How Bristol’s second Britannia nearly met its end

The second prototype Bristol Britannia met an ignominious end, sitting on the Severn mudflats, repeatedly being submerged by the tide before it could be salvaged. But the outcome of a major engine problem could have been far worse.

It wasn’t what anyone wanted to see. Number three engine on fire, lumps of molten metal dropping from it. In the course of test-flying a new aeroplane and powerplant, these things can happen. The two representatives of KLM Royal Dutch Airlines, up for a demonstration flight in the second prototype Bristol Britannia, were well aware of the potential risks. But the prospect of making a forced landing as a result of major technical failure was less than ideal in all sorts of ways. Not only was there the potential risk to human life, but the commercial consequences could hardly be ignored. During those troubling moments, much rested on the shoulders of chief test pilot Arthur ‘Bill’ Pegg.

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