The Martinsyde F.4 is a British single-seat biplane fighter of wooden construction. It is fabric-covered except for the forward fuselage. During prototype tests in the summer of 1918, the type proved to be superior to almost all of its predecessors. Therefore, the Royal Air Force immediately ordered 1,450 aircraft, although due to difficulties in engine supply, only seven Martinsydes were handed over to the RAF before the end of the First World War.
Most orders were cancelled after the end of the war, and only 330 Martinsydes were built by the beginning of 1919. The type never saw active service in Britain despite remaining the RAF’s best fighter in terms of performance until the mid-1920s. Instead, Martinsydes were exported to Spain, Ireland, Portugal, Latvia and the Soviet Union, among other countries. Single examples of the type found their way to Poland, Japan and Uruguay.
In the spring of 1923, the Finnish Aviation Force ordered one Martinsyde for evaluation against a Gourdou-Leseurre B.2 and a Fokker D.10 in conjunction with the service’s first fighter acquisition programme. The Gourdou was chosen, primarily because of its lower price. However, as the Gourdous were proving short-lived, Finland ordered 14 Martinsydes in 1927 to replace the French fighter.
The Martinsydes were initially based in Utti, where mainly positive experiences were gained from the aircraft, which logged a lot of flight hours. From 1930 onwards, the Martinsydes were transferred to Kauhava Aviation School for training use. Towards the end of its service life, the type was used for dive bombing training and a variety of other purposes. The Martinsyde was the first aircraft in Finnish service to exceed the speed of 200 kilometres per hour in level flight.
Before withdrawal from service on 7th July 1934, the museum’s MA-24 accumulated 492 flight hours on 1,320 flights. It is one of the rarest aircraft in the museum’s collection: it is not only the world’s last survivor of its type, but also the only surviving Martinsyde aircraft.
Martinsyde, Great Britain
Wing span 9.98 m; Maximum speed 205 km/h; Length 7.71 m; Height 2.44 m.