The Vimy was the first twin-engined bomber built by Vickers and it became famous for the historic fligh by Alcock and Brown who became the first men to fly the Atlantic non-stop.
The prototype (B9952) was conceived and designed by Vickers Chief Designer Reginald Kirshaw Piersonwithin four month and flew at Joyce Green, Kent on 30th November 1917.
Four prototypes were built and trialled with different engines (Hispano Suiza, Salmson, Sunbeam Maori, Fiat, Hispano and Rolls-Royce Eagle), with the production FB27A Vimy II using the Rolls-Royce Eagle VIII engines.
The first Vickers FB.27 went to Martlesham Heath for official trials in January 1918 where it caused a sensation by lifting a payload heavier than its main competitor, the Handley Page 0/400 which boasted almost twice the power. Unfortunately the Vimy was beset with engine problems and had to be returned to Joyce Green earlier than expected where a number of alternative powerplants were tried.
Unfortunately the type was too late to see Operational Service and, despite a large numbers of Vimy’s being ordered, sadly many of the contracts were subsequently cancelled after the Armistice. The prototype survived and it was flown to Amsterdam in August 1919 to take part in the Vickers display at the E.L.T.A. exhibition.
In total, Vickers built 147 aircraft at Bexleyheath, Crayford and Weybridge with further construction contracts being placed with a number of other suppliers including: Clayton & Shuttleworth Ltd; Kingsbury Aviation Co.; Metropolitan Wagon Co.; Morgan & Co.; The Royal Aircraft Factory, Farnborough and Westland Aircraft Works (Branch of Petters Ltd). Over 1,000 aircraft were ordered under wartime contract but in the confusion of cancelled orders and unfinished aircraft, the total actually delivered is still uncertain although it appears to have been in excess of 230.
In addition to a short-lived role as a torpedo bomber, many speculate that there was consideration given to fitting the aircraft with floatation devices although no evidence appears to exist of such a project.
There can be little doubt however that the Vimy would have had an important part to play in the First World War had it continued beyond 1918.
After the war, the type revealed its true capability with long distance, record-breaking flights. These included the famous first direct, non-stop Trans-Atlantic flight of Captain John Alcock (DSC) and Lt. Arthur Whitten-Brown (14th – 15th June 1919) when they flew from Newfoundland to County Galway, thus winning the £10,000 prize offered by the Daily Mail.
Later that year Ross and Keith Macpherson-Smith flew from England to Australia in G-EAOU between 12th November and 10th December 1919.
In addition to the Allcock & Brown Trans-Atlantic aircraft rebuilt and donated to the Science Museum in London, three full-size replicas have been created. The most well-known is the Vintage Flying Association aircraft at Brooklands (G-AWAU) although this is now in storage following display at The RAF Museum, Hendon during 2014.
Its potential of the Vimy as a military type is clearly demonstrated by its subsequent developments which included the following types: Vimy Commercial (44), Vernon (55), Virginia (126), Victoria (97) and Valentia (28).
The Vimy Commercial project saw an enlarged diameter fuselage aircraft take off on its maiden flight at Joyce Green on 13th April 1919. Although the prototype later entered the London-Cape Town Air Race in 1920, it was lost in a crash over Tanganika in February 1920.
Twenty aircraft were converted to bombers and saw service in both the first and second Zhili-Fengtian War in China during 1922. The Chinese order a hundred aircraft although only forty aircraft were eventually assembled, the balance remaining in their crates unused.
Fifty-Five military transport versions of the Commercial were built for the RAF, entering service under the designation Vickers Vernon.
- Length: 43 ft 7 in (13.28 m)
- Wingspan: 68 ft 1 in (20.75 m)
- Height: 15 ft 8 in (4.77 m)
- Wing area: 1,330 sq ft (123.56 m²)
- Empty weight: 7,104 lb (3,222 kg)
- Max. takeoff weight: 10,884 lb (4,937 kg)
- Powerplant: 2 × Rolls-Royce Eagle VIII piston engines, 360 hp (268 kW) each
- Maximum speed: 100 mph (161 km/h)
- Range: 900 mi (1,448 km)
- Service ceiling: 7,000 ft (2,134 m)
- Power/mass: 0.07 hp/lb (0.11 kW/kg)
- Guns: 1 × .303 in (7.7 mm) Lewis Gun in Scarff ring in nose and 1 × in Scarff ring in mid-fuselage
- Bombs: 2,476 lb (1,123 kg) of bombs