This website uses cookies. By navigating around this site you consent to cookies being stored on your machine

Bristol Aeroplane Company

During a chance meeting with Wilbur Wright in France during 1909, George White recognised the business potential of aviation in the UK.

Bristol Aeroplane Company

Bristol Aeroplane Co logo
Baronet George White, Chairman of The Bristol Tramways and Carriage Company, instantly recognised the business potential of aviation after a chance meeting with Wilbur Wright in France in 1909. 

White soon recognised that such a risky venture as aviation would need its own facilities and business identity and so, in conjunction with his brother Samuel and his son Stanley, he established The British and Colonial Aeroplane Company in a former Tram Shed at Filton, near Bristol, on 19th February 1910.  Distinct from many fledgling aircraft companies of the time, the new enterprise was well-funded with an initial working capital of £25,000.  The company’s initial manufacturing venture was to produce an improved version of the Societe Zodiac, a biplane designed by Gabriel Voisin and they exhibited their machine at the Aero Show at Olympia in March 1909.  Unfortunately and against expectations The whole project was unsuccessful when the aircraft failed to perform after which it was abandoned.

Later that year a Flying School was established at Brooklands (the centre of all British aviation activity at the time) and this was soon joined by another school at Larkhill on Salisbury Plain – suddenly there was a change in flying interests which moved from having the same take-off and landing venue to a point-to-point adventure.

Bristol then set about manufacturing its own design and the Bristol Boxkite biplane took to the air on 20th July 1910.  The Boxkite was a commercial success with 76 machines being built with many examples being purchased by the War Office. 
Bristol Boxkite
Plans for the Boxkite were created in 7 days - 78 aircraft were built between 1910 - 1914 
At the outbreak of World War I Bristol responded with the popular Bristol Scout and a second factory premises was set up at Brislington, Bristol.   In 1916 the Bristol F2 Fighter took to the air and within a month it was joined by the Bristol Type 14 F2B.  In all, over 5,300 F2 Fighter aircraft were produced.  
Sadly in the same year, the founder and first Sir George White died, being succeeded by his son Stanley (who, as Second Baronet, adopted the same name).
Throughout World War I the company supplied Scouts to the Royal Naval Air Service and Bristol Fighters to the Royal Flying Corps.  Other successful military types followed and by the end of the war the company were employing over 3,000 people.

In 1920 the British and Colonial Aeroplane Company was liquidated and the company renamed Bristol Aeroplane Company.  Additionally at this time, and after growing pressure from the Air Ministry, the company bought the failing aero-engine division of Cosmos Engineering Company.  Cosmos was based in the Bristol suburb of Fishponds and a good working relationship had previously existed between the two companies.  Eventually, the newly formed division showed a profit becoming a leader in the supply of air-cooled radial engines.

Playing a significant role during World War II Bristol Aeroplane Company supplied Beaufighter, Blenheim and Beaufort aircraft to the RAF.  A shadow factory was set up in Weston-Super-Mare during 1940 which eventually became home to the Bristol helicopter business before eventually being taken over by Westland in 1960.

The post-war era saw Bristol Aeroplane Company involved in a renaissance of the British civilian aircraft industry, inspired by the Brabazon Committee Report of 1949.  In response to the report Bristol created the Brabazon airliner prototype, at the time the world’s largest aircraft.  Sadly the project proved ill-conceived with little interest from civil or military users and so it was abandoned to concentrate on the Britannia. 

In 1949, and at the request of the UK government, the joint Bristol / Ferranti Bloodhound Project was developed and at the time it was the RAF’s only long-range, transportable surface-to-air anti-aircraft missile.  The business has undergone a number of changes and is represented today as Matra - BAE Dynamics - Alenia (MBDA).

Other post-war projects included Bristol Cars who produced vehicles based upon pre-war BMW designs which were built at Patchway, Bristol.  Production was small by comparison to aircraft manufacture and the automotive business was divested in 1960 upon the amalgamation of the parent company into British Aircraft Corporation.  At its head of the resulting motor company was the founder’s son, Sir George Stanley White.

When it was decided to seperate the major operations of the Bristol Aeroplane Company in 1956, they became Bristol Aircraft Limited and Bristol Aero Engines, with their Headquarters at Filton House. 
Bristol Aeroplane Co Filton / Pegasus House
Filton House became the headquarters of Bristol Aeroplane Company during the 1930's

Bristol Aeroplane Company had been designing and producing its own engines since before World War I such as the Jupiter, used in the Bristol Bulldog and throughout its extensive history it was responsible for a huge number of significant power-plants such as the Mercury and Pegasus.  
In 1958, Bristol Aero Engines was merged with Armstrong Siddeley to form Bristol Siddeley before finally being purchased by Rolls-Royce in 1966.

Bristol Aeroplane Company remained a key UK aircraft manufacturer until finally merged into British Aircraft Corporation in 1960.



1910 Bristol and Colonial Aeroplane Company                                                 
1910 Bristol Aeroplane Company
1956 Bristol Aircraft Limited
1960 British Aircraft Corporation 
1977 British Aerospace
1999 BAE Systems


1910  Boxkite 1925  Type 92 'Laboratory' biplane
1910 Bristol Glider 1925 Types 93 Boarhound and 93A Beaver
1911 Biplane Type 'T' 1926 Type 99 Badminton
1911 Prier monoplane 1927 Type 101
1911 Racing Biplane 1927 Type 105 Bulldog
1912 Gordon England biplane GE1 1927 Type 95 Bagshot
1912 Coanda Monoplanes 1928 Type 107 Bullpup
1913 B.R.7 GE2 1928 Type 109
1913 Hydro no.120 1929 Type 110A
1913 TB.8 / GB75 1931 Type 118
1914 Scout Type 1-5, 1B & 21 1931 Type 120
1916 Scout Type 10, 11, 20 and M1 1934 Type 123
1916 Scout Type 12, 14-17, 22 & F2 1934 Type 133
1916 T.T.A. 1935 Type 130 Bombay
1917 Type 13 M.R.1 1935 Type 142 Blenheim
1918 Scout F1 1936 Type 138 High-Altitude
1918 Type 24 Braemar / 25 Tramp 1936 Type 143
1919 Tourer Types 27 - 29, 45, 47, 81 & 86 1937 Type 148
1919 Type 23 Badger 1937 Types 142M / 149 / 160 Blenheim
1919 Type 30 / 46 Babe 1938 Type 146
1920 Type 26 Pullman 1938 Type 152 Beaufort
1920 Type 32 Bullet 1939 Type 149 / 151 Bollingbroke
1920 Type 36 Seely 1939 Type 156 Beaufighter
1921 Type 37 Tramp 1943 Type 163 Buckingham
1922 Type 62 / 75 Ten-Seater  1944 Type 164 Brigand
1922 Type 72 Racer 1944 Type 166 Buckmaster
1922 Type 79 Brandon 1945
Type 170 Freighter, Wayfarer & Superfreighter
1922 Types 52 / 53 Bullfinch 1947 Type 171 Sycamore Helicopter                      
1923 73 Taxiplane / 83 / 183 Primary Trainer 1949 Type 167 Brabazon
1923 Type 84 Bloodhound 1952 Type 173 Helicopter
1924 Type 76 Jupiter Fighter 1952 Type 175 Britannia
1924 Type 91 Brownie 1958 Type 192 Belvedere
1925 Type 90 Berkeley 1962 Type 188

More information