We may question the point of writing about an aircraft that never flew. It is, however the originality and enterprise of the firm deserve to be recorded, even though their venture ended not only in failure, but disaster. W. G. Tarrant was an engineer and builder of Byfleet, Surrey. The proximity of his premises to the Brooklands Motor Track, one of our centres of aviation in the early days, led to an association with aircraft at a time when a well-stocked timber yard could provide the necessary material for construction or repair of airframes.
It was not until late in the First World War that the construction of their own aircraft was contemplated. This was urged by the firm’s chief engineer, Capt. P. T. Rawlings, D.S.C., who had engineering and flying experience of the early Handley Page bombers. He projected an aircraft of unprecedented proportions, embodying Tarrant patent constructional methods.
With the restrictions of wartime, a private venture of this nature could succeed only with official sanction. In authorising the construction of two such machines (Nos. F 1765 and F 1766), the Air Ministry made certain stipulations. The machines were to be capable in design of bombing German industrial centres from home bases; the constructional methods must be simple to facilitate the employment of female labour and the materials used were to be indigenous.
A tapering, tubular fuselage over seventy feet long, took shape at Byfleet, built on an all-wood girder system, glued and screwed. It was covered by 2-ply poplar slats with a final fabric covering. The triplane super- structure which was to have a maximum span of some 130 feet, presented accommodation difficulties at Byfleet. An offer of “C” Balloon Shed at Farnborough for erection was accepted and a specially-made trolley moved the fuselage to the Royal Aircraft Establishment.
Hostilities ceased before the machine was completed and work temporarily lapsed, but a new field had been opened for commercial aircraft. The Tarrant Triplane was thought to epitomise the passenger-carrying aircraft of the future and its construction was pressed. Hitherto its existence had been an official secret, now, on 13th March 1919, the Air Minister, Major-General Seely, made vague references to a giant transport aircraft when introducing the 1919-20 Air Estimates.
For reasons unexplained this aircraft was named the Tabor, after a small Bohemian community. Its main details were as follows:
Mid wing 131 ft. 3 in.
Upper and Lower 98 ft. 5 in.
Length of fuselage 73 ft. 2 in.
Weight (fully loaded) 44,672 Ibs.
Power Plant .6 x 450-h.p. NapierLions
4 mounted tandem fashion driving two pusher and two tractor airscrews mounted between the mid and lower planes.
2 mounted between mid and upper planes driving tractor airscrews.
At daybreak on 26th May 1919 the first Tabor, F1765 was drawn on to the Farnborough airfield for its initial test. For two miles, using its lower engines, the machine taxied round the airfield. It tended to swing slightly and the watching experts took this as indicative of insufficient rudder control. Then, as the top two engines were opened up on the actual take-off run-the whole machine tilted up and buried its nose in the ground. The giant fuselage was left standing upright, towering some seventy feet above the wreckage. The Tabor had made its first and last attempt to fly and poor Rawlings had lost his life.
Some years elapsed before the accident was fully investigated; meanwhile exhaustive tests were carried out by the Royal Aircraft Establishment. Even before the accident a mock-up of a Tabor fuselage had been tested to destruction; there was, however, no evidence of structural weakness from this or from an examination of the wreckage. The design itself was subjected to rigorous examination and a scale model was made for wind-tunnel tests. In general the design was considered sound. A possibility of pilot error was mooted, but the final report was by no means conclusive. It would seem that the sudden surge of power of the upper engines in relation to the lower engines caused the accident, but the responsibility for this was not placed.
(Air Pictorial 1956)