Zodiac No. 3 biplane
C.Barnes Bristol Aircraft since 1910 (Putnam)
The Bristol Zodiac
The Societe Zodiac of Paris was formed in the late nineteenth century to make balloons, and in due course extended its activities to include small dirigible airships. By 1907 the brothers Gabriel and Charles Voisin had developed their 'boxkite' type of biplane to the point where, on 13 January 1908, Henri Farman was able to fly one round a closed course of 1 kilometre, thereby winning the prize of 50,000 francs offered for this feat by Ernest Archdeacon and Henri Deutsch de la Meurthe. This achievement brought the Voisins into the ranks of the leading aeroplane designers of the day, and the Societe Zodiac extended its interests to include manufacture of biplanes and monoplanes designed by Gabriel Voisin. These had been placed on the market by the end of 1909, and were offered with a guarantee of flight. Sir George White, having consulted Emile Stern on the choice of a suitable aeroplane to begin manufacturing at Filton, was advised to consider the Zodiac models and in due course arranged to acquire the British manufacturing rights for them. Meanwhile, Henri Farman, having introduced improvements in a new Voisin biplane which he had ordered but never received, set up his own workshop and brought out replicas of the Farman III, which set the pattern for simplicity and performance for some years to come. Farman and his brothers were not much concerned with high-grade finish, although their materials were sound and their methods of construction safe enough for competition flying. Gabriel Voisin, having lost a good customer in Henri Farman, was anxious to advertise the superior workmanship of his products, and so the Zodiac biplane, though of outmoded design, was strongly recommended to Sir George White and chosen because of the excellence of its finish. Having decided that the newly formed British and Colonial Aeroplane Company should take a stand at the Aero Show at Olympia in March 1910, the Directors speedly authorised the importation of a Zodiac biplane, to be exhibited as a sample of the type to be built by the firm, and this was delivered in crates to Filton just in time to be prepared for the Exhibition. This preparation was no mere formality, for it was found that the 50 h.p. four-cylinder upright Darracq engine, purchased with the biplane, had no mounting lugs or other means of attachment to the airframe, so Charles Briginshaw, the fitter deputed to install the engine, had to make clamps to fit round the crankcase.
Like most of the Voisin biplanes, the Zodiac had a single elevator in front and a biplane tail carried on four booms, the engine being mounted on the lower wing and driving a propeller behind the trailing edge. A single vertical rudder was provided between the tailplanes, and vertical surfaces were also fixed to the outer pairs of interplane struts; these were intended to resist any tendency to sideslip in a turn, but had been discarded by the Farmans and others after Wilbur Wright had demonstrated the safe and natural technique of banking on turns. The camber of the mainplanes and tailplanes was unusually flat, but both upper and lower surfaces were fabric-covered. Ailerons were fitted to the lower wing only and were linked to the rudder, which was controlled by rotating a handwheel which also moved fore-and-aft to control the elevator. Ailerons had not been a feature of earlier Voisin designs but were among the improvements introduced by Henri Farman. The undercarriage comprised a pair of skids each pivoted at the rear end to an inverted pyramid of steel tubes attached under the wing; a pair of wheels was mounted behind the pivot- point so that, when landing, the front of the skid was pulled down against a rubber shock absorber into contact with the ground. Two small castoring wheels supported the tail. Unfortunately the excellent workmanship was not matched by aerodynamic knowledge, and many of the refinements served only to increase weight without any corresponding gain in lift.
After the Aero Show, the Zodiac was returned to Filton to be tuned for flight tests for which a Belgian pilot, Arthur Duray, had been engaged. Tests should have begun on 30 April, but the biplane was then still at Filton; meanwhile, Duray met with an accident in France and another pilot had to be sought. The Zodiac arrived at Brooklands on 10 May and was forthwith erected in the 'Bristol' shed by Sydney Smith and his assistants Leslie Macdonald, Charles Briginshaw and Henri Labouchere. From the first it proved to be very underpowered and all efforts to coax it off the ground failed. New wings with increased camber were assembled and eventually, on 28 May, it made a single brief hop in the hands of Edmond, who had taken Duray's place. Edmond thought little of its prospects and, after a final attempt to fly it on 15 June, when the landing gear was damaged, he persuaded Sydney Smith to abandon it in favour of the successful Henri Farman. The five Bristol-Zodiacs already started at Filton were scrapped and the Zodiac licence was cancelled soon afterwards.
SPECIFICATION AND DATA
Type: Zodiac 52B
Manufacturers: The British and Colonial Aeroplane Co., Ltd., Filton, Bristol, under licence from Societe Zodiac, Paris
Power Plant: One 50 hp Darracq
Span: 33 ft 3 in
Length: 39 ft 3 in
Wing Area: 525 sq ft
Empty Weight: 1,000 lb
Speed: 35 mph
Accommodation: Pilot and Passenger
Production: 1 assembled, 5 abandoned
Sequence Nos: 1 to 6 inclusive
L.Opdyke French Aeroplanes Before the Great War (Schiffer)
Deleted by request of (c)Schiffer Publishing
M.Goodall, A.Tagg British Aircraft before the Great War (Schiffer)
Deleted by request of (c)Schiffer Publishing
Flight, March 12, 1910
THE SECOND OLYMPIA AERO SHOW.
A BIPLANE and a monoplane, exhibited by the British and Colonial Aeroplane Co., being the type which it is proposed to build at that firm's works at Bristol, of which Sir Geo. White is at the head.
Flight, March 26, 1910
FLYER SILHOUETTES FROM OLYMPIA.
(BRITISH AND COLONIAL AEROPLANE SYNDICATE).
Leading Particulars of the Zodiac Biplane.
General Dimensions.-Areas-Main planes, 475 sq. ft.; fixed tail, 50 sq. ft.; elevator, 32 sq. ft.; rudder, 10 3/4 sq. ft.
Lengths.-Span, 33 ft. 3 ins., chord, 5 ft. 11 ins.; camber, 1.88 ins., situated about 18 ins. from leading edge; leverage of rudder, 20 ft. 10 ins.; gap, 5 ft. 9 ins.; skid track, 6 ft. 6 ins.; length over all, 39 ft. 3 ins.
Materials.-Timber, spruce, with certain short struts of ash; fusellage, ash ; Zodiac fabric.
Propeller.-Chauviere ; diameter, 8 ft. 3 ins.
Weight.-Machine and engine, 900 lbs.; driver, oil, petrol, water, 200 lbs.; total flying weight, 1,100 lbs.; loading (all weight supported on main planes), 2.3 lbs. per sq. ft
Speed of Flight.-35 m.p.h. at 1,200 r.p.m.
System of Control.-Flaps, elevator, and rudder.
BIPLANE of the Farman type, characterised by an extremely flat camber to the main planes and by side panels between the extreme struts. There are no panels in the tail. Another interesting detail in design is the chassis. It represents a combination of wheels and skis, but the skis only touch the ground in the event of a very severe shock, and then only the front part of the skids come in contact with the soil. The skids really form pivoted levers, on one end of which the wheel is mounted and to the other end of which the rubber springs are anchored.