H.Taylor Fairey Aircraft since 1915
In terms of new design thinking, the most important aircraft built by Fairey in the years before the legendary Fox was not one of their own, but a redesigned version of the Sopwith Baby single-seat seaplane. This variant, named the Hamble Baby, was the first production aircraft to be fitted with a practical system of adjustable trailing-edge flaps as a means of increasing lift for take-off and landing. The Fairey patent camber-changing gear, as the system was to be known for a decade or more afterwards, was fitted to most of the company’s biplanes up to and including the Seafox of the late 1930s and, in a simplified form involving only the ailerons, to the Swordfish.
As Oliver Stewart put it in the narrative which accompanied Leonard Bridgman’s evocative drawings for The Clouds Remember, the Hamble Baby demonstrated the fact that ‘in aviation there is nothing new under the sun’. Writing in the early 1930s, he commented that future historians should remember that the Hamble Baby ‘showed the way to developments which were to enable much higher speeds to be reached in the future without additional risks and without flying difficulties’.
This is, perhaps, an overstatement of the importance of the advance represented by the Fairey flap gear as such. This certainly worked to special advantage in the case of seaplanes, because the increased lift at lower speeds enabled them to get ‘on top of the water’ with greater ease; more power was needed to do this, in some conditions of wind and sea, than to become airborne. But many designers and others considered that the increased lift provided by these somewhat primitive flap systems was more than offset by the weight penalties and the complications and control loadings involved. Few other British manufacturers attempted to make use of high-lift devices during the two decades following the appearance of the Hamble Baby.
The Sopwith Baby, a more powerful scouting and bombing derivative of the Schneider seaplane and the earlier Tabloid, was being flown operationally in 1916 at loads which caused the lift-off speed to be too high for safety in any but favourable wind/sea conditions. The float undercarriage was sometimes breaking up under wave impact before the aircraft could become airborne while carrying the anti-submarine and other loads which were possible with the power of the Clerget rotary engine. Two 65-lb bombs in racks under the fuselage had to be lifted - as well as a forward-firing synchronized Lewis gun and its ammunition, emergency rations, a sea anchor, and accommodation for the carrier pigeons which in those days stood-in for non-existent lightweight radio.
The most immediately obvious way of dealing with the difficulty was to replace the existing conventional thin-section wings of the Baby with others of a more heavily cambered high-lift section. This approach was tried in different forms not only by Blackburn, who had by then taken over the production of the Baby from Sopwith, but also by Sqn-Cdr John Seddon of the Experimental Construction Department (ECD) of the Marine Experimental Aircraft Depot at Port Victoria, Isle of Grain. Seddon used aerofoils based on wind-tunnel work done at the National Physical Laboratory, together with a considerable modification of the wing arrangement of the Baby.
To a degree, the resultant aircraft, the Port Victoria P.V.1 was a success; it was taken off at a weight some 450 lb higher than that of the standard Baby, but, expectedly, its maximum speed was reduced from 95-100 mph to 77 mph. The ECD was to continue development on these lines with the P.V.2, and a version of this appeared to be promising and was liked; however, it was overtaken, in effect, by the Hamble Baby which was by then (1917) going into quantity production.
The Fairey approach to the problem was nothing if not radical for the era. The plan was to hinge the trailing edges of each wing so that these ‘margins’ could be lowered to increase the lift while continuing to be available for use, with differential action, as ailerons. By thus providing adjustable camber, some, at least, of both slow-speed and high-speed requirements could be met.
This was not, of course, the first attempt to provide a variable-camber system. The Royal Aircraft Factory had done experiments before the war, and, as Harald Penrose points out in the second volume of his British aviation history, the Varioplane Company had been working for some years on a system for flexing a wing surface The Fairey approach, however, he writes, ‘was that of a practical engineer, using one abrupt change of camber and then applying an ingenious geometry of cable operation to give either simultaneous or differential application of the flap’.
After discussions about the problem with Sq-Cdr Seddon, Fairey were given a contract for the construction and test of six sets of wings for the Baby. Each set was to be of different section. The variable-camber principle was introduced in the second set to be designed and made by Fairey. For the development work, a Sopwith-built Baby (8134) was delivered to the Fairey works at Clayton Road, Hayes. This, as F.129, was eventually fitted with redesigned wings with a span 2 ft longer than standard and increased chord, and with rounded wingtips in place of the blunt planform of the original Baby.
Photographs of 8134 suggest that it was flown both as a landplane and a seaplane and that it retained in both forms, at least initially, the original rounded Sopwith fin and rudder. All production Hamble Babies from Fairey were fitted with a redesigned tail unit, with a near-square outline, following the pattern of that on the Campania. This empennage outline was to be a Fairey ‘trademark’ for a decade or more until the appearance of the IIIF. Fairey-designed main floats were used and a larger-capacity tail-float was also fitted.
The first of several British and US patent specifications covering the principle and method of operation of the camber gear was applied for in provisional form on 19 May, 1916, and the complete specification (No.132,541) was dated 19 December, 1916. In this specification it was proposed that the control column should be telescopically adjustable in length by means of a handwheel-operated rack-and-pinion gear. The flaps were moved differentially for lateral control by a cable system operated by a control-wheel and drum on this column. As the column was lengthened, the cable system would be tightened against spring (or bungee) loading, pulling down the flaps symmetrically while retaining adequate differential action except at large flap angles.
Whether this system, or one of the other patented methods of operation, was that used on the Hamble Baby can only be guessed - but the principle behind all such systems was similar. When officially tested from Hamble by Maurice Wright, the prototype Hamble Baby demonstrated its ability to lift two 65-lb bombs with much greater ease than the standard Baby, though the lateral control was inevitably a good deal heavier.
Needless to say, there had been no shortage of problems in the design and development of the camber-changing device. The pressure distribution over the wing did not turn out as expected, so the movement of the centre of pressure had to be watched carefully; and there were very heavy stresses in the operating gear. The early systems had to be operated with very low gear ratios so that no rapid changes of flap angle would be possible.
The Hamble Baby was produced at Hayes and Hamble by Fairey and, under a sub-contract arrangement, by Parnall & Sons at Bristol - the latter company making very much the greater number if their Hamble Baby Converts are included. These variants were fitted with land undercarriages and were used for training by the RNAS - notably at Cranwell. The Converts had their floats replaced by skids, to which the straight axle for the wheels was attached by rubber bungee cords; as the geometry of the undercarriage struts remained unchanged, the result was a very wide-track undercarriage which must have been appreciated for training work.
The Parnall-built Babies, including the Converts, could be distinguished from Fairey-built aircraft by the fact that they retained the Sopwith fins and rudders and, in the case of the seaplanes, the Sopwith floats. All were powered by Clerget nine-cylinder air-cooled rotary engines, but there is some difference in the record of the proportions using the 110 hp and the 130 hp versions of the engine. Of the 180 Hamble Babies and Converts built, the first 50 - including 30 by Parnall and 20 by Fairey - probably had the lower-powered Clerget, but at least one record says that they were fitted only to the first ten of the 50 built by Fairey - N1320-1339 (F.130-149) and N1450-1479 (F.150-179). Parnall built 130 with the serials N1190-1219 and N1960-2059, including 74 Converts (N1986-2059). Each one cost the taxpayer about ?2,100 excluding armament and instruments.
Apart from the landplane Convert the Hamble Baby was employed on work similar to that done by the standard Sopwith Baby. They were based for the most part at coastal stations in Britain and in Mediterranean areas on anti-submarine patrolling and attacking duties. They operated from the RNAS stations at Fishguard, Calshot and Cattewater in Britain; from Santa Maria di Leuca, near Taranto, in Italy; from Suda Bay (Crete), Syra, Talikna (Lemnos) and Skyros in the Aegean; and from Port Said and Alexandria in Egypt. They flew from at least one seaplane carrier - HMS Empress, a converted Channel steamer, from which, while in the eastern Mediterranean late in 1917, her two Hamble Babies and four Sopwith Babies made several bombing attacks on Turkish installations in Palestine.
Span 27 ft 9 in (6.46 m); length 23 ft 4 in (711 m); height 9 ft 6 in (2-89 m); total wing area 302 sq ft (28-1 sq m). Empty weight 1,386 lb (629 kg); military load 185 lb (84 kg); pilot 180 lb (82 kg); fuel and oil, 195 lb (89 kg); loaded weight 1,946 lb (883 kg). Maximum speed at 2,000 ft (610 m) 90 mph (145 km/h). Climb to 2,000 ft (610 m) 5 min 30 sec; to 6,500 ft (1,981 m) 25 min; service ceiling 7,600 ft (2,316 m). Endurance 2 hr.
H.King Sopwith Aircraft 1912-1920 (Putnam)
In a purely technical sense Fairey's effort was altogether more ambitious, and although quite properly known as the Fairey Hamble Baby - being virtually a new type, and thus more justly renamed than was the ‘Blackburn Baby' - must have a brief note in this Sopwith book (and not merely because Tom Sopwith knew Hamble well, and was an ardent yachtsman, as was Dick Fairey).
The salient novelty in the Hamble Baby (50 built) was the use of the Fairey Patent Camber Gear first incorporated on the converted Sopwith Baby No.8134 - and production machines were further distinguished by newly designed floats and a characteristic square-cut Fairey tail, this last feature contrasting strongly with the new, rounded, wingtips. Thus was this Sopwith derivative a true forebear of the Fairey Flycatcher, already named in this chapter.
Parnall-built Hamble Babies and their skid-equipped landplane derivatives the Hamble Baby Converts retained the Sopwith-style tail.
O.Thetford British Naval Aircraft since 1912 (Putnam)
Fairey Hamble Baby
Although in the first place a derivative of the Sopwith Baby, the Hamble Baby was so extensively re-designed by the Fairey Company in 1916 that it must be considered as a separate type, more particularly in view of the incorporation of the Fairey Patent Camber Gear. The introduction of this latter device was a landmark in aircraft development, for it was the first time that trailing edge flaps, to increase wing lift, made their appearance. These flaps extended along the entire trailing edge of each wing and were also used for normal aileron control. They remained a standard feature of Fairey naval aircraft right down to the Seal of 1932.
The original Hamble Baby was converted from a Sopwith Baby (No.8134) and emerged with new wings, incorporating the camber gear, a new set of floats and a re-designed tail reminiscent of the Campania. This square-cut tail became something of a Fairey trademark and was to be seen for many years after the war on such types as the IIID and Flycatcher.
Fifty Hamble Baby seaplanes were built by the Fairey factory, airframes N1320 to 1339 having a 110hp, and N1450 to 1479 a 130hp Clerget engine. By far the majority of Hamble Babies, however, were made under sub-contract by the Bristol firm of Parnall and Sons, which built 130. The Parnall aircraft could be readily distinguished by their retention of the original Sopwith-type floats and tail assembly. The first 56 Parnall-built Hamble Babies were seaplanes, N1190 to 1219 with 110 hp Clerget engines, and N1960 to 1985 with the 130 hp version, but the remainder (ending N2044) were landplanes. These were known as Hamble Baby Converts, and were extensively used for training by the RNAS school at Cranwell.
Hamble Babies gave good service with the RNAS during 1917-18 on anti-submarine patrols from coastal stations at home and overseas, as well as with seaplane carriers, and their ability to carry two 65 lb bombs was a direct outcome of their camber-gear innovation. By the end of the war, however, they were giving way to later types and only 18 remained in service on 31 October 1918.
RNAS Stations at Calshot, Cattewater, Fishguard and Great Yarmouth. Overseas with seaplane carrier Empress and at seaplane stations in the Aegean and in Egypt. After April 1918, served with Nos.219 (Westgate), 229 (Great Yarmouth), 249 (Dundee), and 263 (Otranto).
TECHNICAL DATA (HAMBLE BABY SEAPLANE)
Description: Single-seat anti-submarine patrol seaplane. Wooden structure, fabric covered.
Manufacturers: Fairey Aviation Co Ltd, Hayes, Middlesex. Sub-contracted by Parnall & Sons, Bristol.
Power Plant: One 110 hp or 130 hp Clerget.
Dimensions: Span, 27 ft 91/4 in. Length, 23ft 4 in. Height, 9ft 6 in. Wing area, 246 sq ft.
Weights: Empty, 1,386 lb. Loaded, 1,946 lb.
Performance: Maximum speed, 90 mph at 2,000 ft. Climb, 5 1/2 min to 2,000 ft; 25 min to 6,500 ft. Endurance, 2 hr. Service ceiling, 7,600 ft.
Armament: One fixed, synchronised Lewis gun forward and two 65 lb bombs on racks below fuselage.
PARNALL HAMBLE BABY CONVERT
Seventy-four of these landplane converts of the Hamble Baby seaplane were built by Parnall at their Bristol works. the serial numbers being N1986 to 2059. They were employed mainly for training at various RNAS flying schools. including Cranwell.
K.Wixey Parnall Aircraft Since 1914 (Putnam)
Parnall and Sons Limited
Aircraft Built under Contract 1914-1918
Perhaps the most important contract awarded to Parnall during the First World War was that for the construction of Hamble Baby seaplanes and landplanes.
The Hamble Baby evolved from the original Sopwith Baby, which was itself a direct descendant of the Sopwith Schneider seaplane of 1914. The Schneider had been fitted with a 100 hp Gnome Monosoupape rotary engine, almost entirely enclosed within a 'bull-nose' metal cowling. The Baby, however, was powered by a 110 hp Clerget, and the profile of the aircraft's nose was consequently altered to the familiar squat appearance characterised by the horse-shoe style front end of the cowling. Performance of the type was further improved when the 130 hp Clerget was fitted, but as modifications were involved, which Sopwith with their large Camel fighter commitments were unable to undertake, the task of improving the Baby design was allotted to Blackburn Aircraft and to Fairey Aviation.
The Blackburn machines differed little from the 110 hp version and were known simply as the Blackburn Baby, but Fairey modified the design to such an extent, it materialised as virtually a new type. This came about after a Sopwith-built Baby (8134) was delivered to the Fairey works at Hayes in Middlesex, where the wings were completely redesigned, the squared-off wingtips of the original Baby being replaced by rounded tips. An innovation was the installation of the Fairey Camber Gear in the revised wing form. This device consisted of hinged flaps attached to each mainplane and running the full length of the trailing edge.
Acting as normal ailerons in flight, these flaps, when lowered together, gave increased lift, thus improving somewhat the load carrying capacity of the aeroplane.
Lateral control of the Fairey-built Baby (named Hamble Baby after Fairey's works at Hamble Point near Southampton) was maintained by tightening the operating cables and slackening the balancing cables simultaneously. A wheel and cable drum attached to the Baby's control column effectively tightened or loosened the aileron control cables. Use of Fairey's Camber Gear on Hamble Babies was the first occasion in which trailing-edge flaps to increase wing lift had been incorporated into a production aeroplane.
The Hamble Baby was tested by Sqn Cdr Maurice Wright, and its production was initially undertaken by the Fairey company, but the majority of Hamble Babies were constructed by Parnall at Bristol under contract.
The Parnall-built Babies were distinguished by their retention of the original Sopwith-type floats and fin and rudder. The last seventy-four machines of the type built by Parnall were, however, completed as landplanes, and were known as Hamble Baby Converts. In this variant horizontal skids replaced the floats, although the main N struts of the seaplane undercarriage were retained. This resulted in a very long axle for the wheels, the axle itself being bound to the skids by rubber cord. The Parnall-built Hamble Baby Converts (N1986-N2059) were used mostly for training, many of them serving at the RNAS Station at Cranwell.
Of the 180 Hamble Babies produced, no less than 130 were built by Parnall at its Bristol works in two batches, the first comprising thirty machines (N1190-N1219) and the second 100 (N1960-N2059).
The first thirty machines were all seaplanes powered by the 110 hp Clerget while from the second batch of 100 machines, twenty-six were completed as seaplanes, the remaining seventy-four being Hamble Baby Convert land planes. All Babies in this second batch were powered by the 130 hp Clerget.
Like other aircraft manufacturers during the 19l4-l8 war, Parnall added its trade name to many of the aircraft it built, the Hamble Baby being no exception. The legend Parnall & Sons Ltd., Bristol, England, formed an oval on the fuselage sides, while the words Aircraft Constructors were added one above the other in the centre of the oval. Included also was the individual aircraft company number, which was painted in small figures immediately below the main military serial number.
The single-seat Babies were employed on unspectacular but very useful and essential duties patrolling the waters around the coasts of Great Britain. They flew from a number of shore bases including, the RNAS Seaplane Stations at Calshot, Cattewater, Dundee, Great Yarmouth, Felixstowe, Scapa Flow, Westgate, Killingholme and Fishguard. Overseas the Baby seaplanes operated from the RNAS stations at Dunkirk, Otranto, Santa Maria di Leuca, Thasos, Suda Bay, Syra, Port Said and Alexandria. The type also flew from a number of seaplane and aircraft carriers as well as aboard the light cruisers Arethusa and Undaunted.
With its 130 hp Clerget and Fairey Patent Camber Gear, the Hamble Baby was the ultimate in the Baby series, and was capable of carrying two 65 lb bombs. Armament varied, earlier versions having a .303-in machinegun mounted to fire obliquely upwards through an aperture in the upper centre-section. This arrangement was modified later so that the Lewis gun, fixed centrally above the fuselage, fired through the propeller arc by means of synchronising gear.
Some Babies carried Ranken anti-airship darts, while Le Prieur rockets, carried in racks attached to the interplane struts, were tried out on the type. Towards the end of the war Babies were giving way to more advanced types of aircraft, but even so on 31 October, 1918, there were still eighteen Hamble Baby seaplanes and Hamble Baby Converts on RAF charge.
Hamble Baby (Parnall-Built)
Single-seat anti-submarine, scout and bomber. 110 hp or 130 hp Clerget air-cooled rotary engine.
Span 27 ft 9 1/4 in; length 23 ft 4 in; height 9 ft 6 in; wing area 246 sq ft.
Empty weight, 1,386 lb; loaded weight 1,946 lb.
Maximum speed 100 mph at sea level, 90 mph at 2,000 ft; climb to 2,000 ft 5 min 30 sec, to 10,000 ft 35 min; service ceiling 7,600 ft; endurance 2 hr.
One .303-in Lewis machine-gun or Ranken darts. Bomb load two 65 lb on under-fuselage racks.
Production (Parnall only)
110 hp Clerget seaplane: 30 confirmed; 130 hp Clerget seaplane: 26 confirmed; 130 hp Clerget Convert: 74 confirmed. Total 130.
H.King Armament of British Aircraft (Putnam)
Hamble Baby. Although an armament of a single synchronised Lewis gun is generally ascribed to this development of the Sopwith Baby, the gun lying ahead of the cockpit, the accompanying photograph strongly suggests that there was an alternative installation of a Lewis gun, associated with a centre-section cut-out. Two 65-lb anti-submarine bombs were carried under the fuselage side by side.
W.Green, G.Swanborough The Complete Book of Fighters
FAIREY HAMBLE BABY UK
The Hamble Baby represented an attempt on the part of the Fairey Aviation Company to improve the performance of the Sopwith Baby single-seat fighter float seaplane, but, in the event, emerged as virtually a new type. The Hamble Baby used, for the first time, the Fairey Patent Camber Gear, a form of trailing-edge flap attached to each mainplane of the redesigned wing to act as ailerons in normal flight, but capable of being deflected as lift-increasing devices for take-off and landing. The tail assembly was redesigned and Fairey designed floats were fitted. Armament consisted of a single synchronised 0.303-in (7,7-mm) machine gun with provision for two 65-lb (29,5-kg) bombs. The first 50 aircraft were powered by the 110 hp Clerget nine-cylinder rotary engine and the remaining 130 (built by Parnall and Sons) had the 130 hp Clerget. The last 74 Babies built by Parnall were fitted with wheel and-skid undercarriages and known as Hamble Baby Converts. The Hamble Babies were operated by the RNAS in the UK, the Mediterranean and the Aegean, entering service in the summer of 1917. The data relate to the 110 hp Baby.
Max speed, 90 mph (145 km/h) at 2,000 ft (610 m).
Time to 2,000 ft (610 m), 5.5 min
Endurance, 2.0 hrs.
Empty weight, 1,386 lb (629 kg)
Loaded weight, 1,946 lb (883 kg).
Span, 27 ft 9 1/4 in (8,46 m).
Length, 23 ft 4 in (7,11 m).
Height, 9 ft 6 in (2,89 m)
Wing area, 246 sq ft (22,85 m2).