The Brabazon was to be the palace of the skies

March 15, 2022
Artists conecpt of the luxury Brabazon interior

It was to be the palace of the sky carrying just 100 passengers in incredible luxury.

Dining salon, downstairs cocktail lounge, sleeping beds for all and a cinema.

But the Bristol Brabazon was incredibly complex and very uneconomical and only one was ever flown and then scrapped.

In 1942, the British Government commissioned Lord Brabazon, the first Briton to fly in 1908, to chair a committee to recommend post-war aircraft designs.

The committee suggested a series of concepts but two, which were intended to give the lead to British industry for the trans-Atlantic run, were utter disasters.

The eight-engine Bristol Brabazon and the ten-engine Saunders-Roe Princess flying boat were magnificent in concept but impractical.

These designs epitomize the ideal of luxury travel for the privileged few.

Here is a video of its first flight.

Here are some concept pictures of the interior.






Some English manufacturers did not embrace the pre-war trend in the US towards increasing affordability of air travel, highlighted by the US airlines’ rejection of the luxurious and overweight DC-4E.

The eight-engine Brabazon was also impacted by airline indifference, government bungling, and cost overruns.

However British European Airlines (BEA), later merged into British Airways, did show some interest in operating the aircraft in a 180-seat configuration.

The Brabazon was to have 12 crew and was 177 ft (54.0 m) long with a wingspan of 230 ft (70 m), which was wider than the Boeing 747.

It was powered by 8 Bristol Centaurus radial engines, of 2,650 hp.

These were set in pairs buried in the massive wing, and each pair then drove through a complex gearbox contra-rotating Rotol propellers.

Interestingly the giant hangar where it was built was later used to build the Concorde – another white elephant.


  1. A very interesting account of the Bristol Brabazon. While it was clearly out of date by the time it flew, it was a fair concept. I find your comment on the Concorde as "another white elephant" not very fitting as this magnificent aircraft did fly passenger services for 27 years. In my view after all the research and spending that was done to get Concorde back in the air it could have been flown for many years instead of suddenly withdrawn from service and utilised as museum displays around the world. Richard Branson should have been allowed to purchase Concorde and promote widespread use for all aviation lovers to savour just once in their life. In my view the Soviet era TU-144 was a definite white elephant compared to Concorde.
  2. Thanks for your reply. Sadly the Concorde was a white elephant as the cost to fly in her was totally out of step with aviation being 20 times higher than the cheapest fare on Virgin Atlantic. It was estimated that the scale of the write-off to the British and French public for the program was EP8000 per passenger. BUT yes a wonderful plane and a stunning technological achievement.
  3. Concorde was not "another white elephant". It was a technical achievement and was the logical basis of a larger (less elite?) plane to follow it. That never happened. I well recall the nationalistic fervor here in the USA against the Concorde - it could do no right. The US was furious that the UK had beaten it to the post with such a plane. Yes, it was expensive to fly on - but not much more than first class. If you can afford $10k for a round trip, you can afford $13k. It was great to fly on, but was made uneconomic (not an elephant) by collective and corporate "raspberries" from the US.