Starting life as the GAL.60 Universal, the last aircraft to be designed by General Aircraft, Limited (GAL) and it was a 'heavy-lift' military transport aircraft which ultimately became the Blackburn Beverley. In its civil guise, the Universal was designed (based on advertising material published in 1952) for ‘the carriage of six motor cars, plus five motor cycles and up to 42 passengers’.
On 1st January 1949, General Aircraft Limited was absorbed into Blackburn and General Aircraft Ltd and work that was already in hand at Feltham was completed and transported from West London by road to Brough, East Yorkshire.
The GAL.60 Universal was by no means a pretty aircraft and many of the craftsmen at the Brough factory doubted if it would ever leave the ground. However, the prototype (WF320 / G-AMUX) first flew at Brough on 20th June 1950.
The design was a ‘box-like’ fuselage, with a large single tail boom with a large rudder, with a fin on each side. Access to the load bay was via rear opening doors (below the boom) and a hand-powered hydraulic ramp.
It was the surprise of SBAC Farnborough Air Show in 1950, where its vast bulk left the ground with ease and then performed a slow flypast, and a very short landing. What stole the show however, was when it came to a halt and reversed back down the runway, to the amazement of the assembled industry VIPs and spectators.
Following the show, further cargo trials were disappointing however, with 'cumbersome' ground handling difficulties. This was considered as a major drawback, demonstrating little merit on the ground and it was a real disappointment after what proved to be such an excellent aircraft in the air.
A change of government, which saw Winston Churchill re-elected as Prime Minister in 1951, provided Blackburn Aircraft Company with the funding for a 2nd prototype and the Design Team at Brough set about a full re-configuration of the aircraft.
What emerged was the GAL.65, featuring 36 ft (11 mt) cargo bay with a modified tail boom which became a passenger carrying area, together with clamshell doors replacing the previous door and ramp arrangement. The main cargo hold could accommodate 94 troops, with another 36 in the tailboom. The original Bristol Hercules engines were also uprated to 4 x Bristol Centaurus units, with automatic reverse-pitch propellers.
In keeping with the usual industry convention of naming large military aircraft after towns and cities (Lancaster, York, Wellington etc.), the name ‘Beverley’ was selected following a competition held within the workforce at Brough. This was not surprising really as it was also the name of the county town of the East Riding of Yorkshire.
So positive was the Air Ministry reaction that in late 1952, they actually pre-ordered an initial batch of 20 Beverley C.1 aircraft, despite the 2nd prototype GAL.65 (WZ889) not actually flying until 14th June 1953.
A further order followed on 30 July 1954 for another nine.
The first production Blackburn Beverley (XB259) flew on 29th January 1955, and in all 47 aircraft were constructed (inc. the two prototypes).The Blackburn Beverley entered RAF service with the first operation aircraft arriving at RAF Abingdon in March 1956.
On 2nd January 1956 the RAF ordered a further eight aircraft followed by another ten on 24th September 1956, making a total order of 47 RAF aircraft (all built at Brough) plus 2 prototypes.
The Blackburn Beverley received mixed reactions in operation, where it was regarded as 'ungainly but highly effective. It was described by Air Chief Marshal Sir Robert Freer as 'like something out of the Ark, but it was a superb supply dropper'.
A device known as an 'Elephant's Foot' would be fitted, just forward of the clamshell doors, to prevent the aircraft from tipping back whilst loading particularly heavy cargo items.
The Blackburn Beverley was ideal for carrying large loads, landing on rough runways and dirt strips.
The design concept was based around that of the GAL49 Hamilcar glider of the Second World War. When it entered service it was the largest aircraft in the RAF with a large cargo hold of about 6,000 ft3 (170 m3). Paratroopers who sat the upper passenger area jumped through a hatch in the base of the boom just in front of the leading edge of the tailplane. Those travelling within the cargo hold simply exited through side doors.
The aircraft was equipped with toilets, situated in the tail beyond the paratroop hatch located on the floor of the tailboom. This did prove ill-conceived however after a fatality was caused by a serviceman who fell twenty feet to the ground when exiting the toilet, unaware that the paratroop hatch had been opened. Immediate rectification was made to prevent the toilet from being used opened whilst the paratroop hatch was open.
The longest serving Blackburn Beverley's were those posted to the Far East such as RAF Seletar in Singapore who continued using the aircraft as late as 1967. The final recorded military use of the Blackburn Beverley was at RAF Khormaksar, Aden which flew them from 1958 until August 1967 when they were exchanged for the Hawker Siddeley Andover.
Blackburn Beverley Image Gallery
Blackburn Universal (Beverley) G-AOEK November 1955 with open doors
Blackburn Beverley Air to air
Blackburn Beverley RAF XB259 08-02-1955
Brabazon at Farnborough
|General Aircraft designation for first prototype|
|Blackburn GAL.65 Mk.2 Universal Freighter||Designation for 2nd prototype (B-100)|
Blackburn Beverley C Mk.1
|Production aircraft for RAF (B-101)|
Blackburn Beverley B-107
|Project: Enlarged capacity with more round fuselage and Rolls-Royce Tyne engines.|
|Project: Development of B-101 based on B-107 upgrades but with doors in the nose for cargo and with rear doors modified for dropping paratroopers.|
|Powerplant||4 x Bristol Centaurus 18 cylinder radial engines (2,850hp - 2,130 KW each)|
|Wingspan||162 ft (49.4 mts)|
|Weight||Empty: 79,234 lbs (35,950 kg) / Takeoff: 135,000 lbs (61,235 kg)|
Up to 6 crew (2 Pilots, 1 Engineer, 1 Navigator, 1 Signaller and 1 Air Quartermaster)
|Length||63 ft 5 in (19.33 m)|
|Max speed||238 mph (208 kn)|
|Range||1,300 miles (1,130 nm) with standard payload (29,000 lbs)|
Awaiting transport at Fort Paull, Battery Road, Paull nr Hull, Yorkshire, UK