Sunday, March 25, 2012

Britain - 1915 Air Department Sparrow Scout

Things have been hectic. I am in the process of updating over 130 HTML documents and making master files for new planes. I decided today's post would be an aircraft I had put off finishing for a while now. A friend of mine posted an article about weird aircraft on and it spurred me on to finish a W.I.P. profile. I am glad I took the time to finish the profile. Now I have another strange bird in the box.

The Air Department's Failed Giant Killer

In the early war the perceived threat of German Zeppelins loomed large. Of course this was before it became apparent Germany had invested too much time and resources in white elephants. Britain made many attempts to design purpose built Zeppelin killers. The British Admiralty hoped the weapon needed to accomplish this mission would be the Davis two-pounder quick-fire recoilless gun. There would be several planes built to carry this weapon, although none proved to be acceptable. One of the earlier attempts was the Air Department Scout.

This is the first A.D.Sout flown during the R.N.A.S test trials. It was built by Blackburn Aeroplane & Motor Company. Notable is the Union Jack on the rudder and the red and white roundels on both the upper surface of the top and the bottom surface of the lower wing. Due to the height of the cockpit there are steps on the forward landing gear strut and in three places on the lower fuselage. The span of the oversize tail plane was 21 feet.

A Short Overview of the Air Department Sparrow

The AD Scout (later known as the Sparrow) was designed by Harris Booth of the British Admiralty's Air Department as a fighter aircraft to defend Britain from Zeppelin bombers during World War I.

This aircraft was an unconventional heavily-staggered, single-bay biplane, built to meet an Admiralty requirement for a fighter built from commercially obtainable materials and which could be armed with the Davis two-pounder quick-fire recoilless gun. The gun was mounted in the bottom of a short, single-seat nacelle, the top longerons were bolted directly to the main spars of the upper wing. The A.D. Scout was powered by a 100 hp Gnôme Monosoupape rotary engine driving a 9 ft pusher air-screw. The pilot had a excellent view in nearly every direction. A twin-rudder tail was attached by four booms, and it was provided with an extremely narrow-track "pogo stick" type undercarriage.

Four prototype aircraft were ordered in 1915. Two aircraft, (serial numbers 1452 and 1453) built by Hewlett and Blondeau Ltd of Leagrave, Beds. The remaining two (serial numbers 1536 and 1537) were built by Blackburn Aeroplane & Motor Company.

The four prototypes were all delivered to RNAS Chingford. The test trials flown by pilots of the Royal Naval Air Service were less than favorable. They proved the aircraft to be seriously overweight, fragile, sluggish, and difficult to handle, even on the ground. Due to the fact the Sparrow was considerably over-weight and difficult to handle in the air, all of the examples were scrapped.


  1. AD Scout. (2012, January 26). In Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia. Retrieved 09:01, March 24, 2012, from
  2. A.D. Scout Retrieved 08:55, March 24, 2012, from
  3. Jackson, Aubrey Joseph Blackburn Aircraft since 1909 (1st ed.) 16 March 1989 pp. 98 - 101. London: Putnam & Company Ltd.. pp. 98 - 101. ISBN 0851778305.
  4. Lewis, Peter. The British Fighter since 1912 (4th ed.) 1979, pp. 392—393. London: Putnam & Company Ltd.. ISBN 0-370-10049-2.
  5. Mason, Francis K.. The British Fighter since 1912. Annapolis, USA: Putnam & Company Ltd.. ISBN 1-55750-082-7.
  6. Bruce, J.M.. War Planes of the First World War: Volume One Fighters. London: Macdonald 1965, p.5.


kingsleypark said...

That has to be one of the ugliest looking designs you've put up yet.

I know it is easy in this day and age to criticise early designs but why on earth did anyone ever think this would come close to being an airworthy frame?

W. I. Boucher said...

Yes it is ugly, however after drawing this bird, it has grown on me.

Since Harris Booth is dead we can't ask him why he chose this bizarre configuration. The answer my come down to falling in love with an idea no matter how impractical it may be. Designers are just people and we all wear blinders at times.

Another question has to be: Why was the heavy Davis gun a design requirement?

Jon said...

The Sparrow Scout is now the new mascot for my designers. They just do not know it yet.