Bristol Boxkite

Early Days by K McDonoughThe Boxkite was the first aircraft built and designed by the British and Colonial Aeroplane Company (later to be known as the Bristol Aeroplane Company).

It was a biplane of wire -braced wood construction based on designs by Henri Farman powered by a 50 hp Gnome rotary engine driving a single pusher propellor. As the machine was used by Bristol for instruction purposes at their flying schools at Larkhill and Brooklands many early aviators first flew in a Boxkite and a number of aviation ‘firsts’ were achieved using it. Four Boxkites were purchased in 1911 by the War Office and examples were sold to Russia and Australia.

The Boxkite had an ususual origin. The first intention of Sir George White, the founder and chairman of Bristol Aircraft, was to build copies of the Zodiac biplane designed by Gabriel Voisin under license. One example of this design had been imported from France and exhibited by Bristol in the 1910 Aero show in London in March 1910 , but first attempts to get it to fly were entirely unsuccessful. A new set of wings did little for its performance and after a single brief flight on 28 May it was abandoned, as was work on five more examples being built at Filton. Sir George was advised to build an aircraft modelled on the successful machines of Henri Farman, and so George Challenger ,the chief engineer at Filton, set to work on drawings for a new aircraft, using dimensions of a Farman machine published by the aeronautical press. This was delivered to the company’s flying school at Larkhill and first flew there on 30 July 1910 piloted by Maurice Edmond. The ‘Boxkite’ went on to become Bristol’s first successful production aeroplane. 76 were built, 61 of which were the extended military version.

General characteristics

Crew: 2
Length: 38 ft 6 in (11.73 m)
Wingspan: 46 ft 6 in (14.17 m)
Height: 11 ft 0 in (3.61 m)
Wing area: 517.0 ft² (48.03 m²)
Empty weight: 900 lb (408 kg)
Max takeoff weight: 1150 lb (522 kg)
Powerplant: 1× Gnome rotary piston engine, 50 hp (37 kW)


Maximum speed: 40 mph (64 km/h)
Wing loading: 2.22 lb/ft² (10.9 kg/m²)
Power/mass: 0.043 hp/lb (70.9 W/kg)