From Brisfit to Concorde, news of vintage and classic aircraft
It was on a bright, cold and showery 26 November 2003 that British Airways’ Concorde G-BOAF made the last ever flight of the iconic supersonic airliner, from Heathrow to Filton. Concorde 216 was returning for retirement and preservation at the airfield where it had been manufactured and had its maiden flight on 20 April 1979 (as G-BFKX). It was parked to the west of the ‘Brabazon Hangar’ in the charge of Airbus and presented to the public for a few years by volunteers from the Bristol Aero Collection (BAC). Thirteen years later, after a massive effort by The Bristol Aero Collection Trust (BACT), with support from many companies, groups, charitable trusts, individuals, the Government (£2m from the Libor fund), Gloucestershire and Bristol Councils and not least the Heritage Lottery Fund (£4.9m), a permanent home for Concorde and presentation of the wider Filton and Bristol aerospace heritage, is now taking shape.
Under the title Aerospace Bristol, this £19m project to refurbish two Grade II listed hangars that date from WWI and to construct a new building to house Concorde G-BOAF, is set to be completed and opened to the public next summer. The three-bay former RFC/RAF hangar will present historic Bristol aircraft and engines, memorabilia, models and interactive exhibits across seven eras, from the pioneers of 1903 through to the present day. The smaller historic hangar will become the key restoration centre that will initially contain Bristol Bolingbroke RCAF9048, obtained in 2006. The new steel building will house Concorde G-BOAF and related exhibits and include a viewing gallery overlooking the aircraft, conference facilities and a lecture theatre. Construction commenced on 26 May 2016 and less than five months later HRH The Princess Royal (Patron of Aerospace Bristol) attended the topping out ceremony on 14 October. Iain Gray CBE, Chairman of the BACT, said: “This topping out ceremony marks a major milestone towards opening Aerospace Bristol in summer 2017.” It is planned to tow G-BOAF from its thirteen-year location on the south side of the former
runway to the new building half-a-mile away on the north side early in 2017. A small move was rehearsed recently to make sure there were no technical problems with the aircraft.
The BACT announced in September that it is hoping to obtain one of only seven original Bristol F2b fighters known to exist. This ‘Brisfit’ was amongst six purchased by a Mr Bottington in 1919 at RAF Weston-on-the-green near Oxford and moved to his farm where they provided supporting trusses for the roof of a barn. Discovered in 1965, the airframes were obtained by the Northern Aircraft Preservation Society and one of them was acquired by the late Ed Brennan of Ontario, Canada. Following thirty years of storage it moved south to Vintage Aviation Services in Kingsbury, Texas and then on to Ross Walton who started the restoration.
The fuselage is now in Andy Crumpholt’s workshop at Boston, Mass. In terms of hardware he has a 300hp Hispano-suiza V8 liquid-cooled engine to fit, although the F2b would probably have had a Rolls-royce Falcon when it was built. The rebuilt aircraft will have a complete set of mostly original cockpit instruments and an original Vickers .303 machine gun. Five of the interplane struts are original, one of which has a Marshall and Sons of Gainsborough factory decal on it and another carries the ‘Gosforth’ decal of Armstrong Whitworth at Newcastle-upon-tyne.
With the majority of Bristol factory blueprints for the F2b available, the restorers have been able accurately to reproduce those components that needed to be replaced. Although much of the metal hardware could be restored, most of the wood was beyond repair — which has meant that totally new wings are being produced by Andy Crumpholt. At present little is known about the identity or history of this Brisfit apart from the fact that it was one of 150 built by Marshall and Son of Gainsborough in 1918 with RAF serials D2626-D2775. Aerospace Bristol is seeking funds to help with the purchase of the aircraft and to complete its plans for this important heritage centre. www.aerospacebristol.org
Above: Concorde 216 G-BOAF has been parked outside at Filton for thirteen years since its retirement in 2013 Below: new Aerospace Bristol Concorde hangar, Grade II listed WWI hangars behind
Bolingbroke 9048 whilst in service with the RCAF Inset: on rebuild by BAC volunteers, 9048 will move into the ‘new’ restoration centre
HRH The Princess Royal (Patron of Aerospace Bristol) attended the new building’s topping out ceremony in October
Part-restored Brisfit fuselage, one of only seven originals known to exist, outside Andy Crumpholt’s workshop at Boston, Mass