The Blackburn Dart was the production version of the Swift torpedo bomber, a private venture aircraft built in 1920. After evaluation at Martlesham between 23 December 1920 and 9 May 1921 an order was placed for three trials aircraft, the first of 117 Darts ordered for the Fleet Air Arm.
The T.2 Dart was a two-bay biplane with folding wings, a split undercarriage (early torpedo bombers had a one-piece undercarriage that had to be jettisoned before the torpedo could be dropped. The Dart was similar to the Swift, but with wings that were 2ft 11in shorter and full military equipment. The Dart could carry either the Mk VIII or Mk IX 18-in naval torpedo or a similar weight in bombs, but unusually for a military aircraft it carried no guns.
The first of the three trial Darts reached Martlesham for tests on 24 October 1921. It was then tested against the Handley Page H.P.19 Hanley. After these tests the Dart was adopted as the Navy’s standard torpedo bomber, and an order was placed for 26 aircraft. This was followed by orders for 10 in 1923, 42 in 1924, 10 in 1925 and 16 in 1926. The last ten aircraft were given interchangeable wheel and float undercarriages.
The Dart equipped five Fleet Torpedo Flights, Nos.460 to 464. These flights equipped three aircraft carriers – Nos.461 and 462 on HMS Furious in home waters, No.460 on HMS Eagle and Nos.463 and 464 on HMS Courageous, both in the Mediterranean. In May 1933 the two flights on HMS Courageous merged to form No.810 Squadron, which retained its Darts until September 1933, when they were replaced by the Blackburn Ripon. The Dart’s main contribution to the development of naval air power came on 1 July 1926, when Flt Lt Gerald Boyce made the first ever night landing on an aircraft carrier, safely landing his Dart on HMS Furious.
Engine: Napier Lion IIB or V
Power: 450hp or 465hp
Wing span: 45ft 5.75in
Length: 35ft 4.5in (landplane), 40ftr 2.5in (seaplane)
Height: 12ft 11in (landplane), 17ft 0in (seaplane)
Tare weight: 3,559lb
All-up weight: 6,383lb
Maximum speed: 107mph at 1,000ft
Service ceiling: 10,200ft
Armament: One 1,650lb torpedo