Aircraft History

The Britannia was designed in response to a 1947 British government request for a Medium Range Empire (MRE) airliner. Dr Archibald Russell, Bristol Aeroplane Company Chief Designer proposed two versions of the four engine Type 175 Britannia, one with Bristol Centaurus piston engines and the other with new Bristol Proteus turboprop engines then under development. The Proteus powered version was preferred as the impending introduction of the all-jet De Havilland Comet would make piston engines harder to sell to the public and potential airline customers. The project depended on successful testing of the new Proteus which finished in 1951 with the first Britannia flying in 1952. A total of 85 Britannias were built.

Qantas was sufficiently interested in the new Britannia design in 1953 to sign a 'letter of intent' to purchase six but did not proceed to an order. The loss of the second prototype Britannia in an accident in January 1954 delayed production again. The launch customer British Overseas Airways Corporation (BOAC) was by now very unhappy with the prolonged gestation period and began examining a US-built alternative, ordering ten Douglas DC-7C jet aircraft in 1955 as an interim measure. Britannia deliveries to BOAC began in 1956. The first year of operation was not promising with ongoing technical problems with the Proteus causing unscheduled engine changeovers. BOAC opened its London-Sydney Britannia service in 1957 stopping at Zurich, Istanbul, Karachi, Calcutta, Singapore, Jakarta and Darwin. The arrival of the Boeing 707 quickly made the Britannia obsolete on this route by eliminating most of these stops. Qantas leased BOAC Britannia aircraft for migrant charter flights from Europe to Australia. There were 31 such flights in 1960.

Modest overseas sales were achieved with many used Britannias seeing service with smaller airlines around the world. Military troop carrier and cargo transport versions of the Britannia were used by the RAF between 1959 and 1983.

Model History

This 1:48 scale model of a BOAC Britannia was commissioned by the Museum and built by Mr R.D. Ramsay in 1957/58.

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