Prototype Britannia G-ALBO framed on take off by the propeller of another Britannia.
Prototype Britannia G-ALBO framed on take off by the propeller of another Britannia.

The Bristol 175 Britannia was designed by the Bristol Aeroplane Company to meet the requirements of British Overseas Aircraft Corporation (BOAC) trans-Atlantic routes, carrying upto 90 passengers back and forth to the USA.


An initial 25 (Bristol Britannia 100) were ordered by BOAC in July 1949 and the name Britannia chosen in April 1950.


The prototype (G-ALBO) was first flown on 16th August 1952 at Filton Aerodrome with Test Pilot A.J. 'Bill' Pegg at the controls.  


The maiden flight was not without difficulties as not only were the controls thought to be 'over-sensitive' but during the final approach the cockpit filled with smoke, caused by a stuck undercarriage bogie that continuously recycyled - Thankfully, it finally locked into position moments before landing. 


One prototype was lost in December 1953, following an engine fire and forced landing on the banks of the Severn. Engine icing problems caused flame-outs and required significant development activity. As a result, the type did not enter BOAC service until February 1957, initially on the Johannesburg route.


In service, the elegant Bristol 175 Britannia was advertised as ‘The Whispering Giant’. Stretched developments were offered for all cargo (Bristol Britannia 200), passenger cargo (Bristol Britannia 250) and all passenger operations (Bristol Britannia 300).


BOAC selected the Bristol Britannia 300 for the trans-Atlantic route, leading to additional orders from El Al and Canadian Pacific. The Bristol 175 Britannia 301 was first flown on 31st July 1956 whilst the Bristol Britannia 310, with increased fuel capacity, flew in December of the same year.


The first Bristol 175 Britannia service from London to New York was flown in December 1957.


Air to air photograph of RAF Britannia C1 (Series 253) XL636
Air to air photograph of RAF Britannia C1 (Series 253) XL636


The RAF ordered 23 mixed passenger-cargo aircraft for use by Transport Command (3 x Bristol Britannia 252 and 20  x Bristol Britannia 253), these being delivered in 1959 and 1960.


18 of the RAF fleet were built by Short Brothers & Harland in Belfast.


Britannia 313 5Y-ALT of African Safari Airways (originally 4X-AGD of El Al) after landing at Gatwick Airport
Britannia 313 5Y-ALT of African Safari Airways (originally 4X-AGD of El Al) after landing at Gatwick Airport
BOAC retired its 14 early Bristol 175 Britannia Bristol Britannia 100 aircraft in November 1962, after only five years service, and the type becoming a popular servant of several British independent airlines. The type received a further lease of life with several civil cargo operators when the RAF disposed of its fleet in 1975-76.
After retirement from the RAF a number of aircraft were converted for civil cargo use. This is OO-YCA (ex-XL635) of Young Cargo Airlines photographed at Stansted Airport.
An ex-RAF Britannia of Young Cargo Airlines at Stansted

After retirement from the RAF, a number of aircraft were converted for civil cargo use, such OO-YCA (ex-XL635) of Young Cargo Airlines photographed above.


In Canada, a piston engined derivative of the Bristol 175 Britannia (the Canadair Argus) served in the maritime patrol role. Tyne-powered stretched developments of the type were also produced in Canada, designated as the Canadair Yukon for RCAF transport use. It was also produced as the Canadair CL-44D, fitted with a swing-tail and used for freight operations.


Four Canadair CL-44 aircraft were sold to Loftleidir (without the swing tail) and were configured for 160 passengers. These aircraft were later further stretched to carry up to 189 passengers and designated as  the CL-44J.


85 Bristol 175 Britannia aircraft were built, including those sub-contracted to Short Bros. & Harland Ltd in Belfast. Canadair built 33 Argus as well as a total of 39 Yukon and CL-44D. Although troubled initially by engine icing, the Bristol 175 Britannia eventually proved itself to be safe and robust in service.

The limited production total of 85 aircraft reflects the emergence and success of jet engine airliners during the 1950s, most notably the Boeing 707 which dominated long distance passenger routes.



                         Srs 100 Srs 253 Srs 312
Powerplant             Four 3,780 ehp Bristol Proteus 705 Four 4,400 ehp Bristol Proteus 255 Four 4,450 ehp Bristol Proteus 755
Span 142 ft 3 in
Maximum AUW 155,000 lb 185,000 lb
Capacity  7 crew 90 passengers 4 to 7 crew and 139 passengers
Cruising Speed 362 mph 360 mph 357 mph
Max Range 4,580 miles 5,334 miles 5,310 miles


Number built

 85                All variants - see table below           



Bristol Britannia 100        Seventy-four passenger airliner with 114 ft (35m) fuselage and powered by four Bristol Proteus 705
Bristol Britannia 101 Prototypes, 2 initially powered by Proteus 625 and soon after re-engined with the Proteus 755
Bristol Britannia 102
15 Built 
Production aircraft for BOAC
Bristol Britannia 250 Mixed passenger freight variant with a 124 ft 3 in fuselage
Bristol Britannia 252
3 built
Delivered to the Royal Air Force, as the Britannia C2. Fitted with a heavy-duty floor in forward area of fuselage and cargo door.
Bristol Britannia 253
20 built
Passenger/freight variant for the Royal Air Force, designated Britannia C1. Capacity for 115 troops or equivalent in cargo. Aircraft later sold on the civil market as freighters designated Bristol Britannia 253F.
Bristol Britannia 300  Passenger only 'stretched' version of the 100 Bristol Britannia, with 10 ft 3 in (3.1 m) fuselage stretch, capable of carrying up to 139 passengers.
Bristol Britannia 301
1 Built
1 Filton-built company prototype, used the same wing and fuel capacity of the Model 100; first flew: 31st July 1956.
Bristol Britannia 302
2 built
Belfast-built production, delivered to Aeronaves de Mexico.
Bristol Britannia 307
2 built
Air Charter Limited September 1958 and March 1959, later to British United Airways.
Bristol Britannia 308
2 built
Transcontinental SA of Argentina in 104-passenger configuration.
Bristol Britannia 309
1 built 
Leased to Ghana Airways.
Bristol Britannia 311
1 built
Prototype originally known as a 300LR.
Bristol Britannia 312  Production aircraft for BOAC, 18 built.
Bristol Britannia 312F
5 conversions
1960s conversion of 312 to freighter.
Bristol Britannia 313
4 built
Production aircraft for El Al.
Bristol Britannia 314
6 built
Production aircraft for Canadian Pacific Air Lines.
Bristol Britannia 317
2 built
Production aircraft for Hunting-Clan Air Transport in 124 passenger trooping configuration.
Bristol Britannia 318
4 built
Production aircraft for Cubana de Aviación.
Bristol Britannia 319
1 built 
Ghana Airways, modified from original Model 310/311 Bristol Britannia.
Bristol Britannia 324
2 built
Canadian Pacific Air Lines, later purchased by Cunard Eagle Airways in 1961.


Bristol Britannia 308F
Britannia Aircraft Preservation Trust, Liverpool Speke Airport, UK         
Bristol Britannia 312
RAF Museum, Cosford, Shropshire, UK
Bristol Britannia 312
Imperial War Museum Duxford, Cambs, UK
Bristol Britannia C.1
(XM496) Regulus
XM496 Preservation Society, Kemble Airfield, Gloucestershire, UK


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