R1 Blackburn

Naval gunfire spotter and reconnaissance aircraft, produced in significant numbers for the Fleet Air Arm.
Blackburn R1 Blackburn prototype N150 port front The first prototype Blackburn R1 Blackburn I N150.
The Blackburn R1 Blackburn was developed to meet a naval requirement (Specification 3/21) for a carrier-based reconnaissance aircraft and gun spotting aircraft. Major FA Bumpus designed a modified fuselage (having a high degree of commonality with that of the Blackburn Dart), together with the wing and tail surfaces from the Dart.
The pilot sat in an open cockpit above the engine whilst a navigator sat inside the fuselage and a gun position was located towards the rear of the fuselage cabin. The aircraft's two-bay wings could fold for stowage aboard ships with the upper wing attached directly to the fuselage, which filled the interplane gap. Power was provided by a 450 hp Napier Lion IIB engine.
Armament was a single forward-firing Vickers machine gun (with 500 rounds) mounted externally to the left of the pilot, with a Lewis gun on a Scarff ring for the gunner.
Three prototypes (N150 – N152) were flown during 1922, with the first aircraft completing trials at Martlesham Heath by 12th August 1922. The type was selected for service leading to an initial production contract for 12 aircraft.
The production aircraft were designated Blackburn I and the first deliveries to the Fleet Air Arm at Gosport began in April 1923. 18 more Blackburn I's were built in 1923-4.
Its first operational deployment was with No. 422 Fleet Spotter Flight which deployed aboard HMS Eagle in the Mediterranean in 1923.
Blackburn R1 Blackburn II S1157 air to air Blackburn R1 Blackburn II S1157 showing raised centre section and cross-axle undercarriage.
A further order for 29 Blackburn II aircraft was placed against Specification 11/23 fitted with the 465 hp Napier Lion V engine. The first prototype Blackburn II was a conversion of the original Blackburn I prototype (N150). The upper wing was raised to clear the fuselage to improve elevator control and a cross-axle undercarriage was fitted.
Blackburn R1 Blackburn II's were initially delivered to No. 420 Spotter Flight and deployed on the aircraft carrier HMS Furious. The Blackburn II was later operated from the carriers HMS Courageous and HMS Argus.
Blackburn R1 Blackburn II dual control A Blackburn II dual control trainer conversion, showing its widened side-by-side cockpit.
A few Blackburns were used as dual-control trainers for deck-landing training at Leuchars. These aircraft were modified with a widened cockpit, seating instructor and student side-by-side. Conversions included N9589 and N9989.
At least two aircraft (N9833 and N9828) were operated on floats. The first (N9833) had strengthened floats for landings directly onto a carrier deck whilst the second (N9828) had amphibious floats with internal wheels and sprung tailskids.
Blackburn R1 Blackburn I N9833 Blackburn I N9833 fitted with strengthened floats for direct deck landing trials.
All the surviving Blackburn I's were converted to Blackburn II standard before the type became obsolete in 1931, when they were replaced by the Fairey IIIF.
Blackburn R1 Blackburn I N9828 amphib floats Blackburn R1 Blackburn I N9828 fitted with amphibious floats.

Variants & Numbers Built

Three aircraft flown in 1922, serial numbers N150 – N152
R1 Blackburn I
30 production aircraft
R1 Blackburn II
Prototype conversion (N150) plus 29 production aircraft. Remaining Blackburn I converted to Blackburn II. Featured raised upper wing, increased power (465 hp Napier Lion V) and cross-axle undercarriage.
Dual control
A limited number of aircraft converted to a side-by-side dual control configuration. Examples include N9589, N9989
Seaplane or amphibian 
Conversions including N9833 and N9828
Total production
62 aircraft – three prototypes and 30 Blackburn I and 29 Blackburn II.

Specification (Blackburn I)

One 450 hp Napier Lion IIB
45 ft 6.5 in
Maximum Weight
5,962 lb
Capacity & Armament
Three crew; one forward-firing Vickers gun, rear Vickers Scarff-mounted Lewis gun in rear cockpit.
Maximum Speed
122 mph at 3,000 ft
Max cruise speed
103.5 mph
3.25 hr at 122 mph, 4.25 hr at 103,5 mph


No Blackburn R1 Blackburn aircraft survive.