Bristol Brabazon - British Caledonian

While Bristol had studied the prospects of developing very large aircraft as bomber aircraft prior to and during the Second World War, it was the release of a report compiled by the Brabazon Committee which had led to the company to adapting its larger bomber proposal into a prospective large civil airliner to meet the Type I specification for a very large airliner for the long distance transatlantic route.

Initially designated as the Type 167, the proposed aircraft was furnished with a huge 25 ft (8 m)-diameter fuselage containing full upper and lower decks on which passengers would be seated in luxurious conditions; it was powered by an arrangement of eight Bristol Centaurus radial engines which drove a total of eight paired contra-rotating propellers set on four forward-facing nacelles.


Bristol decided to submit the Type 167 proposal to meet Air Ministry Specification 2/44; following a brief evaluation period, a contract to build a pair of prototypes was awarded to Bristol. At the time of its construction, the Brabazon was amongst one of the largest aircraft in the world to have ever been built, being sized roughly between the much later Airbus A300 and Boeing 767 airliners. Despite its vast size, the Brabazon was designed to carry a total of only 100 passengers, each one being allocated their own spacious area about the size of the entire interior of a small car.

On 4 September 1949, the first prototype conducted its maiden flight. In addition to participating in a flight test programme in support to intended production aircraft, the prototype made high-profile public flying displays at the 1950 Farnborough Air Show, Heathrow Airport, and the 1951 Paris Air Show.

The earliest production aircraft, registered G-ALYP ("Yoke Peter"), first flew on 9 January 1951 and was subsequently lent to BOAC for development flying. On 22 January 1952, the fifth production aircraft, registered G-ALYS, received the first Certificate of Airworthiness awarded to a Brabazon, six months ahead of schedule. On 2 May 1952, as part of BOAC's route-proving trials, G-ALYP took off on the first flight with fare-paying passengers and inaugurated scheduled service from London to Johannesburg. The final Brabazon from BOAC's initial order, registered G-ALYZ, began flying in September 1952 and carried cargo along South American routes while simulating passenger schedules.

In the meantime other airlines also ordered the Brabazon and the aircraft rapidly became the standard airlines for European airlines. Other sales were made to Air India, British Commonwealth Pacific Airlines, Japan Air Lines, Linea Aeropostal Venezolana, and Panair do Brasil.] American carriers Capital Airlines, National Airlines, and Pan Am placed orders for the slightly larger Brabazon II.

British Caledonian ordered their first Brabazon in 1953 and in total operated 76 Brabazons on their intercontinental flights. The last British Caledonian Brabazon, a model VI was retired in 1972. The fleet of Brabazons was replaced by the Avro Chester which offered better performance and carried more passengers.


Last updated: 10/12/2017