Blackburn R2 Airedale N188 prototype ground rear port
The first prototype Airedale, N188, with original undercarriage.
Air Ministry specification 37/22 sought a land or ship-based aircraft, to provide naval reconnaissance and fleet spotting, to replace the existing Blackburn R1 Blackburn and the Avro 555 Bison.
Blackburn Aircraft Company's offering was a three-crew high-wing monoplane powered by a 385 hp Armstrong Siddeley Jaguar III radial engine.
The type was the first monoplane to be built by Blackburn Aircraft Company after the end of the First World War. The wings were designed to fold using an inclined hinge so that they lay leading edge down, alongside the fuselage. The wings were of an unusual 'lozenge' shaped planform and were of mixed construction. The wooden structure was then braced internally with metal drag struts and tie rods.
The three crew comprised the pilot, sat high and forward of the wing leading edge), a navigator / wireless operator within the fuselage and an observer / gunner in a rear cockpit, shielded by an overhanging roof. The navigator’s cabin was provided with windows fore and aft and could be accessed from the pilot’s cockpit. A set of subsidiary controls was provided so that the navigator could fly the aircraft if the pilot left his seat. It was equipped with a fixed forward-firing 0.5in Vickers gun and a 0.303in Lewis gun mounted on a Scarff ring in the rear cockpit. Bombs could be carried externally, beneath the fuselage.
The Blackburn R2 Airedale was fitted with a wide-track undercarriage, with a cross-axle and rubber-in-compression main legs. Arrester claws were also fitted at the outboard ends of the cross-axle for shipboard use. Blackburn Aircraft Company trials revealed the urgent need to strengthen the undercarriage, resulting in additional bracing struts being fitted.
Blackburn R2 Airedale N188 revised undercarriage
The first Blackburn R2 Airedale, N188, following undercarriage modification.
Blackburn Aircraft Company received a contract for two prototypes (N188 and N189 designated Blackburn R2 Airedale). These aircraft were built at Leeds and then moved to Brough for flight testing. The first (N188) was flown in August or September 1925, but it crashed in December 1925, whilst taking off in a crosswind. Unfortunately, it was being flown by an RAF Service Pilot, who was intending to deliver it to Aeroplane and Armament Experimental Establishment (A&AEE) at Martlesham Heath for official trials.
Blackburn R2 Airedale N188 strengthened undercarriage
This head-on view of Airedale N188 shows the strengthened undercarriage modification.
The second prototype (N189) was fairly similar to the first although it incorporated the revised undercarriage from the outset. It was also fitted with subsidiary vertical fins, mounted beneath the tailplane, to improve directional stability. However, this aircraft did not reach Martlesham Heath for trials until June 1926.
The Air Ministry took the view that the Blackburn R2 Airedale, and its competitors, did not offer a sufficient advance over the existing in-service aircraft to warrant a production contract. Therefore, they decided to withdraw the requirement.


Number Built

Two prototypes (N188 & N189)



Powerplant One 385 hp Armstrong Siddeley Jaguar III radial engine
Span 46 ft 0 in
Maximum Weight 4,942 lb
Capacity & Armament Three crew: pilot, navigator / wireless operator, observer / gunner; on fixed forward-firing 0.5in Vickers gun, one 0.303 Lewis gun fired from rear cockpit
Maximum Speed 120 mph at sea level




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