The Bristol Britannia Civil and Military

About the XM 496

The Bristol Britannia was the world’s first long haul prop-jet airliner. It was developed as part of the drive to re-build Britain’s civil aviation industry after the Second World War when the focus had been on fighter and bomber production. In June, 1957 one made a record breaking non-stop flight from London to Vancouver on the western coast of North America in less than fifteen hours. This was only one of several record breaking achievements. On 19th December 1957 it was the first airliner to fly non-stop, scheduled, passenger services between London and New York, the Holy Grail of Post War air travel. (source) US airliners already flew the route but with a scheduled stop. Nearly a year later the Comet 4 joined the route. (source)

The Bristol Proteus engines which powered the Britannia were the first in the world to have “control-by-wire” using the Ultra Throttle system. This was later used on Concorde. Sadly, the Proteus is mostly remembered for icing problems, which were overcome.

As a long range military transport aircraft it could lift eighteen and a half tons over 4,000+ miles, carrying freight, or up to 53 stretchers with medical personnel and life support equipment or 115 passengers, in any combination. It was the Royal Air Force’s first strategic airlifter and a crucial component in the reshaping of Britain’s armed forces to meet the new threats of the Cold War. Its tasks included the rapid deployment, worldwide, of the then newly formed Army Strategic Reserve, and moving the V- Bomber Force, including the Vulcan, to its dispersal airfields.

Flown by 99 and 511 Squadrons, first at RAF Lyneham and later RAF Brize Norton, when the Britannia was withdrawn from service in 1975 as part of defence cuts, the Squadrons were stood down. In 2000, 99 Squadron was reformed to fly the Boeing C-17 Globemaster. The aircraft is different, the role is the same.


The XM496 is located in the heart of rural Gloucestershire at Cotswold Airport near Kemble, it can be viewed on many of the public open days.  The preservation of “The Whispering Giant” as the Britannia is affectionately known has been a labour of love for all the volunteers who have taken the XM496 from being close to scrap to a fully restored aircraft. For further details of the XM496 story please visit this page where you will find a fully documented history of its restoration.

The Preservation Society is registered with the Inland Revenue as Not for Profit Organisation. Much of it’s work is carried out as a labour of love by the many helpers who freely donate their time.

The Bristol Britannia XM496 Preservation Society restrict it’s self to the preservation of XM496 Britannia., The Society does however have links with many other organisations and charities. For further details please see our sponsors page.

The XM496 Preservation Society like many others is always on the look out for helpers of all ages and abilities, if you feel you can help then please contact us,or if you would like to sponsor the XM 496 Preservation Society and have a link on this web site then please contact us.