Tag Archives: flying boat

History of the Flying Boat – Part Four

Although relatively unknown by the public, flying boats have served many purposes through the years, including military operations, exploration, and mail delivery.  Deutsch Luft Hansa (DLH) was instrumental in creating ship-to-shore mail delivery, which led to trans-Atlantic mail flights by 1937.

Dornier Do.26

In 1937, DLH ordered three of the Do.26 flying boats for trans-Atlantic mail flights.  The Do.26, called the “most beautiful flying boat ever built,” were sleek four-engine planes whose floats retracted to increase plane speed.  Although completed prior to the outbreak of World War II, United States opposition kept DLH from operating the aircraft on the intended flights.  Instead, the company operated the planes to carry mail between Bathurst and Natal in South Africa.  During World War II, the flying boats entered military service, with three additional Do.26 planes built for use by the military.

Sikorsky S-43 Feeder Airplane

Known as the “Baby Clipper,” the Sikorsky S-43 flying boat was a smaller version of the Sikorsky S-42.  The plane carried between 18 and 25 passengers, as well as a two-person crew.  Pan Am used the S-43 for flights to Cuba and Latin America, while Reeve Aleutian Airways in Alaska and Inter-Island Airways of Hawaii used the flying boat to transport passengers.  The U.S. Army Air Corps purchased five of the aircraft, the U.S. Navy purchased 17, and the Marine Corps used two of the aircraft.  Designed for short routes with low-passenger numbers, the plane had a range of 775 miles and a maximum speed of 190 miles per hour.

Martin M-130

Built by the Glenn M. Martin Company in Baltimore for Pan Am, the three M-130 flying boats purchased by the company joined Pan Am’s “Clipper” line, although all three of the planes were given different names.  On November 22, 1935, the “China Clipper” flew the first trans-Pacific airmail route.  On October 14, 1936, the “Philippine Clipper” began passenger service between the United States and Hong Kong, while the “Hawaii Clipper” offered service between California and the Philippines.  In July 1938, the “Hawaii Clipper” disappeared on a flight between Guam and Manila, losing nine crew and six passengers.  The “Philippine Clipper” survived the Japanese attack on Wake Island but crashed into a mountain in January 1943, killing 19 people.  The “China Clipper” broke apart and sank at the Port of Spain, Trinidad and Tobago during landing on January 23, 1945, killing 23 people.

Douglas Dolphin History-of-the-Flying-Boat--Part-Two-150x150

The original Douglas Dolphin, then known as the Sinbad, was a true flying boat, as it had no wheels and could land only on water.  Designed as a luxurious flying yacht in 1930, Douglas Aircraft Company found limited demand for the plane due to the Great Depression.  However, in 1931, the company improved the Sinbad, making it amphibious, and renamed it the “Dolphin.”  The United States Coast Guard purchased not only the Sinbad, but twelve dolphins as well.  Eventually, two of the flying boats became the property of Wilmington-Catalina Airlines, who used the planes to fly passengers between Los Angeles and Santa Catalina Island.  The majority of these seaplanes, however, transported wealthy industrialists, including William Boeing, Philip K. Wrigley and William Vanderbilt.  One plane was procured by the U.S. Navy to transport President Franklin D. Roosevelt, and although Roosevelt never used the plane, it was the first aircraft purchased for use by a sitting U.S. president.

Short S-23 Empire of QANTAS

Used to carry passengers and mail between Britain and the British Colonies located in Africa, Asia and Australia, the Short S-23 Empire flying boat became known as the Empire “C” Class.  The British Empire companies, QANTAS, which served Australia, TEAL, which served New Zealand, and Imperial, which served Britain, named each Short S-23 with a “C” name in recognition of the aircraft class.  The planes, used in military operations during World War II, primarily for anti-submarine and transport purposes, had less range than the Sikorsky flying boats.  This meant they were unable to provide trans-Atlantic service.

Aviation designers continued to develop better trans-Atlantic flying boats in an effort to improve passenger and mail transport across oceans.  For more information on seaplanes, or to learn more about engine repair services, call Covington Aircraft at 918-756-8320.  You can also join us on LinkedIn and Twitter.

History of the Flying Boat – Part Two

The flying boat has a rich history, dating as far back as 1903.  In fact, the first known seaplane flight, Samuel Langley’s Aerodrome launched from a houseboat just a few weeks before the famous Wright Brothers’ flight at Kitty Hawk.  Unfortunately, on two separate launches over the Potomac River, the Aerodrome crashed into the river seconds after launch.  The pilot, Langley’s assistant, Charles M. Manly, was pulled unharmed from the river after each crash.  However, the aviation world saw potential in flying boats, honing the craft until Glenn Curtiss flew short flights in a seaplane in 1914.  Improvements to the craft continued throughout World War I and into the 1920s.

Short Kent 

Developed to create a seaplane with a greater range than the Short Calcutta, the Short Kent met the needs of Imperial Airways for flights between Mirabella, Crete and Alexandria, Egypt without the need to refuel in Italian territory.  Political conflict between Italy and Britain led to the banning of British aircraft from Italian ports.  Similar to the Calcutta, the Kent carried the same number of passengers, but had a larger cargo area for mail.  Imperial Airways used the flying boat not only for the Mediterranean routes, but to also survey routes in South Africa and Australia.  Only three of the planes were built—Scipio, Sylvanus and Satyrus.  The Scipio flipped over and sank after a hard landing in Mirabella Harbor, between India and Spinalonga, killing two crewmembers.  On November 9, 1935, the Sylvanus was destroyed by fire in Brindisi, and the Satyrus was taken out of service and scrapped in 1938.

Fairchild FC-2

The first flying boat used by Pan American Airways, the Fairchild FC-2, travelled the Miami-to-Havana route as well as the Amazon River route.  Initially, Pan Am ordered four aircraft, planning to use them along the Amazon and Yangtze, but before the prototype of the plane was complete, Pan Am no longer needed the planes for the China route.  Therefore, modifications to the plane allowed them to handle the tropical conditions of Brazil.  After delivery of the first two planes, Pan Am cancelled the order for the remaining two, as the two original flying boats met the airline’s needs for the Amazon.  Only two more Fairchild FC-2 aircraft were built.  The first was used by naturalist Richard Archbold on an expedition to New Guinea and the fourth used by the Spanish Republican Air Force until its capture by Spanish Nationalists in 1938.

Sikorsky S-34

Originally designed for Pan Am for use on new Caribbean routes in 1926, the Sikorsky S-34 flying boat was not exactly a success.  The seaplane, powered by two 200 horsepower engines, had room for five passengers.  During a test flight in November 1927, one of the engines failed and the plane crashed and sank.  No one on board was injured, but the aircraft was a total loss.

Dornier Do.X

When produced by the Dornier Company of Germany in 1929, the Dornier Do.X flying boat was the largest, heaviest and most powerful in the world.  Powered by twelve engines, the aircraft was built on the Swiss portion of Lake Constance in order to avoid sanctions under the Treaty of Versailles, forbidding Germany to build aircraft exceeding set speed limits after World War I.  Only three of the planes were built, as, even with twelve engines, the flying boat was underpowered to carry the 70 passengers it was designed to carry.  On its 70th test flight, the plane carried 169 people including production workers, their families, journalists, aircrew and nine stowaways who did not hold tickets for the flight.  Passengers were asked to crowd to one side or the other to help make turns and the aircraft flew for 40 minutes, climbing only to 650 feet.  The flying boat contained three decks, with a smoking lounge, sleeping quarters and a bar, but never reached the potential that Dornier envisioned.

Sikorsky S-38

The successor to the Sikorsky S-34, which sank during a test flight in 1927, the Sikorsky S-38 flying boat enjoyed a much more successful career.  The first widely produced seaplane, the Sikorsky S-38 answered the need Pan Am had for their new Caribbean routes, and the airline purchased a fleet of them in 1928.  The aircraft also served the U.S. Army and became known as the “Explorer’s Yacht” due to its extensive use by famous private owners such as Howard Hughes, Charles Lindbergh and John Hay Whitney.

Flying boat popularity continued to grow during the 1920s as international flights developed and the use of airmail expanded.  For more information on seaplanes, or to learn more about engine repair services we can provide for your aircraft, call Covington Aircraft at 918-756-8320.  You can also join us on LinkedIn and Twitter.