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Pemberton-Billing (Supermarine) P.B.31 Nighthawk

Страна: Великобритания

Год: 1917

Pemberton-Billing - P.B.29 - 1916 - Великобритания<– –>Percival - Parceval I - 1911 - Великобритания

P.Lewis The British Fighter since 1912 (Putnam)

1916 saw the completion of another of Noel Pemberton Billing’s unusual designs - the Supermarine Night Hawk. The project had started the year before, following the appearance of the P.B.29 quadruplane and the Admiralty’s decision to investigate the inventor’s claims for his concept for anti-Zeppelin warfare. Pemberton Billing was enabled to set about designing the machine in 1915 by the agreement of the Admiralty to his release on indefinite leave for the purpose from the R.N.A.S. in which he was serving as a Flight Lieutenant.
   The Night Hawk, when it saw the light of day, was a truly extraordinary creation. Once again, the quadruplane layout was followed but with sweptback wing panels in the three-bay structure. The pilot was seated in a generously-glazed enclosed pylon structure, which reached above to the upper wings and also carried the top front gunner with his 1-5-pounder Davis. To his rear was a position for a Lewis gun on a Scarff ring and the nose of the fuselage terminated in another cockpit containing a Scarff-mounted Lewis gun. Both of the machine-gun locations were provided primarily for the machine’s own defence. Forward of the front Lewis gun position was a searchlight which received its power from a generator driven by a 5 h.p. A.B.C. engine, the complete unit being installed in the nose.
   The Night Hawk embodied many other ingenious and advanced features but was provided with comparatively low power from a pair of 100 h.p. Anzani engines which were given the onerous task of coping with a wing span of 60 ft. and a loaded weight of over 6,000 lb. C. B. Prodger carried out the initial flights of the sole Night Hawk 1388 at R.N.A.S. Eastchurch and established the machine’s top speed to be 75 m.p.h. and its landing speed the aimed-for 35 m.p.h. Substantial endurance of 9 hrs. normal and 18 hrs. maximum was part of the machine’s patrol capabilities.
   During the gestation period of the Night Hawk, Pemberton Billing relinquished his part in the control of the company which bore his name and the machine finally emerged from the newly-formed Supermarine Aviation Works, Ltd., under Hubert Scott-Paine.
   Despite its many advanced features, the Night Hawk remained a single prototype but, during the same period, the Sopwith Company was engaged on a comparably unusual design which was destined for fame and success. Supermarine’s quadruplane was unable to make the grade but the Sopwith Triplane’s attributes were such that it soon established itself favourably in service.

F.Mason The British Fighter since 1912 (Putnam)

Supermarine Night Hawk

   It is necessary and perhaps logical at this point to diverge from the strict chronological sequence of events to continue the saga of Pemberton Billings’ anti-Zeppelin quadruplane because, although the P.B.29E had been destroyed early in 1916, the Admiralty had shown sufficient interest in the large, long-endurance gun carrier to warrant further development. The fact that this development continued for another year before a new aircraft appeared is in itself irrelevant, and the appearance of other companies’ aircraft in the meantime - conceived along similar lines - serves to emphasize Pemberton Billings’ particular flair for original thought.
   The departure of Noel Pemberton Billing to the House of Commons and the subsequent formation of the Supermarine Aviation Works Ltd at Woolston under Hubert Scott-Paine were accompanied by the continuation of the theme demonstrated by the P.B.29E anti-airship patrol fighter. The new aircraft, initially referred to as the P.B.31E and whose design drawings bore the signature of one Reginald J Mitchell, was renamed the Supermarine Night Hawk and pursued the general configuration of the P.B.29E.
   The quadruplane wings and biplane tail were retained, although the overall strength factor was substantially increased and three-bay wings introduced. The pusher Austro-Daimlers were replaced by 100hp Anzani tractors driving four-blade handed propellers. The fuselage, now of square section from nose to tail, occupied the whole of the centre wing gap and the upper gun nacelle now extended from the centre fuselage upwards to the level of the top wing’s upper surface. The primary offensive weapon, a 1 1/2-pounder Davis gun was installed at the front of this superstructure in a traversing mounting, and a Lewis gun, for defence, was mounted on a Scarff ring at the rear of the superstructure; a second Lewis, also on a Scarff ring, was located in the nose of the fuselage. The pilots’ cockpit was situated in the fuselage below the wing trailing edge, being enclosed and surrounded by extensive glazing; dual controls were provided. A novel feature was the provision of a rest bunk to enable crew members to relax in turn during lengthy flights. Another was the installation of a small searchlight, mounted on gimbals in the extreme nose and intended to illuminate targets as well as to assist night landings; power for the searchlight was to be provided by a small auxiliary engine carried in the aircraft.
   To enable the Night Hawk to remain airborne for up to about eighteen hours, over 2,000lb of fuel could be carried in nine tanks in the fuselage, all fuel leads being armoured against battle damage.
   Despite being generally underpowered, the Anzani engines proved capable of bestowing the maximum required speed of 75mph, although the normal patrol speed would in all likelihood have been between 55 and 60mph; the landing speed was 35 mph.
   Although it was Pemberton-Billing who had enlisted the Admiralty’s support for the Night Hawk before his eventual election as Member for East Herts, the aircraft was not completed until after his departure and was therefore generally referred to as a product of Supermarine. It was allocated the naval serial number 1388, and was test flown by Clifford B Prodger at Eastchurch, beginning in February 1917. A second example, 1389, was cancelled, but no reason was ever given for the cancellation and it has been assumed that the increasing success being achieved by relatively conventional interceptors led the Admiralty to lose interest in Pemberton-Billings’ radical idea. Be that as it may, the idea of locating a gunner in a separate nacelle, with all-round field of fire clear of the propeller arc, had sparked widespread interest among the fighter designers, and a number of single-engine aircraft appeared in the latter war years displaying variations on the same theme.

   Type: Twin-engine, four-crew anti-airship patrol interceptor.
   Manufacturer: The Supermarine Aviation Works Ltd, Woolston, Southampton.
   Powerplant: Two 100hp Anzani nine-cylinder air-cooled radial tractor engines driving four-blade handed wooden propellers.
   Structure: All-wood construction with fabric and ply covering; three-bay quadruplane wings with approx, ten degrees of sweepback on the outer sections. Inverse tapered ailerons on all wings. Four-main wheel undercarriage.
   Dimensions: Span (top wing), 60ft 0in; length, 37ft 0in; height, 17ft 8 1/2 in; wing area, 962 sq ft.
   Weights: Tare, 3,677lb; all-up, 6,146lb.
   Performance: Max speed, 75mph at 1,000ft; landing speed, 35 mph; time to 10,000ft, 60min; normal endurance, 9hr; maximum endurance, 18hr.
   Armament: One 1 1/2-pounder Davis gun on traversing mounting in the nose of the gunner’s superstructure, and one 0.303in Lewis machine gun on Scarff ring at the rear; one Lewis gun on Scarff ring in the fuselage nose.
   Prototypes: One, No 1388, first flown by Clifford B Prodger at Eastchurch in February 1917. Second prototype, 1389, cancelled. No production.

W.Green, G.Swanborough The Complete Book of Fighters


   When Pemberton-Billing Ltd changed its name to Supermarine Aviation in December 1916, work on a further airship fighter, the P.B.31E, had reached an advanced stage and the first prototype of this quadruplane was to fly shortly afterwards, in February 1917. Fundamentally an extrapolation of the P.B.29E, and unofficially known as Night Hawk, the P.B.31E was designed to have a maximum endurance in excess of 18 hours to enable it to lie in wait for intruding airships. The entire concept was fallacious as, in the unlikely event that the P.B.31E found itself fortuitously in the same area of sky as its prey, it would have been totally incapable of pursuing the airship which could have risen out of range before any guns could have been brought to bear. A three-bay quadruplane powered by two 100 hp Anzani nine-cylinder radials, the P.B.31E carried a searchlight in the extreme nose. The intended armament comprised a one-and-a-half pounder Davis gun on a traversing mounting in a forward position level with the top wing, a 0.303-in (7,7-mm) machine gun being located in a second position immediately aft and a similar weapon occupying a forward fuselage position. Shortly after the start of flight trials, the shortcomings of the concept were finally appreciated, and, on 23 July 1917, the first prototype was scrapped and the second incomplete prototype abandoned.

Max speed, 75 mph (121 km/h).
Time to 10,000 ft (3050 m), 1 hr.
Normal endurance, 9 hrs.
Empty weight. 3,677 lb (1668 kg).
Loaded weight, 6,146 lb (2 788 kg).
Span, 60 ft 0 in (18,29 m).
Length, 36 ft 10 1/2 in (11,24 m).
Height, 17 ft 8 1/2 in (5,40 m).
Wing area, 962 sqft (89,37 m2).

J.Bruce British Aeroplanes 1914-1918 (Putnam)

Supermarine Night Hawk

  DURING its brief existence the Pemberton-Billing P.B.29 apparently created sufficient official interest for the Admiralty to order a development as an anti-airship patrol aircraft. In 1915 Flight-Lieutenant Pemberton-Billing was granted indefinite leave from the R.N.A.S. in order to design the machine, and again he produced a striking aeroplane which embodied several remarkably advanced features.
  Pemberton-Billing’s definition of an anti-airship aeroplane envisaged a machine with a maximum speed of at least 80 m.p.h. and a minimum speed of 35 m.p.h., the ability to climb to 10,000 feet in 20 minutes, a flight endurance of 12 hours, and equipment which included dual control and a searchlight.
  In the second Pemberton-Billing quadruplane, which was named Night Hawk, most of its designer’s ideas were translated into reality, and the aircraft was one of the most ambitious designs of the war. The swept-back wings had three bays of bracing, and inversely-tapered ailerons were fitted to all four mainplanes. The deep square fuselage filled the gap between the second and third wings.
  Enclosed accommodation was provided in an extensively glazed cabin amidships. The pilot sat behind the trailing edge of the third wing, and further glazed panels were provided in the fuselage sides to improve his downward view. Within the cabin, all wooden structural members were taped and clothed with fabric in order to minimise the risk of injury of crew members by splinters in the event of a crash.
  The cabin was surmounted by two upper gun positions which were level with the upper surface of the top wing. The forward position was that for the 1 1/2-pounder Davis gun which formed the Night Hawk’s offensive armament. This weapon was mounted on a special type of traversing mounting. The upper rear gun position was fitted with a Lewis gun on a Scarff ring-mounting: it was one of two such installations, which were intended purely to defend the Night Hawk against enemy attack; the second Lewis gun was carried on a Scarff mounting in the forward portion of the fuselage.
  The most remarkable feature of the Night Hawk was the small searchlight which was mounted in gimbals on the extreme nose of the fuselage; and in this respect the Night Hawk of 1915 concept was the true prototype of the many Allied aircraft which were successfully fitted with the Turbinlite and Leigh Light installations during the war of 1939-45. Power for the Night Hawk’s searchlight was provided by an inboard auxiliary power unit: a 5 h.p. A.B.C. flat twin engine mounted in the nose of the fuselage drove a generator. This was probably the first installation of an auxiliary power-unit in an aeroplane. The searchlight was controlled in elevation and azimuth by means of a Bowden cable operated by a lever within the fuselage.
  The primary use of the searchlight was to illuminate targets at night, but it could also have been used to select a suitable field for an emergency landing. As on the P.B.29, the undercarriage was of wide track to enhance ground stability for night landings.
  A ton of petrol was carried, and with engines throttled down the aircraft could remain airborne for over 18 hours. The fuel was carried in nine tanks which were fitted with interchange devices to enable any number or combination of tanks to be used or cut out in the event of damage by gunfire. All fuel leads and engine controls were carried in armoured casings.
  The designer was, even at that early date, alive to the dangers of crew fatigue, and a sleeping berth was provided to enable one man at a time to rest. It was justly claimed that the Night Hawk was the first aeroplane in the world to have this provision.
  The engines were two 100 h.p. Anzani ten-cylinder radials, driving opposite-handed four-bladed airscrews, and with them the Night Hawk was underpowered. Nor were the airscrews completely satisfactory, for they would not allow the engines to deliver their full r.p.m. Nevertheless the machine attained its specified speed of 75 m.p.h., and could be landed at 35 m.p.h. The test flying was done at Eastchurch by Clifford B. Prodger.
  In a brochure issued soon after the Armistice, the Supermarine company stated that no official reason was given for the abandonment of the Night Hawk. It seems probable, however, that the non-adoption of the big quadruplane was attributable to the successes achieved in the autumn of 1916 against enemy airships by standard types of Service machines armed with standard weapons.
  Noel Pemberton-Billing resigned his R.N.A.S. commission early in 1916 in order to stand for Parliament, for he wished to press for urgent reforms and improvements in the handling of Britain’s aeronautical affairs. On his election as member for East Herts on March roth, 1916, he sold his interests in Pemberton-Billing Ltd. in order to forestall any charges to the effect that he was making profit out of the war. Control of the company passed to Hubert Scott-Paine, and the new title of The Supermarine Aviation Works, Ltd., was adopted.
  These changes had taken place before the Night Hawk was completed, and it was for that reason that it was known as the Supermarine Night Hawk.

  Manufacturers: The Supermarine Aviation Works, Ltd., Woolston, Southampton.
  Power: Two 100 h.p. Anzani.
  Dimensions: Span: 60 ft. Length: 37 ft. Height: 17 ft 8 1/2 in. Chord: 4 ft 2 1/2 in.
  Areas: Wings: 962 sq ft.
  Weights: Empty: 3,677 lb. Loaded: 6,146 lb.
  Performance: Maximum speed: 75 m.p.h. Endurance: normal 9 hours, maximum 18 hours.
  Armament: One 1 1/2-pounder Davis gun with 20 rounds of ammunition, carried on traversing mounting above top wing; one Lewis machine-gun on Scarff ring-mounting in nose of fuselage; one Lewis machine-gun on Scarff ring-mounting in elevated position just behind trailing edge of top wing. Six 97-round drums of ammunition were carried for the Lewis guns.
  Serial Numbers: 1388-1389. The second machine was not built.

H.King Armament of British Aircraft (Putnam)


   Night Hawk. Noel Pemberton-Billing's second quadruplane (the P.B.29 has already been mentioned under the designer's own name) was similarly intended for anti-Zeppelin operations and was a veritable 'giant battleplane'. It was built in 1916. The primary armament was a 2-pdr Davis recoilless gun, with ten rounds of ammunition. This gun was in a forward upper position above the topmost wing and built-in to the deep central structure, which had internal crew accommodation. The gun was on a special mounting, designed to permit traversing and described as carrying the gun on a 'double parallel sliding bed, permitting practically any arc of fire'. The target for the Davis gun was intended to be illuminated by a searchlight carried on the aircraft, gimbal-mounted in the nose, power being supplied by a separate A.B.C. engine and dynamo. The design included nine separate petrol tanks with 'quick-change' gear, enabling any number of tanks to be used or isolated in case of puncture by gunfire. In addition to the Davis gun there were two Lewis guns on Scarff ring-mountings. (The designer once claimed four guns, but two were actually fitted.) The mountings were emplaced one forward of the central structure, in the nose of the fuselage proper, and one in the rear of the central structure, behind the Davis gun. For the Lewis guns, six ammunition drums were specified. Another design feature mentioned in connection with this aeroplane was the carrying of all controls, pipes, etc. outside the fuselage in armour-plated casings and a 'special revolver' enabling 'incendiary flares' to be dropped in a stick of one every twenty feet, so that, in straddling a Zeppelin of 65-ft diameter, at least three would strike. The 'perpetual haze of escaped gas' just above the top surface of a Zeppelin was considered by Pemberton-Billing to make it very vulnerable to such attack. This same designer schemed in 1915 an 'incendiary and bomb dropper' which was manufactured by the H.M.V. Gramophone Company and which was claimed to have continued in use long after the designer's political attacks on the Government.

Jane's All The World Aircraft 1919

   Designed and built for night-flying and cruising. Fitted with two Lewis guns mounted fore and aft and one two-pounder Davis gun; six double trays of Lewis gun ammunition and ten rounds of ammunition for Davis gun, the latter being fitted with double parallel sliding bed, permitting practically any are of fire.
   The machine was also fitted with a separate twin A.B.C. air-cooled petrol engine and dynamo. A searchlight, which was hung in gimbals, permitting complete range of light , wireless telegraphy; nine separate petrol tanks with patent change gear, enabling any number of tanks to be used or dis-used in case of tanks being punctured by gun-fire.
   All the controls, pipes, etc., belonging to engines, were laid outside the fuselage in specially constructed armour-plated casings.
   Accommodation was also fitted for bunking room, enabling one hand to sleep or rest.
   The whole wood members of the fuselage wore heavily taped and fabriced, to reduce the trouble of splinters in case of crashes.
   This machine was flown on several occasions at Eastchurch by Mr. Prodger, where the contract speed and landing speed were established. The engines, however, were under powered, and after alterations to the propellers, it was decided by the Authorities to discontinue any further experiments.

F.Mason - The British Fighter since 1912 /Putnam/
The Supermarine Night Hawk, 1388, at Woolston in 1917.
J.Herris - Weird Wings of WWI /Centennial Perspective/ (70)
The Supermarine Night Hawk was designed by Flt.Lt. Pemberton-Billing as an anti-Zeppelin interceptor and shared many attributes with the earlier P.B.29 that was designed for the same role. Both aircraft were twin-engine quadraplanes designed for long-endurance night patrols.The Night Hawk had a flexible 1 1/2-pounder Davis gun mounted above the cabin firing forward to attack the airship and two flexible Lewis guns, one aft the Davis gun and one in the nose, for defense. A searchlight was mounted in the nose to illuminate the target at night and secondarily illuminate the landing field at night. Powered by two 100 hp Anzani engines, the aircraft had the remarkable endurance of more than 18 hours.
The P.B.31E was flown only briefly before the inadequacy of its concept was accepted.
Jane's All The World Aircraft 1919 /Jane's/
Side View of the "Night Hawk" Quadriplane, built experimentally by the Supermarine Company, to the designs of Flight-Lieut. N. Pemberton-Billing, R.N.
W.Green, G.Swanborough - The Complete Book of Fighters
The P.B.31E anti-airship fighter quadruplane.