Vickers
Vespa

A two-bay biplane that achieved some export success and broke the World’s absolute height record.
Vickers Vespa I G-EBLD Brooklands The Vickers Vespa I at Brooklands as originally flown with wooden wing structure.
 
The Vickers Type 113 Vespa was built as a private venture with an eye to competing against specification 30/24 for an army co-operation machine. The first aircraft, Vespa I G-EBLD, was a two-bay biplane of 50 ft wingspan, powered by a 425 hp Bristol Jupiter IV engine.
 
The Vespa I was first flown in September 1925 and was modified to fit a 455 hp Bristol Jupiter VI in April 1926, following its return from official trials at Martlesham Heath. The Vespa I was first flown with a wooden wing structure and the next major design change was to fit wings with an all-metal structure.
 
This change was implemented in 1927, by modification of G-EBLD, the registration remaining unchanged, although a new Vickers type number and designation (Type 119 Vespa II) was applied. The Vespa II was entered in the 1927 King’s Cup Air Race in July 1927, averaging 115.5 mph up to the point where it had to withdraw, due to damage resulting from the Hucks starter fitting on the propeller coming loose.
 
Despite the lack of British service interest, the high service ceiling and altitude performance of the Vespa attracted the attention of a Bolivian purchasing delegation, leading to an order for six aircraft, designated the Vickers Type 149 Vespa III. The Vespa III incorporated wings with a lighter and stiffer metal structure, thereby allowing a reduction in all up weight without a loss of payload. The undercarriage was also increased in height to improve the lower wing tip clearance.
 
In service in Bolivia, the improved altitude performance of the Vespa III was most welcome, with operations at altitudes up to 25,000 ft, using a normally aspirated Jupiter VI engine and without the benefit of oxygen. One aircraft reached a South American altitude record of 27,000 ft.
 
Vickers Vespa IV for Irish Air Corps A Vickers Vespa IV for the Irish Air Corps photographed at Brooklands.
 
Vickers then received an export order from the Irish Free State for eight aircraft, delivered as four Type 193 Vespa IV and four Type 208 Vespa V. These aircraft were powered by the 490 hp Armstrong Siddeley Jaguar VIC engine, the main difference between the two models being that the Vespa IV was fitted with a circular Townend ring around the engine.
 
Vickers Vespa V Irish Air Corps at Baldonnel Vickers Vespa Vs in service with the Irish Air Corps at Baldonnel.
 
Potential Chinese interest in the Vespa led to a decision to modify the original prototype (G-EBLD) to Vespa III standards for the purpose of a demonstration tour from March 1931. The type designation became the Vickers Type 210 Vespa VI and, on this occasion, the registration was also changed, becoming G-ABIL.
 
Vickers Vespa VI G-ABIL in flight The first Vickers Vespa rebuilt as Vespa VI G-ABIL for demonstration in China.
 
Following its return from its Chinese expedition, G-ABIL was loaned to the Bristol Aeroplane Company with a view to an attempt on the world’s absolute altitude record. To this end, the aircraft was converted to a single seater and fitted with a 550 hp Bristol Pegasus IS.3 engine fitted with a Townend ring. In this form, and flown by CF Uwins, G-ABIL reached a new record height of 43,976 ft on 16th September 1932. Now designated the Vickers Type 250 Vespa VI the aircraft was taken over by the RAF, receiving the serial number K3588 and being used for propeller testing.
 
Vickers Vespa VII G-ABIL Filton height record Vickers Viastra VII G-ABIL at Filton for its attempt on the world's altitude record.
 

Variants & Numbers

 
Type 113 Vespa I
Prototype with wooden wings. Powered by Bristol Jupiter IV radial engine (later fitted with Jupiter VI). One only G-EBLD.
Type 119 Vespa II
Vespa I modified with metal wings.
Type 149 Vespa III
Improved version for Bolivia. Powered by 455 hp Jupiter VI engine. Six built
Type 193 Vespa IV
Version for Irish Air Corps. Powered by 490 hp Armstrong Siddeley Jaguar VIC. Fitted with Townend ring. Four built
Type 208 Vespa V
Improved version of Vespa IV. Four built
Type 210 Vespa VI
Rebuilt prototype, re-registered as G-ABIL and demonstrated to Chinese government
Type 250 Vespa VII
Vespa VI rebuilt with Bristol Pegasus S engine for altitude record attempt
Total: 15 aircraft
Prototype (G-EBLD, later G-ABIL), plus fourteen production aircraft. (Six Vespa III, four Vespa IV, four Vesta V.)

 

Specifications

 
                                   
 
Vespa II
Vespa V
Powerplant
One 455 hp Bristol Jupiter VI
One 490 hp Jaguar VIC
Span
50 ft 0 in
50 ft 0 in
Maximum Weight
2,468 lb
2,882 lb
Capacity
Two crew pilot and observer; fixed forward firing Vickers gun and Lewis gun on Scarff ring in rear cockpit
Maximum Speed
129 mph at 10,000 ft
139 mph at 10,000 ft
Range
 
580 miles at 116 mph, 15,000 ft
 

Survivors

 

No examples of the Vickers Vespa survive.

Other information

www.brooklandsmuseum.com