Celebrating 75 years of the Brabazon Hangars

The birthplace of the Brabazon airliner and supersonic Concorde is being repurposed to create YTL Arena Complex.

Next month will mark the 75th anniversary of construction commencing on the iconic Brabazon Hangars. In March 1946, a large assembly hall comprising three separate steel bays was built to accommodate the construction needs of post-war British civilian passenger airliners.

The Brabazon Hangars under construction. Image via BAE.

Previously, all UK aircraft had been built solely for military purposes, and Britain had no modern commercial aircraft. A committee came up with a series of recommendations for five different categories of airliners. The design that was to emerge was the Bristol Type 167 Brabazon I.

John Moore-Brabazon, 1st Baron Brabazon of Tara by Bassano Ltd.

John Theodore Cuthbert Moore-Brabazon, the leader of the committee tasked with establishing Britain’s post-war aircraft requirements, was an aviation pioneer. Moore-Brabazon was the first person to qualify as a pilot in the United Kingdom and was awarded Royal Aero Club Aviator's Certificate number 1. His car even bore the number-plate FLY 1.

As a young man, he studied engineering at Trinity College, Cambridge, and spent university holidays working for Charles Rolls (co-founder of Rolls-Royce) as an unpaid mechanic. Today, the Brabazon Hangars sit 500 metres from Rolls Royce Bristol, which arrived in Filton in 1966 when the company merged with Bristol Siddeley, the aero engine manufacturer.

Assembly of the Brabazon aircraft. Image via hevac-heritage.org.

The experience on board the Brabazon was akin to a cruise ship, with passengers seated in private cabins that could be converted into sleeping compartments. For entertainment, passengers could explore the plane’s bar, smoking lounge, dining area and even a 32-seat cinema.

Despite completing construction in 1947, nearly two years of ground tests were necessary before the plane was finally cleared  to fly. Many felt the Brabazon was just too big ever to get off the ground and were critical of the £12 million cost to build it.

The Brabazon finally took its first flight on 4 September 1949 in front of an audience of 10,000. More than 250 reporters, photographers, newsreel cameramen, radio commentators and even television broadcasters were there to witness this momentous occasion.

Bristol Brabazon outside the Brabazon Hangars. Image via hevac-heritage.org.

Unfortunately, air travel had evolved during this time and airlines were now looking for cheaper and more efficient ways to fly customers around the world while still making a profit. Two years after its maiden flight, the Brabazon was grounded and sold as scrap for £10,000. The Brabazon was then and still is to this day the largest aeroplane built entirely in Britain.

The Brabazon in numbers




8 x Bristol Centaurus, 1864kW (2,650 hp


70.1m 230 ft


53.95m 177 ft


15.24m 50 ft

Take-off weight

131542kg 290,000 lb

Max speed


Cruise Speed



8850km 5,500 miles

While the aircraft itself did not have huge success, the Brabazon Hangars, designed by Bristol Aeroplane Company architect, Eric Ross, in association with David Aberdeen and P N Taylor, proved essential for a new era in aviation.

The Bristol Britannia aircraft is pushed out of the hangar during a fire in 1957. Image via hevac-heritage.org.

In 1959, just a few years after the Brabazon was grounded, a study contract was awarded to Hawker Siddeley and Bristol Aeroplane Company for preliminary designs of the supersonic Concorde. All ten British Concordes were built in the Brabazon Hangars, and the when the aircraft was retired from the British Airways fleet in 2003, the Concorde ended its final flight at Filton Airfield. You can read more here.

Image via hevac-heritage.org.

YTL Arena Complex – Celebrating the Past, Investing in the Future

The birthplace of the Brabazon aircraft and supersonic Concorde will be now be repurposed into YTL Arena Complex, an exciting 365-day-a-year entertainment venue for the south west.

Inside the Central Hangar. Image by JMP.

The Brabazon Hangars offer three individual but interlinked areas:

  • Central Hangar With a capacity of 17,080, the arena will be one of the largest in the UK. The multi-purpose auditorium will host everything from full capacity live music shows, sporting events, family entertainment and comedy shows.
  • East Hangar Festival Hall: a flat floor space for trade shows, exhibitions, conventions and other events.
  • West Hangar The Hub: a place to eat, work and play. With a visitor attraction, leisure, workspace and food and drink.

Alan Haile, former Airport Manager at Filton Airfield said, “The Hangars now have the opportunity to burst into the 21st Century and become a premier entertainment complex in the UK. I can’t wait to see what acts and events will be brought to the Arena and the benefits the Arena will bring to the Bristol area.”

YTL Arena Complex. CGI by Grimshaw Architects.

Head to ytlarenabristol.co.uk to read more about our exciting plans. For more incredible historic images, visit hevac-heritage.org

For more information about YTL Arena Complex, make sure to follow us @ytlarenabristol, or sign up to our newsletter here.