Short Sunderland flying boat, Profiles and Logos

Profiles and Logos

On 4 July 1936 the first of the civil Short S.23 C-Class flying boats made its first flight. In total 39 of these flying boats were built for Imperial Airways and Qantas. The militarised version of the civil flying boat flew little than a year later, in October 1937. The aircraft was designed to meet Specification R.2/33 which called for a 4-engined monoplane to succeed earlier biplane types like the Short Singapore. The prototype, with R.A.F. serial K4774, made its first flight on 14 October 1938 with John Parker as pilot, Harold Piper as co-pilot and George Cotton as flight engineer. The name selected for the aircraft was ‘Sunderland’. The aircraft was powered by four 950 hp Bristol Pegasus X nine-cylinder radial engines. After its first test flights its wings were adapted to give a slight sweep back and more powerful Pegasus XXII of 1010 hp were fitted before it was handed over for service trials. The first operational Sunderland, L2158, made its first flight on 21 April 1938.

The Sunderland could stay airborne as long as 14 hours with a crew of between 9 and 11, dependent on the number of Air Gunners. At its entry into service the Sunderland was the largest operational military flying boat in the world. Armed with in total seven riffle-calibre machine guns and with 900 kg of bombs or depth charges it was not only used for defensive patrol and search-and rescue missions at sea, but later also as an active U-boat hunter. Later versions would be armed with additional machine guns.

The Sunderland earned its German nickname ‘das fliegende Stachelschwein’ (the flying porcupine) because it could protect itself against other aircraft.

Post war, the Sunderland took part in the Berlin Airlift and was also used during the Korean War with the aircraft finally being phased out in 1961 when they were replaced by the Avro Shackleton. In all 777 Sunderland’s were built.