Monday, June 27, 2011

Britain - 1916 Parnall Scout

I think it is time for more experimental aircraft. Britain seemed to have a large number of them during the Great War. Small companies without any aviation experience all rolled up their sleeves and produced a bewildering collection of aircraft which would never enter service. They may have never flew in combat, but they do make the history of aviation colorful.

An Ill Fated Zeppelin Chaser

Parnall Scout - 1916
Parnall Scout - 1916

Parnall and Sons of Bristol initiated work on the company's first original aircraft, a single-seat anti-airship fighter to the designs of A Camden Pratt, in 1916. Intended to meet a requirement formulated by the Admiralty, this aircraft, unofficially known as the Zeppelin Chaser, was a large, two-bay staggered biplane of wooden construction. It was powered by a 260hp (194 kW) Sunbeam Maori 12-cylinder water-cooled engine and armed with a single 0.303 in (7.7mm) gun offset to starboard and firing upward at an angle of 45°. Two prototypes were ordered, but the first of these proved appreciably overweight. Although the Scout reportedly flew twice, it was considered to possess unacceptably low safety factors and was returned to the manufacturer, development being abandoned.

On the designs of A. Camden-Pratt, Parnall began work on a single-seat anti-airship fighter aircraft in 1916, initially intended to meet an aircraft specification from the Admiralty. A large, wooden two-bay staggered biplane, it was finished and initially tested in late 1916.

The Scout reportedly flew twice in late 1916 under Admiralty testing, however it was found to be heavy, slow and with few safety features. As such it was returned to Parnall in the same year and no further development progressed.


  1. Parnall Scout. (2010, September 18). In Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia. Retrieved 11:50, October 28, 2010, from
  2. Parnall Scout 1916 Retrieved 11:53, October 28, 2010, from
  3. Parnall Scout Retrieved 11:56, October 28, 2010, from
  4. Parnall Scout (1916) (England) Retrieved 19:56, October 08, 2010, from
  5. Green, William; Gordon Swanborough. The Complete Book of Fighters. Godalming, UK: Salamander Books. pp. 463.


The Angry Lurker said...

A pity because it's a good looking aircraft, chasing Zeppelins though, what sort of armament would a Zeppelin have?

W. I. Boucher said...

@Fran: There is no simple answer the question of the number of machine guns carried by airships. Airship commanders and crews often remove weapons so they could increase the weight of bombs carried or range needed for a mission, so the number could change from one flight to the next. Machine guns were also a risk to the airship carrying them. The maximum number carried has been reported (unverified) as 10 MG 08/15 with shortened barrel and water-cooled for Airship L30 aka LZ 62.

Machine guns with water-cooled barrels were preferred over the usual air-cooled aircraft types, to avoid the risk of an overheated barrel igniting any leaking hydrogen. The Parabellum was supposedly designed especially for Zeppelin use and was at least part of the armament of most Zeppelins. There are photographs of different kinds of light machine guns fed by an extremely large open drum type reel. Machine guns were positioned in the gondolas and on platforms mounted above the flotation body and on the tail.

A gondola mounted 20mm Becker Cannon has been mentioned as being in use on German airships, however I can not verify this statement.

The Angry Lurker said...

Will you do a Zeppelin post in the future?

W. I. Boucher said...

Eventually I will do posts on balloons and Zeppelins. I need to do a lot of work to get them ready because it is a large topic, (no pun intended). I have some balloon drawings in work, but I have not tackled rigid airships yet. I have a small page on the subject on my main site. However it does not do justice to the topic.