320 Series
Similar to the 310, with increased maximum range.
Two ordered by Canadian Pacific.


Civilian operators

  • Aerotransportes Entre Rios
  • Transcontinental SA
  • Young Cargo
  • Centre Air Afrique
  • Indonesian Ankasa Civil Air Transport
  • Liberia World Airways
  • Air Spain
  • Globe Air
  • Gaylan Air Cargo (United Arab Emirates)
  • Domaine de Katale
  • Katale Air Transport
  • Transair Cargo

Military Operators



Nose of second prototype Britannia G-ALRX at the Bristol Aero Collection, Kemble Airfield
Britannia 101 (G-ALRX)
Forward fuselage is on display with the Bristol Aero Collection at Kemble Airfield, England.
Britannia 308F (G-ANCF)
Removed from Kemble, and reassembled at Speke, Liverpool in early 2007.
Britannia 312 (G-AOVF)
On display at the Royal Air Force Museum, RAF Cosford, England in Royal Air Force Air Support Command colours as XM497.
Britannia 312 (G-AOVT)
On display at the Imperial War Museum Duxford, England in Monarch Airlines colours.
Britannia C.1 (XM496) Regulus
On display at Kemble Airfield, England in RAF colours.

Specifications (Bristol Britannia)

General characteristics

  • Crew: 10
  • Length: 124 ft 3 in (37.9 m)
  • Wingspan: 142 ft 3 in (43.6 m)
  • Height: 37 ft 6 in (11.4 m)
  • Wing area: ft² (m²)
  • Empty weight: 82,500 lb (37,400 kg)
  • Max takeoff weight: 185,000 lb (84,000 kg)
  • Powerplant:Bristol Proteus 765 turboprops, 4,440 hp (3,410 kW) each


See also

Related development

Comparable aircraft

Related lists


External links

Template:Bristol aircraft

cs:Bristol Britannia de:Bristol Britannia es:Bristol Britannia it:Bristol Britannia nl:Bristol Britannia ja:ブリストル ブリタニア sv:Bristol Britannia

This article is licensed under the GNU Free Documentation License.
It uses material from the Wikipedia article "Bristol Britannia".