The Bristol Type 163 Buckingham has its origins with a desire for a medium bomber version of the Bristol 156 Beaufighter to developed by Bristol Aeroplane Company against Specification B.2/41 for the Royal Air Force. The eventual design, with its twin Bristol Centaurus engines driving four blade propellers, and featuring large twin rear fins, bore little resemblance to its forebear, being considerably larger and heavier.
Development was delayed by frequent changes of specification, and by power and reliability issues with the new Centaurus sleeve-valve engine. Nevertheless, the result was a fast, powerful and well-armed design, similar in concept to the B-25 Mitchell but with a maximum speed some 60 mph faster than that of the B-25.
Initially designated as the Bristol Type 162 and tentatively named Beaumont', construction had actually began in 1940 with the Air Ministry Specification eventually developed around the project. Certain requirements, such as a dive-bombing capability, were later removed which meant that the Bristol Type 162 no longer 'fitted the bill'.
These amendments however, allowed for an increase in performance and so, after a redesign, the Bristol Type 163 Buckingham prototype (DX429) flew for the first time on 4th February 1943. The aircraft had a heavy defensive armament with four forward-firing Browning guns in the nose, a further four in a dorsal turret and two in a ventral turret. The design bomb load was up to 4,000lb.
Development trials revealed nevertheless, serious problems with directional control, especially when one engine became inoperative although this was later cured by an increase in the area of the tail fins.
One aircraft Bristol Type 163 Buckingham (KV322) was actually tested with a triangular central fin but this configuration was never adopted for service.
Production comprised four prototypes followed by 119 Bristol Type 163 Buckingham B. Mk. I.
In the event however, the performance of the De Havilland Mosquito undermined the need for the Bristol Type 163 Buckingham and the first 54 aircraft were completed as bombers. These were delivered into store, never entering RAF service in this role.
The remaining 65 were produced in a three crew plus four passenger unarmed high speed transport configuration as the Bristol Type 163 Buckingham C.1.
The 54 stored bomber aircraft were returned to Filton for conversion to the transport role as Bristol Type 163 Buckingham C.1, although many of these were returned to storage before being subsequently scrapped, having done very little flying.
Many of the new-build transport aircraft were also delivered to store and never saw operational service.
Two Bristol Type 163 Buckingham aircraft (KV365 and KV369) were converted to the C.2 configuration by the Transport Command Development Unit (TCDU) and could accommodate up to seven passengers.
|Powerplant||Two 2,400 hp Centaurus IV, VII or XI|
|Span||71 ft 10 in|
|Maximum Weight||36,900 lb|
|Capacity and armament||Three crew, four passengers. No armament fitted|
|Maximum Speed||335 mph|
|Endurance / Range||3,000 miles|
Variants & Number built
|Buckingham B.1||Four prototypes and 54 production; Four crew, bomber configuration, all delivered to store. Subsequently converted to C.1 configuration.|
|Buckingham C.1||65 built; Unarmed high-speed transport; three crew, four passengers|
|Buckingham C.2||Two conversions by Transport Command Development Unit for carriage of up to seven passengers.|
|Total||123 aircraft (4 prototypes and 119 production aircraft)|