Share This Article

The Blackburn Blackburn

So nice they named it twice, this airplane—whose grotesque appearance might draw disbelieving second glances—was called the Blackburn Blackburn. Its peculiar name stemmed from the fact that it was developed by Blackburn Aircraft Limited and named after the town of Blackburn in Lancashire.

First flown in 1922, the Blackburn looked like an affront to all the laws of aerodynamics, but there was method behind the seeming madness. It was intended to serve Britain’s Royal Navy as a carrier-based reconnaissance plane at a time when the principal naval weapons were still considered to be the big guns of battleships, rather than bombs or torpedoes delivered by carrier planes. Consequently, the Blackburn was not designed for speed or firepower, but to serve as a stable airborne observation post from which an observer could spot the fall of the battleships’ shots and a radio operator could transmit aiming corrections to the gunners. To that end the Blackburn was equipped with a spacious cabin, complete with nautical-looking circular portholes, to accommodate a chart table and radio equipment, as well as a large open rear cockpit with a good view. The rear cockpit also had a single Lewis machine gun for defense against enemy fighters. Additionally, the Blackburn was designed before the introduction of effective arresting gear, so the pilot’s cockpit was placed above the engine to provide a particularly good view for landing.

Despite its ungainly appearance, the Blackburn Blackburn proved to be very effective at its job. A total of 44 were produced, and they served the Fleet Air Arm from 1923 until 1931.