Bristol’s first aeronautical venture was the Zodiac, built under licence from Societe Zodiac although it was hugely unsuccessful due to insufficient power and poor wing design.
In fact, when the aircraft arrived at Brooklands it could only manage a single 'hop' and it was immediately abandoned. Luckily, the aircraft had been sold with a 'guarantee to fly' and Sir George White (Founder of Bristol Aeroplane Company) managed to get his 15,000 francs compensation back from Zodiac.
Thankfully, the fiasco with the Zodiac had not diminished industrialist Sir George White’s interest in aeroplanes and the company investigated taking on a licence from Farman. Despite initial proposals, it was discovered that negotiations were underway with what was to become The Aircraft Company (later known as AIRCO and eventually the De Havilland Aircraft Co Ltd).
Bristol's Chief Engineer (GH Challenger) then set about designing a similar aircraft, based primarily on the published Farman data, and partly on the abandoned Zodiac design. With the drawings created in little over a week, 20 examples immediately went into production at Filton.
The result was the highly successful Bristol Boxkite and the first aircraft off the line was taken to Larkhill where it was first flown by Frenchman Maurice Edmond to around 150 feet on 29th July 1910. By then construction of the 20 aircraft was was well underway with the twelfth aircraft featuring an increased span upper wing, this version being known as the ‘Military’ type.
Just 10 days after its maiden flight, two Boxkite's took part in the Lanark Aviation Meeting on 8th August where they proved successful displaying their features to the assembled crowds. The aircraft were subsequently assigned to The Bristol Schools at Larkhill and at Brooklands where they were used for both instruction and training of Army Pilots. Many of the type were sold to private owners, together with an order for 8 aircraft for the Imperial Russian Army.
Boxkites were exported to countries around the world including Australia, New Zealand and India with production reaching a rate of two per week. In the event, a total of 78 Boxkite were built, making the type one of the most successful early British designs.
With the skies darkening under the threat of war, some 400 Filton employees were recalled from their holidays in the summer of 1914 to concentrate their efforts on the production of the Bristol Scout and Bristol Fighter. Meanwhile, the Boxkite still played its part as it was the first aircraft laid down for production at the Brislington Factory, operated by the Bristol Tramways and Carriage Company.
The final Boxkites were built at Brislington and it was not until the autumn of 1915 that the final Boxkite was retired from service.
Three replica Boxkites were built by FG Miles for the film 'Those Magnificent Men in Their Flying Machines', one of which still flies regularly at The Shuttleworth Trust, Old Warden, Bedfordshire.
|Standard Boxkite model|
|Powerplant||50 hp Gnome|
|Span||34 ft 6 in|
|Maximum Weight||1,050 lb|
|Maximum Speed||40 mph|
|Total 78||Made up of 2 prototypes, 16 Standard, 60 Military and 2 Specials|
|No original examples survive||A replica built by FG Miles for the film Those Magnificent Men in Their Flying Machines flies regularly at The Shuttleworth Trust, Old Warden, Bedfordshire
A new Bristol Boxkite replica was constructed for the Australian Centenary of Military Aviation Air Show 2014 and is displayed at the RAAF Museum, Point Cook.