The story of the BAC221 actually begins with Fairey Aviation in 1947, when the Air Ministry requested the production of some research models to explore fully the concept of the delta wing and the eventual production of the Fairey Delta 2.


Whilst it is fully acknowledged that the story of the Fairey Delta 2 rests elsewhere, it would be impossible to record the accomplishments of the BAC221 without reference to its origin.

Fairey Delta 2 (WG777)
Fairey Delta 2 (WG777)

Fairey Delta 2

Following on from the Fairey Delta 1, Fairey Aviation had become interested in the development of the delta wing concept and submitted a number of proposals to the Ministry of Supply. The Ministry, appeared interested and issued orders for models to test the development of the delta wing. The first of which was built in 1947 with testing performed by the Royal Aircraft Establishment (RAE).  
The model tests exceeded expectations and so the Ministry further ordered models for a specialised aircraft for conducting investigations into flight and control at transonic and supersonic speeds. Decisively, these included the need for a delta wing and a drooped nose.
Fairey meanwhile, were not keen on simply building models, believing that a piloted full-size aircraft would be necessary if the project was to produce any valuable data. They commenced work on a highly swept wing, twin-engine aircraft, despite the Ministry's apparent lack of enthusiasm for a twin-engine configuration. This apathy is thought to have been in the main due their commitment to rival project that would become the English Electric Lightning
In February 1949, it was agreed that Fairey Aviation should examine the potential for a single-engine transonic aircraft and by the end of the year, the company had produced their new project, out of which the Fairey Delta 2 (FD2) would directly originate. In response, the Ministry issued Air Ministry Specification ER.103 for the project, ordering that a pair of prototype aircraft be produced.
The prototype Fairey Delta 2 or FD.2 (WG774) flew for the first time on 6th October 1954, and within months set an absolute world speed record of 1,132 mph on 10th March 1956. This was a significant achievement as it was the first aircraft to exceed 1,000 mph and provided Test Pilot Peter Twiss with the honour of being the first man to fly faster than the rotation of the earth. This would have an unnerving effect is flying westwards of reversing the setting of the sun.
The second prototype to be manufactured, flew for the first time on 15th February 1956 and was similar to WG774 apart from the elimination of the underwing flap system and a few differences in equipment and instrumentation. A single, static test airframe was also completed.
The Fairy Delta 2 was assigned to the development of the supersonic BAC Concorde airliner, with its slender ogival wing planform and seen as requiring a test aircraft to confirm its expected transonic, supersonic and low speed handling and performance characteristics. Low speed characteristics were to be investigated using the Handley Page HP115.

BAC 221

BAC 221 WG774 ground
This view of the BAC 221 emphasises its needle-like nose and tall undercarriage.
During 1960, further development activity was disrupted by the purchase of Fairey by Westland Aircraft during the period of the government led rationalisation of the British aircraft industry. This left the project outside of the favoured British Aircraft Corporation and accordingly, in July 1960, the programme moved to Bristol Aeroplane Company at Filton, who were now a part of the larger nationalised group.
In seeking a platform capable of exploring Concorde’s high speed flight envelope, the decision was made to modify the Fairey Delta 2 prototype, fitting a completely new ogival wing, to produce what would be designated as the BAC 221.
Bristol developed two routes forward:
  •  A 'minimal' conversion with a sub-optimal wing but no other major changes,
  •  A 'maximal' conversion with a six foot extension to the fuselage and taller landing gear.
Both would also be equipped with a new Elliott Brothers stabilisation system and have the engine intakes moved under the wing.
The minimal conversion was considered to be a compromise solution, less slender and lacking the additional fuel capacity and so the maximal conversion was selected and on 5th September 1960, WG774 was flown Filton.
The key modifications included lengthening the fuselage by some six feet, designing new engine air intakes to be relocated under the wing and a adoption of a 'long-stroke' undercarriage. There were also associated changes affecting the fuel, electrical, hydraulic and other systems.
The prototype (WG774) first flew in this guise at Filton on 1st May 1964.
BAC 221 WG774 and FD2 WG777 formation
BAC 221 (WG774) and FD2 (WG777) flying in formation, showing the differences in planform, and intake location.
The majority of the BAC 221 flight test activity thereafter, was carried out at Royal Aircraft Establishment (RAE) at Bedford, where it carried out a total of 273 flights.
The sole BAC 221 is now displayed alongside the first British-built Concorde (G-BSST) and the low-speed Handley Page HP115 test aircraft, at the Fleet Air Arm Museum at Yeovilton, Somerset.
BAC 221 on display at FAA Museum Yeovilton
BAC 221 on display at the Fleet Air Arm Museum Yeovilton alongside Concorde 002 G-BSST.

Number built (BAC 221)

One only, modified from Fairey FD.2 WG774.


One Rolls-Royce Avon 28 with 9,300 lb thrust, 13,100 lb with reheat
25 ft 0 in
Maximum Weight
13,884 lb
Pilot only
Maximum Speed
1,060 mph (Mach 1.6)
830 miles



BAC221 (WG774
Fleet Air Arm Museum, Yeovilton, Somerset.

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