The Merlin Engine

The development of what was to become the Merlin was inspired by a prestigious marine aviation competition commonly known as the Schneider Trophy. In 1913, French businessman Jacques Schneider offered a 1000-pound prize to the fastest plane to fly a closed circuit with two loops and two returns over 400 kilometers. The first nation to win three consecutive races would keep the trophy in perpetuity. England had some success in these competitions, winning the 1914 and 1922 events, but was upset in 1923 and 1925 by American entries using Curtiss biplanes and engines. England would return to glory, spurred on by the efforts of a new young British aeronautical engineer, R.J. Mitchell. He was working for Supermarine Aviation Works, a relatively small company until acquired by Vickers in 1928. The United Kingdom took the 1927 Schneider Trophy flying a Mitchell-designed Supermarine S.5 powered by the Napier Lion engine. Keith stated the Wblock engine produced 890 horsepower, and was likely in production longer than any other aero engine, from 1917 right up until the 1930s.  [ More info … ]

The contents of this article were originally presented to the CAHS Toronto Chapter at a meeting on October 22, 2011. All material has been edited and adapted for this website.