Pemberton-Billing P.B.31E Nighthawk

The extraordinary four-winged P.B.31E Nighthawk proved a spectacularly futile attempt to contribute to Britain’s defence against night -time raids by German airships. The idea of a night-flying quadruplane Zeppelin-hunter was the brainchild of the eccentric British avintiou pioneer Noe Pemberton Billing. It was first embodied in  the short-lived P.B.29E, which appeared in early 1916. Powered by two 90-hp Austro-Daimler engines, it had a gunner’s nacelle between the upper two wings and a searchlight in the nose.
The P.B.29E was followed by the rather more substantial P.B.31E. Another towering quadruplane, this was powered by two Anzani engines and accommodated its crew in an enclosed cabin. Again there was a nose-mounted searchlight, but a nose-gunner’s
position was provided in addition to the nacelle above the cabin. The aircraft was supposedly capable of flying for 18 hours.
The idea was that numbers of Nighthawks would ascend to altitude and patrol designated areas of the night skies until a raiding German airship was sighted, then launch an attack.
Unfortunately, the aircraft’s performance was far poorer than predicted, taking an hour to climb to 10.000ft and reaching a mere
75mph. First flown in February 1917, it was scrapped in the following July.

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