Monday, August 15, 2011

Britain - 1917 Austin-Ball A.F.B.1

The Austin-Ball A.F.B.1 was a British fighter plane of World War I built by car manufacturer Austin with input from Britain's leading fighter ace at the time, Albert Ball. Ball's father, Albert Ball Sr., was on the Board of Directors of Austin, and used his influence on behalf of his son to have the ace's sketches and specifications considered by the company. Young Albert Ball's design ideas were taken from the Nieuport that he was flying at the time. Actual design of the craft was by C. H. Brooks.

It was a biplane of largely conventional configuration with unstaggered, equal-span wings. The top wing was attached to the upper fuselage, granting the pilot excellent visibility on all sides and above. The armament was unusual: the fixed, forward-firing Lewis gun fired through the hollow propeller shaft; but its muzzle was located aft of the power plant. A second Lewis gun with an upwards firing arc was mounted on the upper wing. This weapon, combined with the excellent topside visibility was well-suited to Ball's favored method of attack, from below the enemy.

Only a single prototype was built. Although the fighter promised excellent performance, the SE.5a was already in production, and the A.F.B.1 would have competed with it for production facilities (Austin was a major SE.5a contractor) and engines (since both fighters used the Hispano-Suiza 8). Moreover, Ball had already been killed in action by the time the aircraft was ready for its first flight on 1 June 1917.


  1. From Wikipedia Austin-Ball A.F.B.1, ""
  2. Taylor, Michael J. H. (1989). "Jane's Encyclopedia of Aviation". London: Studio Editions.
  3. "World Aircraft Information Files". London: Bright Star Publishing. pp. File 889 Sheet 85.


Jon said...

Was this the first design with the machine gun firing through the propeller shaft?

W. I. Boucher said...

I think the French used it first. However they used a small cannon instead of a machine gun.

The Angry Lurker said...

Sad to hear he was dead before it was ready!

W. I. Boucher said...

It is a pity so many young men with promise had to die in the war. The casualty rates during the Great War were horrific.