Bristol 163

A fast bomber, which was relegated to high speed courier duties post-War.
Bristol 163 Buckingham DX249 prototype The unarmed first prototype Bristol 163 Buckingham DX249 at Filton in January 1943.
The Bristol Buckingham has its origins with a desire for a medium bomber version of the Beaufighter to developed against Specification B.2/41 for the Royal Air Force.  The eventual design, with its twin Centaurus engines driving four blade propellers and large twin, 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.
Bristol 163 Buckingham DX255 2nd prototype DX255 is the second prototype of the Buckmaster, seen here fitted with its defensive armament.
Initially designated as the 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 Type 162 no longer 'fitted the bill'.
These ammendments however, allowed for an increase in performance and so after a redesign, the 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.
Bristol 163 Buckingham experimental fin KV322 Bristol Buckingham KV322 was flown with an experimental triangular central fin.
Development trials nevertheless, revealed problems with directional control when one engine became inoperative although this was cured by an increase in the area of the tail fins.
One aircraft (KV322) was actually tested with a triangular central fin but this configuration was not adopted for service.
Bristol 163 Buckingham KV335 Bristol 163 Buckingham B.1 KV335 photographed in June 1947.
Production comprised four prototypes followed by 119 Buckingham B. Mk. I.
In the event however, the performance of the De Havilland Mosquito undermined the need for the Buckingham and the first 54 aircraft were completed as bombers and 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 Buckingham C.1.
Bristol 163 Buckingham C1 KV370 Filton Most Buckinghams were converted to fast courier aircraft as the Buckinham C.1; this is KV370 at Filton.
The 54 stored bomber aircraft were returned to Filton for conversion to the transport role as 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 did not see operational service.
Two aircraft (KV365 and KV369) were converted to C.2 configuration by the Transport Command Development Unit (TCDU) and could accommodate seven passengers.
Bristol 163 Buckingham C.2 KV365 transport conversion KV365 is one of two seven-seat Buckingham C.2 conversions made by the TCDU.



  Buckingham C.1
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 & Numbers

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)


No examples of the Bristol Type 163 Buckingham survive.

Other information