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Fairey Flycatcher - United Kingdom, 1923

Detailing the development and operational history of the Fairey Flycatcher Naval Biplane Fighter.

 Entry last updated on 5/1/2015; Authored by Staff Writer; Content ¬©

  Fairey Flycatcher  
Picture of Fairey Flycatcher

Throughout most of the 1920s, the Fairey Flycatcher served as the primary fighter of the British Fleet Air Arm.

The primary Royal Navy Fleet Air Arm (FAA) fighter aircraft of the 1920s and early 1930s became the Fairey "Flycatcher". This biplane was produced in 196 examples and first flew in 1922. It was introduced for service during 1923 and held an active career until retired in 1934, notable production spanning from 1923 to 1926. The Flycatcher was developed to fulfill Specification N6/22 calling for a carrier-based fighter platform with an interchangeable undercarriage (from wheeled to float). The aircraft - along with the competing Parnall Plover (13 examples) - was used to supplant the outgoing fleet of twenty Nieuport "Nightjar" biplane fighters (based on the Nieuport Nighthawk) introduced as recently as 1922.

When the wood-and-metal Flychatcher prototype emerged from development, it carried an Armstrong Siddeley Jaguar II engine to complete its first flight on November 22nd, 1922. The FAA commissioned for nine of the type to serve as evaluation aircraft alongside the Parnall Plover which was also under consideration. Between the two offerings, the Flycatcher was selected for serial production as it gave the carrier performance that the FAA sought in its next fighter, leaving Plover aircraft manufacture at just thirteen aircraft.

With its Jaguar II radial engine (the Bristol Jupiter IV radial was an alternative engine installation), the Flycatcher could manage speeds of over 130 miles per hour with ranges out to 310 miles. Its listed service ceiling was 19,000 feet and rate-of-climb 1,090 feet per minute - it could reach 10,000 feet in under 10 minutes.

The Flycatcher was first fielded with FAA squadron No. 402 and went on to stock Nos. 403, 406, and 801. In practice, the aircraft were well accepted with their good combination of speed, handling, and armament. Twin .303 Vickers were fitted over the nose and a bomb-carrying provision added 4 x 20 lb drop bombs. Flycatchers experienced light combat service during their flying tenures which included tours near China and the East Indies as well as over the Mediterranean.

The primary Flycatcher production model was Flycatcher Mk I. The Flycatcher Mk II stood as a proposed successor with all-metal construction. While flown as a prototype, it was not adopted by the FAA.

Fairey Flycatcher I Specifications

Service Year: 1923
Type: Naval Biplane Fighter
National Origin: United Kingdom
Manufacturer(s): Fairey Aviation Company Ltd - UK
Total Production: 196

Structural (Crew, Dimensions, Weights)

Operating Crew (Typical): 1
Overall Length: 22.97 feet (7 meters)
Overall Width: 29.00 feet (8.84 meters)
Overall Height: 12.01 feet (3.66 meters)

Weight (Empty): 2,039 lb (925 kg)
Weight (MTOW): 3,527 lb (1,600 kg)

Power / Performance (Engine Type, Top Speed)

Engine: 1 x Armstrong Siddeley Jaguar IV 14-cylinder radial piston engine developing 400 horsepower.

Maximum Speed: 116 knots (134 mph; 215 kph)
Maximum Range: 270 nautical miles (311 miles; 500 km)
Service Ceiling: 18,996 feet (5,790 meters; 3.60 miles)
Rate-of-Climb: 1,050 feet-per-minute (320 m/min)

Armament / Mission Payload

2 x .303 Vickers machine guns in fixed, forward-firing mounts synchronized to fire through the spinning propeller blades.

4 x 20 lb conventional drop bombs held underwing.

Global Operators (Customers, Users)

United Kingdom

Model Variants

Flycatcher - Base Series Name
Flycatcher I (Mk I) - Initial, single-seat production model for FAA.
Flycatcher II (Mk II) - Proposed all-metal derivative of 1926; prototype form; never adopted.

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