1910 A.V. Roe Triplane IV
British Single-Seat, Single-engine, Triplane Pioneer Aircraft

Archive Photos 2,3

A.V. Roe Triplane IV (BAPC-1) at the Shuttleworth Collection

Overview 1

A. V. Roe Triplane Type IV

The Roe I Triplane (often later referred to as the Avro Triplane was an early aircraft designed and built by A.V. Roe which was the first all-British aircraft to fly.

After being evicted from Brooklands, where he had worked on his first aircraft, in July 1908 Roe started work on the design of a triplane: a patent was filed for this design in January 1909, and work was started on the construction of an aircraft to this design in the stable adjoining the house of his brother, Dr Spencer Verdon Roe, in Putney in south-west London. It was then transported to the new flying ground that Roe had found on Walthamstow Marshes (then in Essex, but now within the London Borough of Waltham Forest), where he rented two railway arches under the LNER railway besides the river Lea.

Design and Development 1

The Roe I Triplane was a two-bay triplane: the tailplane, with a span of 10 ft (3.0 m) also had three surfaces and was a lifting rather than a stabilizing surface, making up around 33% of the total lifting area. Pitch control was effected by altering the angle of incidence of the mainplanes, and lateral control was by wing-warping. The control cables acted to warp the middle wing, the warping being transmitted to the top and bottom planes by the rear interplane struts. Directional control was effected by a rectangular rudder mounted behind the tailplane, and as first built additional directional stability was provided by surfaces between the interplane struts of the tail assembly. The fuselage was a triangular section wire-braced wooden structure, with the middle wing and tailplane mounted on the upper longerons, and a gap between the lower planes and the lower longeron. The engine was mounted below the leading edge of the wing, with a belt drive to the propeller driveshaft which was mounted above the upper longerons. Both fuselage and wings were covered with brown paper backed by an open-weave fabric. Roe named the aircraft The Bullseye after the braces manufactured by his brother’s firm, which had helped pay for it.

Roe had originally intended to use a four-cylinder inline engine which J.A. Prestwich were developing but this failed when bench tested by Prestwich, so Roe initially installed the 6 horsepower (hp) JAP engine from his previous aircraft. Taxying trials with this engine were begun in April 1909. At the end of May a new 9 hp (7 kW) JAP engine was delivered, and after fitting this a series of brief flights of around 50 ft (15 m) were made, beginning on the 5 June. During these Roe experimented with different reduction ratios between the engine and propeller and also with varying pitch settings for the propeller blades, which could be adjusted between flights. On 13 July, he achieved a flight of 100 ft (30 m), and ten days later one of 900 ft (280 m). Over the next two months further successful flights were made and the aircraft was modified slightly: the drivebelt was replaced by a chain, the vertical tail surfaces were removed and both engine and pilot’s seat were moved forwards.

Roe took the prototype and a second aircraft, differing in having a slightly tapered fuselage and a tailskid in place of a tailwheel, to the Blackpool Aero Meeting held at the end of October 1909. Some short flights were made using the first machine: the engine for the second, a four-cylinder JAP intended to produce 20 hp (15 kW) only arrived half-way through the event and although the engine was fitted poor weather prevented it being flown. The flights made at Blackpool were the last made by the prototype: it was subsequently exhibited at an exhibition held in Manchester in 1914 and was later presented to the Science Museum in London.

By this time Roe had been evicted from the railway arches in Walthamstow: he resumed his flying activities at Wembley, where the second example was first flown on 6 December. It was damaged in a crash on 24 December. In January 1910 Roe formed the firm of A.V. Roe and Company with the assistance of his brother Humphrey, and workshop space was provided in the factory of Humphrey’s company, Everard and Co, at Brownfield Mills, Manchester. Flying operations were transferred to Brooklands, where the aircraft was flown on 11 March 1910. By now Roe’s interest was focused on his next aircraft, the Roe II Triplane, which was at that time on display at the second Aero Show at Olympia. The Roe I was briefly used for experiments with the outer sections of the lower wing removed and longer outer sections fitted to the upper wings, this configuration being known as the two and a bit plane. This was flown at Brooklands during the Aero Meeting on Easter Monday 1910, but the experiment was not pursued and the machine was dismantled at Brooklands shortly afterwards.

On 12 July 2009, an event was held on Walthamstow Marshes to commemorate the first all British flight under the auspices of the Royal Aeronautical Society, with several generations of Roe’s family in attendance. A new historic marker was unveiled on the northern entrance to Roe’s former workshops in the railway arches.

Roe IV Triplane 2

The Roe IV Triplane was an early British aircraft designed by Alliott Verdon Roe and built by A.V. Roe and Company. It was first flown in September 1910.

Design and Development 2

The Roe IV Triplane resembled Roe’s Type III, being a tractor configuration triplane with the lower wing of smaller span than the upper two and a triangular section wire-braced fuselage, which was uncovered behind the pilot’s seat. The middle wing was mounted directly above the upper longerons, and there was a gap between the single lower longeron and the lower wing. The wings were connected by four unequally spaced pairs of interplanes struts on either side, the innermost pair on each side being just outboard of the upper longerons and the outer pair connecting only the upper pair of wings due to the shorter span of the lower wing. Although the ailerons fitted to the previous design had been satisfactory, Roe returned to wing warping for lateral control. The lifting triplane tailplanes of the earlier design were replaced by a non-lifting single triangular tailplane with a divided elevator and a small unbalanced rudder. The undercarriage consisted of a pair of skids extending forward of the propeller, with a pair of wheels mounted on each skid, and a sprung tailskid. It was powered by a 35 horsepower (26 kW) Green water-cooled 4-cylinder inline engine, with the radiator mounted above the fuselage between the front inner interplane struts.

Service History 2

The single example built was used for a while as a trainer at the Avro Flying School at Brooklands, where several pilots who were to become famous learnt to fly in it, including Howard Pixton, who gained his Aero Club certificate in it on 24 January 1911. During its service as a trainer it was crashed numerous times, including at least two excursions into the notorious Brooklands sewage farm. After a crash on 14 February the aircraft was rebuilt with the fuselage lengthened by 4 ft (1.2 m). It continued to be used for training until August 1911, when it was scrapped.

A full-scale flying replica was built for the 1960s film Those Magnificent Men in Their Flying Machines and was afterwards donated to the Shuttleworth Collection, where it remains as of 2012.

Specifications (1910 Roe IV Triplane) 4







  1. Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia. Roe I Triplane
  2. Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia. Roe IV Triplane
  3. Shupek, John. 1910 A.V. Roe Triplane IV photos via The Skytamer Archive, Copyright © 2002 Skytamer Images. All Rights Reserved
  4. Jackson, A.J. Roe IV Triplane, Avro Aircraft since 1908, second edition, Putnam Aeronautical Books, London, 1990, ISBN 0-85177-797-X, pp. 16-17.

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