Blackburn B-88 (Y.B.1)


The Blackburn B-88 (Y.B.1) was a turbo-prop powered version of the B-54 anti-submarine aircraft, but it lost out to the Fairey Gannet and never entered production.

The Blackburn B-54 was developed in response to Specification G.R.17/ 45, which called for a specialised anti-submarine carrier aircraft capable of detecting and attacking the new generation of snorkel equipped U-boats that had entered German service late in the Second World War. The original plan had been to power this aircraft with a Napier Double Naiad turbo-prop, but that engine was cancelled. As a result the B-54 had to be powered by a 2,000hp Rolls-Royce Griffon, and effectively became a flying test bed for the eventual turbo-prop version. Two prototypes of the B-54 were built, and flew with the Society of British Aircraft Constructor’s designations Y.A.7 and Y.A.8. These aircraft made their maiden flights on 20 September 1949 and 3 May 1950.

Blackburn YB.1 from the rear Blackburn YB.1 from the rear

Three prototypes of the B-54 had been ordered. The third of them was powered by the Armstrong Siddeley Double Mamba turbo-jet engine, and was given the Blackburn designation B-88, SABC designation Y.B.1. and the serial number WB797.

The Double Mamba engine was made up of two gas turbines sitting side by side, powering a contra rotating airscrew. The port turbine powered the front airscrew and the starboard turbine the rear airscrew. It was possible to shut off one of the engines in flight and feather that airscrew to increase the range of the aircraft.

The B-88 was physically very similar to the B-54. It had a deep fuselage, with the crew of three sitting high in their cockpit to give a good view. It had an inverted gull wing, which gave space below the centre section for a long weapons bay that could carry a range of anti-submarine weapons. It was also possible to carry rockets, depth charges or fuel tanks below the wings.

The B-88 made its maiden flight at Brough on 19 July 1950, making it Blackburns’ first turbo-prop aircraft. It was quickly thrown into the public eye, appearing at the Naval Air Display at Lee-on-Solent on 26 August 1950 and the Farnborough Air Show of 6-10 September 1950. It was then returned to Brough where it was given longer wing tips, which could fold down when the wing folded up (giving a Z shape).

In the autumn of 1950 the B-88 took part in competitive trials against the Fairey 17 and Short S.B.3. This included deck landings on HMS Illustrious on 30 October. The Fairey design won out, and on 14 March 1951 was ordered into production as the Fairey Gannet.

The sole B-88 then went to Armstrong Siddeley, where they used it as a test bed for the Double Mamba engine, which was also used in the Gannet. It was scrapped at Bitteswell in July 1955.

Engine: Armstrong Siddeley Double Mamba
Power: 2,950ehp
Crew: 3
Span: 44ft 2in (19ft 6in folded)
Length: 42ft 8in
Height: 16ft 9in
All-up weight: 13,091lb
Maximum take-off weight:
Max speed: 320mph
Climb Rate:
Service ceiling:
Bomb load:

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How to cite this article: Rickard, J (24 October 2023), Blackburn B-88 (Y.B.1) ,

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