La aviación británica - El primer medio siglo

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Este artículo es de Libro de la Aviación Británica La Primera Mitad de Siglo

La primera mitad del siglo XX vio el nacimiento del avión y su desarrollo como instrumento de guerra y comercio.Aviación británica La primera mitad del sigloCon más de 170 imágenes de época, cuidadosamente coloreadas, este libro relata la gran variedad de aviones producidos en Gran Bretaña antes de 1950, retratándolos en todo su esplendor.

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Slow run down

At the end of the war, Britain was in a perilous financial position. Although it had prevailed, the conflict highlighted the military and industrial dominance of the United States and the Soviet Union, compared to which Britain was a second‐rate power. Balanced against the need to cut costs by reducing the size of the wartime armed services was the requirement to keep sufficient forces in occupied Germany, Italy and Austria and many other areas of the globe to maintain (or in many cases, restore) stability. In the Far East, many uprisings occurred in the former European colonies after Japanese forces surrendered, led by people eager to determine their own destinies before the British, Dutch or French ‘colonial masters’ returned. These global commitments helped slow the run‐down of the RAF, while suspicion over the intentions of the Soviet Union meant there was no post‐war equivalent of the ‘ten year rule’.

In 1946–47, the RAF accounted for 15.5 per cent (at £255.5m) of defence expenditure, just below that of the Royal Navy (16.1 per cent) and a long way behind the Army (43.4 per cent); a quarter of the budget was allocated to central defence needs and other governmental ministries. Unlike after World War One, procurement of aircraft for the RAF and FAA continued, but at a much lower level.

FAA Aircraft
At the end of the 1940s, the FAA was transitioning from piston‐ to jet‐powered aircraft

It was clear that the new generation of combat aircraft would be powered by jet engines, making the large existing fleet of piston engine types obsolete, and the post‐war era saw their development and introduction to service in increasing numbers. Britain had a lead in jet engine technology at the end of the war, but this was not matched by an exploitation of the aerodynamics that would have greatly improved performance. Plans for an aircraft to break the ‘sound barrier’ – the Miles M.52 – were cancelled in February 1946 and adoption of swept wing fighters was delayed until long after the US North America F‐86 Sabre and Soviet Mikoyan‐Gurevich MiG‐15 had entered service.

By 1950, the best the RAF’s Fighter Command had was the straight wing de Havilland Vampire and Gloster Meteor, both of which first flew during the war. At the same point, Bomber Command still relied on the Avro Lincoln – little more than a bigger Lancaster – and was receiving Boeing B‐29 Superfortresses (as Washingtons) from America; it was only in May 1951 that it accepted its first jet bomber, the English Electric Canberra, into service.

The impetus to improve both the quantity and quality of the armed forces came when North Korean invaded its southern neighbour on 25 June 1950, beginning a brutal three‐year war which saw China and the Soviet Union on one side and the United States and other members of the United Nations (including Britain) on the other. The early 1950s saw a build‐up of British military forces from which the aviation industry benefited.


Aircraft for the airlines

During World War Two, Lend‐Lease also alleviated the lack of modern transport aircraft produced by British manufacturers, with the Douglas Dakota (US Army Air Force Skytrain or Skytrooper) becoming the standard RAF freight hauler by the conclusion of the conflict. As the end of the European war approached, plans were laid for the design of several classes of airliners by both the government and manufacturers, with the aim of capturing a large share of the market post‐war. The immediate need for commercial airliners resulted in stopgap conversions of the Avro Lancaster and Handley Page Halifax bombers as the Lancastrian and Halton, plus modifications of Short Sunderland flying boats as Sandringhams.

The Handley Page Halton was a civil transport conversion of the Halifax bomber

In addition, existing production types (such as the Avro York) and others adopted from originally military designs (including the Bristol 170 and Vickers Viking) became the first generation of ‘interim’ post‐war British airliners, while development of definitive types was undertaken. Unfortunately, while the demand for airliners across the globe was large, so was the number of suitable surplus military transports that could be configured for fare‐paying passengers. Coupled to the slow and often troubled development of many of the post‐war British airliners, this all but guaranteed that relatively few of the early designs would be built.

By the end of the 1940s, the great hope was the jet‐powered de Havilland Comet, which not only offered a significant increase in performance in terms of speed, but also better passenger comfort thanks to its pressurised cabin. At the start of 1950, it appeared that the Comet would be a ‘world beater’, a standard bearer for the British aviation industry in the second half of the 20th century. Tragically, it was not to be.


Golden age

The first 50 years of the 20th century was a golden age for British aviation. It encompassed the pioneering years, the great leaps forward sparked by the two world wars, the development of the airliner and the rise of private aviation. More different types of aircraft were built and flew in the British Isles during the first 50 years than in the 70 years since, while the total number of aircraft rolled out was far greater, reaching its zenith during World War Two.

Identifying the aircraft to adequately represent the period is no easy task. Although it is tempting to focus on the famous – the Sopwith Camel, de Havilland DH.60 Moth, Hawker Hurricane, Supermarine Spitfire, Avro Lancaster – for each that became a household name, numerous others never even made it into the public consciousness. They include many types that flew only as prototypes, failed to find a place in the market, or served in pedestrian roles that never generated headlines in the newspapers. The story of the first 50 years of British aviation cannot be told without them.

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This article is from British Aviation The First Half-Century Book

The first half of the 20th century saw the birth of the aeroplane and its development as an instrument of war and commerce. British Aviation The First Half-Century has over 170 period images, carefully colourised, this book chronicles the wide variety of aircraft produced in Great Britain before 1950, portraying them in their full glory once more.

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