Pemberton-Billing (Supermarine) P.B.31E


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Pemberton-Billing (Supermarine) P.B.31E

When Pemberton-Billing Ltd changed its name to Supermarine Aviation in December 1916, work on a further airship fighter, the P.B.31E, had reached an advanced stage and the first prototype of this quadruplane was to fly shortly afterwards, in February 1917. Fundamentally an extrapolation of the P.B.29E, and unofficially known as Night Hawk, the P.B.31E was designed to have a maximum endurance in excess of 18 hours to enable it to lie in wait for intruding airships. The entire concept was fallacious as, in the unlikely event that the P.B.31E found itself fortuitously in the same area of sky as its prey, it would have been totally incapable of pursuing the airship which could have risen out of range before any guns could have been brought to bear. A three-bay quadruplane powered by two 100hp Anzani nine-cylinder radials, the P.B.31E carried a searchlight in the extreme nose. The intended armament comprised a one-and-a-half pounder Davis gun on a traversing mounting in a forward position level with the top wing, a 7.7mm machine gun being located in a second position immediately aft and a similar weapon occupying a forward fuselage position. Shortly after the start of flight trials, the shortcomings of the concept were finally appreciated, and, on 23 July 1917, the first prototype was scrapped and the second incomplete prototype abandoned.


The inadequately sized rudders were mounted between dual tailplanes, probably to give a greater field of fire for the rear-racing guns.

The extreme nose of the PB.31E contained a searchlight for finding Zeppelins at night. In reality it would have just given the airship captains a head start.

Not obvious in most photos of the Nighthawk is the narrow chord of the four wings and the considerable sweepback of their outer sections.

Pemberton-Billing (Supermarine) P.B.31EA three-view drawing (1278 x 930)

  Take-off weight2788 kg6147 lb
  Empty weight1668 kg3677 lb
  Wingspan18.29 m60 ft 0 in
  Length11.24 m37 ft 11 in
  Height5.40 m18 ft 9 in
  Wing area89.37 m2961.97 sq ft
  Max. speed121 km/h75 mph

Trevor Webb, e-mail, 21.10.2014 15:21

In reply to frank frinak, there have been several including the Euler Dr IV, the Pemberton-Billing PB-29E and the Supermarine PB-31E. In addition there was the Fokker V-8 a quintuplane.


j k shelton, e-mail, 25.08.2014 20:28

The Putnam book, Supermarine Aircraft since 1914 consistently give the name as NightHawk.
Any comments?


J Kn, e-mail, 11.10.2011 02:54

It's very steampunk.


frank frinak, e-mail, 24.05.2011 23:35

first and only quadraplane? Did it make take off? Any history of flight performance?


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