A.Brew Boulton Paul Aircraft since 1915 (Putnam)
As related Boulton & Paul offered the experimental P.6 for the postwar civil market for ?600 in unchanged form. They sold none but received an order for a slightly larger version from Lieut A L Long, who wished to take it to Australia for use on sheep stations. The revised aircraft which became the first P.9 had the same 90 hp RAF la engine as the P.6 but wedded to larger dimensions.
The fuselage was lengthened by 6 ft to 25 ft and the span increased by 2 1/2 ft to 27 ft 6 in, but the wings remained single-bay. They were built in five sections, three for the upper and two for the lower which were attached directly to the lower fuselage longerons. The upper wing was carried on wooden N interplane struts and the centre section was supported above the fuselage by two struts each side. Ailerons were fitted on both top and bottom wings. The undercarriage was a conventional V-type with an elastic-sprung tubular axle.
The same tail unit and centre fuselage section were used, but both the wing chord and gap were increased by 6 inches to 5 ft 6 in each. The fuselage was a simple wire-braced box-girder but the top longerons were not horizontal. They sloped up 10 deg so that the tailplane was above the line of thrust. The fuel tankage was increased by nearly 4 gal to 24 gal, giving an increased endurance of 3 hr at full throttle at sea level. The engine, driving a 9 ft 3 in diameter four-blade propeller, was mounted directly on the upper longerons, and was partially enclosed by a cowling cum air-scoop. Long exhaust pipes discharged behind the rear cockpit. The changes also resulted in an increase in disposable load from 400 lb to 526 lb, with little change in overall performance. The first flight date of the aircraft is not recorded, but construction was nearing completion on 6 May, 1919.
It is not clear whether the changes were made because of Long's requirements, or because the design department had already decided that they represented a better layout for a two-seat light aircraft, but they formed the basis for the aircraft which Boulton & Paul now promoted as a commercial or sporting machine, available for ?700.
Long used his P.9 for newspaper and mail flights within Tasmania. His first flight from Elwick to Launceston stopping at intervening towns was claimed to be the first delivery of a newspaper by air in the Commonwealth. Then on 17 December, 1919, he made the first northbound crossing of the Bass Strait, inaugurating the Hobart-Melbourne mail service. Amongst his cargo were letters from the Governor of Tasmania and the Mayors of Hobart and Launceston to their mainland counterparts. He took off from Launceston at 6.30 a.m, and landed at Carey's Aerodrome, Melbourne, 6 1/4 hr later. Extra tankage was fitted to give sufficient range, and a simple release was improvised so that the oil supply could be replenished in flight. Unfortunately this broke, necessating a landing in a field at Torquay, just after crossing the coast of the mainland. Without stopping the engine, Long jumped out, released the oil cock, and then took off again. On 27 November, 1926, a memorial was unveiled at Torquay by the Historical Society of Victoria, commemorating this flight. Long's P.9 was never registered and bore no markings at all except red white and blue stripes on the rudder.
Seven more P.9s were built by Boulton & Paul who hoped that a developing market for light aircraft would appear after the War. These definitive production P.9s had slight changes to Long's aircraft, which never received a constructor's number. The rudder horn-balance and the tail incidence gear were both altered. The tailplane incidence could be altered by means of a lug with three holes, one or other of which received a bolt attaching it to a bracket on the rear spar. Extra centre-section struts were installed, the centre section being supported above the fuselage on metal tube N struts, the vertical members having streamlined fairings. In a typical piece of John North ingenuity a luggage space was created behind the two seats, and two hemispherical suitcases were specially made to fit the resulting compartment, which was covered by a metal cowling with quick release catches. The fabric covering of the fuselage could easily be removed by undoing the lacing by which it was fixed. The cockpit decking and engine section were covered in three-ply.
Full dual controls were fitted so that the aircraft could be used as a trainer, the control column in the front cockpit being removable. Instruments and engine controls were provided in both cockpits, except for the engine revolution indicator which was mounted in a streamlined casing outside the forward fuselage on the port side where it was visible from both cockpits. Wicker-work seats were provided in both cockpits, which were comfortable and roomy. The P.9 was also promoted for every possible commercial and sporting use, including 'Exploring uncharted territory, fighting forest fires, carrying mails to distant mines and police purposes.'
The first two built after Long's machine were registered G-EAPD and G-EASJ in April 1920, the first being used by Boulton & Paul as a company transport until November 1920 when the registration was cancelled, and the second being sold to Brig J G Weir.
After the high-profile success of Long's aircraft, the next three P.9s went to Australia where they were registered G-AUBT, 'UCP, and 'UCT, in June 1921.
G-AUCP, owned by Howard Jolley, was flown to victory in the Herald Cup Race at Essendon in 1923, by E W Percival. On 26 February, 1926, G-AUCP was used to give a 108-year old man, Henry Moore, his first flight as a birthday treat. Born in Jamaica in 1816, and moving to Australia in 1847, Moore was believed to have been the oldest person in the world to fly. The aircraft, still owned by Jolley, was piloted over Melbourne by P H Moody. This aircraft crashed in 1927 at Willaura, when owned by A T Tilt.
One of the other Australian P.9s, G-AUCT, piloted by F S Briggs, established two inter-city records. He flew the 550 miles from Mildura to Sydney in 6 hr 10 min and Sydney to Melbourne in 6 1/2 hr. Unfortunately, on his return to Sydney the aircraft crashed. Apparently the remains were later converted into a monoplane by Aviation Ltd.
Two more P.9s were built, G-EAWS, which was retained by the company, and G-EBEQ, which was used by Boulton & Paul for a while, after being built for another Australian order which was subsequently cancelled. It was later sold to Flg Off F O Soden in 1926. In 1927 G-EBEQ was sold to Lieut H Kennedy, who flew it extensively from Stag Lane. In October 1928 he flew it from Croydon to Switzerland via Paris. The aircraft sank through the ice while trying to take off from a frozen lake near St Moritz on 9 February, 1929. It was recovered and registered in Dubendorf in September 1930 as CH-259 to Gerber and Greiner. Its registration was cancelled in January 1932.
In April 1922 Frank Courtney bought G-EASJ from Brig Weir, and based it at Croydon using it to fly to his various freelance test-flying assignments and air races. In September 1922 C T Holmes flew G-EASJ in the round Britain King's Cup Air Race, in which one of his fellow competitor's was G-EAWS, flown by Lieut Col J L Tennant, both acquitting themselves well. G-EASJ was 6th away and finished 11th, averaging 69 mph on the outward journey to Glasgow, via Birmingham and Newcastle, and 85 mph on the return via Manchester and Bristol. G-EAWS was 8th away, averaged 68 mph out and 88 mph back, finishing a creditable 9th. The event was won by a D.HAA with a Martinsyde F.6 second and a D.H.9B third.
Sqn Ldr F L Robinson flew G-EAWS in the 1923 King's Cup, which started at Hendon, but was otherwise the same course as the previous year. The event was won by Frank Courtney flying a Siskin, with Alan Cobham second in a D.H.9. The same year the eighth and last Aerial Derby was flown around London and G-EBEQ raced in it flown by Fit Lt J W Woodhouse. The race started at Croydon and was over two laps of the 99.5 miles course. The overall winner was L L Carter in the Gloucestershire Gloster I, but the P.9 came third in the Handicap section, averaging 91.25 mph behind an Avro 552 and a D.H.9A.
In January 1928 the Henderson School of Flying bought G-EASJ and then took It to South Africa for a joy-flying tour. It was subsequently sold to John Wilkinson of Cape Town and based at Young's Field being re-registered G-UAAM.
Courtney's successor as Boulton & Paul test pilot, C A Rea, used G-EAWS as his personal aircraft, and flew it successfully in the Bournemouth Air Races of 4/5 June, 1927, with two firsts and a second, and being disqualified from first place In another race for cutting a pylon to avoid another competitor. He was later presented with an inscribed gold cigarette case by a well-known bookmaker who had made a lot of money at the meeting because the 'Dark horse' P.9 had done so well!
When the chairman of the Board, Capt J Dawson-Paul and his son Frank Dawson decided to learn to fly they enrolled with the Norfolk and Norwich Aero Club, but received further tuition from Rea in the P.9, both obtaining their pilot's licences. Rea had also found that many members of the design staff had never flown, and he obtained permission from John North to give them short flights in G-EAWS when opportunities arose.
Rea thought that the P.9 was a useful lightplane, and that it was a pity it had not been developed further. It just appeared ahead of its time, and like so many other manufacturers Boulton & Paul could not successfully market a brand-new lightplane against the competition of cheap surplus Avro 504Ks. Rea found the P.9 easy to fly and even the old RAF engine was quite reliable provided it was not run at full throttle for too long. This was exactly how G-EAWS met its fate. Another pilot borrowed the aircraft for the Lympne flying meeting on the Easter weekend of 1929. The engine was run flat-out for too long and shed a cylinder. The aircraft crashed in the resulting forced landing, and was written off.
The P.9 was important from two standpoints, it was the first Boulton & Paul aircraft to go into production, even though only eight were built, and it represented the last attempt by the company to sell a wooden aircraft. Although one more wooden aircraft would be built after the P.9, the P.41 Phoenix, it was only as a full-scale experimental lightplane. When the company came to market the P.41 it was totally rebuilt with an all-metal airframe.
90 hp RAF 1a.
Span 27 ft 6 in; length 25 ft; height 10 ft; wing area 323 sq ft.
Empty weight 1,244 lb; loaded weight 1,770 lb.
Maximum speed 104 mph at 1,000 ft; cruising speed 85 mph; climb to 5,000 ft 8 1/2 min; ceiling 14,000 ft; range 300 miles; endurance 3 hr at full throttle.