Bristol Scout

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For the later monoplane, see Bristol M.1 Monoplane Scout
For the unrelated 1917 prototype design, see Bristol Scout F


Bristol Scout
Bristol Scout.jpg
RNAS Bristol Scout D of third production batch
Role single-seat scout/fighter
Manufacturer British and Colonial Aeroplane Company
Designer Frank Barnwell
First flight 23 February 1914
Status Retired
Primary users Royal Flying Corps
Royal Naval Air Service
Australian Flying Corps
Produced 1914–1916
Number built 374[1]

The Bristol Scout was a single-seat rotary-engined biplane originally intended as a civilian racing aircraft. Like other similar fast, light aircraft of the period it was acquired by the RNAS and the RFC as a "scout", or fast reconnaissance type. In the event it was one of the first single-seaters to be used as a fighter aircraft, although it was not possible to fit it with an effective forward-firing armament until the first British synchronisation gears became available, by which time the Scout's design was outmoded by later types. Single-seat fighters continued to be called "scouts" in British usage into the early 1920s.[1]

Design and development[edit]

Bristol Scout prototype at the 1914 Olympia Aero Show

The Bristol Scout was designed in the second half of 1913 by Frank Barnwell and Harry Busteed. It was an equal-span single-bay biplane powered by a 80 hp (60 kW) Gnome Lambda rotary engine, with staggered parallel-chord wings with raked wingtips and ailerons fitted to both upper and lower wings. The rectangular-section fuselage was an orthodox wire-braced wooden structure constructed from ash and spruce, with the forward section covered with aluminium sheeting and the rear section fabric covered.[2] It was rigged with only about one half degrees dihedral, making the wings look almost flat from a frontal view, and an engine cowling that had no open frontal area, although the bottom was cut away horizontally to allow cooling air to get to its seven-cylinder 80 hp Gnome Lambda rotary engine.[3] It was fitted with a rectangular balanced rudder with no fixed vertical fin, similar to that used on contemporary Nieuport, Morane, and Fokker types.[1][4] and a split elevator attached to a horizontal stabiliser. All tail surfaces were constructed from welded steel tubing.

The revised Bristol Scout A in the late spring of 1914.

After its first flight the prototype, later referred to as the Scout A, was fitted with larger wings to reduce landing speed, increasing the chord by six inches (15 cm) and span from 22 ft (6.71 m) to 24 ft 7 in (7.49 m). These were rigged with increased dihedral of 1 34°. Other changes included a larger rudder and an open-fronted cowling with six external stiffening ribs. The Scout A was evaluated by the British military on 14 May 1914 at Farnborough, when, flown by Busteed, the aircraft achieved an airspeed of 97.5 mph (157 km/h), with a stalling speed of 40 mph (64 kph)[5]


Operational history[edit]

The first flight was made on 23 February 1914 by Busteed, and it was first shown to the public at the March 1914 Aero Show at the Olympia exhibition centre in London. After the Aero show it was entered for the 1914 Aerial Derby, but did not take part because the weather on the day of the race was so poor that Bristol did not wish to risk the aircraft. It was then sold to Lord Carbery for £400 without its engine. Carbury fitted it with an 80 hp Le Rhône 9C nine-cylinder rotary and entered it in the London-Marchester race held on 20 June, but damaged the aircraft when landing at Castle Bromwich and had to withdraw. After repairs Carbury entered it in the London-Paris-London race, but had to ditch the aircraft in the English Channel on the return leg; while in France, only one of the two fuel tanks had been filled by mistake Carbury managed to land alongside a ship and escaped, but the aircraft was lost.[1]

The actual Scout C, RFC serial no. 1611, flown by Lanoe Hawker on 25 July 1915 in his Victoria Cross-earning engagement. This aircraft also has the rear-location engine oil tank of the earliest Scout Cs.

The period of service of the Bristol Scout (1914 to 1916) marked the genesis of the fighter aircraft as a distinct type, and many of the earliest attempts to arm British tractor aircraft with weaponry were tested in action using Bristol Scouts. These began with the arming of the second Scout B, RFC number 648, with two rifles, one each side, aimed outwards and forwards to clear the propeller arc.[1][6]

Two of the Royal Flying Corps' early Bristol Scout C aircraft, numbers 1609 and 1611, flown by Captain Lanoe Hawker with the RFC's No. 6 Squadron, were each in turn armed with a single Lewis machine gun on the left side of the fuselage, using a mount that Capt. Hawker had designed himself, almost identically to the manner of the rifles tried on the second Scout B. When Hawker downed two German aircraft and forced off a third on 25 July 1915 over Passchendaele and Zillebeke he was awarded the first Victoria Cross to be given for a British military pilot's actions in aerial combat.[7]

RNAS Bristol Scout D with twin unsynchronized Lewis guns fitted to mounts enabling them to be fired obliquely outside the arc of the propeller

A number of the 24 initial production RNAS' Scout C aircraft were armed with one (or occasionally two) Lewis machine guns, sometimes with the Lewis gun mounted on top of the upper wing centre section in the manner of the Nieuport 11, and even more common was a very dubious choice of placement by some RNAS pilots, in mounting the Lewis gun on the forward fuselage of their Scout Cs, just as if it were a synchronized weapon, firing directly forward and through the propeller arc; an action likely to result in serious damage to the propeller. The type of bullet-deflecting wedges that Roland Garros had tried on his Morane-Saulnier Type N monoplane were also tried on one of the RFC's last Scout Cs, No. 5303, but since this seemed, in this instance, to have also required the use of the Morane Type N's immense "casserole" spinner, which almost totally blocked cooling air from reaching this particular Scout C's 80-hp Le Rhône rotary engine, the deflecting-wedge concept for propeller protection from bullets was not pursued further with Bristol Scouts.[1][8][9]

In the early part of the war, in attempts to down German Zeppelin airships, some RNAS Scout Ds were equipped with Ranken Darts, a flechette with 1 lb (0.45 kg) of explosive per projectile, released from a pair of vertically oriented internal cylindrical containers located under the pilot's seat, each containing 24 darts.[10] On 2 August 1916, Flt. Lt. C. T. Freeman, flew Scout D No. 8953 from the deck of the seaplane carrier HMS Vindex, which possessed a takeoff deck on its forward half, and attempted to down Zeppelin L 17 with Ranken Darts. None of the darts did any damage to the Zeppelin, and since Freeman's aircraft could not land back on the Vindex and was too far from land for a safe return, he had to ditch his Scout D in the ocean after the unsuccessful attack.[11]

Vickers-Challenger synchroniser fitted to Bristol Scout - showing the linkage between the engine and the gun.

In March 1916 the RFC Scout C No.5313 was fitted with a Vickers machine gun, synchronised to fire through the propeller by the bulky Vickers-Challenger synchronising gear, the only such gear available to the RFC at the time. Six other Scouts, both late Scout Cs and early Scout Ds, were also fitted with the same combination. Types using this particular gear successfully (including the B.E.12, the R.E.8 and the Vickers F.B.19) all had the gun mounted on the port side of the fuselage. The attempt to use the gear for synchronising a centrally mounted gun on the Bristol Scout proved unsuccessful, and tests, which continued at least until May 1916, resulted in the abandonment of the idea,[1] and no Vickers-armed Bristol Scout was ever used on operations.

None of the RFC or RNAS squadrons operating the Bristol Scout was ever entirely equipped with this aircraft, and by the end of the summer of 1916 no new Bristol Scout aircraft were being supplied to the British squadrons of either service, the early fighter squadrons in RFC service being equipped instead with the Airco DH.2 single seat "pusher" fighter. A small number of Bristol Scouts were sent to the Middle East (in Egypt, Macedonia, Mesopotamia, and Palestine) in 1916. The last known Bristol Scout in military service being the former RNAS Scout D No. 8978 in Australia, which was based at Point Cook, near Melbourne, as late as October 1926.

Once the Bristol Scouts were no longer required for frontline service they were reallocated to training units, although many were retained by senior officers as personal "runabouts".

Variants[edit]

Scout A[edit]

The single prototype aircraft.

Scout B[edit]

The second Scout B produced (s/n 648) before guns were fitted.

Two manufactured, identical to the modified Scout A except for having half-hoop-style underwing skids mounted on them to ease the severity of ground loop mishaps, and a widened rudder. Completed shortly after the outbreak of war in August 1914, they were rquisitioned by the War Office. Given Royal Flying Corps serial numbers 644 and 648, one was allocated to No. 3 Squadron and the other to No. 3 Squadron for evaluation purposes.[1] Number 644 was damaged beyond repair on 12 November 1914 in a crash landing.

Type 1 Scout C[edit]

A Bristol Scout C (No.1255) in RNAS service, with added accommodation for the engine oil tank behind the cockpit.

The Type 1 Scout C, very similar to the previous Scout B, was first ordered by the British government on 5 November 1914, in a 12 aircraft production batch for the Royal Flying Corps, and on 7 December 1914 by the competing Royal Naval Air Service (RNAS) in a 24-aircraft batch. Both these batches were powered by the 80 hp Gnome Lambda rotary, and were fitted out with unusual "dome-front" cowls with much smaller frontal openings than the Scout Bs cowling. These early Scout Cs also had their main oil tank moved to a position directly behind the pilot's shoulders, requiring a raised rear dorsal fairing immediately behind the pilot's seat to accommodate it.[1]

Later Scout C production batches, consisting of 50 aircraft built for the RNAS and 75 for the RFC, changed the cowl to a flat-fronted longer-depth version able to house the alternate choice of a nine cylinder 80 hp Le Rhône 9C rotary engine when the Gnome Lambda was not used, and moved the oil tank forward to a position in front of the pilot for better weight distribution and more reliable engine operation. The later cowl for the remaining Scout C aircraft still had the small opening of the domed unit, but often had a small cutaway made to the lower rear edge of the cowl to increase the cooling effect, and to allow any unburned fuel/oil mix to drain away.[1]

Types 2, 3, 4 and 5 Scout D[edit]

The last, and most numerous production version, the Scout D, gradually came about as the result of a series of further improvements to the Scout C design. One of the earliest changes appeared on seventeen of the 75 naval Scout Cs with an increase in the wing dihedral angle from 1 34° to 3°,[12] and other aircraft in the 75 aircraft naval production run introduced a larger span horizontal tail surfaces and a broadened-chord rudder, shorter-span ailerons, and a large front opening for the cowl, much like that of Scout B but made as a "one-piece" ring cowl instead. This newer cowl was sometimes modified with a blister on the starboard lower side for more efficient exhaust-gas scavenging, as it was meant to house the eventual choice of the more powerful, nine-cylinder 100 hp Gnôme Monosoupape B2 rotary engine in later production batches, to improve the Scout D's performance. Some 210 examples of the Scout D version were produced, with 80 of these being ordered by the RNAS, and the other 130 being ordered by the Royal Flying Corps.[1][13]

Other variants[edit]

  • S.2A : Two-seat fighter version of the Scout D. Two were built as advanced training aircraft.[1]

Operators[edit]

 United Kingdom
 Australia
 Greece

Specifications (Bristol Scout D)[edit]

Data from Bristol Aircraft since 1910[1]

General characteristics

Performance

Armament

See also[edit]

Aircraft of comparable role, configuration and era
Related lists

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m Barnes 1964
  2. ^ The 80 h.p. Bristol "Scout", Flight, 25 April 1914, pp.434-6
  3. ^ Bruce, J.M. (1994). Windsock Datafile No.44, The Bristol Scouts. Berkhamsted, Herts, UK: Albatros Publications. pp. 2–3. ISBN 0-948414-59-6. 
  4. ^ Sport Aviation, November 1960.
  5. ^ Bruce, J. M.The Bristol Scout Part 1, Flight International, 26 September 1958, pp. 525-8
  6. ^ Bruce, J.M. (1994). Windsock Datafile No.44, The Bristol Scouts. Berkhamsted, Herts, UK: Albatros Publications. pp. 3–4. ISBN 0-948414-59-6. 
  7. ^ Bruce, J.M. (1994). Windsock Datafile No.44, The Bristol Scouts. Berkhamsted, Herts, UK: Albatros Publications. pp. 5, 6. ISBN 0-948414-59-6. 
  8. ^ Bruce, J.M. (1994). Windsock Datafile No.44, The Bristol Scouts. Berkhamsted, Herts, UK: Albatros Publications. pp. 10, 11. ISBN 0-948414-59-6. 
  9. ^ Shores and Rolfe 2001, pp. 10–11.
  10. ^ Bruce, J. M. The Bristol Scout Part V Flight International, 31 October 1958, pp.701-1
  11. ^ Bruce, J.M. (1994). Windsock Datafile No.44, The Bristol Scouts. Berkhamsted, Herts, UK: Albatros Publications. p. 5. ISBN 0-948414-59-6. 
  12. ^ Bruce, J.M. (1994). Windsock Datafile No.44, The Bristol Scouts. Berkhamsted, Herts, UK: Albatros. p. 8. ISBN 0-948414-59-6. 
  13. ^ "Bristol Scout D." Fleet Air Arm Museum. Retrieved: 18 October 2011.

Bibliography[edit]

  • Barnes, C. H.Bristol Aircraft since 1910. London: Putnam, 1964.
  • Bruce, J. M. The Bristol Scouts (Windsock Datafile No.44). Berkhamsted, Herts, UK: Albatros, 1994. ISBN 0-948414-59-6.
  • Shores, Christopher and Rolfe, Mark. British and Empire Aces of World War 1. Oxford, UK: Osprey, 2001. ISBN 978-1-84176-377-4.

External links[edit]