A floatplane has slender pontoons mounted under the fuselage. Two floats are common, but other configurations are possible. Only the "floats" of a floatplane normally come into contact with water. The fuselage remains above water. Some small land aircraft can be modified to become float planes and in general floatplanes are small aircraft. Floatplanes are limited by their ability to handle wave heights typically greater than 12 inches (0.31 m). These float pontoons add to the empty weight of the airplane, and to the drag coefficient, resulting in reduced payload capacity, slower rate-of-climb and slower cruise speed.
The Avro Type H, Type 501, and Type 503 were a family of early British military seaplanes. They were a development of the Avro 500 design and were originally conceived of as amphibious; the prototype being fitted with a single large main float (equipped with wheels) under the fuselage, and two outrigger floats under the wings. Tests were conducted on Lake Windermere in January 1913. It was later converted to twin-float configuration and bought by the British Admiralty. It now, however, proved too heavy and was converted again - this time to a landplane.
An improved version, designated the 503 was demonstrated for the Inspector of Naval Aircraft, who placed an order for three machines. The prototype itself was demonstrated for the German Navy in its seaplane trials in June 1913 and was purchased by the government of Imperial Germany for evaluation purposes. This machine subsequently became the first aircraft to fly across the North Sea, from Wilhelmshaven to Heligoland, in September 1913. Gotha purchased a licence from Avro and produced the type as the WD.1 (Wasser Doppeldecker - "Water Biplane"). Unlicenced copies were also built by Albatros, AGO, Friedrichshafen. Some WD.1s were provided to the Ottoman Empire following their withdrawal from German Navy service.
The Bristol T.B.8 was an early (1913-14) British biplane built by the Bristol Aeroplane Company, which was produced in significant numbers (54 were built) for the time. While mainly used as a trainer, T.B.8s were briefly used as bombers at the start of the First World War by the Royal Naval Air Service (RNAS).
Henri Coanda, chief designer of the Bristol Aeroplane Company, developed the T.B.8 as a biplane development of his earlier Bristol-Coanda Monoplane to meet an order from the British Admiralty, the first aircraft, a conversion of a Bristol-Coanda monoplane, flying on 12 August 1913 . This aircraft was tested with both wheeled undercarriage and floats.
The T.B.8 was a single engined, two seat biplane, with two bay wings and a slender fuselage. While early T.B.8s used wing warping, later production aircraft were fitted with ailerons. They were normally fitted with a distinctive four wheel undercarriage. T.B.8s were powered by a variety of rotary engines, including Gnome and Le Rhône engines with power ranging from 50 hp Gnomes to 100 hp Gnome Monosoupape engines . T.B.8s were produced both by conversion of Coanda Monoplanes, and by new production.
One T.B.8 was fitted with a prismatic Bombsight in the front cockpit and a cylindrical bomb carrier in the lower forward fuselage capable of carrying twelve 10 lb (4.5 kg) bombs, which could be dropped singly or as a salvo as required . This aircraft was displayed at the Paris Salon de l'Aéronautique and evaluated by the French military before being purchased by the RNAS.
T.B.8s were purchased for use both by the Royal Naval Air Service and the Royal Flying Corps (RFC), with the RFC's T.B.8s being transferred to the RNAS shortly after the start of the First World War . Three T.B.8s, including the aircraft displayed at Paris in December 1913, and fitted with bombing equipment, were sent to France following the outbreak of war, serving with the RNAS squadron commanded by Charles Rumney Samson. One of these T.B.8s carried out a bombing attack on German gun batteries at Middelkerke, Belgium on 25 November 1914, the only bombing sortie flown by the T.B.8 . The T.B.8 was considered too slow for front line operations, and was relegated to training operations, serving until 1916.
The T.B.8 was also used by Romania, with six Bristol-Coanda Monoplanes operated by the Romanian Military Aviation school being converted by Bristol into T.B.8s.
The Romanian government were pleased with their T.B.8s and placed an order for an improved version, for which they provided a 75 hp (56 kW) Gnome Monosoupape engine. The resulting aircraft, designated the G.B.75 was significantly different in appearance, with a streamlined front fuselage and rounded cowling enclosing the rotary engine. The characteristic Coanda fin was replaced with an unbalanced rudder plus fin. Maximum speed was up a little to 80 mph (130 km/h). It first flew on 7 April 1914 and required the removal of the spinner and an increase in stagger to adjust the centre of pressure, but was judged ready for delivery in June. It did not go to Romania, however and instead served the RFC at Farnborough, powered by a standard Gnome engine.
The Avro 510 was a two-seat racing seaplane designed by Avro to compete in the 1914 Circuit of Britain Race. It was a conventional two-bay biplane of greatly uneven span equipped with two large central floats and two outriggers. The race was called off at the outbreak of the First World War, but the British Admiralty was aware of the type and ordered five examples, with modified floats and tail. In service, these proved completely unsuitable, and it was discovered that with a second person aboard the aircraft could barely fly. In October 1915, the 510s in service were sent to Supermarine for modification and improvement, but by March the following year all were removed from service.
Most sources give the powerplant of the 510 as a Sunbeam Nubian, an engine that would not yet exist until all the 510s had been withdrawn from service in 1916. The Wolverhampton Museum of Industry website cites Eric Brew's Sunbeam Aero Engines and identifies the 510's engine as a Crusader.
The Blackburn Type L was a single-engine, two-seat biplane built for the 1914 Daily Mail Circuit of Britain seaplane race of 1914.
All six of Robert Blackburn's previous aircraft had been monoplanes and had suffered no structural problems, but during 1912 in both the UK and in Europe there had been enough monoplane structural failures for the RFC to ban them from service. There was a move to biplanes which Blackburn followed. The Type L, his first biplane and a seaplane was built specifically as a candidate for the Circuit of Britain Race, sponsored by the Daily Mail with a £5,000 winner's prize.
Assembled at Blackburn's Olympia Works in Leeds (a former skating rink), the Type L was a two-seat tractor seaplane. It had two bay wings without stagger, the upper plane having a span of 14 ft 6 in (4.4 m) greater than the lower, outward-sloping struts connecting the two extremities. The upper plane carried long ailerons extending over 70% of the span. The wings and the square-section fuselage were wooden frames with fabric covering, though the fuselage decking was aluminium. The pilot's seat was just behind the wing trailing edge with the second seat under the wing. Tail surfaces were conventional, apart from the rudder horn balance positioned under the rear end of the fuselage. The floats were attached to the fuselage with six ash struts and separated by a pair of parallel spreader bars fore and aft. The hydrodynamics of floats was still evolving at the time and those on the Type L were unusual in having a step close to the nose, followed by an arched, flat-bottomed underside aft to the second step. There was a small float under the tail.
Power was provided by a cowled 130 hp (100 kW) Salmson 9 nine-cylinder radial, licence built by Dudbridge Iron Works Ltd at Stroud. Most unusually for a radial, this type was water-cooled and needed two narrow radiators, one either side of the front seat. There were two fuel tanks in the fuselage.
The Circuit of Britain race was due to start from Calshot on 14th August 1914. There were nine competitors, who were on their way to the start when the First World War was declared on August 4th. All the aircraft were impounded by the Admiralty.
The Type L was based at Scalby Mills just north of Scarborough on the English North-East Coast, an area attacked during 1914 by the German Navy. Here it was used for off-shore reconnaissance. During this time, some modifications were made to it, aimed at cooling and control problems: the engine cowling was removed and the long-span ailerons replaced with much shorter surfaces near the wing tips, protruding well behind the wing trailing edges. A wider chord propeller was also added. At some point, it carried a 0.303 in (7.7 mm) machine gun, before being lost in a crash on the cliff top at Speeton early in 1915.
The Short Type 827 was a British two-seat reconnaissance floatplane built for the Admiralty by Short Brothers. It was also known as the Short Admiralty Type 827
The Type 827 was a slightly smaller development of the earlier Short Type 166 a two-bay biplane with unswept equal span wings. It had a box section fuselage mounted on the lower wing. The 827 had twin floats under the forward fuselage and small floats fitted at the wingtips and tail. Powered by a nose-mounted Sunbeam Nubian engine with a two-bladed tractor propeller. The crew of two sat in open cockpits in tandem.
The aircraft was not only built by Shorts (36 aircraft) but also produced by different contractors around the United Kingdom, i.e. Brush Electrical (20), Parnall (20), Fairey (12) and Sunbeam (20).
A variant powered by 135 hp (101 kW) Salmson water-cooled radial engine was produced and designated the Short Type 830.
The Short Type 184 was a British two-seat reconnaissance, bombing and torpedo carrying folder seaplane designed by Short Brothers.
An urgent requirement by the British Admiralty for a torpedo-carrying seaplane was met by a design by Horace Short of Short Brothers, Rochester, England.
The first aircraft flew in early 1915 and 936 aircraft were built by ten different British aircraft companies making it the most successful of Shorts' pre-World War II aircraft.
In August 1915, a Short 184 of piloted by Flight Commander Charles H. K. Edmonds from HMS Ben-my-Chree operating in the Aegean became the first aircraft in the world to attack an enemy ship with an air-launched torpedo.
However, on 17 August 1915, another Turkish ship was sunk by a torpedo of whose origin there can be no doubt. On this occasion Flight Commander C H Edmonds, flying a Short 184, torpedoed a Turkish steamer a few miles north of the Dardanelles. His formation colleague, Flt Lt G B Dacre, was forced to land on the water owing to engine trouble but, seeing an enemy tug close by, taxied up to it and released his torpedo. The tug blew up and sank. Thereafter Dacre was able to take off and return to the Ben-My-Chree.
Flt Lt Dacre later became Air Commodore and was appointed twice as Air Officer Commanding No. 1 School of Technical Training. His widow, Elizabeth Dacre (who had been a distinguished Group Officer in the WAAF), donated his dress sword to the Air Cadet Corps.
Despite early successes in sinking ships the 184s were mainly used for Bombing and Reconnaissance. A Short 184, aircraft number 8359, was the only aircraft to take part in the Battle of Jutland. The pilot on that occasion was Flt Lt Frederick Rutland (who became known ever after as “Rutland of Jutland”).
A landplane version of the S.184 was also sold to the Royal Flying Corps as the Short Bomber.
The aircraft served in most theatres of war, e.g. in the Dardanelles campaign and as far afield as Mesopotamia, and continued in service into the 1920s.
On 9 May 1916, a Short 184 seaplane, "using a bombsight developed by Bourdillon and Tizard, hit a target with a 500 pound bomb from a height of 4,000 feet."
The Baby was a development of the two-seat Sopwith Schneider. Although the Schneider had won the Schneider trophy in 1914, the RNAS did not place a formal order until January 1915. The production version of the Baby differed little from the Schneider Trophy winner.
The Baby was also built by Blackburn Aircraft, Fairey, and Parnall in the United Kingdom. In Italy licensed manufacture was undertaken by SA Aeronautica Gio Ansaldo of Turin.
The Baby was used as a shipborne scout and bomber aircraft operating from larger ships such as seaplane carriers and cruisers, and smaller vessels such as naval trawlers and minelayers. It was even considered for operation from submarines. The main role of the Baby was to intercept German Zeppelin raids as far from Britain as possible.
Sopwith Baby, N1019, "Phyllis", arrived at the Seaplane Defence Flight, Dunkerque on 8 April 1917. Flt. Lt. R. Graham forced a seaplane down 10 miles northeast of Dunkerque on 19 June 1917 while flying this aircraft. N1019 was equipped with a 130 h.p. Clerget engine by December 1917. Note the Lewis gun fixed alongside the cockpit, as well as another mounted on the top wing center section.
The Short Type 166 was a British two-seat reconnaissance, bombing and torpedo carrying folder seaplane designed by Short Brothers.
The Short Type 166 was designed as a "folder" aircraft to operate from the Ark Royal as a torpedo-bomber. Six aircraft, known within Shorts as the Type A, were originally ordered before the outbreak of World War I and assigned the Admiralty serial numbers 161 to 166. As was normal at the time, the type was designated the Admiralty Type 166 after the naval serial number of the last aircraft in the batch. Sometimes the aircraft are referred to as the Short S.90 (S.90 was the manufacturer's serial number of the first aircraft, naval serial 161).
Similar to the earlier Short Type 136 but slightly larger, the 166 was designed from the start as a torpedo carrier, although it was never used in this role.
The Type 166 was a two-bay biplane with twin wooden pontoon floats, with a water rudder fitted to the tail float and a stabilizing float mounted near the wing-tip under each lower wing. The 166 was powered by a nose-mounted 200hp (149kW) Salmson engine.
A follow-on order for 20 aircraft were built by Westland Aircraft at their Yeovil factory. The Westland built aircraft did not have provision for a torpedo but could carry three 112 lb bombs and were fitted to carry radio equipment. There was also a Lewis gun, which was operated by the observer in the rear cockpit.
The AD Seaplane Type 1000 also known as the Admiralty Type 1000 and the AD.1 (from Air Department) was a British seaplane of the First World War designed to attack German warships. When it first flew, it was the largest British aircraft yet to take to the air.
The design of the AD.1 was by Harris Booth of the Admiralty's Air Department just prior to World War I. It was the world's first aircraft designed from scratch as a torpedo bomber, one of the three planned versions of the plane. The other two were a bomber and a plane armed with a recoilless Davis 12-pounder gun (approximately 76 mm calibre).
The aircraft was a float-equipped biplane of pod-and-boom design, with engines mounted at the front of both booms, as well as at the rear of the crew pod. Development began in 1915; it was completed and flown for the first time during the summer of 1916. It was found that the Davis gun would project a blast rearwards so the weapon was changed for a conventional 12-pounder "Naval Landing Gun" though in practice a gun was never installed in the AD.1.
Initially the plane was to use Sunbeam Nubian engines, but this was delayed and Hispano-Suiza selected instead, though eventually the Sunbeam Nubian IIs of 150 hp were delivered in 1917.
Seven aircraft were ordered from J. Samuel White, but when the first one delivered was tested, it was found that its weight was higher than expected, its performance was unexpectedly poor and its undercarriage was not robust enough. Based on these findings, the contract for the remaining six aircraft was cancelled.
The Port Victoria P.V.2 was a British prototype floatplane fighter of the First World War, designed and built at the Royal Naval Air Service's Port Victoria Marine Experimental Aircraft Depot on the Isle of Grain. Only a single aircraft was built, with the type not being chosen for production.
The Port Victoria Depot's second design, designated Port Victoria P.V.2 was a floatplane fighter intended to intercept German Zeppelins. The P.V.2 was a small single engined biplane, powered by a Gnome Monosoupape rotary engine driving a four blage propellor. It was of wood and fabric construction, and of sesquiplane configuration, i.e. with its lower wing much smaller than its upper wing (both of which used the high-lift wing sections pioneered by the P.V.1). Unusually, the aircraft's wing bracing struts also carried the aircraft's floats, forming a "W" shape when viewed from the front. The upper wing was attached directly to the top of the fuselage, giving a good field of fire for the intended armament of a single 2-lb Davis gun recoiless gun.
The P.V.2 first flew on 16 June 1916, and demonstrated good performance and handling. The upper wing, however, while giving excellent upwards view to the pilot, gave a poor downwards view of the pilot, particularly during landing, while the Davis gun had lost favour with the Admiralty as an anti-Zeppelin weapon. The P.V.2 was therefore rebuilt as the P.V.2bis with a revised, longer span upper wing mounted 12 inches (0.30 m) above the fuselage and the Davis gun replaced by two Lewis guns mounted above the wing, firing over the propellor. The modified aircraft first flew in this form in early 1917.
While the P.V.2bis again showed excellent handling, the RNAS's requirement for a floatplane anti-Zeppelin fighter had lapsed, and no production was ordered.
The Fairey Campania two-seat seaplane got its name from the ex-Cunard ocean liner Campania which the Admiralty had converted into a seaplane carrier during the winter of 1914-15.
Fairey designed the Campania floatplane in response to the Royal Navy's specification for a purpose-built, two-seat patrol and reconnaissance aircraft. The initial prototype first flew on 16 February 1917. This was the first of two prototypes, designated F.16 which was powered by a 250 hp (190 kW) Rolls-Royce Eagle IV. The second prototype was powered by a 275 hp (205 kW) Eagle V engine, it was designated F.17. Both prototypes would later see active service operating from Scapa Flow.
Production aircraft, powered by a 186.3kW Sunbeam Maori II or 186.3-257kW Rolls-Royce Eagle engine, entered service in 1917 and eventually operated as armed-reconnaissance aircraft from the carriers Campania, Nairana and Pegasus and from coastal bases until the Armistice, thereafter also seeing action in Russia. A total of about 60 Campanias were built from the contracts placed with Fairey (f50 aircraft in two batches), Barclay Curie and Company (50) and Frederick Sage and Company / Sunbeam Motor Car Company (70).
Shortly after the Depot initiated work on the P.V.4, it was asked to develop a single-seat fighter seaplane also capable of performing light bombing tasks with two internally-stowed 30kg bombs. To meet this requirement, two different aircraft were designed and built, the P.V.5 and the P.V.5a. The former was developed from the P.V.2bis and employed a similar sesquiplane wing cellule devoid of flying wires and braced by struts to the float undercarriage. The wings employed a high-lift aerofoil section, the armament comprised a single synchronised 7.7mm machine gun plus the two 30kg bombs specified and power was provided by a 150hp Hispano- Suiza engine. Fitted with pontoon-type floats rather than the Linton Hope floats for which it had been designed, the P.V.5 was flight tested in mid-1917 with promising results, but the original requirement had been overtaken and development was discontinued.
The Port Victoria P.V.9 was a British single-seat biplane floatplane fighter of the First World War. Although claimed to be the best aircraft of its type yet to be tested, only a single prototype was built.
In mid-1917, the RNAS Marine Experimental Aircraft Depot at Port Victoria on the Isle of Grain was instructed to build a new single-seat floatplane fighter as a possible replacement for the Royal Naval Air Service (RNAS)'s Sopwith Babys. The new aircraft was to combine the good manoeuvrability and pilot view of Port Victoria's earlier P.V.2 floatplane with superior speed.
Like the P.V.2, the new design, the Port Victoria P.V.9 was a single-engined sesquiplane (i.e. a biplane with its lower wing much smaller than its upper wing) braced with faired steel tubes. The fuselage, wider than that of the P.V.2, was mounted between the upper and lower wings, almost filling the inter-wing gap, giving an excellent view for the pilot. Armament was a Vickers machine gun synchronised to fire through the propeller disc, with a Lewis gun mounted above the upper wing firing over the propeller. Power was provided by a Bentley BR1 rotary engine. While the designers had hoped to use the same high-lift aerofoil section as used in the P.V.2, this was rejected by the Admiralty, who demanded the use of the more conventional RAF 15 aerofoil, which resulted in a larger aircraft with a reduced climb rate and ceiling.
The P.V.9 made its maiden flight in December 1917, but trials were delayed by engine troubles and by a collision of the aircraft with a barge, which resulted in a propeller not matched properly to the aircraft being fitted, further reducing performance. Despite this, when the P.V.9 was officially tested in May 1918, the P.V.9 was said to be the best seaplane fighter tested up to that time. No production followed, however, as the availability of Sopwith Pup and Camel landplanes which could operate from platforms aboard ships, removed the requirement for a floatplane fighter.
The Short Type 320, also known as the Short Admiralty Type 320 was a British two-seat reconnaissance, bombing and torpedo-carrying "folder" seaplane designed by Short Brothers.
The Short Type 320 was designed to meet an official requirement for a seaplane to carry a Mark IX torpedo. Larger than the earlier Short 184 it was a typical Short folder design of the time, with two-bay uneven span wings. Two prototypes were built powered by a 310 hp Sunbeam Cossack engine, and initially known as the Short 310 Type A from the engine fitted to the prototypes. When the torpedo bomber went into production it was powered by a 320 hp (238kW) Cossack engine which was the origin of the name the Type 320.
At the same time as Shorts were designing the 310 Type A torpedo bomber, they produced a similar design for a patrol floatplane, powered by the same Cossack engine and using the same fuselage, but with equal span three-bay wings instead of the uneven span wings of the torpedo bomber, known as the Short 310 Type B or North Sea Scout, with two prototypes ordered.
Priority was given to the torpedo bomber, the first being ready in July 1916 and the second in August that year, with the prototypes being rushed to the Adriatic The first prototype patrol aircraft was finished in September 1916, but proved to be little better than the Short 184 already in service, and was not ordered into production. The second prototype Type B was completed as a type A torpedo bomber.
A conventional biplane floatplane the torpedo was carried between the bottom of the fuselage and the floats. Unusually the aircraft was flown from the rear cockpit although this did cause a problem for an observer in the front seat. The observer had to stand on the coaming to use the machine-gun which was level with the top wing. When a torpedo was carried the aircraft could not fly with an observer at the same time.
The first order placed with Shorts was for 30 aircraft, followed by orders for a further 24 and 20 aircraft, together with orders for a further 30 and 20 placed at Sunbeam. Together with the three prototypes, this gave a total production of 127 Short Type 320s.
Twenty-five aircraft were ordered in February 1917 and examples were delivered to the Royal Naval Air Service in Italy before the end of April 1917. Two accidents with the aircraft when the fuselage collapsed after the torpedo was released delayed the use of the aircraft on operations. The cause was later found to be the method of securing the fuselage bracing wires.
The first operational use was on 2 September 1917 when six aircraft (five with torpedoes and one with bombs) were towed towed on rafts fifty miles south of Traste Bay to enable them to attack enemy submarines lying off Cattaro. They had to be towed into position as they could not carry enough fuel and a torpedo for the mission. The operation did not go well; with a gale force wind and heavy seas two of the aircraft failed to take off so the operation was abandoned. On the return journey one aircraft was lost and the others were damaged. It appears that the Type 320 never launched a torpedo in action.
Due to the lack of operational experience in February 1918 four aircraft were operated from Calshot for experiments with launching the torpedoes. Forty drops were made and proved a valuable source of information about torpedoes entering the water when dropped at different heights and speeds. The aircraft continued to be used as a reconnaissance seaplane until the end of the war.