Bristol Blenheim G-BPIV is a truly unique British aircraft. As a type, the aircraft’s history is long and formative and an important milestone in the history of British aviation. Although this particular aircraft’s background is fraught it has survived, and is being repaired to carry into the future a lasting flight heritage and living memorial for the nation. Blenheim Duxford Limited is committed to ensuring this important machine will survive.
Built in 1934 as a small airliner, a private venture by the Bristol Aircraft Company, the aircraft was funded by Lord Rothermere. Named ‘Spirit of Britain’, it was presented to the nation and after modification as a bomber became the first stressed skin aircraft accepted by the RAF. It was the fastest light bomber of the day, faster than the fighter aircraft then on order and it became the backbone of the light bomber force. At the start of WWII” the RAF had more Blenheims in service (1089) than any other aircraft. It bore the brunt of the early war bombing effort and its crews paid a heavy price defending the nation. Pressed into roles it was not designed for such as a long range fighter and night fighter, it became the first multi role aircraft. The crews liked the Blenheims and Winston Churchill paid homage to their bravery comparing them to the ‘Charge of the Light Brigade’.
The first Blenheim project, recovered in a derelict state in Canada, was restored to fly after a twelve year engineering project by a small but skilled volunteer staff led by a full time licensed engineer. It made its debut flight in May 1987 but was tragically wrecked only four weeks after its return to the air. The restoration team determined after all that effort that a Blenheim would fly again and the decision was made to resurrect a new Blenheim. After a five year long restoration, largely undertaken by the same volunteer workforce, this aircraft, in June 1983, became once again internationally known as the only flying example of an early war RAF light bomber. One of only two British WWII bombers flying, the RAF Lancaster being the other, it featured in many air shows, films, television broadcasts and magazine articles. The aircraft flew with great success for ten years with an enviable serviceability record among the vintage aircraft fraternity before once again, in August 2003, suffering significant damage during a landing accident at Duxford. A decision was made to repair the aircraft, but this time to ensure that its longevity is guaranteed a trust is being formed so that the aircraft’s future in the air and on the ground is ensured. The first two projects were successfully completed using large inputs from a small group of volunteers. This time, although volunteers still work on the project, to speed the repair, Blenheim Duxford Limited have engaged the Aircraft Restoration Company at Duxford to supply two full time engineers to work on the project. To ensure that the old aeroplane manufacturing skills are kept alive, many of which are now lost to the nation, apprentices are regularly put through periods of learning on the project. Hundreds of visitors view the work in progress and when flying again, the aircraft will be exposed to very large audiences at UK and overseas air shows.
Progress so far……
Progress on the repairs has been good, with both wings and centre section complete although there is some fitting out to finish. It is intended to return the aircraft to the air as a Mk I Blenheim and work is now concentrated on the nose section.
With the nose section now installed onto the fuselage, work is centredon systems. The hydraulics and instrument pipe work is being installed along with flying controls, electrics and instrumentation.
Two engines have been stripped for inspection and rebuild. The main crank and case assemblies have been re-assembled and work continues on the remaining components.
As with all vintage aircraft, repairs take a great deal of time and money, both of which will dictate when the aircraft finally returns to the air. Sponsorship of this project would be most welcome. Companies or individuals wishing to support this project may request a donation form and further information from: Blenheim (Duxford) Ltd., Duxford Airfield, Duxford, Cambridge. CB2 4QR. Tel: 01223 835313
The Restoration of the Blenheim is supported by The Blenheim Society, For more information, please visit their website - www.blenheimsociety.org.uk