Blackburn B-54 (Y.A.5/ Y.A.7/ Y.A.8)

The Blackburn B-54 (Y.A.5/ Y.A.7/ Y.A.8) was an anti-submarine aircraft that was superseded by the turbine powered Blackburn B-88 (Y.B.1).

Work on the Blackburn B-54 began in response to Specification G.R.17/ 45, which called for a carrier borne anti-submarine warfare aircraft, capable of detecting the sort of snorkel equipped submarines that had entered German service late in the Second World War.

Blackburn’s first response was a modified version of their Blackburn B-48, a low wing aircraft developed in 1943-45 as a single seat carrier strike aircraft.

Blackburn YA.7 from the front Blackburn YA.7 from the front

This was soon replaced by the B-54. This was a rather ungainly looking aircraft, with a deep fuselage and inverted gull wings. It had a tricycle undercarriage designed to cope with high sinking speeds (rapid loss of altitude when landing on carrier). The inverted gull wing meant that there was space below the centre section of the wing for a large weapons bay that could carry a range of weapons. It could also carry 60lb rockets, depth charges or auxiliary fuel tanks under the wings. It had a crew of two, each under their own sliding canopy. Both sat high in the cockpit to give a superior view. A retractable radar radome was carried in the rear of the fuselage. It had a powered wing folding mechanism, with the wings folding up over the fuselage.

Three prototypes were ordered, two of which would be built as B-54s and one as the sole B-88. The original plan had been to use a Napier Double Naiad turbo-prop engine, and this version was given the Society of British Aircraft Constructor’s designation Y.A.5. However work on the Naiad engine was cancelled, so the first prototype was built using a 2000hp Rolls-Royce Griffon 56 engine powering a 13ft diameter six blade contra rotating propeller. It was also give a new SBAC designation as the Y.A.7.

The Y.A.7 made its maiden flight on 20 September 1949. It then went to Boscombe Down to handing trials and on to a Naval Trials Unit, making its first deck landing on the Illustrious on 8 February 1950.

During the development process the original specification had been altered to add a third crew member, a second observer. The second prototype was completed with space for three, with the two observers sitting facing each other. Other changes included increased sweepback on the wing leading edge, new outer wing panels and a modified tail. It used the same Griffon engine, but was given the new designation Y.A.8.

The two B-54s were used in extensive trials, carrying out more than 1,000 landings and 300 hours of test flying between them. They were transferred to the RAE in 1951, and one was still intact in September 1954. Both were in the scrap yard by 1957.

The third prototype was completed with an alternative turbo-prop engine, the Armstrong Siddeley Double Mamba, as the B-88/ Y.B.1. As a result the two piston powered aircraft were relegated to the status of test beds for the turbo-jet powered B-88. However in 1951 this lost out to the Fairey Gannet and no further examples of the B-88 were built.

Engine: Rolls-Royce Griffon 56
Power: 2,000hp
Crew: 2 or 3
Span: 44ft 2in (19ft 6in folded)
Length: 42ft 5in
Height: 17ft 3in
Empty weight:
All-up weight: 13,729lb
Maximum take-off weight:
Max speed: 251mph
Climb Rate:
Service ceiling:

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How to cite this article: Rickard, J (18 October 2023), Blackburn B-54 (Y.A.5/ Y.A.7/ Y.A.8) ,

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