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Flying boats - a missed opportunity?

  Brumas 15:03 16 Feb 2020

I consider myself reasonably intelligent and yet, having read all that is out there, I still cannot understand why the whole Flying Boat idea was scrapped.

Saunders-Roe nailed it with the Princess and their vision of the P & O Design Queen was a brilliant concept yet it never materialised.

Perhaps I am an old romantic but I know which way I would prefer to travel, funds permitting!

  HondaMan 15:58 16 Feb 2020

Money! That's when "The Queens" and others were making themselves popular. The "Queens: and others were safer and more reliable. Plus anything airborne needed a lot of controlled water to land and take-off. The Princess and others had limited passenger space - and you paid for the privilege through the nose

  wee eddie 16:10 16 Feb 2020

The reason is Two-fold:

Firstly: Flying Boats need flat water to land on, which is rarely close to the usual centres of population or free of other traffic (boats)

Secondly: Jet engines and water are rarely good partners

  Quickbeam 16:10 16 Feb 2020

Yes, it was a massive missed opportunity for wicker chair makers.

  Brumas 17:45 16 Feb 2020

I'm still not convinced.

I know that the smaller 'floatplanes' still make a living in Canada and archipelagos in the southern hemisphere far from major conurbations but places like Africa, with a myriad of lakes and not much infrastructure, benefited in their heyday.

The cost of building runways, terminals etc would seem a high price to pay for a airborne service as opposed to one which could land on a decent stretch of flat water - it worked well enough in the past.

  Forum Editor 18:39 16 Feb 2020

" worked well enough in the past."

Because the market for air travel was minute, compared to today. You could not possibly manage a financially viable international seaplane passenger service these days for a variety of reasons - otherwise someone would be doing it.

Operating small seaplanes from lakes is a different matter altogether - there are remote locations at various (usually mountainous) places across the world where small numbers of passengers will use seaplanes because there is no alternative in terms of speed.

  qwbos 20:41 16 Feb 2020

Secondly: Jet engines and water are rarely good partners

Not true. Modern engines can deal with as much as nature can throw at them. Part of the certification process involves pumping vast amounts of water into the air intake to simulate monsoon conditions. You wouldn't do that with a piston engine.

What they're not too keen on is salt water ingestion, but that's limited to mainly military aircraft flying at ultra low altitude. Increased engine washing shifts most of the compressor contamination, but the hot end tends to have a shorter lifespan due to deposits that are baked on and virtually impossible to remove. The fouling will also reduce power output.

  qwbos 20:47 16 Feb 2020


Some of the most beautiful aircraft ever built were flying boats, but apart from very specific roles, predominantly firefighting where they can scoop reload, I can't see any real use for them.

I haven't checked figures, but I'd imagine their payload would have been considerably lower than a similar sized conventional aircraft due to the increased drag on take off.

  Brumas 21:36 16 Feb 2020

qwbos, Some of the most beautiful aircraft ever built were flying boats I agree, but having said that I think the Chyetverikov MDR-6 was definitely the most ugliest!!

  Forum Editor 22:26 16 Feb 2020

"Seems there are a couple of new Flying-boats under development."

Neither of which will be used as commercial aircraft - the Chinese one will never be made in large numbers - just 17 of them have been ordered - all of them by the Chinese military. Four of the Russian aircraft have been ordered by the Russian navy.

  john bunyan 22:33 16 Feb 2020

A trip to Australia, back in the days of regular flying boats , took about 10 days and cost about a year’s average salary - say over £25,000 today.


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