Tag Archives: flying boats

History of the Flying Boat – Part Six

During World War II, the popularity of flying boats increased, as the seaplanes could land on water and land, allowing military branches to deliver cargo or personnel in areas where they otherwise could not.  Although some of the last flying boats were designed for military use, the era of the seaplane ended after the Second World War.

flying boatHughes HK-1 Hercules

One of the most famous flying boats in history is the Hughes HK-1 Hercules.  More commonly known as Howard Hughes’ famous “Spruce Goose,” the plane was originally designed as a cargo and troop carrier, made of wood rather than metal, to avoid using critical wartime materials.  The plane was nicknamed the “Spruce Goose” after a U.S. senator called the plane a “flying lumberyard.”

Conceived by Henry J. Kaiser, a steelmaker and shipbuilder, this plane was designed and built by Howard Hughes and his staff.  Though this plane was three times larger than the largest plane built before it, Hughes continued to meddle with the design, making the plane more complicated and delaying the process.  Kaiser dropped out of the project, while Hughes continued to work on the flying boat which eventually cost the U.S. government $22 million and Hughes himself $18 million.

On November 2, 1947, the Hughes HK-1 Hercules took its first and only flight with Hughes at the controls.  The plane flew one mile in less than one minute, 33 feet off the surface of the Los Angeles Harbor at 80 miles per hour before making a perfect landing.  The plane returned to its specially designed harbor, and maintained in flight-ready condition until Howard Hughes died in 1976.  Donated to the Aero Club of Southern California, the plane is now on display in a specially constructed facility at the Evergreen Aviation Educational Center in McMinnville, Oregon.

Saunders-Roe Princess

One of the last flying boats developed was the Saunders-Roe Princess, at the request of the British Ministry of Supply, which wanted a long-range civil flying boat for British Overseas Airways Corporation (BOAC) in 1945.  In 1951, BOAC determined it had no need for the Princess, but construction of the aircraft continued as it would be used to transport aircraft for the Royal Air Force.  Of the three aircraft requested, only one of the flying boats flew, on August 22, 1952.  Production was terminated, and, although Aquila Airways offered £1 million for each of the Princess flying boats in 1954, Saunders-Roe rejected the offer and the three aircraft were cocooned in hopes a buyer would be found.  In 1964, the flying boats were finally purchased by Eoin Mekie for Aero Spacelines for use as heavy-duty freight aircraft for transporting rocket components.  However, when the cocooning was removed, the airframes were badly deteriorated as the maintenance and inspection of the stored aircraft had been allowed to lapse.  All three planes were broken up by 1967.

End of an Era

The flying boat era came after World War II.  Because flying boats were designed to meet landing requirements where runways were not long enough for larger airlines, the need for seaplanes was drastically reduced after runway improvements at most airlines.  In addition, navigation aids on regular planes were minimal, making it difficult for planes to land in crosswinds.  Aviators also found that after World War II, long runways on ex-military bases and the many surplus planes available from the military made the need for flying boats unnecessary.

For more information on seaplanes, or to learn more about the 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.

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History of the Flying Boat – Part Three

The history of the flying boat actually predates the Wright Brothers flight at Kitty Hawk, although seaplane flights prior to that historic flight were not exactly successful.  Throughout the 1920s, flying boats gained popularity, both with the military and commercially.  In fact, Pan American Airways had a main flying boat base for their Latin America operations based in Miami.

Consolidated Commodore

Considered the beginning of an era that led to more modern, high-efficiency monoplane flying boats popular in the 1930s, the NYRBA Airline used the Consolidated Commodore on flights between New York, Rio de Janeiro and Buenos Aires, using the initials of each city as their name.  In 1939, Pan Am acquired NYRBA and took over the fleet of Consolidated Commodores.  Although designed to accommodate up to 32 passengers, the plane actually accommodated only 14, including the crew, for thousand mile flights.  This seaplane opened up the possibility of long, over-ocean routes.

Savoia-Marchetti Sm-66

Designed for trans-Mediterranean airline services, the Savoia-Marchetti Sm-66 flying boat originally carried seven passengers, as the prototype contained seven seats, two sleeping couches and a lavatory.  In later versions, designers replaced the sleeping couches with two to four more seats, increasing the number of passengers it could carry. The enclosed cockpit, mounted in the center wing section, held two crewmembers.  Aero Expresso Haltiano began using the flying boats in 1928.


Sikorsky S-40 “Flying Forest”

Charles Lindbergh gave the Sikorsky S-40 flying boat the nickname the “Flying Forest” due to the numerous exposed flying wires and strut braces used to support the framework.  Juan Trippe, President of Pan Am, requested that Sikorsky design a seaplane with a larger passenger capacity than the Sikorsky S-38.  The S-40 carried 38 passengers, as opposed to the eight-passenger limit of the S-38, and offered an electric refrigerator and stove.  In addition, the S40 included a book-ended mahogany wood paneled smoking lounge for passenger comfort.  Sikorsky manufactured only three of these flying boats.  Pan Am used the planes, which were the first in Pan Am’s famous “Clipper” line, on the Miami-to-Panama route.  However, the “American Clipper,” as the S-40 came to be known, avoided night flying as it lacked navigation aids and instrumentation.

Sikorsky S-42

During the initial flight of the S-40, Charles Lindbergh, then a consultant for Pan Am, and Igor Sikorsky began drawing preliminary sketches of the Sikorsky S-42 on the back of a menu in the lounge of the Sikorsky S-40 flying boat.  The two men, along with Pan Am President, Juan Trippe, envisioned a flying boat that would be able to span oceansSikorsky built only ten of the S-42 aircraft and the flying boats flew exclusively for Pan Am.  Known as both the “Pan Am Clipper” and the “Flying Clipper,” the S-42 flew the San Francisco-to-Hawaii, New York-to-Bermuda, and Hong Kong-to-China routes among others, and made the first survey flight from Alameda, Calif., to Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, in April 1935.  The plane set ten records for altitude and payload flights, and had a longer range than the S-40.

DLH Ship-to-Shore Mail Flights

Starting in 1931, Deutsche Luft Hansa (DLH) flew single engine flying boat mail flights.  Initially, the company used Heinkel He.12 and He.58 flying boats to carry mail to and from cruise ships, allowing mail to arrive onshore long before the ship arrived in port. Eventually the company replaced the Heinkel planes with Junkers 46 floatplanes.  The planes, outfitted with compressed air-driven catapults that increased the speed of the plane, launched at a distance of about 750 miles from the destination.  Painted bright red in case of emergency sea landings, the launch of these aircraft was a special experience for cruise ship passengers.  The success of these flying boats encouraged DLH to begin trans-Atlantic mail flights to Europe and Latin America using the Dornier Wal flying boat.  The plane met a converted cargo ship with a launch platform in the Atlantic, where the launch ship picked up the flying boat and refueled the aircraft before launching it from the ramp.  Mail from Germany could reach Brazil in three days using the DLH ship-to-shore service.

Breguet Br.350

On routes from France to points in the Mediterranean, Air France used the Breguet Br.350 flying boat in 1934.

As aviation design became more sophisticated, the creation of long-range flying boats began to increase throughout the 1930s.  For more information on seaplanes, or to learn more about the engine repair services, call Covington Aircraft at 918-756-8320.  You can also follow us on LinkedIn and Twitter.

History of the Flying Boat – Part One

Seaplanes are fixed-wing aircraft that can take off and land on water, and there are two categories of seaplanes: floatplanes and flying boats.  Pontoons under a floatplane keep the plane afloat, and the fuselage sits above the water.  In a flying boat, the plane is kept afloat with the fuselage, similar to the hull of a ship.  Flying boats, which were used extensively during World War I, have a rich history.History-of-the-Flying-Boat--Part-Two1-300x176

The Early Days

On March 28, 1910, the Canard, took off from water with pilot Henri Fabre at the controls, making it the first successful water take-off in history.  The historic flying boat take-off took place near Martigues, located in the Mediterranean Sea, and the fifty-horsepower rotary engine flew the craft 1,650 feet over water.  However, historians consider Glen Curtiss the father of the flying boat.  Curtiss flying boats were the only U.S.-designated airplanes to see combat during World War I.  After the war, airlines recognized the potential for commercial use of the flying boat.

Boeing B-1

Boeing’s B-1 flying boat, a pusher-style flying boat with a rear engine, had a range of 400 miles and a cruising speed of 80 miles per hour.  The plane could carry a pilot and two passengers, and had room for mail or cargo.  The first flight of the Boeing B-1 was December 27, 1919, but Boeing only built one plane, as the market was flooded with war-surplus aircraft.  In 1920, Edward Hubbard purchased the plane and used it to carry mail between Seattle and Victoria, British Columbia.  The plane is now on display in Seattle’s Museum of History and Industry.

Caproni Triplane

Designed as a cross between a houseboat and plane, the Caproni Triplane flying boat was one of the largest seaplanes ever built.  The plane used three sets of triplane wings taken from World War I bombers attached to a 100-passenger flying boat hull.  Powered by eight 400-hp engines, the plan was to carry 100 passengers as well as six pilots and flight engineers.  However, on the plane’s second flight in 1921, it crashed into a lake, killing both pilots, which led designers to scrap the design.

Levy Flying Boat

A three-seat French biplane, the Levy Flying Boat, also known as the Levy-Le Pen, is considered the best French amphibious aircraft of World War I.  The plane gained popularity in Africa where Ligne Aerienne du Roi Albert used a version of the flying boat to carry 2-passenger loads throughout the African Congo.  In fact, the Levy-LePen Type R helped inaugurate many airline routes throughout Africa in the early 1900s.

Curtiss F-5

Built for use by the military, the Curtiss F-5 flying boat became the U.S. Navy’s standard patrol aircraft until 1928.  Known as the Aeromarine 75 in civil use, Aeromaritime Airways flew flights from Key West to Havana, carrying the first international airmail.  In 1920, American Trans-Oceanic Company flew anglers from Miami to Bimini in a Curtiss F-5 painted like a fish.  The plane had a range of 830 miles and was powered by two liberty 400-hp engines.

Junkers F-13

The world’s first all-metal transport aircraft, the Junkers F-13 seaplane offered enclosed travel for passengers.  Considered the first modern commercial aircraft, the flying boat was often called an air limousine due to its luxurious interior.  The flying boats were often used for transport between seaports or for longer flights over water.  Finnair began using Junkers F-13 planes in 1926.  One benefit to the Junkers F-13 was that the landplane version could be fitted with floats to become a seaplane or with skis to become a snow plane.

Short Calcutta

The first stressed-skin, metal-hulled flying boat, the Short Calcutta design answered a need for Imperial Airways for air service to the Mediterranean to and from India.  The plane, powered by three engines mounted between the wings, carried 15 passengers and two pilots.  The first flight of the Calcutta, on February 14, 1928, took place after the aircraft had been left mooring overnight to test the hull for leaks.  Seven flying boats were built for commercial use, and a military version, known as the Short Rangoon, was also created.

These flying boats represented the beginning of the long and colorful history of the flying boat.  For more information on seaplanes, or to learn more about the 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.