A.Jackson Blackburn Aircraft since 1909 (Putnam)
Anticipating the birth of the light aeroplane movement by more than six years, Blackburns began work late in 1918 on designs for a small, wire-braced, mid-wing monoplane which would be regarded today as an ultra light. It was christened the Sidecar because the traditional tandem cockpit arrangement was abandoned in favour of side-by-side seating, a configuration which was to be a characteristic feature of Blackburn private and training aeroplanes for more than two decades. True to the tradition of the Blackburn Mercury monoplanes of old, the Sidecar had a triangular-section fuselage of fabric-covered wooden construction, each of the three sides being a lattice girder built up with diagonal spruce struts. Above the top longerons the main fuselage was surmounted by a light plywood superstructure which swept upwards from the tail to the shoulder height of the crew. At the top of this fairing the landing wires were attached to a specially strengthened cross-member which also served as an instrument panel, and above this were twin Triplex windscreens. Entry was by downward hinging doors of the type used on motorcycle sidecars, and provision was made for quick conversion to a cabin type if required.
The mainplane was built in two halves using spruce box spars with spruce and plywood ribs, spruce drift struts, and leading and trailing edges of flattened steel tube. The whole structure was wire-braced internally and externally. A cable running below, and well clear of, the leading edge of the mainplane gave the pilot positive downward control of the short-span ailerons against the action of bungee cords which provided the upward deflection as on the Blackburd. The rectangular, balanced rudder and the halves of the all-moving tailplane were built up on tubular-steel spars with spruce and plywood ribs and steel-tube edging. They appear to have been interchangeable.
The legs of the V-type undercarriage were attached at their upper ends to the wing root fittings, the forward leg on each side consisting of two steel tubes, spaced one behind the other and faired with wood veneer. Bungee-sprung half axles, hinging on the centreline of the deep front fuselage, were slung between the lower ends of these tubes. Wire wheels were streamlined with fabric discs and fitted with 450 x 60 Palmer cord tyres, the rear end of the fuselage being supported by a diminutive rubber-sprung tail skid.
The engine was the tiny, two-cylinder, horizontally-opposed, air-cooled A.B.C. Gnat, the power of which has been described variously as 30, 40 and 45 hp; in actual fact it gave 40 hp at the stipulated maximum cruising revolutions and drove a two-bladed wooden airscrew. Fuel from a 14-gallon tank underneath the seats reached the carburettor through a wind-driven pump on the starboard side of the cockpit assisted by a hand pump which supplied the necessary air pressure. Consumption was estimated at 31 gallons per hour, giving 27 miles per gallon at cruising speed and an endurance of four hours. Exhaust gases from both cylinders were ejected through a common orifice on the starboard side. With full tanks, crew of two and 55 lb of luggage, the all-up weight was 850 lb.
The Sidecar was built at the Olympia Works early in 1919 and made a brief public appearance at Harrods department store in London, at a small exhibition opened by Lady Drogheda on 7 April 1919. Priced at £450, it carried no markings other than ‘Sidecar’ in ornate sign writing in front of the windscreens and the circular ‘B.A.’ monogram on the sides of the fuselage. A Norman Thompson N.T.2B flying-boat and various interpretations of the ‘latest thing’ in natty flying clothing displayed by mannequins, completed the exhibition. Later the machine was shown in a similar manner by Heelas Ltd in their store in Broad Street, Reading.
Blackburn’s Sidecar was thus in existence some two months before civil flying was officially permitted in the United Kingdom but did not come on the British civil register - as G-EALN - until 26 August 1919. The certificate of registration was in the name of K. M. Smith, c/o Elder, Smith and Co, 3 St Helen’s Place, London, EC3, with an alternative address at Stephen Terrace, Gilberton, South Australia. The Sidecar did not leave the country, however, and being sadly underpowered, never left the ground with the Gnat engine. Little is known of its subsequent history but, following an advertisement in the magazine Flight dated 23 June 1921, the Sidecar was acquired by Blackburn’s London manager B. Haydon-White and re-engined with a 100 hp Anzani ten-cylinder, ungeared, air-cooled radial. Contemporary airworthiness records showed that it was no longer complete at 4 October 1921.
SPECIFICATION AND DATA
Manufacturer: The Blackburn Aeroplane and Motor Co Ltd, Olympia Works, Roundhay Road, Leeds, and Brough Aerodrome, East Yorks.
One 40 hp A.B.C. Gnat
One 100 hp Anzani
Span 27 ft 3 in
Height 6 ft 3 in
Length 20 ft 6 in
Wing area 123 sq ft
Tare weight 392 lb
All-up weight 850 lb
*Performance: Maximum speed 83 mph Landing speed 48 mph
Range about 300 miles
Production: One aircraft only, Works Order unrecorded, completed February 1919, registered to K. M. Smith 26 August 1919 as G-EALN, last reported 4 October 1921.
* Estimated performance with Gnat engine.
A.Jackson British Civil Aircraft since 1919 vol.1 (Putnam)
Side-by-side two-seat ultra light powered by one 40-h.p. A.B.C. Gnat, built by the Blackburn Aeroplane and Motor Co. Ltd. at Brough 1919. One aircraft only: G-EALN, owner K. M. Smith, exhibited at Harrods 3.19 and afterwards sold to Haydon-White; re-engined with 100-h.p. Anzani 1921. Span, 27 ft. 3 in. Length, 20 ft. 6 in. Tare wt., 123 lb. Max. speed, 83 m.p.h.