Bristol Britannia

Bristol 175 Britannia 312F XM497 cn 13237 RAF

The British turboprop-powered Bristol Type 175 Britannia airliner proved a huge success as medium-to-long-range airliner. The Britannia was Known as the  ‘Whispering Giant’ because of its extremely quiet engines.

Developing nation: United Kingdom.
Bristol Aeroplane Company/Dr. Archibald E. Russell
Production line: Filton, England UK/30 were built at Belfast by Short Brothers and Harland.
Type aircraft: four-engine,  turboprop-powered airliner/freighter .
First flight: 16 August 1952 G-ALBO.
First delivery: BOAC 30 December 1955 .
Produced: 1952 – 1960.
Built: 85
Retired: March 1990 Cubana de Aviación

The first prototype aircraft – G-ALBO – flew on 16 August 1952.  A second prototype aircraft G-ALRX was lost in an accident on December 1953. Engine intake icing problems delayed the Britannia 102’s  entry into service. The 200-series aircraft built by Bristol was designed to provide cargo-carrying, or a combination of freight and passenger-carrying capabilities. Twenty-three Britannia aircraft were built for the Royal Air Force, providing troop and cargo transport.  The later 300-series were built for transatlantic operation, and entered service by BOAC on the London-New York route on 19 December 1957.

By the time development was completed, “pure” jet airliners from France (Caravelle), United Kingdom (Comet) and the United States (Douglas DC-8 and Boeing 707) were about to enter service, and consequently, only 85 Britannias were built before production ended in 1960.

The RAF used twenty-three as long range troop and freight transports. Despite initial setbacks, Bristol’s ‘Whispering Giant’ proved itself a successful airliner with its speed, comfort and lack of vibration putting it ahead of its competitors.

General characteristics

  • Crew: 4-7
  • Capacity: 139 passengers (coach class)
  • Length: 37.88 m (124 ft 3 in)
  • Wingspan: 43.36 m (142 ft 3 in)
  • Height: 11.43 m (37 ft 6 in)
  • Wing area: 192.8 m² (2,075 ft²)
  • Empty weight: 38,500 kg (86,400 lb)
  • Max takeoff weight: 84,000 kg (185,000 lb)
  • Powerplant: 4 × Bristol Proteus 765 turboprops, 4,450 ehp (3,320 kW) each


  • Maximum speed: 639 km/h (397 mph, 345 knots)
  • Cruise speed: 575 km/h (357 mph, 310 kn) at 6,700 m (22,000 ft)
  • Range: 7,129 km (4,430 mi, 3,852 nmi)
  • Service ceiling: 7,300 m (24,000 ft)


All pictures courtesy of Zijde Aviation Photo and Publishing, Rob Vogelaar and Marcel van Leeuwen.