C.Barnes Bristol Aircraft since 1910 (Putnam)
The Bristol Babe
In February 1919, before Badger X was designed, Capt. Barnwell proposed a small single-seater for sale to private owners, including ex-service pilots who wanted to continue flying cheaply after demobilisation. Barnwell. was always enthusiastic about the possibility of a genuine 'owner-driver's' aeroplane; the theme recurred throughout his career and regrettably cost him his life in 1938. He was impressed by the performance of the very small biplanes, called 'Kittens', built during the war at the Isle of Grain, which had flown well with two-cylinder A.B.C. Gnat engines of only 30 h.p.
Barnwell's Bobby, or Babe as it was renamed, was a biplane with a plywood-skinned fuselage and one-piece wings having a span of only 19 ft. 8 in. The intended engine was a five-cylinder air-cooled radial A.B.C. Gadfly of 60 h.p. designed by Granville Bradshaw. At first the Directors would not sanction any work on the Babe, but on 21 April 1919 they authorized the design and construction of two prototypes, and two Gadfly engines were ordered. Soon afterwards A.B.C. Motors Ltd. discontinued aero-engine manufacture in order to concentrate on motor-cycles. No other engine of equivalent power was available, although in June a 40 h.p. flat-twin engine, the Ounce, was promised later in the year by Siddeley, and a third Babe was put in hand as a test-bed for it.
Meanwhile the first two Babes (Nos. 5865 and 5866) were nearing completion, and Barnwell recalled that in 1911, when he had first come to Brooklands from Scotland, he had helped A. V. Roe to install a small 45 h.p. Viale radial engine in an Avro biplane, before he decided to join the British and Colonial Company. He had helped to design a mounting for it, and paid half the purchase price to the Viale agent, Maurice Ducrocq; for Roe, like so many of the early pioneers, was then living from hand to mouth. The same engine was transferred in 1912 to an enclosed Avro monoplane, but this crashed after only a few weeks' flying at Brooklands, the damaged Viale engine being taken to Manchester for storage, where it had remained during the war. Barnwell brought it to Filton, the cracked bearer was welded and a new Zenith carburettor fitted; given a fairly heavy airscrew to keep it turning at small throttle openings, the Viale ran well for periods of up to half an hour, after which it overheated and lost power.
This was good enough for the first flight of No. 5866 on 28 November 1919, when Uwins, who intended only to do preliminary taxying, was forced to take-off in order to avoid over-running a flock of sheep on Filton airfield. Uwins reported the Babe to be easy enough for an experienced pilot to fly, though rather unstable for a beginner. Development continued and the third Babe (No. 5875), with an incomplete Siddeley Ounce installed, was exhibited at the Paris Salon in December 1919, with a selling price of ?400 ex works.
The Viale engine was not reliable enough for sale in the Babe, even if production replicas could have been built, and the first two Babes had to wait for more suitable engines before they could be put on the market. During the Paris Salon the Gnome et Le Rhone firm had offered an ultra-light 60 h.p. rotary engine and six of these were ordered. Fred Mayer, the Company's chief engine fitter, went to Gennevilliers to witness the acceptance tests and saw the engines running well at moderate speeds, but vibrating badly when run up above 45 h.p. He refused to take delivery, but after some argument he agreed to bring back two specially modified and tuned engines for the prototype Babes. With the Le Rhone engine the Babes were designated Mark III and both were flown and registered, No. 5866 as G-EAQD on 18 December 1919 and No. 5865 as G-EASQ on 14 April 1920. The Babe Mark II with Ounce engine was not registered and never flew.
In May 1920 Barnwell designed new wings having the ailerons on the bottom wing instead of the top; these were not manufactured but in August he designed a thick-section cantilever monoplane wing, which was assembled to G-EASQ. The Babe monoplane was not flown because of uncertainty about downwash effects on the elevators behind a thick wing, about which little was then known; its registration was cancelled in February 1921, G-EAQD's having already lapsed in December 1920. The Viale engine, which remained Barnwell's personal property, was stored until 1959, when it was rediscovered at a garage at Alveston, Glos., restored to exhibition finish by Bristol-Siddeley Engines Limited and presented to the Royal Aeronautical Society. In 1963 it was placed in the Science Museum, London.
SPECIFICATIONS AND DATA
Manufacturers:The British & Colonial Aeroplane Co. Ltd., and the Bristol Aeroplane Co. Ltd., Filton, Bristol
One 45 hp Viale
One 40 hp Siddeley Ounce
One 60 hp Le Rhone
Span: 19 ft 8in
Length: 14 ft 11 in
Height: 5 ft 9in
Wing Area: 108 sq ft
Empty Weight: 460 lb
All-up Weight: (Viale) 683 lb (Le Rhone) 840 lb
Speed: (Viale) 85 mph (Le Rhone) 107 mph
Ceiling: (Viale) 10,000 ft (Le Rhone) 15,000 ft
Accommodation: Pilot only
Sequence Nos.: 5865, 5866, 5875.
Flight, December 18, 1919.
THE PARIS AERO SHOW 1919
PRELIMINARY REPORT ON BRITISH SECTION
The British and Colonial Aeroplane Co., Ltd.
The Bristol "Babe"
In some respects, perhaps, the small single-seater sporting machine, which will be known as the Bristol "Babe," will have a wider appeal than any of the other Bristols exhibited, as it is a serious attempt to provide the small, compact, handy and inexpensive sporting aeroplane of the future. It is of quite diminutive dimensions, the overall length being 15 ft. and the wing span 19 ft. 8 ins. The machine does not, therefore, require a large shed for its housing, while its light weight enables it to be handled on the ground with ease by one man.
Ease of maintenance has been aimed at in the design by doing away with as much bracing as possible. Thus the fuselage is covered with three-ply wood, without bracing wires, and the tail is of the cantilever type, also without external bracing. The wings are of the usual type with lift and landing wires, running to the upper and lower ends of one set of Vee inter-plane struts on each side. The ailerons which are fitted to the top plane only, are of large area, running in fact right from the tip to the centre section. The power plant is a 40 h.p. two-cylindered Siddeley aircooled engine, which consumes about three gallons of petrol per hour at full throttle, when the speed of the machine is 80 m.p.h. At maximum speed, therefore, the machine does about 27 miles to the gallon, while at the economical cruising speed of 65 m.p.h. even greater economy is attained. The landing speed is as low as 40 m.p.h., which enables the machine to alight in and start from quite a small field.