Bristol Scout A

Bristol Scout A prototype no206
Bristol Scout A or 'Baby Biplane' with Harry Busteed at Larkhill in early 1914.
The diminutive Bristol Scout, originally referred to as the ‘Baby’, was a single seat rotary engine biplane designed by Bristol Aerplance Company Head Designer Frank Barnwell and Chief Test Pilot Harry Busteed.
It was first flown on 23rd February 1914 with Busteed at the controls. It demonstrated good handling and a top speed of 95 mph on the power of an 80 hp Rolls-Royce Gnome engine. After more flying at Larkhill the prototype, now designated as the Bristol Scout A, returned to Filton to be fitted with larger wings, increasing the chord six inches (15 cm) and the span from 22 ft (6.71 m) to 24 ft 7 in (7.49 m). Other changes included a larger rudder, an open-fronted cowling with external stiffening ribs around the cowl's sides and fabric panel-covered wheels.
It was then exhibited at the March 1914 Aero Show at Olympia in London.
It was evaluated by the British military on 14th May 1914 at Farnborough, flown by Harry Busteed once more and where it achieved a speed of 97.5 mph (157 km/h). The aircraft was then entered for the 1914 Aerial Derby on 23rd May but did not take part because the weather was so poor that Bristol did not wish to risk the aircraft.
Lord Carbery then fitted a Morane-Saulnier G 80 hp Le Rhône engine and raced at the re-scheduled Aerial Derby on 6th June. Unfortunately, it failed to complete the handicapped race, reason unknown.
2 further examples (229 & 230) were being built at Filton and so the prototype was purchased without an engine by Lord John Carbery for £400. It was immediately fitted with an 80 hp Le Rhône 9C nine-cylinder rotary engine and he  entered it into the London–Manchester race held on 20th June 1914. Unfortunately the aircraft was damaged when landing at Castle Bromwich and had to withdraw.
After repairs (including a modification to widen the track of the undercarriage) Carbery entered it in the London–Paris–London race held on 11th July but had to ditch the aircraft in the English Channel on the return leg. The cause was later identified as only one of the two fuel tanks being filled before departure. Thankfully, Carbery managed to land alongside a ship and escaped although the aircraft was lost.
This one-off aircraft was retrospectively designated as the Bristol Scout A.

Bristol Scout B

Numbers 229 and 230 were designated as the Bristol Scout B when Frank Barnwell retrospectively gave type numbers to early Bristol aircraft. Although these were similar to the Scout A, they featured half-hoop-style underwing skids, six stiffening ribs around the engine cowl which was also made with a larger circular front opening for engine cooling, and an enlarged rudder.
Bristol Scout B Fboro Aug 14
One of the two Bristol Scout B variants under test at Farnborough in August 1914.
Completed in 1914, shortly after the outbreak of World War I, they were immediately requisitioned by the War Office and allocated Royal Flying Corps (RFC) serial numbers 644 and 648. One aircraft was allocated to No.3 Squadron with the other going to No. 5 Squadron for evaluation. Number 644 was damaged beyond repair on 12th November 1914 in a crash landing. 


Bristol Scout C

Bristol Scout C RNAS 3046 Feb 16
RNAS Bristol Scout C 3046 photographed in February 1916.
The production aircraft, later called the Bristol Scout C, differed from the Type A and B predominantly in the detail of their construction. Outwardly however, the engine cowling was replaced with one with a small frontal opening and the stiffening ribs were removed. The top decking, in front of the cockpit had a deeper curve whilst the aluminium covering of the fuselage sides extended only as far as the forward centre-section struts, aft of which the decking was plywood.
During the Great War, Captain Lance Hawker became the third recipient of the Victoria Cross for shooting down two enemy aircraft with a single shot on 25th July 1915, fired from the Martini carbine mounted on his Bristol Scout C .

Bristol Scout D

The Bristol Scout D meanwhile, featured various improvements including adaptation to fit several engine types including the relocation of the oil tank, enlarging of the rudder and the use of shorter ailerons.
Engines that were fitted included the 80 hp Rolls-Royce Gnome, Le Rhône and Clerget, the 100 hp Monosoupape-Gnome, and the 110 hp Clerget or Le Rhône rotaries.
Bristol Scout D 5555 110 Clerget spinner
An RFC Bristol Scout D 5555 fitted with 110hp Clerget and large prop spinner.
The Bristol Scout D was delivered to service with the Royal Naval Air Service (RNAS) and the Royal Flying Corps (RFC) in February 1916. A number of these were fitted with a single-synchronised Vickers machine gun, firing through the arc of the propeller. Earlier machines had been limited by not having interrupter-gear fitted, although a range of gun types were fitted, to be fired outside the propeller arc.
Bristol Scout D replicaThis Bristol Scout D replica, previously flown in the US, is displayed at the FAA Museum.



  Scout A Scout C Scout D
Powerplant 80 hp Gnome                80 hp Le Rhône          
100 hp  
Span 22 ft 0 in 24 ft 7 in 24 ft 7 in
Maximum Weight 960 lb 1,195 lb 1,250 lb
Capacity & Armament Single seat, unarmed Single seat generally unarmed Single seat some fitted with single machine gun
Maximum Speed 95 mph 92.7 mph 110 mph
Endurance 3 hr 2.5 hr 2 hr


Variants and number built

The main production types were the Bristol Scout C (161 built) and the Bristol Scout D (210 built) which were operated by both the Royal Flying Corps (RFC) and the Royal Naval Air Service (RNAS).

Bristol Scout A            One only, c/n 206, 80hp Gnome
Bristol Scout B Two aircraft, c/n 229, 230, revised wing bracing and externally stiffened cowling
Bristol Scout C 161 aircraft with 80hp Gnome, Le Rhone or Clerget engines
Bristol Scout D 210 aircraft - range of rotary engines from 80hp to 110hp.
Total 374 aircraft



None - although three replica aircraft are displayed in the UK, and one in New Zealand, as follows:
Bristol Scout D         
Non-flying replica (BAPC38) Shuttleworth Collection, Old Warden          
Bristol Scout C
(1254 - G-FDHB)
Flying replica using some original parts, first flown in July 2015
Bristol Scout D
Built in USA by Leo Opdyke as flying replica; now displayed uncovered at Fleet Air Arm Museum, Yeovilton, Somerset
Bristol Scout C
(5565 - ZK-BTL)
Flying replica at NZ Warbirds Association, Ardmore, New Zealand


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