Allied Powers Flying Boats

British Flying BoatsBritish Roundel

Felixstowe F.3 N4258
Felixstowe F.3 N4258 – 1917
Rendered by Bob Pearson.

The Felixstowe F.3 was a British First World War flying boat designed by Lieutenant Commander John Cyril Porte RN of the Seaplane Experimental Station, Felixstowe the successor to the Felixstowe F.2

Italian Flying BoatsItalian Rondel

Macchi M.3 Flying Boat - 1916
Macchi M.3 Flying Boat – 1916

The Macchi L.3, or later Macchi M.3, was an Italian biplane flying boat developed from the earlier L.2. Over 200 M.3s were built and delivered to the Italian Navy and were used on a variety of missions which including bombing, reconnaissance, patrol and escort.

Russian Flying BoatsRussian Rondel

Grigorovich M-9 - 1916
Grigorovich M-9 – 1916

Grigorovich M-9 (alternative designation ShCh M-9, sometimes also Shchetinin M-9) was a very successful Russian World War I-era biplane flying boat, developed from the M-5 by Dmitry Pavlovich Grigorovich.

Central Powers Flying Boats

Austria-Hungian Flying BoatsAustrian Cross

Hansa-Brandenburg CC - 1915
Hansa-Brandenburg CC – 1915

The first Brandenburg flying-boat was the 3-seat flying boat developed by Ernst Heinkel from a Lohner design and built in small numbers for the German and Austro-Hungarian Navies in 1915.

German Flying BoatsGerman Cross

Hansa-Brandenburg W.20 - 1918
Hansa-Brandenburg W.20 – 1918

The Hansa-Brandenburg W.20 was a German submarine-launched reconnaissance flying boat of the World War I era, Ernst Heinkel designed and Hansa-Brandenburg began construction sometime late 1917, early 1918.Only three W.20s were built.

Table of Contents

Flying Boats: Overview

In a flying boat, the main source of buoyancy is the fuselage, which acts like a ship’s hull in the water. Most flying boats have small floats mounted on their wings to keep them stable. All large seaplanes have been flying boats, their great weight supported on their hull.

A flying boat is a fixed-winged seaplane with a hull, allowing it to land on water. It differs from a float plane as it uses a purpose-designed fuselage which can both float, granting the aircraft buoyancy, and give aerodynamic sheath. Flying boats may be stabilized by under-wing floats or by wing-like projections from the fuselage.

Flying boats were some of the largest aircraft of the first half of the 20th century, dwarfed in size only by bombers developed during World War II. Their advantage lay in using water for take-offs and landings instead of expensive land-based runways. Several examples of flying boats could be transported and launched by the usage of specially designed seperate wheeled carriages.

Their flexibility of operation made them the basis for international airlines in the mid-war period. They were also commonly used for maritime reconnaissance patrols, cargo transportation and air-sea rescue.


American Flying Boats

The craft class or type came about after The Daily Mail offered a large monetary prize for an aircraft with transoceanic range in 1914 prompting a collaboration between British and American air pioneers, resulting in the highly successful Curtiss Model H.

Curtiss Model F
Curtiss Model F-4 – 1913American Roundel

The Curtiss Models F made up a family of early flying boats developed in the United States in the years leading up to World War I. Widely produced, Model Fs saw service with the United States Navy under the designations C-2 through C-5, later reclassified to AB-2 through AB-5. Several examples were exported to Russia, and the type was built under licence in Italy.

Curtiss Model H-12
Curtiss Model H-12

The Curtiss Model H was a family of classes of early long-range flying boats, the first two of which were developed directly on commission in the United States in response to the £10,000 prize challenge issued in 1913 by the London newspaper, the Daily Mail, for the first non-stop aerial crossing of the Atlantic. As the first aircraft having trans-Atlantic range and cargo-carrying capacity, it became the grandfather development leading to early international commercial air travel, and by extension, to the modern world of commercial aviation. The last widely produced class, the Model H-12, was retrospectively designated Model 6 by Curtiss’ company in the 1930s, and various classes have variants with suffixed letters indicating differences.

Later Development

Following World War II, their use gradually tailed off, partially because of the investments in airports during the war. In the 21st century, flying boats maintain a few niche uses, such as for dropping water on forest fires and for air transport around archipelagos, wilderness access in wilder undeveloped territories such as lands north of South Dakota and roadless regions of Central Africa. Many modern seaplane variants, whether float or flying boat types are convertible amphibians-planes where either landing gear or flotation modes may be used to land and take off.