Blackburn Airedale

The Blackburn Airedale was a high wing monoplane designed to replace the almost new Blackburn R.1 Blackburn and Avro 555 Bison, but that only reached the  prototype stage.

The Airedale was designed in response to Air Ministry Specification 37/22, issued in the year after the specification that led to the biplane Blackburn. It called for a three seat deck landing reconnaissance land or sea monoplane.

The Airedale was designed by Major F. A. Bumpus, who had also designed the Blackburn. At first glance it was very different – the Blackburn was a twin bay biplane, with a rather ungainly looking tall but narrow fuselage that filled the entire gap between the wings. In contrast the Airedale was a high wing monoplane, with rather unusual octagonal shaped shaped wings – the wing was narrow at the centre, with the inner quarter tapering from the fuselage, the second quarter with straight edges and the outer half of each wing tapered out to a square end. The wing was very thick. It could fold back and rotate, ending up folded flat against the sides of the fuselage. It has the same simplified undercarriage as the Blackburn Mk II.

However it did have some features in common with the Blackburn – indeed the crew section of the fuselage was almost a direct copy, with the pilot in an open cockpit in front of the wing, and a long enclosed cabin for the navigator and wireless operator/ gunner below the wing. The rear of the wireless operator’s position was open, to all him to make observations. Further back was a gunner’s cockpit with a flexibly mounted machine gun, just as on the Blackburn. The fuselage was slimmer and not as tall as on the Blackburn, and was entirely of semi-moncoque construction, removing the steel tube central section on the older aircraft. There was a prone bomb aimer’s position in the base of the fuselage. It was armed with a fixed forward firing Vickers gun and a flexibly mounted .303in Lewis gun on a Scarf ring. Unlike the Blackburn it could carry bombs on a rack under the fuselage.

The Airedale was powered by a 385ph Armstrong Siddeley Jaguar III radial engine, although could use any similar air cooled radial engine. It was Blackburns’ first aircraft with a completely semi-monocoque fuselage, and its first post-war biplane.

Blackburn were given a contract to produce two prototypes of the Airedale. These were built at Leeds in 1924 (N188 and N189). They were to complete with the Hawker Hedgehog. The first prototype, N188, was crashed by a service pilot who was ferrying it to Martlesham Heath for service trials and wrecked. The second prototype reached Martlesham for its trials in June 1926, but it didn’t significantly out-perform the Blackburn or Bison. This ended official interest in the monoplane version.

In 1926 Major Bumpus redesigned the Airedale as a biplane. This would have been a single bay biplane powered by a 425hp Bristol Jupiter VI engine, and with the same fuselage, undercarriage and tail as the monoplane, but with a conventional biplane wing. However by the time this design was complete, the specification had been withdrawn and this version was never built.

Engine: Armstrong Siddeley Jaguar III
Power: 385hp
Crew: 3
Span: 46ft 0in
Length: 36ft 4in
Height: 14ft 3in
All-up weight: 120mph at sea level
Maximum take-off weight:
Max speed: 120mph

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How to cite this article: Rickard, J (7 November 2023), Blackburn Airedale ,

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