Grace's Guide

British Industrial History

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British and Colonial Aeroplane Co: Bristol Hydro No.120

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Note: This is a sub-section of British and Colonial Aeroplane Co.

The Hydro no.120 was a two-seat, single-engine biplane configured as a single float seaplane. Built by the British and Colonial Aeroplane Co in 1913, it was lost on its first flight.

The French educated Romanian aircraft designer Henri Coanda joined the British and Colonial Aeroplane Company, as Bristol was then known, in January 1912. The following January he designed a two-seat, single-engine single float biplane. It was begun as a private venture but was purchased subject to acceptance trials by the Admiralty. The aircraft did not survive long enough to undertake these trials. It received no Bristol type name at the time and as a pre-First World War type, it did not get a retrospective Type number in 1923. For that reason it is usually referred to by its Bristol construction number, 120, or as the Hydro no.120.

It was a single-bay biplane with unswept and unstaggered wings. The circular section fuselage was mounted between the wings with a gap below and unusual framed struts above at the centre section. The observer's cockpit was between these frames, the pilot sitting at the wing trailing edge. The 80 hp (60 kW) Gnome rotary engine was enclosed in a close-fitting aluminium cowling. The fuselage tapered to the tail, which in typical Coandă style comprised a nearly semi-circular fixed horizontal stabiliser with a single elevator, plus a balanced rudder without a fixed fin. There was a single wide mahogany float built by Oscar Gnosspelius, with a pair of water rudders at its rear. Two streamlined cylindrical wing-tip floats provided lateral stability.

No. 120's career was very brief. After several days on the water at Cowes for tests the Gnosspelius float became waterlogged and heavy. It was therefore replaced by a lightweight, purpose-built float from Saunders and Co of Cowes. On 15 April 1913, Harry Busteed took off successfully, only for the closely-cowled engine to overheat and lose power. The subsequent heavy emergency landing destroyed the float and the aircraft - though not its pilot - was lost.

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