British Aerial Transport

   British Aerial Transport Co. Ltd.


The British Aerial Transport Company was founded in June 1917 by Samuel (later Lord) Waring (b. 19 April 1860 in Liverpool, Lancashire, – d. 9 January 1940 in London), chairman of Waring and Gillow. The new company took over the Hythe Road, Willesdon, premises previously occupied by the Joucques Aviation Company. Waring hired several talented Dutchmen to run his enterprise: chief designer was Frederick Koolhoven (b. 11 January 1886, Bloemendaal, the Netherlands – d. 1 July 1946, Haarlem, the Netherlands), formerly with Sir W. G. Armstrong, Whitworth & Company Ltd, assisted by Robert Bernard Cornelis Noorduyn (b. 6 April 1893, Nijmegen, the Netherlands – d. 22 February 1959, South Burlington, Vermont) as Chief Draughtsman, along with Tony van Laar as Chief Engineer. Peter Legh (b. 4 September 1896 in Kensington, London– d. 3 May 1919 in East Finchley, Middlesex), also previously with Armstrong Whitworth and Co., was appointed test pilot.

Koolhovens first design for the new company was the BAT F.K.22 Bat, a small single-seat fighter. Failure of the ABC Mosquito engine for which it was designed resulted in a new and smaller aircraft being created, the F.K.23 Bantam, powered by the ABC Wasp, which commenced flight tests in 1918. Only nine production aircraft were built, and none saw service. 1918 also saw the F.K.24 Baboon and F.K.25 Basilisk fly and it was in one of the latter that Peter Legh was to lose his life. Also during 1918 George Dowty became a draughtsman with B.A.T. before leaving to join the design office of the A. V. Roe & Company at Hamble.

The first day after the armistice was signed in 1918 Koolhoven started working at the drawings of the F.K.26., the first time in history that an aircraft had been specifically designed for commercial aviation. Legh’s successor as chief test pilot, Squadron Commander Christopher Draper, DSC, Croix de guerre (b. 15 April 1892 in Bebington, Chesire – d. 16 January 1979 in Camden, London), whose penchant for flying under bridges had earned him the nickname "the Mad Major", piloted the first flight of the F.K.26. in April 1919.

With Draper as the pilot and Frederick Koolhoven as one of the passengers, the second F.K.26, was flown to Amsterdam to be demonstrated at the ELTA, the first Dutch aviation exhibition of August 1, 1919. Following ELTA saw the inauguration of COBOR, an airline cooperation between Frederick Koolhoven and the Dutch lieutenant L. Coblijn. COBOR started a weekly service Londen- Hounslow to Amsterdam-Soesterberg in September 18, 1919, but by the winter of 1919 COBOR were forced out of business.

Following successful experimental use of the F.K.26 over a Hounslow – Le Bourget route, and several charter trips to France, Belgium and Holland, B.A.T opened a transport office at 38 Conduit Street, W.1, managed by Major John “Jack” Clifford Savage (b. 23 October 1891 in Ryde, Isle of Wight -  d. 17 September 1945), later of Skywriting fame, who controlled the business end of a regular weekly passenger and freight services. On 30 September, 1919, B.A.T. inaugurated a short-lived domestic airline service between London and Birmingham and on 7 October 1919 another between Hendon and Amsterdam. It was during this period that Alan Cobham had landed a brief job scouting potential airfields. This was however, short-lived, and in April 1919 he combined forces with Fred and Jack Holmes to form the Berkshire Aviation Company.

Although the fourth FK.26 was the last aircraft to be built by B.A.T, two more designs had previously been produced. The F.K.27 of June 1919 was a side-by-side, two-seat variant of the Bantam and the F.K.28 Crow of July the same year was a Demoiselle-style ultra-light.

In 1919 Lord Waring reduced his aviation interests and this forced the closure of the company, its assets being distributed between Alliance Aeroplane Company Ltd. and Nieuport & General Aircraft Company, the latter also founded by Samuel Waring. Frederick Koolhoven returned to the Netherlands to found his own company, while Robert Noorduyn also returned there and found work with Anthony Fokker. Since Fokker wanted to expand into the USA, the company sent Noorduyn in 1921 to Teterboro to supervise a new manufacturing plant. Jack Savage, after a brief stint with Flight as a journalist, formed the Savage Skywriting Co. Ltd.

Company References
  1. British Civil Aircraft Since 1919, Vol 1, A.J. Jackson (Putnam, 1973)
  2. Air Pictorial Magazine, April 1960
  3. Aeroplane Monthly, March to June 1983
  4. http://www.cobham.com/media/news/188.aspx
  5. http://members.ziggo.nl/henrikaper/koolhoven/worlds-first-airliner/
  6. Flight Magazine 8 May 1919

Project Data top

Project No

Type No


Alternative Name(s)







  F.K.20   1917  Proj 0 1S, 1E Ship biplane (16)
  F.K.21   1917  Proj 0 2S, 1E biplane trainer (16)
  F.K.22 Bantam (Bat) 1917  Proto 4 1S, 1E biplane fighter 1,3,4,6,9,10,11,19
  F.K.23 Bantam  1918  Prdn 11 1S, 1E biplane fighter 1,2,3,4,6,7,9,14,10,11,19
  F.K.24 Baboon  1918 A.2(d) Proto 1 2S, 1E biplane trainer 1,2,7,11,18
  F.K.25 Basilisk  1918 RAF Type I Proto 3 1S, 1E biplane fighter 1,3,6,11,19
  F.K.26  Commercial 1919  Prdn 4 5S, 1E biplane transport 2,5,7,11,12,13,17
  F.K.27   1919  Proto 1 2S, 1E biplane aerobatic / racing aircraft 2,11
  F.K.28 Crow  1919  Proto 1 1S, 1E ultra-light aircraft 7,8,11,18

Project References
  1. British Aeroplanes 1914-18, J.M. Bruce (Putnam, 1957)
  2. British Civil Aircraft Since 1919, Vol 1, A.J. Jackson (Putnam, 1973)
  3. British Fighter Since 1912, Francis K. Mason (Putnam, 1992)
  4. Fighter Aircraft of the 1914-1918 War, W.M. Lamberton and E.F. Cheesman (Harleyford Publications, 1960)
  5. British Commercial Aircraft, Arthur W.J.G. Ord-Hume (GMS Enterprises, 2003)
  6. Fighters Of W.W.I, Vol 1, J.M. Bruce (McDonald, 1965)
  7. Illustrated Encyclopedia of Aircraft, The (Orbis Publishing. Part Work 1982-1985)
  8. Ultralights - The Early British Classics, Richard Riding (Patrick Stevens Ltd., 1987)
  9. Aeroplane Monthly, March to June, 1983.
  10. Air Pictorial May 1959
  11. Air Pictorial April 1960
  12. Planes (Incorporating Wingspan), #17
  13. Flight Apr 17 1919
  14. Flight May 22 1919
  15. Flight Jan 1 1920
  16. Flight 15 May 1953
  17. http://www.europeanairlines.no/british-aerial-transport-f-k-26-commercial/
  18. Back To The Drawing Board, Bill Gunston (Airlife 1996)
  19. The British Fighter since 1912, Peter Lewis (Putnam, 1965)

Production Summary top
Select the Prdn_List button to go to the appropriate listings page.

Note: In the Production Summary, conversions are only listed where they result in a change from one Type to another. Changes to sub-type or Mark Number are not shown in the summary. For details of these, see the individual listings.

Type No
Qty (New)
Qty (Conv.)
 F.K.22 Bantam





 F.K.23 Bantam





 F.K.24 Baboon





 F.K.25 Basilisk












 F.K.28 Crow




Total B.A.T. Production


Total B.A.T. Cancelled Orders


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