Category:Flying Boats

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In the late 1920s and through the 1930s, Flying Boats were the main form factor for building large-capacity long-distance aircraft. This was partly because aerodrome runways were often still quite primitive, and could not always be guaranteed to be sufficiently long for a difficult takeoff by larger craft than the airfield had been designed for. This was especially true in "exotic" regions of the British Empire that could not be guaranteed to have runways at all. However, most populated regions were either on or near a section of coastline or a river, and had boat-docking facilities, and if a port could take boats, it could probably take flying boats.

Because of the unique engineering involved in designing a hull with sufficient buoyancy to keep the plane afloat, while also having sufficiently weak drag to allow hydroplaning, so that the craft would lift out of the water at speed, and lift completely clear for takeoff, these aircraft required elements of both boat design and aircraft design, and were regarded as a separate class of vehicle.

Contemporary commentary:


IN no phase of flying is greater progress being made than in the construction of huge flying-boats – giant craft which are veritable ships with wings; and it is good to know that in this respect Britain is well to the fore. The machines we are developing are, in fact, in all technical respects, superior to those of any other country.

This is as it should be, remembering the importance of marine aircraft to the British Empire, with its great stretches of seas, long coastlines, and chains of islands.

The pioneer air-boats were frail machines, capable of manoeuvring only on calm water, with an ability to fly only comparatively short distances without alighting. To-day, however, Britain has giant flying boats weighing many tons, and driven by engines developing thousands ith of horse-power; and the aerial seamen who form the crews of these huge craft live on board them just as though they were in some surface craft, being provided with ample sleeping accommodation, and a kitchen in which they can prepare their meals.

In one huge air-boat built for our Royal Air Force the power-plant comprises six motors developing a total of nearly 5,000 horsepower, and the total weight of this craft is over 30 tons. In another ,achine the power-plant comprises as many as eight powerful engines.

In Germany, where experiments have been conducted with flying-boats of an exceptionally large size, one giant machine, the Dornier Do.X., holds a world's record by having risen into the air, and made a short flight, with as many as 169 people on board.

The essential feature of these new ships with wings is a long, light, slender hull, strong enough not merely to float on sheltered waters but to ride out rough waves like an ocean-going steamer. Mounted above the hull are the curved sustaining-planes and the engines and air-screws.

Our big Naval flying-boats are intended to put out to sea with the Fleet and to stay out exactly as though they were all-weather surface craft. Part ship and part 'plane, and built with light-weight metal hulls, these marine aircraft carry riding-lights, anchors, and fog-horns. They would be capable, if necessary, of remaining at sea for weeks at a time.

One interesting type of metal air-boat, the Rohrbach, can, when it alights on the water, run up two telescopic masts and set a pair of sails. Then, sailing just like a ship, it can attain a speed of five or six knots across the surface of the water. The idea is that in case of engine-failure, compelling a descent upon the sea, the flying-boat would be able to use its sails in order to reach harbour. With still bigger flying-boats, in addition to the aero-engines used in flight, it is proposed to install small marine-type motors inside the hull. These would drive under-water screws, and when on the surface the craft would be able to travel like motor-boats.

Making their resemblance to sea-going ships still more striking, some big air-boats are equipped with a small life-boat, so shaped that it fits snugly along the top of the aircraft's hull. If they need to leave their craft after some forced descent upon the water, the crew are able to launch this life-boat and row away in it with the hope of reaching the shore or being picked up by an ordinary ship.

As they float out on the water, in the open sea, flying-boats can be refuelled from tank steamers; while, in the case of the craft employed in the air-mail to South America, these come down on the surface of the ocean near their refuelling ships, and are hauled on board, being catapulted into the air again after their tanks have been refilled. It is also proposed to effect regular refuellings in mid-air. In such a case an aeroplane tanker, specially constructed, would be employed. This machine, manoeuvring above the flying-boat, and moving at the same speed, would feed down petrol through a flexible-pipe apparatus. Such a method of refuelling in the air has been proved possible in many tests by ordinary aeroplanes, but it has not yet been adopted commercially.


The next big phase now foreshadowed is the design and construction of mammoth marine-type aircraft far eclipsing in size anything produced hitherto. Designs have been prepared for super-giant ocean-type flying-boats; while further schemes exist for mighty triple-hulled air leviathans, driven by a regular battery of motors. In some cases it is proposed that immense winged ships, carrying several hundred people, should be driven by a special type of steam turbine. In other designs the power-plant takes the form of crude-oil engines adapted for aerial use.

— , Harry Harper, , The Wonder Book of Aircraft, 8th edition, , ~1934

During 1927 ... The boat type of seaplane underwent rapid development at this time, and large seaworthy craft such as the "Calcutta" and "Singapore," designed by Short Brothers, and the Supermarine Aviation Company's "Southampton" type were evolved.

— , M.J.B. Davy, , Interpretative History of Flight, , 1937


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Media in category ‘Flying Boats’

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