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Wonders of World Aviation

Outstanding Designs by Short Brothers, the Famous Aircraft Builders of Rochester, Kent

A BALLOON floating in the sky above Derby set three brothers upon the road that led to the foundation of the oldest established firm of aircraft designers and builders in Great Britain.

The brothers were Horace, Eustace and Oswald Short. Fascinated by the aerial portent, Eustace bought an old balloon and made his first ascent with Horace and a passenger.

Eustace became such a keen balloonist that he decided to make balloons. His brother Oswald joined him and they founded a firm, which built a number of balloons that competed in balloon races. Their London works were in Battersea. In 1908 their brother Horace joined them to make heavier-than-air craft. They selected a lonely spot in Kent on the marshes of the Isle of Sheppey, near Leysdown, and erected a workshop.

Short Brothers

SPECIALLY BUILT FOR THE AIR MINISTRY IN 1930, the Valetta was designed to obtain data of the relative merits in performance and seaworthiness of a large float seaplane compared with a flying boat of the same power. The machine was used by Sir Alan Cobham for one of his survey flights over Africa. Later a wheel undercarriage was fitted experimentally to test the performance of the aircraft as a landplane. The Valetta had three 540 horse-power Bristol Jupiter engines and seating for sixteen passengers.

THE SCYLLA FOUR-ENGINED AIR LINER has the same type of superstructure as the Short Scipio flying boat. A fuselage and undercarriage are substituted for the hull and wing-tip floats. The Scylla has a seating capacity of thirty-nine, in addition to a crew of four. Bristol Jupiter engines give a total horse-power of about 2,400.

Their first heavier-than-air machine was a Short-Wright glider, built in 1908 for the Hon. C. S. Rolls; this was a smaller version of the Wright biplane, but had no engine. Early in 1909 Wilbur and Orville Wright ordered six Short-Wright biplanes from the firm. These machines gave great satisfaction to the Wright brothers, and many of the first men to obtain the pilot certificates of the Royal Aero Club did so by flying these Short-Wrights. They were owned by the Hon. C. S. Rolls, Francis Kennedy McClean (later Lieut.-Col. Sir Francis McClean), the Hon. Maurice Egerton, Percy Grace and Alec Ogilvie. In December 1910 Ogilvie flew 140 miles in 3 hours 55 minutes in the competition for the British Michelin Cup. The Short-Wrights had a wing span of 41 feet and a length of 29 feet.

Before the order for these six machines was received a biplane was ordered by McClean, and work was begun on this Short No. 1. Although the biplane was not finished in time for the first Aero Show at Olympia, London, in March 1909, the skeleton was exhibited. The machine was completed in the summer.

The Short No. 2 biplane was a notable machine, built about August 1909 to the order of J. T. C. Moore-Brabazon. In this machine, powered by a 50-60 horsepower Green engine, Moore-Brabazon won the Daily Mail prize of £1,000 for the first circular mile to be flown in an aeroplane of all-British construction. Moore-Brabazon was the first aviator to secure the Royal Aero Club’s pilot’s certificate.

The year 1910 was an eventful one for the company. They erected larger works at Eastchurch, Sheppey, and added to their staff.

The early machines were not built to drawings, but by rule of thumb and rough sketches made by Horace Short.

As the works were some distance from any town of size, much of the labour was drawn from rural workers and carpenters, all the former having to be taught. As Horace Short knew how to make every part, he taught the unskilled men himself. Aeroplane construction was then not specialized and organized in departments. One man practised many trades and became a good general mechanic and carpenter if he were diligent, intelligent and clever with his hands.

World Record in 1911

Every machine ordered was given the number of the order in the books of the firm. Sometimes the machine marked a distinct advance and thus became a type classified by the order number. An instance is provided by No. 27 biplane, built for Cecil Grace about May 1910, and flown by him at the Wolverhampton Aviation Meeting in June of that year. The machine was powered by an eight-cylinder E.N.V. engine. In July, however, the Hon. C. S. Rolls, holder of No. 2 Pilot’s Certificate of the Royal Aero Club, was killed while flying at the Bournemouth Aviation Meeting. The infant industry, shocked by the accident, did not recover for many months. When it had recovered, Short Brothers modified the S.27, by providing an extended upper plane. Later this “extension” type, fitted with two seats and dual control, became the famous Short S.34, or School type. McClean offered the use of machines of this type to the Navy for officers who wished to learn to fly.

The first naval officers who learnt to fly did so on S.34s. The first four were Commander Samson, Captain Gordon and Lieutenants Gregory and Gerrard. Commander Samson qualified in April 1911 and helped to form the flying school at Eastchurch. On August 17 Lieutenant Gerrard set up a world’s passenger-carrying record of 4 hours 13 minutes with an S.34. This two-seater biplane was 42 ft 1-in long and the span of the upper plane was 46 ft 5-in. The span of the lower and smaller plane was 34 ft 3-in. The engine was a 70 horse-power Gnome.

The S.38 became a famous type. The first of the series had a nacelle with two seats, the front elevator being placed on the nacelle; in later machines the front elevator was dispensed with. The upper wing had a span of 52 feet and the lower a span of 34 feet, the length of the machine being 35 ft 6-in. The engine developed 50 horse-power.

Two interesting aircraft, the first multiple-engined machines to be built in Great Britain, were produced in the summer of 1911. One, the “Triple-Twin” biplane, was fitted with two 50 horse-power Gnome engines, one behind the other. The front engine drove, through chains, a pair of tractor propellers; the rear engine was coupled direct to a pusher propeller. The other machine, the “Tandem-Twin”, had two engines arranged similarly, but the chain-driven tractor propellers were replaced by one direct-driven propeller. Spans of the two wings were 50 feet and 34 feet, and the length was 45 feet.

A notable machine was the 70 horsepower tractor biplane. The first example was designed in 1910 and completed late in 1911. One of this type, piloted by Lieutenant A. M. Longmore, R.N., won the Mortimer Singer prize of £500 for a flight of 172 miles. Another, built for the Admiralty, was converted into a seaplane by the substitution of a central single float for the skids and wheels of the landing chassis. The span of the upper plane was 42 feet and that of the lower plane 30 feet, the overall length being 35 ft 6-in.

The “Triple-Tractor” biplane of 1912 was the third development in the series of twin-engined machines. Two 50 horse-power Gnome motors were placed one behind the other. The front engine drove a direct-coupled tractor screw, and the rear engine drove two chain-driven tractor screws, one on either side of the fuselage. Pilot and passenger sat side by side. The upper wing-span was 48 feet and the lower 32 ft 6-in, the overall length of the machine being 41 feet.

Diagrams of the Short Wright biplane of 1910

OUTLINE of the elevation of the Short-Wright biplane of 1910. No wheels were provided on the undercarriage of this ^ machine, landing and take-off being made from the long skids built as an integral part of the frame of the aeroplane.

PLAN DIAGRAM of the original Short-Wright biplane. It was powered by a single engine placed to the right of the pilot This engine drove two pusher propellers situated behind the main planes There were control surfaces arranged to the front of the main planes and also behind them.

Two monoplanes were tested in 1912. The first had a wing-span of 29 ft 3-in and a length of 25 feet; it was driven by a 50 horse-power Gnome motor. It was similar to a Bleriot in outline, the chief differences being in the undercarriage and in the “overhung” system of mounting the engine. It was tested early in 1912 by Commander Samson and took part in the naval manoeuvres of that year. The 140 horse-power twin-engine monoplane was a single-seater with two 70 horse-power Gnome engines. These were arranged tandem fashion fore and aft of the pilot, and drove, respectively, a tractor airscrew and a pusher airscrew.

The forerunner of the Short seaplanes was the 100 horsepower tractor biplane, the first of which was produced early in 1912 with a “land” chassis. The chassis was later replaced by floats, and the machine was flown with great success by Commander Samson. It was conspicuous in the naval manoeuvres that year. The upper wing of this type, known as the S.41, was 50 feet and the lower 34 ft 9-in, the length being 39 feet. Improved machines were used in the early part of the war of 1914-18, and three of them were in the squadron of seven Short seaplanes which raided Cuxhaven, Germany, on Christmas Day, 1914.

In January 1912 a staging was erected on the fore part of H.M.S. Africa in Sheerness Harbour, Kent, and Commander Samson took off from this in a Short biplane of modified S.27 type fitted with airbags to enable it to alight on the water. He repeated the feat at the Naval Review in May from the launching platform erected in H.M.S. Hibernia while the ship was steaming at 15 knots.

Early in 1913 the company took out patents for folding wings. These were fitted to seaplanes produced early in 1914. The new machines were given engines of various horse-power, one type developing 135 horse-power (Canton-Unne engine), another 160 horsepower (Gnome) and another 200 horsepower (Canton-Unne). The 200 horsepower machine carried a torpedo slung between the main floats. By this time developments were so considerable that a new factory was needed, and one week before war was declared the new works at Rochester, Kent, were opened.


A SHORT-WRIGHT BIPLANE IN FLIGHT. This was the first type of aeroplane made by the firm. Six of them were ordered early in 1909 by Wilbur and Orville Wright, and many of the first men to obtain the pilot certificates of the Royal Aero Club did so by flying machines of this type. In December 1910. Alec Ogilvie flew a Short-Wright biplane 140 miles in 3 hours 55 minutes.

These works are the cradle of the British flying boat and of many notable landplanes and seaplanes. The situation, on a wide reach of the Medway above Rochester Bridge, is ideal for the testing of flying boats and seaplanes. Within the works new ideas and designs are tested - this section of the plant includes a test tank 300 feet long - and when the designs are proved the new aircraft are fashioned, soon rising from the Medway to speed through the skies to the ends of the Earth.

A type of seaplane that did much war service was the Short 184, designed about September 1914 to carry a torpedo slung between the main floats. The original model was powered by a 225 horse-power Sunbeam motor. The length was 40 ft 7½-in; the wing-span of 63 ft 6¼-in was reduced to 16 ft 4¾-in by folding the wings.

The Short Triple-Twin biplane

ONE OF THE FIRST TWO MULTI-ENGINED AIRCRAFT BUILT IN GREAT BRITAIN. The Short “Triple-Twin” biplane appeared in the summer of 1911. It was fitted with two 50 horse-power Gnome engines, one behind the other. The front engine drove two tractor propellers by means of chains and the rear engine drove a single pusher propeller. The pilot sat between the two engines. Wheels were provided on the undercarriage as well as skids. The other model, the “Tandem Twin”, had similar engines, but two propellers.

The machine carried pilot and observer, fuel for five hours, one torpedo or four 100-lb bombs and radio. The weight, fully loaded, was 5,100 lb and the speed was 75 miles an hour. One of these seaplanes performed scouting duties at the Battle of Jutland on May 31, 1916, and was the only aircraft used by the British in that action.

There were many modifications, and 240 horse-power and 260 horse-power engines were used in place of the original model. The weight of the bombs was increased and a Lewis gun was fitted.

The 1915 Short bomber was evolved from the 225 horse-power seaplane to meet the demand for powerful bombers. The seaplane was fitted with a wheeled chassis and the wings were altered from the equal-span type to the two or three bay and extension types. In 1916 a 250 horse-power bomber was produced. The span of the upper wing was 85 feet and the length 45 feet. Armament comprised a machine-gun and four 230-lb or eight 112-lb bombs.

Further modifications of the 184 seaplane were made. One type was a single-seater bomber which carried nine 56-lb bombs, another was a two-seater powered by a 250 horse-power Rolls-Royce engine. In 1916 a more powerful seaplane, the 320 horse-power machine with a Sunbeam engine, was produced. One type was designed to carry a torpedo slung under the fuselage.

Other machines carried bombs and extra fuel instead of a torpedo, and were used for long-distance reconnaissance and anti-submarine patrol. The upper wing-span was 75 feet, the lower wing span 47 feet, the width being reduced to 22 ft 1-in when the wings were folded. The length was 45 ft 9-in.

The seaplane carried pilot, observer, radio, machine-gun and ammunition, and either a torpedo and fuel for three hours, or two 230-lb bombs and fuel for six hours. The loaded weight was 6,900 lb. The seaplane could climb 10,000 feet in sixty-eight minutes, and had a speed of 80½ miles an hour.

A smaller type of seaplane was the N/2B of 1917, with a 275 horse-power Sunbeam Maori engine. The wing-span of 55 ft 2-in was reduced to 18 ft 1-in by folding the wings. The length was 40 ft 2-in and the weight, loaded, 4,800 lb. This machine could climb 10,000 feet in thirty-three minutes, and its speed was 92 miles an hour. It carried pilot and observer, fuel for four and a half hours, radio and two 230-lb bombs.

THE 184 SEAPLANE made by Short Brothers in 1914

THE 184 SEAPLANE made by Short Brothers in 1914. This machine carried a small torpedo between the main floats, and did useful work during the war of 1914-18. Many machines of this type, with various modifications and different engines, were produced. The two main floats were well forward, and a third small float was provided at the tail of the machine in place of the tail skid of a land machine.

In 1918 the Shirl, powered by a Rolls-Royce 375 horse-power Eagle engine, was designed to carry an 18-in torpedo. The machine was capable of rising either from land or from the deck of a ship, one form of undercarriage being fitted with airbags to permit alighting on water. The wing-span of 52 feet was reduced to 17 ft 6-in by folding the wings and the length was 35 feet.

The loaded weight was 6,000 lb and the speed 93 miles an hour. The machine could climb to 10,000 feet in thirty-nine minutes. The single-seater carried fuel for six and a half hours and one torpedo. It was proposed to fit a mail carrier in place of the torpedo.

During the war the firm set up works at Cardington, Bedfordshire, where airships were being built. The factory at Rochester expanded greatly, and elsewhere a number of firms aided in production as sub-contractors.

With the coming of peace the firm did not suffer from a slump, but enlarged its sphere of activity. Various types of surface craft, including barges, ships’ lifeboats, motor-boats and other vessels were built. The making of bodies for buses was developed into a big branch of the business. These subsidiaries are no longer carried on at Rochester because of the need for concentrating on aircraft.

First British All-Metal Aircraft

The Shrimp four-seater seaplane of 1919 was designed for school or sporting purposes. Two seats were in tandem, with dual control, and the other two were side by side. The fuselage was of wood, some three-ply, and the tail unit members were of steel tubing; the wings had tubular steel spars and could be folded. Span was 44 ft 6-in, reduced by folding to 16 feet; the length was

36 ft 9-in. The 160 horse-power Beardmore engine gave a speed range of from 38 to 94 miles an hour.

Notable because it was the first British all-metal aircraft, the Swallow of 1920 attracted great interest at the Aero Show. The monocoque fuselage was built up from sheet duralumin; the tubular wing spars were fitted with duralumin ribs, which carried the covering of corrugated aluminium sheeting, the other control surfaces being similarly constructed. The engine was a 260 horse-power Armstrong Siddeley Puma. The machine had a good performance, although the experimental nature of the construction made the weight greater than that of the normal wood and fabric structure of the period. The Swallow was bought by the Air Ministry and was tested rigorously, the tests proving the soundness of the design and of the materials, which have formed the basis of most of the later Short aircraft.

Although designed and begun in 1918, the Cromarty flying boat was not completed until January 1921. This, the largest successful British flying boat built up to that time, was mainly of wood, the hull being covered by three-ply, the wings and tail unit members being fabric-covered. The engines were two Rolls-Royce Condors, each of 600 horse-power, giving a maximum speed of 95 miles an hour. The span was 113 ft 6-in, the length 58 ft 9-in and the gross weight 20,000 lb.

SINGAPORE I FLYING BOAT built by Short Brothers

SINGAPORE I FLYING BOAT. First produced in 1926, this machine was the first flying boat with an all-metal airframe to be supplied to the R.A.F. The wings and tail-unit surfaces were covered with fabric. The picture shows a 1929 Singapore I of modified design. It was fitted with Rolls-Royce Buzzard engines and had Handley Page slots fitted to the upper plane. The hull was provided with a new planing bottom.

After the successful tests of the all-metal Swallow, two machines of the Springbok type were ordered in 1923 for the R.A.F. Construction was all-metal. In three further machines built in 1925 the metallic covering of the aerofoils was replaced by fabric. One of these machines was modified in 1927 and renamed Chamois. The engine was a Bristol Jupiter. Further progress in all-metal aircraft was made in 1924. The Cockle flying boat was designed to test the suitability of a metal hull on salt water. It was a single-seater semi-cantilever monoplane fitted with two 700 c.c. Y-twin Blackburn engines driving tractor screws through extended shafts. Except for the fabric covering of the wings and tail unit, construction was entirely of metal. The boat had a top speed of about 64 miles an hour, with the original motor-cycle type of engines. Two Cherub III 32 horsepower engines replaced these and the maximum speed increased to about 80 miles an hour. The span was 36 feet, the length 24 ft 9-in and the gross weight 1,205 lb. The Air Ministry bought the machine for experimental purposes and it was used by flying boat pilots for practice.

In the same year the F.5, with its metal hull, was the first metal-hulled flying boat to be supplied to the R.A.F. It was fitted with standard F.5 wings and engines (two Rolls-Royce Eagle VIIIs), and a new type of hull was designed to replace the standard wooden hull to avoid the disadvantage of water soakage. Construction was of the patented Short type in which the duralumin skin was riveted to a series of transverse rings. The absence of internal bracing provided increased space and freedom of access within the hull.

The Satellite was built for the Air Ministry’s light aeroplane competition held at Lympne, Kent, in 1924. It had a two-seater duralumin monocoque fuselage, with cantilever monoplane wings, composed of duralumin ribs carried on timber spars, and having full-span flaps acting either as ailerons or as camber-varying devices. All the aerofoil surfaces were fabric-covered.

Tested Across Africa

The 32- horse-power Bristol Cherub engine gave a top speed of 70 miles an hour. After the competition the performance was greatly improved by substituting the geared for the ungeared type of Cherub, and later by fitting an A.B.C. Scorpion Mark II. Span was 34 feet, length 23 feet 9-in and gross weight 1,060 lb.

The Singapore I of 1926 was the first flying boat of metal construction to be supplied to the R.A.F. The span was 93 feet, the length 65 ft 6-in, and the gross weight 21,000 lb. The duralumin hull was built on the principle adopted in the earlier F.5 hull, and the accommodation for the crew included bunks. The wings were formed of tubular ribs on built-up duralumin spars, and were fabric-covered, as were the members comprising the tail unit, the main rudder being fitted with an auxiliary servo rudder. The engines were two 670 horse-power Rolls-Royce Condors.

After its first flight in August the machine later took part, with three other flying boats of different types, in a cruise to the Baltic ports, which it completed with credit. It was then lent to Sir Alan Cobham for the purpose of a survey flight round Africa.

The machine left in November 1926, and flew a total distance of 23,000 miles. The outward journey was by way of the Nile and the African lakes to Beira (Mozambique) and Capetown. The homeward journey was by way of the West Coast and ended at Plymouth. About eighty take-offs and eighty landings were made in widely varying conditions. This flight proved the practicability of the use of large flying boats on a trans-African air route.

IN THE ERECTING SHOP of Short Brothers, at Rochester

IN THE ERECTING SHOP of Short Brothers, at Rochester. The great size of this shop is indicated by the nearly completed Empire flying boat on which engineers can be seen at work. At the side of the Cavalier are two left-hand wings of similar aircraft in different stages of construction The Empire flying boats have a wing span of 114 feet and are 88 feet long. The height to the top of the fin is a little under 32 feet.

Various alterations were made to the flying boat later. Rolls-Royce Buzzards were substituted for the Condors; a new planing bottom was fitted, and slots were provided in the upper plane. These improvements gave the machine a maximum speed of 132 miles an hour. It took off easily in the open sea even when loaded to 4,000 lb. beyond the designed weight.

A light, two-seat low-wing monoplane, the Mussel, of metal construction, was designed in 1926, for sporting or private use. The monocoque fuselage and the spars were built up from sheet duralumin, and tubular ribs carried the fabric covering. The engine was a Cirrus. The machine was designed to take floats or a land undercarriage. The first Mussel made many flights, and when not in use was moored in tidal water for months without protection, thus proving its suitability for private ownership. A slightly modified machine, the Mussel II, was produced in 1929. Later it was fitted with an amphibian undercarriage comprising a central float carrying a pair of wheels capable of being lowered into position for landing.

The Sturgeon of 1927 was an all-metal three-seater designed primarily for fleet reconnaissance purposes, and was convertible for use as a landplane, seaplane or amphibian. The engine was a Bristol Jupiter.

A most satisfactory class of flying boats, the Calcutta, which appeared in 1928, had a span of 93 feet and a length of 66 feet, the gross weight being 22,500 lb. The three Jupiter XI F engines gave a maximum speed of 120 miles an hour and enabled the machine to take off on the two outboard engines only. The Calcuttas were designed primarily for long-distance Empire sea routes and were originally operated by Imperial Airways on the Genoa-Alexandria section of the air route to India.

Built Under Licence in France

The Calcuttas were good performers on the water and in the air. When the five boats were replaced in the Mediterranean by a later class of Kents, the Calcuttas were transferred to the Nile section of the route to the Cape. A Calcutta bought by the French Government was so satisfactory that a licence for the manufacture of the type was acquired by a French company.

The duralumin hull, built on the principle adopted in previous hulls, provided accommodation for fifteen passengers and a crew of three. The standard of comfort was considerably better than that usual in aircraft of the period. There was space for baggage and mail. The wings comprised tubular ribs on laminated spars built from duralumin sheet. The tail unit members were of similar construction and included a small servo rudder, all the air surfaces being fabric-covered.

A two-seat reconnaissance machine, the 1929 Gurnard, was designed primarily as a fighter. It was normally used as a seaplane, but was easily convertible to a landplane for deck landing by replacing the floats with a wheeled undercarriage. It was also tried experimentally as an amphibian. The fuselage was of welded steel tube, the wings and tail unit being of duralumin, all fabric-covered the wings were capable of folding to facilitate stowage. Catapulting points were provided. The seats for the pilot and the gunner were arranged close together. The engine, either a Bristol Jupiter X or a Rolls-Royce Kestrel II, gave a maximum speed of about 166 miles an hour, the service ceiling being 28,500 feet. The span was 37 feet, the length 31 ft 6-in and the gross weight 4,780 lb.

The Kent type of flying boat, designed and built by Short brothers

DESIGNED IN 1931, the Kent type of flying boat proved popular with passengers because of the comparative silence in the cabin. Three of these machines, the Scipio, the Satyrus and the Sylvanus, provided a regular and reliable service for years on the Mediterranean section of the Imperial Airways route to India. The construction was mainly of duralumin, with a stainless steel planing bottom to the hull There was luxurious accommodation for fifteen passengers

In 1930 the Singapore II, a development of the Singapore I, was produced. Construction, mainly of duralumin, was similar, but four Rolls-Royce F XII engines, in tandem pairs, were fitted instead of two Condors. The outline was remarkably clean. The inter-plane struts-were reduced to the minimum, and the double-engined nacelles were each supported by a single pair of struts. The outcome was a machine of low head resistance for its size and type, with a performance higher than that of any other contemporary flying boat.

The Valetta, built in the same year, was produced to the order of the Air Ministry to obtain data as to the relative merits in performance and seaworthiness of a float seaplane compared with a flying boat of the same power and of a size comparable with the Calcutta.

This high-wing monoplane was fitted with three Bristol Jupiter XI F engines, each of 540 horse-power, and accommodated sixteen passengers and a crew of three. It more than fulfilled expectations in comparison with a flying boat.

Sir Alan Cobham used the machine for his 12,300 miles’ survey flight to Central Africa. Later the Valetta was fitted experimentally with a wheeled chassis to test its capacity as a land-plane. The span was 107 feet, the length 69 ft 8-in and the maximum weight 23,000 lb.

A military version of the Calcutta, known as the Rangoon, appeared in 1930. It was powered by three Jupiter XI F engines, and had a range of 1,000 miles with a heavy military load. Designed for reconnaissance or bombing, machines of this type were supplied to the R.A.F. for use in the Far East. Others were ordered by the French Government to be built under licence in France. Span was 93 feet, length 66 feet and weight loaded 22,500 lb.

A larger flying boat, the K.F.I., also built in 1930, was ordered by the Japanese Government. It was designed chiefly for long-distance reconnaissance, the range being about 2,000 miles, fully loaded. The material was chiefly duralumin, but the planing bottom of the hull was of stainless steel. Three Rolls-Royce H type engines of about 820 horse-power each were fitted in interplane nacelles. Small fins and auxiliary rudders, fitted on either side of the main rudder, were designed to enable the offset load to be counterblanced in the event of failure of either of the outboard engines.

32-Tons Flying Boat

A machine-gun mounting was provided at the extreme rear of the hull, in addition to others in the bow and midway along the hull. Maximum speed was about 140 miles an hour. This flying boat had excellent take-off and handling characteristics. Span was 101 ft 10-in, length 74 ft 7-in, and loaded weight 39,000 lb.

In 1931 the Kent flying boats were designed to replace the Calcuttas on the Mediterranean section of the Imperial Airways route to India. Span was 113 feet, length 78 ft 5-in and loaded weight 32,000 lb. Four Bristol Jupiter engines, mounted in interplane nacelles, gave the total of about 2,400 horse-power, the maximum speed being about 137 miles an hour. Construction was mainly of duralumin, with a stainless steel planing bottom to the hull. Luxurious accommodation was provided for fifteen passengers, the pneumatic upholstery being adaptable for use as life-jackets in emergency. There was space for an additional load of nearly two tons of mail or freight. A feature appreciated by passengers was the comparative silence during flight. Three of these boats, the Scipio, the Satyrus and the Sylvanus, provided a regular and reliable service for years.


THE TESTING TANK FOR SEAPLANE HULLS AND FLOATS is part of the testing plant, for new designs, in the Short Brothers’ Works at Rochester. The tank is 300 feet long, and the trolley, to which the designs to be tested are fixed, runs on rails above the tank. Seated on the platform attached to the side of the trolley is an observer who notes how the water flows past the model seaplane (under the trolley).

An experimental machine considerably larger and more powerful than any previous British flying boat was the R.6/28, afterwards named Sarafand, built for the Air Ministry in 1932. The six Rolls-Royce Buzzard III engines, which gave a total of about 5,600 horsepower, were located in tandem pairs in three interplane nacelles. Construction of this aircraft, which had a span of 120 feet and a length of 92 feet, was on normal Short lines. Duralumin was chiefly used, but the hull plating below the waterline was of stainless steel, which was replaced later by “Alclad”. Main spars were of stainless steel and the ribs of duralumin, with fabric covering. With a crew of ten and full service equipment, the machine weighed about 32 tons, but it took off easily and had a maximum speed of about 150 miles an hour.

The Scion, also built in 1932, was a high-wing monoplane for private or commercial use, either as a landplane or a seaplane, and had comfortable accommodation for four passengers in addition to the pilot. The fuselage was constructed mainly of welded steel tubing and was fabric-covered, the nose being hinged to provide access to the flying controls for maintenance purposes.

The wings were built upon a single full-depth spar comprising four extruded longitudinal members connected and cross-braced by duralumin tubes and wire stays, partial ribs of duralumin being fixed to the front and rear faces of the spar to provide the wing contour and carry the fabric covering. The tubular engine mountings were also secured to the spar and faired into the underside of the wing. The first machine was powered by two Pobjoy R engines, and later machines by Pobjoy “Niagaras” of 80-90 horse-power. Maximum speed was about 125 miles an hour and the weight, fully loaded, 3,000 lb. Considerable numbers of these machines have been delivered to users in Great Britain and overseas. The machine was easy to handle and take-off and landing characteristics were good.

The Scylla of 1934 was designed for use on the London-Paris section of the Imperial Airways route. General characteristics were almost identical with those of the Kent flying boats, the chief modifications being the substitution of a fuselage and undercarriage for the hull and wing-tip floats. Seating capacity was increased to thirty-nine, in addition to the crew of four. The power unit, four Jupiter engines, was identical with that of the Kents and the performance about the same. Span was 113 feet, length 86 ft 3-in and weight fully loaded 33,000 lb.

For Open-Sea Reconnaissance

A development of the Singapore II, the Singapore III of 1934, was designed for long-range open-sea reconnaissance duties, and was adopted by the R.A.F. as the standard equipment for a number of squadrons. Range was 1,000 miles at a cruising speed of 105 miles an hour, the maximum speed being 145 miles an hour.

Four Rolls-Royce Kestrels comprised the power unit and were located in tandem pairs in two nacelles, each supported by single front and rear interplane struts. The hull was of the two-step type. Span was 90 feet, length 64 ft 2-in and maximum take-off weight 31,500 lb.

The Scion Senior of 1935 was designed on similar lines to the twin-engined Scion, but with greater capacity and speed. The fuselage sides, of welded steel tubing, were coupled by duralumin cross struts and wire bracing, and the nose was hinged for access to controls. For the wings a single built-up box spar was used, comprising four booms of extruded T-section coupled together by tubular cross members and struts, and carrying tubular ribs with fabric covering. Four Pobjoy Niagara engines were fitted and the machine could sustain height with two of these out of action.

Maximum speed was about 135 and cruising speed about 120 miles an hour. The machine was designed for use either as a landplane or seaplane, the float chassis and wheeled undercarriage being interchangeable. The cabin accommodation was for nine passengers, with a separate compartment for the pilot. Span was 55 feet, length 42 feet and maximum weight 5,750 lb.

The Short-Mayo composite aircraft is described in the chapter beginning on page 25, and the Empire flying boats will be described later.

THE SHORT SCION SENIOR is designed so that it can be used either as a landplane or as a floatplane, the float and wheel undercarriage being interchangeable It has accommodation for nine passengers The engines are 90 horse power Niagara III Pobjoys, and are of seven-cylinder radial type with reduction gearing for the propellers The maximum speed of the aircraft is about 135 miles an hour.

[From Part 10, published 10 May 1938]

You can read more about “The Designer of the Avro”, “Geoffrey de Havilland” and “The Short Mayo Aircraft” on this website.

You can read more about “Empire Flying Boats” in Wonders of World Engineering.

From Balloons to Flying Boats