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  • In 1952, the first jet airliner began carrying passengers, ushering in a new era.

  • But it was also the same year this took to the skies.

  • An enormous flying boat.

  • Both of these planes were trying to predict the future of air travel.

  • And one company was convinced that its flying boat would win out in the end.

  • Because it would be a more comfortable way to fly, where passengers could relax in a

  • lounge, dine in a restaurant, even sleep in their own private suites.

  • Flying boats were already the giants of the skies.

  • And there seemed to be no limit to how big and luxurious they could get.

  • The world just needed to be convinced that flying boats really did have a future.

  • By the 1930s, two distinct kinds of airplanes had emerged land planes and seaplanes.

  • The obvious difference was one landed on water, and the other on a runway.

  • But in the 1930s, that was an important distinction.

  • Because many cities didn't even have airports.

  • And runways were often little more than dirt or grass fields.

  • On the other hand, the world is covered in water.

  • So flying boats could land just about anywhere.

  • Onto the Hudson River at New York came a mighty German Dornier flying boat on its first transatlantic

  • crossing.

  • Another milestone in the rapid advance of commercial aviation.

  • While the development of land planes was constrained by a lack of suitable runways, flying boats

  • could grow larger, heavier, and more capable.

  • And because they could reach parts of the world inaccessible to other planes, flying

  • boats opened up air travel to far flung exotic destinations.

  • For the lucky few who could afford it, flying boats became the preferred way to travel earning

  • a reputation for comfort.

  • And even safety.

  • Because over the middle of the ocean, the ability to land in case something went wrong,

  • was a reason why many thought flying boats were superior.

  • And it helped calm the nerves of uneasy passengers.

  • The rapid development of flying boats lled many to believe that they were the future

  • of long-range air travel.

  • And in 1943, one iconic British Aircraft builder began designing the next generation of

  • flying boats.

  • An enormous plane that would redefine air travel.

  • But the plan would have to wait.

  • 1943 was the middle of the Second World War.

  • New airliners weren't a priority.

  • But after the War, air travel would certainly boom again.

  • And Saunders-Roe was going to be ready with an all-new flying boat that would put them

  • at the forefront.

  • And this is what they came up with.

  • The largest, most advanced flying boat airliner ever built.

  • They called it the the Princess, a fitting name for an airliner with a luxurious two-level

  • cabin featuring lounges, an actual restaurant, sleeper cabins, even a promenade for its 100

  • lucky passengers.

  • The Princess was an odd looking bird, but it's unique shape helped reduce drag.

  • Also aiding with efficiency was a new innovation.

  • Turboprop engines.

  • Some of the first ever on an airliner.

  • And this plane was packed with them, eight turboprops driving contra-rotating propellers

  • through a gearbox and another two powering single propellers.

  • It was a complex design.

  • But it meant the princess could reach speeds of over 600 kilometres per hour, climb to

  • 39,000 feet, and travel over 9,000 kilometres.

  • Practically doubling the performance of earlier flying boats.

  • With the Princess, Saunders-Roe brought flying boats into a new era.

  • Just in time for the 1950s boom in air travel.

  • And the company was already designing the next generation to follow the Princess.

  • A sleek flying boat with swept wings and turbojets.

  • And for Saunders-Roe, it was flying boats all the way down.

  • They were even developing the world's first flying boat fighter jet.

  • But while the company seemed confident in the future of flying boats, the rest of the

  • world wasn't.

  • In 1952, the Princess took its maiden flight.

  • And the enormous plane was a main attraction at the Farnborough airshow.

  • But airlines weren't interested.

  • Because a lot had changed during the Second World War.

  • For starters, the War hadn't been fought with flying boats, but enormous land-based

  • bombers.

  • Proving the long-range capabilities of land planes.

  • And over the course of the War, thousands of new airports were constructed around the

  • world with long concrete runways.

  • After the War, many of these new airports and military aircraft using them were converted

  • to civilian use.

  • By 1950, all of the world's major airlines had abandoned their flying boats, switching

  • to land-based airliners.

  • It was simply a matter of economics.

  • To land on water, flying boats need stronger, bulkier fuselages, so they were naturally

  • heavier, less aerodynamic, and difficult to pressurize.

  • And flying boats were more challenging to fly, requiring additional training for pilots.

  • And the plane's exposure to corrosive salt water meant more maintenance.

  • All factors which made flying boats, less profitable for airlines.

  • Still, Saunders-Roe remained committed to flying boats.

  • Convinced that their advantage in size, safety, and their ability to operate on natural stretches

  • of water without much infrastructure, would soon spark their resurgence..All they had

  • to do was convince everyone else.

  • So the company went on an all-out marketing offensive, asserting that flying boats could

  • still match the performance of land planes.

  • And boasting that the Princess would mark the beginning of a resurgence in flying boat

  • air travel.

  • But desperation also seemed to be creeping in, as the company tried to argue that the

  • switch to land-based aircraft had been driven by false assumptions, outdated figures, or

  • even plain prejudice against flying boats.

  • But the marketing seemed to fall on deaf ears.

  • even BOAC, Britain's leading airline had no interest in the Princess.

  • Instead they made a bet on the world's first jet-powered airliner.

  • Ordering a fleet of de Havilland Comets.

  • And by 1954, it was clear that all the marketing in the world wasn't going to bring back

  • the era of flying boats.

  • Because Sounders-Roe hadn't sold a single plane.

  • After two years without a buyer, the company was forced to put the Princess and two half-finished

  • airframes into long term storage.

  • The age of the flying boat was over.

  • But not before Saunder-Roe engineers got the chance to dream up the ultimate flying boat.

  • Flying boats couldn't compete with modern airliners, but maybe they didn't have to.

  • Because in 1956, Saunder-Roe engineers came up with this.

  • A design for a truly colossal one thousand passenger flying boat, Aimed squarely ocean

  • liners, which in the 1950s were still carrying passengers throughout the world.

  • Over a dozen were in service between Britain and Australia alone.

  • And one shipping company was looking for a better way to move a huge amount of people.

  • It was an idea every bit as crazy as it sounds.

  • A flying ocean liner the length of a football field with five decks and a crew of 47.

  • Just to get this million and a half pound flying boat airborne, Saunders-Roe envisioned

  • twenty-four jet engines integrated into the enormous wings.

  • And this plane would've been so big, there would be enough room inside the wings for

  • engineers to walk around.

  • Even service all those jets in mid-flight.

  • Of course, this enormous flying boat never made it off the drawing board.

  • Even more outrageous than its design, would've been the cost to get it built.

  • And it would be the last flying boat for Saunders-Roe.

  • By the 1960's they shifted to other emerging fields.

  • And soon Saunders-Roe disappeared altogether, merging with another British aircraft builder.

  • Meanwhile, the Princess Flying Boats sat in storage for over a decade.

  • Proposals to convert them into cargo planes, troop transports, even experimental nuclear-powered

  • aircraft never panned out.

  • And by 1967, all three airframes had corroded.

  • And the enormous planes were broken up and sold for scrap.

  • It was the largest and most advanced flying boat airliner ever built.

  • Strangely futuristic but also archaic at the same time.

  • A plane designed for a future that never existed.

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  • It's time to do something about it.

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B1 US flying roe boat princess air travel land

What Happened To Giant Flying Boats? Saunders-Roe Princess Story

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    joey joey posted on 2021/05/31
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