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Bristol
Zodiac

The first aeronautical venture of The British & Colonial Aeroplane Co Ltd.
Bristol Zodiac Biplane at Olympia Exhibition 1910 The British & Colonial Aeroplane Co Ltd Zodiac biplane at Olympia in March 1910.
 
The British & Colonial Aeroplane Co Ltd was founded by the Bristol tram pioneer Sir George White on 19th ebruary 1910, with works at Filton. At that time, the products of the firm were sold under the trade name ‘Bristol’.
 
In March 1910, the company took a licence from Société Zodiac of Paris for the Voisin-designed Type 52B biplane. Known as the 'Zodiac Type', these had been successfully flown in France by Henri Farman, who promptly established his own concern, building what was to become ‘boxkite’ type designs.
 
A single example of the Zodiac was built in France for the British & Colonial Aeroplane Co Ltd and it was this that was exhibited on the Bristol Stand at the Olympia Aero Show in March 1910. Simultaneously, construction of five further aircraft commenced at Filton.
 
After some difficulties mounting the engine (a 50 hp Darracq), the aircraft began trials at Brooklands in May 1910. Unfortunately these were unsuccessful with the aircraft refusing to fly, in part due to poor engine reliability and low power. During these trials, the vertical side curtains at the wingtips were removed and alterations made to the wing camber.
 
A single, brief hop is reported o have taken place on 28th May 1910 but the type was abandoned in July of that year and the five aircraft under construction at Filton were scrapped.
 
The Zodiac licence was cancelled and a compensatory payment of 15,000 francs was made by Zodiac, which had warranted that they would 'supply an aircraft that could be successfully flown'.
 
Thereafter, the Bristol-based company went onto produce its own designs, notably including the Farman-inspired Bristol Boxkite, which was flying by July 1910 and is described separately on this website.
 
Bristol Zodiac Olympia from above The Zodiac on the British & Colonial Aeroplane Co stand at the 1910 Olympia Aero Exhibition.

Specification

Powerplant 50 hp Darracq four cylinder water-cooled engine
Span 33 ft 3 in
Maximum Weight 1,300 lb
Capacity  Two seats
Maximum Speed 35 – 40 mph (but not flown successfully in Britain)

Variants

Single example only, (built in France); five scrapped unfinished at Filton. Bristol construction numbers 1-6.

Survivors

Nil; all examples scrapped in mid-1910.

Other information