Bristol F.2B Fighter

Bristol parts laid out on hangar floor
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The Bristol F.2 was developed in response to a 1915 Royal Flying Corps specification for a reconnaisance and artillery spotter aircraft that would be capable of defending itself. Frank Barnwell developed an initial design based on the 120-hp Beardmore engine. This was soon replaced by a design using a 150-hp Hispano-Suiza engine. Both of these early designs were biplanes featuring a fuselage mounted in the middle of the inter-wing gap, a fixed forward-firing machine gun, and an observer's position with a flexible machine gun. In addition, they both placed the crew positions very close together, and featured a fuselage that tapered to a horizontal knife-edge at the rear.

Bristol fuselage rear quarter view

When the 190-hp Rolls-Royce Falcon engine became available, Barnwell re-designed the airplane, retaining only the features noted above in the new design. Some of those can be seen in this rear-quarter view (despite the clutter of other projects). In the process, the mission was also changed to be that of a fighter, rather than reconnaisance. This prototype became known as the Bristol Fighter, designated the Bristol F.2, and popularly known as the Brisfit.

Although the fighter had a very rocky start in combat (in its first mission, 4 out of 6 fighters dispatched were shot down) due to misguided attempts to use the flexible rear gun as the primary armament, the Brisfit came in to its own when the pilots started flying it as a fighter. The fixed forward-firing Vickers gun was effective, and the observer's flexible Lewis gun improved the rear defenses of the fighter sufficiently to make it a tough opponent. By the end of the war, it was recognized as one of the most effective fighters in its class.

Wright-built Hispano-Suiza 300-hp engine

VAHF has recently acquired two F.2B projects. One is an original Bristol Fighter, manufactured under license by Marshall and Sons. The other is a replica. We also have a 300-hp Hispano-Suiza (license-built by Wright) which we plan to use to power one of the projects. This engine is one of several that were used on the F.2 series when Rolls-Royce turned out to be unable to produce enough Falcons to meet demand. The Marshall & Sons Bristols were scheduled to receive the Sunbeam Arab engine, but the installation was designed to accept the 300-hp Hisso as well. This was done because the Arab was already known to have problems, and the plan was to replace the Arab with the Hisso as soon as the Hisso became available.

F.2B fuselage top view

The history of these Bristols is somewhat interesting. After World War I, a Mr. Bottington bought six F.2Bs from the British government, and used the fuselages as the roof trusses for a barn in the village of Weston-On-The-Green. (Yep, it's an odd variant on the Jenny-in-a-barn story!) In the 1970s, somebody noticed the barn's roof trusses, and bought the barn from the farmer. Five of the Bristols went to the Northern Aeroplane Preservation Society, and one went to Mr. Ed Brennan of Ontario, Canada. This last is the one that VAHF has acquired, and Mr. Brennan is also the source of the replica that came with it. We don't know what serial number this Bristol is, but a historian in New Zealand is researching the history of the six Bristols that Mr. Bottington bought. We may never know the exact serial number of this aircraft, but with luck we can identify the six Bristols that went into that barn. One other point to note: Of the seven or eight original Bristol Fighters known to exist, six came from that barn!

Bristol wings hanging on a wall

Although the projects are fairly complete (including the fuselages, wings, control surfaces, and other major parts), much of the wood is unusable. As a result, the wings are to be totally rebuilt, re-using only the hardware. Much of the steel framework (tail and control surfaces, struts, etc.) can be cleaned up and used in the restored aircraft. The engine will be overhauled and hung on one of the planes, but we're looking for a suitable engine for the other. Know where we can pick up a Falcon III cheap?

Additional Information

The Aerodrome website has a brief history and specifications for the Bristol F.2B. The Fighter Collection has a nice page showing the restoration of their Bristol F.2b.

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