The Fairey Campania: Tailored for a first carrier
Fairey Campania, wings unfolded, just out of the forward hold, coming from below the flying bridge of HMS Campania.
The Royal Navy was started carrier aviation, converting many civilian ships to carry early floatplanes, and by the autumn of 1914, one of them was liner Campania, conversed into a seaplane carrier with a short span flight deck forward (36.6 m long) and two holds for a dozen of seaplanes. However it was found complicated to move seaplanes by cranes and in the water from the aftermost hold to the flight deck, or even to launch relatively heavy models dur to the short lenght of the deck.
A tailored folding wings model
Operating seaplanes in these early days of 1915 showed the improvements to make, and thus HMS Campania was completely overhauled, with many changed to make her able to launch much larger seaplanes, but also land planes as well, with nearly all RNAS models tested aboard. Still, these models, like the Short S184 had a large span and required the carrier to stop completely to hoist the aircraft out, transfer it in-board by crane, and all by calm seas, perfect conditions for an U-boat to attack and make an easy kill. This, the Admiralty started to look after alternatives and by-1916, thanks to the new 200 ft (61 m) or lengthened by 24.4 m flight deck forward and better transfer capabilities from not only the forward but also back hold, the Admiralty issued a specification for a purpose-built, two-seat patrol and reconnaissance aircraft which featured innovation would be foldable wings, something that never has been done before.
Thus, Fairey Aviation came out rapidly with its own design. This was a single-engined tractor biplane, fabric-covered and of wooden construction, two seats and two-bay. The prototype first flew on 16 February 1917. What the admiralty appreciated was its simple yet effective system to have its two-bay wings folding rearwards for storage. It was done thanks to a system where only the forward main structural spar was connected to the inner part of the wings attached to the fuselage by a simple axial hinge. The rotation could be done by reloving a simple pin, and folding made by two operators in record time, as unfolding. This spared a lot of complications by trying not to harm the plane from the hold to the flight deck, and enabled the storage of even more aircraft, up to 14 versus 10 at the start.
Final development and production
The first prototype of this model was named F.16 Campania, powered by a 250 hp Rolls-Royce Mk IV (then Eagle IV) engine, 186 kW. It first flew on February 16, 1917. Then the second prototype, the F.17 Campania took off in June equipped with an Eagle V engine. A total of 62 were assembled, of which 50 were built by Fairey, and the rest were subcontracted to Barclay, Curie & Co. (Clydeside). Indeed, 170 aircraft were ordered, but only 62 were completed.
The Fairey Campania as said was at first ordered to just 10 preserie models with a specific engine (see later) and had a standard, rectangular fuselage, assembled from wooden stringers and frames, covered with well-treated canvas, while the engine frame and panels of the forward fuselage were made of metal. There were frontal or two side radiators depending on the engine. Various engines were installed from the Rolls-Royce “Eagle VIII” (360 hp) or Sunbeam “Mayori II” (250 hp). Fuel tanks and oil tanks were installed behind the engine. Next were the cockpits of the pilot and gunner-observer.
The wing was two-spar and all-wooden construction covered with fabric. To ensure rigidity, the upper wing had tensioner cables. Racks in fairings made of wood ensured extra transverse rigidity. Its tailed was low by long, with a stabilizer adjustable on the ground fastened with struts and stretch marks. Rudder and ailerons control only on the upper wing were made by cable, from the steering wheel and pedals. The pontoon-type floats were of wooden construction, attached to the fuselage by six metal posts. The wooden tail and underwing floats were made flush with the wing.
Fairey Campania, wings folded
Armament consisted of one or two 0.3-in or 7.62-mm Lewis, cheesebox magazine-fed machine guns ion the rear flexible mount or scarff ring. There was the possibility of even installing a small bomb load, with two 30-kg bombs under the wing. The Campania turned out to be a reliable reconnaissance and patrol aircraft and at the end of 1917, Fairey created a smaller and lighter version of the F.17 for experiments with catapults.
Only three variants were made, all having different engines. They were the following:
Campania F.16: 250 hp (190 kW) Rolls-Royce Eagle IV: 1st prototype
Campania F.17: 275 hp (205 kW) Rolls-Royce Eagle V (reenginered later 345 hp (257 kW) Eagle III): 2nd prototype
Campania F.22: 260 hp (194 kW) Sunbeam Maori II; Production version.
By the time the Campania went into production, high demand for Rolls-Royce engines led to chossing instead the 260 hp Sunbeam Maori II engine rated for 194 kW. This required a number of changes to the design of the cooling systems and removal of combustion products. Maori engines were installed in 25 F.22 Campanias. Such machines were operated from coastal airfields, not from HMS Campania. Some later models still around in 1919 were equipped with the 345 hp Eagle VIII engine (F.17) and 257 kW or 325 hp Eagle VII engines. However flight characteristics remained low.
A short Operational Life
If trials were proving satisfactory in the winter of 1917 production went on for the F.17 to be shipped aboard the carriers HMS Campania, HMS Nairana and HMS Pegasus. Unlike the two others, only Campania possessed a flight deck and the launch was done thanks to jettisonable wheeled bogies fitted to the floats, retreived each time. On the two other ships, took operations were much slower as the Campanias needed to be lowered to the water by crane, flew off and were retrieved the same way. Deck launch at least enabled a much faster pace and was less dependent from sea state.
The 27 F.22s operated from various Royal Naval Air Service air stations. Outside of the RNAS, the Campania served with No. 240 Squadron, No. 241 Squadron and No. 253 Squadron of the RAF. The Campania had an undistinguished career, but performed a useful spotter work. Operating from the still surviving Nairana and Pegasus, the model found use with the British Expeditionary Force operating in Arkhangelsk (Russia) in 1919. Operations however started already on 1 August 1918, during the North Russia Campaign, and only later with the British intervention in the Civil War.
Campanias from HMS Nairana took part even in the the first fully combined air, sea, and land military operation, driving Bolsheviks out of their fortifications on Modyugski Island (mouth of the Northern Dvina). It also scouted ahead of the Allied force proceeding up the channel to Arkhangelsk. Their mere presence has Bolshevik leaders fleeing, and Campanias from Nairana started from there to operate from Arkhangelsk, and against the White Finnish defensive positions in Uhtua (autumn of 1918), from Kem. This was the model’s last hurrah, as it was declared obsolete in August 1919.
Aviation nerds all knows a simple fact: When a plane is too specialized, it’s not always a key for success, and as the situation evolved is does always not fit the changes. The Fairey Campania, despite its merits, was oartly one of these. It had a key feature, folding wings, but overall was less brillant tha, the Short 184, and overall, it arrived too late. Production was cut short and in the end, it just faded from the pages of history, and i feel it’s a bit unfair, as it had no issue.
The Campania suffered the comparison with the Short S.184, produced ten times more and with better performances overall.
⚙ Fairey Campania F.22 specifications
|Empty Weight||3,672 lb (1,666 kg)|
|Gross weight||5,329 lb (2,417 kg)|
|Lenght||43 ft 1 in (13.13 m)|
|Wingspan||61 ft 7 in (18.77 m)|
|Height||15 ft 1 in (4.60 m)|
|Wing Area||674.6 sq ft (62.67 m2)|
|Wing Loading||7.90 lb/sq ft (38.6 kg/m2)|
|Power/mass||0.049 hp/lb (0.081 kW/kg)|
|Engine||Sunbeam Maori II V-12 water-cooled piston engine, 260 hp (190 kW), 2-bladed fixed-pitch propeller|
|Top Speed, sea level||85 mph (137 km/h, 74 kn)|
|Range/Autonomy||4 hours 30 minutes|
|Climb Rate||2,000 ft (610 m) in 7 minutes|
|Ceiling||6,000 ft (1,800 m)|
|Armament||1× .303 in (7.7 mm) Lewis, 6× 116 lb (53 kg) bombs underwings/fuselage.|
|Crew||2: Pilot, MG-gunner/observer|
Bruce, J.M. “Fairey Campania”. Air Pictorial, May 1963. pp. 142–145.
Munson, Kenneth. Flying Boats and Seaplanes since 1910. Blandford.
Taylor, H.A. Fairey Aircraft since 1915. London:Putnam, 1988.