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World's First Seaplane Contest - History


In the first of its kind contest, held in Monaco planes were required to land and takeoff in calm and choppy waters. Contestants received extra points for taking passengers. The winner was Belgiums Juls Fischer, flying a Henry Farman aircraft.


Wilbur Wright was born on April 16, 1867, near Millville, Indiana. He was the middle child in a family of five children. His father, Milton Wright, was a bishop in the Church of the United Brethren in Christ. His mother was Susan Catherine Koerner. As a child Wilbur’s playmate was his younger brother, Orville Wright, born in 1871.

Did you know? Neither Wilbur nor Orville attended college, but their younger sister Katherine did.

Milton Wright’s preaching took him on the road frequently, and he often brought back small toys for his children. In 1878 he brought back a small model helicopter for his boys. Made of cork, bamboo and paper, and powered by a rubber band to twirl its blades, the model was based on a design by the French aeronautical pioneer Alphonse Pénaud. Fascinated by the toy and its mechanics, Wilbur and Orville would develop a lifelong love of aeronautics and flying.

Wilbur was a bright and studious child, and excelled in school. His personality was outgoing and robust, and he made plans to attend Yale University after high school. In the winter of 1885-86, an accident changed the course of Wilbur’s life. He was badly injured in an ice hockey game, when another player’s stick hit him in the face.

Though most of his injuries healed, the incident plunged Wilbur into a depression. He did not receive his high school diploma, canceled plans for college, and retreated to his family’s home. Wilbur spent much of this period at home, reading books in his family’s library, and caring for his ailing mother. Susan Koerner died in 1889 of tuberculosis.

In 1889 the brothers started their own newspaper, the West Side News. Wilbur edited the paper, and Orville was the publisher. The brothers also shared a passion for bicycles- a new craze that was sweeping the country. In 1892 Wilbur and Orville opened a bike shop, fixing bicycles and selling their own design.


World's First Championship Jackrabbit Roping

Contest began as “hare-brained” publicity stunt during 1932 annual Odessa Rodeo. Held at 3rd and Grant Street site despite objections from out-of-town do-gooders. Local sheriff opposed event but mayor and judge ruled no violation of Texas law. Cowgirl Grace Hendricks roped rabbit from horseback in five seconds flat winning over numerous male competitors. Notorious contest revived in 1977 causing coast-to-coast outcry. Midland animal lover delayed action by liberating captive jackrabbits. Event proceeded on schedule when former prisoners returned at feeding time. Seven ropers competed on foot. Jack Torian placed first with a six second scamper. In 1978 Humane Society blocked all future ropings with court order.

Erected 1990 by Heritage of Odessa Foundation. (Marker Number 12.)

Topics. This historical marker is listed in this topic list: Animals. A significant historical year for this entry is 1932.

Location. 31° 50.986′ N, 102° 22.465′ W. Marker is in Odessa, Texas, in Ector County. Marker is at the intersection of West 8th Street and North Sam Houston Avenue, on the right when traveling west on West 8th Street. Marker is on the northeast corner. Touch for map. Marker is in this post office area: Odessa TX 79761, United States of America. Touch for directions.

Other nearby markers. At least 8 other markers are within walking distance of this marker. The Jackrabbit (here, next to this marker) Ector County Public Schools


The first US Air Meet, 1910

An advertisement for the first Aviation Meet in America featured a variety of flying machines.

Viewing the aeroplane for the first time

Fans attended the first major International Air Meet at Reims, France, in August 1909, with close to 500,000 spectators. It set the standard for all future air shows of the time. To meet the challenge, they built special grandstands, numerous restaurants, a barbershop, and even press facilities. The main drawing card was the Gordon Bennett Cup Race (speed contest). In the end, a handful of Americans cheered their countryman Glenn Curtiss to a six-second victory in the Gordon Bennett Cup (46.77 mph). The race, and the entire Reims meet, was a huge success and helped establish air meets as an international spectator sport for fans and dignitaries of Europe and the US.

Challenged by the Reims Meet, Albert Bond Lambert (St. Louis Lambert International Airport namesake), who attended the event in France and was a leading St. Louis industrialist and aviation enthusiast, offered Glenn Curtiss a guarantee of $5,000 (2013 – $122,000) to fly his Gordon Bennett Trophy winner, the “Golden Flyer,” at the Airship Show in St. Louis, October 1909. Curtiss, who was the fastest man in the air (47 mph at Rheims) and the fastest man on the ground (motorcycle at 136.27 mph at Ormond Beach, Florida, in his own V8 engine design), accepted the challenge and proceeded to St. Louis in late fall for the St. Louis Centennial Week exhibition. Thousands of St. Louis citizens turned out to watch Glenn Curtiss in his Reims racer–the “Celebrity of the New Air Circuits.” At the time, the newspapers were full of headlines of the Wright Brothers suing all the pilots (worldwide) and air meets for infringement of their patents, as they felt they owned the rights to the all the flying experiences.

The public’s aviation interest at St. Louis and at Reims inspired a group of aviators at St. Louis, including Curtiss, to get together to discuss how they could capitalize on the growing interest in aviation. They decided to hold a world-class air meet of their own, in the style of Reims, in the United States as soon as possible. It would be an “International Event,” featuring the best aviators from around the world. With winter on the horizon, Los Angeles was their choice of location. At that time, Curtiss was considering the West Coast as a potential site for his winter flying as Hempstead Plains, Long Island, New York proved to be impossible with the northern winters and the winds.

In October 1909, airship (not aeroplane) pilot Roy Knabenshue, from Toledo, Ohio, and Charles Willard, the first man Curtiss taught to fly, met and decided to use Southern California as a winter base for their aerial demonstrations. To reinforce the event’s “international” billing, French aviator Louis Paulhan, a notable from the 1909 Reims Meet, was invited. He took part in many air meets, including Douai in July 1909, where he set new records for altitude (492 ft) and duration (1h 07m), covering 47 km, and the Grande Semaine d’Aviation in Rheims. In Lyon, flying a Farman, he broke three records: height at 3,036 ft, speed of 12 miles in 19 minutes and weight, carrying a 160 lb passenger. Paulhan was guaranteed a small sum of money as encouragement to attend the Los Angeles meet. They then persuaded railroad magnate Henry Huntington to pledge $50,000 (2013- $1,170,000). The Wrights refused to partake in the flying event due to Sunday flying and the non-competitive spirit.

Glenn Curtiss flying over the crowds.

Hence, with the help of Dick Ferris (LA promoter), Henry Huntington (LA railroad owner), Los Angeles Merchants and Manufacturing Association, all the major cities of the West Coast, plus William Randolph Hearst (Los Angeles Examiner owner and aviation fan), they decided to move ahead and a few months later, Los Angeles hosted the “First American Air Meet.”

The first major U.S. aviation meet took place at Dominguez Field, just 15 miles south of Los Angeles, from January 10-20, 1910. The first location considered was a field in Santa Anita, but physical obstructions such as tall trees led the aviators to search for another site. About a month before the January start date, Dominguez Field was agreed upon. The Dominguez family donated the property for the event as it was a former battle area from the Mexican War. This field was located on the top of a small hill in land once a part of the Rancho San Pedro, an early Spanish land grant and could not be viewed by non-paying attendees as Rheims was.

Arriving from the Rose Parade in Pasadena, Curtiss agreed to the plan, though he had no intention of using the Meet to defend the Bennett Trophy he captured at Rheims that race would be months (October) away and held in New York at Belmont Race Track however, he believed more money was to be made than in California. Curtiss was looking for winter quarters somewhere in the warmer climate of Southern California. He made several inquiries during the Dominguez Meet and residents from both Los Angeles and San Diego made inviting offers. The greatest inducement came from the Spreckles Sugar Company, who offered some vacant land they owned in the San Diego area known as the North Island for a token rental fee of $1.00 per year.

Large crowds and aeroplanes awaiting takeoff.

All of the US states west of the Mississippi had been plastered with posters/brochures special trains from San Francisco, Arizona, San Diego, and St. Louis had all been booked. Trainloads of lumber were required for the building of 26,000 seats for the fans, along with electric lights for the tent city of aeroplane hangars. Auto roads for parking were constructed. At the Hotel Alexandria (pilots’ hotel) all the rooms were booked. Fifty thousand people were estimated from San Francisco, and all politicians had their schedules fixed. Huntington’s trains were designed to haul 600-800 people every two minutes. A full medical hospital staff was on duty along with a small army of special police (300 men under Sheriff Hammel) to keep the fans away from the aeroplanes, off the infield and to subdue pickpockets, a popular venue at the time.

Telegraph companies placed special wires in the reserved box seats to keep the world aware of the current events. The “Aviation Camp” was ready. The weather cooperated, with average winds of 3mph and temperatures of 65F during the day–significantly warmer then NYC which was hit on January 15th with 14″ of snow in a blizzard and several deaths.

Paulhan and Didier Masson were served Wright lawsuit papers as soon as they arrived at the port of New York City on January 3, 1910, as was Curtiss prior to his departure from New York. Judge Basel granted a temporary wavier for the flyers against the Wrights, just days prior to the meet, to allow for no restrictions at the Air Meet .

The plan unfolded to create the “1910 Los Angeles Air Show” with a circus-like atmosphere (literally). Spectators who got off one of Henry Huntington’s trolley cars and walked half a mile on the newly-built sawdust roads to the Aviation Field were met by sideshow barkers, a Ferris wheel and deep sea divers. Attractions (most from the Seattle World’s Fair the previous summer) also included conjoined twins Cora and Etta, who were dubbed the Human Biplane in honor of the occasion. Cash prizes were allotted for competitive events in altitude, speed, and endurance.

With Lincoln Beachey at the controls, a Curtiss design dashes past the crowd.

The spectators paid for a 35-cent train ticket (round trip󈞏 miles) and fifty cents for grandstand admission. All admission tickets had to be bought prior to boarding the train. Fourteen-year old Jimmy Doolittle attended, as well as William Boeing, Thaddeus Lowe, Pancho Barnes (Right Stuff fame), Glenn Martin and William Randolph Hearst. Contributing talks and aeroplane lectures were given at the YMCA and University. Cortland Bishop, President of the Aero Club of America, gave his approval for the advancement of aviation for this event. Each day was dedicated to “Special City Program,” from San Francisco to Arizona Day.

Curtiss made the first flight over California and the Pacific coastline in a new 4-cylinder which sounded like 100 motorcycles all set in motion at the same time. Spectator turnout numbered somewhere around 254,000 by most accounts for the full event (LA population at the time was 319,198). Although 43 flying machines were officially entered, only 16 showed up, and not all of them flew over the mile and three-quarters course, rolled perfectly flat for the aeroplanes’ takeoffs and landings. The Los Angeles Examiner called it “one of the greatest public events in the history of the West.” Gate receipts for the event totaled more than $137,500 at fifty cents per ticket (2013 – $3,217,500). In 1910, that number represented more than half of the population of Los Angeles and that does not include the attendees who didn’t pay for grandstand seats and a 125% return on investment for stakeholders.

The key participants included Glenn Curtiss, the American hero who had won the prestigious Gordon Bennett Cup at the Reims Race one year prior. Curtiss, a true American aviation pioneer and founder of the Curtiss Aeroplane and Motor Company, was most famous with his motorcycle speed records. On Jan 12th, Curtiss broke three world records in front of 20,000 spectators. C.F. Willard finished off Tuesday’s record with a perfect flight and landing score. Paulhan went on to capture the world altitude record for 4,165 ft off the ground. This earned him the San Diego Medal. Paulhan won the prize longest cross country flight the world had known to date: 1 hr 2 min, winning $10,000 (2013- $244,000). Curtiss still retained the speed record for the event at 55 mph.

Louis Paulhan making his record flight in his Henry Farman biplane.

Also featured were Charles Hamilton and Lincoln Beachey, (who were flying dirigibles at that time, and later would become America’s greatest early exhibition pilots) and Paulhan, who was the international star of the show. The Los Angeles Air Meet drew many other famous aviators, most of whom were American. Others included Roy Knabenshue, Charles Willard and Clifford B. Harmon, many of whom are listed among the Early Birds of Aviation. French aviators at the event included Paulhan and Masson. Strict rules were enforced that all the pilots had to fly either Monday or Tuesday to be considered for the prize monies for the remainder of the Meet.

Paulhan dominated the Dominguez meet financially and won the opening day prize of $500 ($12,200 in 2013) for “Best Opening Day Show.” Mr. Paulhan brought with him to the event two Bleriot Monoplanes, with Gnome engines, flown for the first time in the US and famed for its English Channel crossing in 1909, plus two Farman Biplanes, two student pilots, his wife and pet poodle from France (he employed eight mechanics). Consider the logistical issues of shipping these four aeroplanes and crew from Europe via ship and train and wagons to Los Angeles in an age with limited delivery service, no shipment tracking, and lack of telephones. The main line of communication was the telegraph. In addition, the poor quality of gasoline on the opening days caused excess engine maintenance and unexpected flight delays.

In 1908 the record altitude was 25 ft above the ground, and aircraft had just started to make turns. In 1909 at Rheims, the record was under 100 ft above the ground (1/3 football field) at 47 mph. By 1910 a new record was set: 10,746 ft above the ground (2 miles) and 55 mph with a companion by Curtiss at the LA Meet. Every day was a new record–on almost every flight.

First, Paulhan set a new flight endurance record by carrying a passenger almost 110 miles (177 kilometers) in his Farman biplane in 1 hour, 49 minutes. Then he went on to achieve a new altitude mark of approximately 4,164 ft. Later that year, Paulhan flew the “Le Canard,” the world’s first seaplane, designed by Henri Fabre in France. He also performed several aerial feats during the week, and near the end of the show carried U.S. Army Lieutenant Paul Beck aloft to perform one of the first aerial bomb dropping tests, using weights to simulate the bombs.

Nine famous aviators at Los Angeles (l to r): Hilary Beachey, Col. Johnson, Glenn Curtiss, Louis Paulhan, Charles Willard, Didier Masson, Lincoln Beachey, Roy Knabenshue and Charles Hamilton

Overall, Paulhan ruled the skies over Los Angeles, winning as much as $19,000 (2013 – $463,410) in prize money, but it seemed like Curtiss, a $6000 winner (2013- $146,000), grabbed all the headlines with the Wright lawsuit and their legal battle to fly and build aeroplanes on a worldwide basis.

At that same time promoters were staging the first international air shows, exhibition aviators were putting on their own demonstrations. Lincoln Beachey, the most inexhaustible daredevil of the early exhibition pilots, entertained more than 17 million people during a 31-week period in the 1910s. This is especially impressive, when one considers that the entire U.S. population at the time was only around 76 million.

As you think about this Air Meet, remember that in 1910, there were no parachutes, no heaters, no enclosed cockpits, no seat belts, no shoulder straps, no brakes, no deicing, no flying instruments and no radios, but there were poor performing engines, wood spars and cloth wings. By end of 1910 there were approximately 1000 men and women all over the world with pilot’s licenses. And yes, aeroplanes and air meets were here to stay.


India's 1st-ever seaplane services in action: 10 things to know about the flying machines

Image Source : INDIA TV

India's first-ever seaplane services in action from today: 10 things to know about the flying machines

India now has onboard its first-ever seaplane services in Gujarat today. Aimed at revolutionising the country's regional connectivity, the seaplane services were between Sabarmati Riverfront in Ahmedabad and the Statue of Unity in Kevadia by Prime Minister Narendra Modi. The flight was operated by SpiceJet's fully-owned subsidiary, Spice Shuttle. The service is expected to boost travel and tourism, and provide last-mile connectivity. Seaplanes are the perfect flying machines that can effectively connect the remotest parts of India to the mainstream aviation network without the high costs of building airports and runways, SpiceJet Chairman and Managing Director Ajay Singh said.


World's First Seaplane Contest - History

By William H. Langenberg

The first few years after World War II were challenging ones for the U.S. Navy. Massive demobilization of personnel and rapid scrapping or retirement of ships created internal disruptions. Formation of a new Defense Department, combined with sharp reductions in defense spending, led to bitter rivalries among the American military services, each seeking its proper share of increasingly limited resources. Birth of an independent Air Force eager to gain control over all airpower accelerated an internecine struggle with the Navy, leading to the sudden 1949 cancellation of a proposed new aircraft carrier, USS United States.
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In this milieu, the Navy faced a concurrent operational challenge: the adaptation of larger, heavier, and faster jet-powered aircraft to existing carriers that had supplanted battleships as primary projectors of naval power during the war. Senior naval aviators were concerned that the new supersonic jet aircraft, with their greater weight and higher takeoff and landing speeds, might not be able to operate safely from available carriers—or even new ones of any reasonable size. One theoretical solution was the Seaplane Striking Force (SSF), in which newly developed seaplanes and vertically launched and recovered aircraft would be unshackled from the need for land-based runways or large aircraft carriers.

As envisioned by Navy planners circa 1950, the SSF included as its primary strike weapons high-performance, four-engine, jet-powered seaplanes. These would be supported by a system of technologically advanced, water-based, or short takeoff and landing aircraft in defensive roles, large long-range flying boats for resupply, and relatively inexpensive surface ships and diesel-powered submarines as supporting tenders and refueling and maintenance stations. The centerpiece of the 1950s concept was the P6M SeaMaster flying boat, designed by the Glenn L. Martin Company of Baltimore. In support of the SeaMasters’ conventional or nuclear long-range attack mission were three aircraft proposed by Consolidated Vultee Aircraft Corporation of San Diego (Convair). These included the vertical takeoff and landing XFY-1 Pogo tail-sitter defensive fighter aircraft the F2Y-1 Sea Dart, an innovative delta-winged jet fighter that could take off and land from water and the R3Y Tradewind, a sleek, large, four-engine turboprop flying boat.

The Convair XFY-1 Pogo

The Convair XFY-1 Pogo was perhaps the least significant among the aircraft elements of the proposed SSF. Designed as a vertical takeoff and landing fighter that could operate from a relatively small platform ashore or on a ship, the Pogo would be a fighter liberated from the need for a land runway or aircraft carrier flight decks. It would ostensibly be used to flight decks. It would ostensibly be used to defend SSF forward operating bases and strike aircraft or convoys at sea. As originally designed by Convair, Pogo was an innovative tail-sitter with stubby delta wings and fins above and below the fuselage. Four small landing wheels were affixed to hydraulic pegs at the ends of the wing and vertical stabilizers.

The Pogo had three major flaws. First, the XFY-1 was powered by a huge turboprop engine in an era when American manufacturers were experiencing seemingly insoluble problems developing such engines with satisfactory power and reliability. The Pogo mounted the Allison YT40-A-16, which consisted of two coupled Allison T38 engines producing 5,500 estimated shaft horsepower driving two three-bladed, contra-rotating propellers. The propellers were intended to operate as helicopter rotors while the aircraft was in or near vertical mode during landings and takeoffs. Second, the vertical takeoffs and landings were foreign to pilots who were used to landing on runways or ships while flying forward with full view of the landing area and its periphery. Landings in particular were challenging and hazardous for fledgling pilots because a Pogo aviator had to land by looking over his shoulder or into rearview mirrors while descending to the pad. Third, even if the engine problems were resolved, maximum flight speeds for Pogo would barely exceed 550 miles per hour, far less than the speed of the new jet fighters deployed by the most probable enemy, Soviet MiGs. In addition, the relatively slow but lightweight Pogo lacked spoilers and air brakes and could not slow down efficiently after flying at high speeds.

Initial flight tests for the radical Pogo, perhaps unsurprisingly, were conducted indoors and tethered at Naval Air Station Moffett Field, California, in early 1954. Convair engineering test pilot and Marine reserve Lt. Col. James F. “Skeets” Coleman made the first untethered test flight at Lindbergh Field, San Diego, in August, reaching an altitude of 40 feet. Coleman continued takeoff and landing practice at Naval Auxiliary Air Station Brown Field, California, logging nearly 60 flight hours in 70 such drills, one of which attained an altitude of about 150 feet. In November, he became the first American pilot to finish a complete flight in the aircraft. He executed a vertical takeoff in Pogo, transitioned to horizontal flight over San Diego for about 20 minutes, then landed vertically within a square measuring 50 feet on each side. Attesting to the difficulty of flying the aircraft, Coleman was awarded the 1954 Harmon trophy, given annually to the world’s outstanding aviator.

During its brief career, the sole experimental Pogo logged only about 80 flights. By late 1954, it had become obvious that the aircraft would never overcome its three major problems. The XFY-1 program was terminated by the Navy in August 1955. Convair continued briefly with limited testing of the aircraft, which was grounded for good in November 1956. The single prototype of the unsuccessful Pogo was later transferred to the National Air and Space Museum at Suitland, Maryland, where it currently remains.

In August 1959, the Navy permanently cancelled development of the SeaMaster, effectively ending its expensive Seaplane Striking Force program.

The XF2Y-1 Sea Dart

In early 1948, the Navy initiated a design contest for a high-performance, supersonic seaplane fighter that could operate from forward areas without the need of either carriers or land air bases. Convair entered the contest in October 1948 via its proposal for a delta-winged design with streamlined hull that rested on the water and rose up on a pair of retractable hydro-skis for takeoffs and landings. After two years of extensive testing and empirical revisions of seaplane designs, Convair was awarded a contract in January 1951 for two prototypes, which were assigned the designation XF2Y-1, Sea Dart, and became an essential element of the SSF concept. The Sea Dart was to be powered by two afterburning Westinghouse J46 jet engines, providing 6,000 pounds of thrust each, fed by a pair of air intakes mounted high on the sides of the fuselage above the wing and behind the cockpit. This configuration was chosen to prevent water spray from entering the intakes during takeoffs and landings. The plane was fitted with a set of dive brakes on the lower rear fuselage, which also doubled as water brakes and rudder while taxiing on the surface.

Sea Darts took off and landed on a pair of retractable hydro-skis that extended outward on hydraulic legs from recesses cut into the lower hull, one ski on each side of the hull. The Navy had such confidence in the design that it ordered 12 production F2Y-1 aircraft in August 1952. Pending the availability of the J46 jets, the first prototype XF2Y-1 was fitted with two non-afterburning Westinghouse J34 engines providing only 3,400 pounds of thrust each. Initial flight tests in April 1953 revealed that the aircraft was severely underpowered for its weight. In addition, the hydro-skis vibrated so much during takeoffs and landings that the aircraft was extremely difficult to control. To cure the vibration problem, the skis were redesigned and their hydraulic legs improved. But inadequate thrust and seemingly insoluble vibration problems with the hydro-skis continued to plague the Sea Dart. In October 1953, the Navy canceled the remaining XF2Y-ls.

The first of four contracted YF2Y-1 service test aircraft joined the program in early 1954. It was powered by a pair of afterburning Westinghouse J46 turbojets. In overall appearance, the YF2Y-1 was similar to the XF2Y-1 except for the revised nacelles housing more powerful J46 engines. Convair test pilot Charles E. Richbourg made the initial flight tests of this Sea Dart. In August 1954, at an altitude of 34,000 feet, he took the first YF2Y-1 through the sound barrier while in a shallow dive, making the Sea Dart the first and to date the only seaplane to go supersonic. Since the Sea Dart had been designed before the application of the fuselage area rule, the aircraft experienced high transonic drag and remained unable to exceed the speed of sound in level flight.

The Fatal End of the Sea Dart Program

By the fall of 1954, both the Navy and the manufacturer were confident that all three aircraft being developed by Convair were ready for a public demonstration of their capabilities. In November 1954 the Navy scheduled a daring but, in retrospect, premature flight demonstration in San Diego for all three aircraft. Invited for the performance were high-ranking Navy officers and Defense Department officials, Convair management and engineering personnel, and a large press contingent. The first act was performed by the XFY-1 at Naval Auxiliary Air Station Brown Field, where the experimental Pogo made a successful vertical takeoff, conversion to level flight, and safe vertical descent on its quadruple landing wheels. Following this performance, guests were transported to Convair’s seaplane ramp on San Diego Bay, where they were treated to an impressive flyby from the R3Y Tradewind.

The last scheduled activity on the public demonstration was a takeoff, flyby, and landing by the Convair YF2Y-l Sea Dart by veteran test pilot Richbourg. The Sea Dart made a spectacular takeoff run from the bay, and Richbourg retracted its skis immediately after liftoff. He then flew east of San Diego and turned back to perform a westerly flyby over the bay. The Sea Dart had reached about 500 knots over San Diego city hall when Richbourg fired the after- burners. The aircraft suddenly disintegrated, enveloped by a huge fireball, and plunged inverted into the bay near Convair rescue boats. Richbourg was killed by the impact and his body immediately recovered by frogmen. As a result of the disaster, all Sea Dart operations were temporarily suspended until a Navy accident board completed its investigation. In December 1954, the board concluded that the accident had been caused by pilot-induced longitudinal pitch oscillations and not any unique design deficiencies in the Sea Dart itself.

Even before the public fiasco at the YF2Y-1 flight demonstration, the Navy had been gradually losing interest in the Sea Dart project. Even with more powerful engines, the aircraft could not achieve supersonic speeds. Continuing problems with saltwater intrusion plagued the jet engines, and excessively vibrating water skis could not be corrected. As a consequence, the Navy canceled 10 of the 16 production aircraft in December 1953. All remaining six production F2Y-1s were canceled in March 1954. The fatal crash by Richbourg later that year, with the attendant bad publicity, put the quietus on further development, and the Sea Dart program was relegated to test status only. Operational testing of all Sea Darts ended in 1957.

The Convair XF2Y-1 Sea Dart takes off in the water on retractable skis. During its first public demonstration the plane disintegrated in mid-air, killing the pilot.

Flying Boats: The Tradewinds and the SeaMaster

The SSF featured the innovative Martin P6M SeaMaster flying boat as its principal strike weapon, one designed to operate from forward, mobile bases at sea, free of costly airfields or aircraft carriers. Two additional aircraft types were required to support the SeaMaster in the new weapons system. They included protective defensive fighters, as epitomized by the Convair XFY-1 Pogo and F2Y-1 Sea Dart. In addition, large, fast seaplanes acting as transport, supply, and refueling aircraft would be vital to support the SeaMaster strike element and mobile base components. The Convair R3Y Tradewind was developed to meet this demanding requirement.

R3Y Tradewinds were a derivative of the postwar XP5Y patrol flying boat, two of which were built by Convair in San Diego for the Navy. The XP5Ys featured a high-aspect-ratio wing and four complex turboprop engines driving six-bladed contra-rotating propellers. Delivered in 1950, these predecessor aircraft included a laminar flow wing mounted high on a sleek fuselage with a single-step hull. One of the two experimental test models crashed at sea in July 1953 from presumed engine failure. Shortly after this incident, the Navy terminated XP5Y tasking for maritime patrol and switched its mission to cargo and troop transport for the SSF.

The first of five sleek R3Y-1 Tradewinds, successors to the XP5Y flying boat, made its initial flight in February 1954. All armament and tail-plane dihedrals were deleted from the predecessor design. The new cargo and transport version had a cargo hatch 10 feet wide on the port side of the hull aft of the wing, and its engine nacelles were reconfigured for new Allison T-40-A-10 turboprop motors. These complex engines, driving two contra-rotating propellers through a gearbox, proved to be an Achilles heel for the R3Ys. The Tradewinds had a conventional two-step flying boat hull, without bulkheads above the cargo deck, thus opening up a vast interior storage space that could be configured in various ways. The R3Y-1 could seat 80 combat-equipped troops in rear-facing seats, carry 72 litter patients plus 12 attendants, or haul 24 tons of cargo—all in air-conditioned, pressurized comfort. In February 1955, one of the five R3Y-1s set a seaplane record that still stands it flew from the West to the East Coast at an average speed of 403 miles per hour.

“Flying LSTs”

Over the next two years, six improved R3Y-2 aircraft were delivered to the Navy they featured a clamshell cargo door on the front of the fuselage. This earned them the appellation of “Flying LSTs” because they included the same high-speed roll-on, roll-off cargo-handling capability employed by the Navy’s Landing Ship Tank. A serious operational problem arose with the clamshell front door version of the R3Y-2 aircraft. Pilots reported that it was almost impossible to hold the aircraft steady with only engine power while it was loaded and unloaded. This was a crucial shortcoming, as failure to hold steady might cause the aircraft to broach catastrophically in the surf. Three of the R3Y-1s and one R3Y-2 were later modified to become aerial tankers, essential for the fighter aircraft incorporated in the SSF. The converted R3Y-2 achieved fame in August 1956 by refueling four F9F Cougar fighter jets simultaneously, the first time such a feat had been accomplished.

In March 1956, all the R3Y-ls and R3Y-2s were placed under operational control of Navy transport squadron VR-2 at Naval Air Station Alameda, California. Apparently insoluble problems with the Allison turboprop engines continued. In-flight separations of the gearbox and propeller afflicted two different R3Y aircraft during test flights in May 1957 and January 1958. Financial constraints and repeated failures of the Allison turboprop engines resulted in the aircraft’s termination after only 11 had been delivered to the Navy. Transport squadron VR-2 was disbanded in April 1958. All remaining P5Y and R3Y aircraft were grounded later that year.

By the late 1950s, only the centerpiece of the SSF, the Martin P6M SeaMaster, remained under development. It too was experiencing severe problems with test-flight accidents, cost overruns, and seemingly interminable delays. The key to the SSF would be its own nuclearbomb-carrying strike aircraft, a jet-powered, fast, technologically advanced seaplane. Accordingly, it issued specifications for such an aircraft in April 1951. Design requirements for the new flying boat were stringent. To achieve them, a seaplane would require a performance equal to that of a land-based jet. The aircraft would need a bomb capacity of 14 tons, be able to attack targets 1,500 miles from its mobile base, and achieve speeds of 650 miles per hour during low-level attacks. The Navy selected Martin to build two prototype aircraft to these rigid specifications in October 1952, to be identified as XP6M-1s.

The two XP6M-1 prototypes were fitted with four Allison J71-A-4 turbojet engines mounted in pairs within four nacelles above the wing near its roots. Known as SeaMasters, the two aircraft had anhedral drooped wings, featuring 40 degrees of sweepback that ended in wingtip fuel tanks that also served as floats. The wingtip floats contained equipment that helped dock the aircraft. The SeaMaster had a pressurized cabin and a crew of four: pilot, copilot, navigator, and flight engineer. Its sole defensive armament was a pair of 20mm cannons mounted in a remote-controlled tail turret.

18 Aug 1954, San Diego, California, USA: “The Navy’s newest landing craft, the 80 ton turboprop seaplane, built by Convair, can support amphibious operations by taxiing to a beach after landing with 103 troops, guns, tanks, or cargo. The Navy will have a fleet of the bow-loading seaplanes in operation this year.”

Testing the SeaMaster

During flight testing in 1955, the initial prototype SeaMaster quickly revealed one obvious weakness. Its jet engines had been oriented parallel to the hull so that exhaust gases exited over the rear fuselage, thus scorching it in that area and limiting use of afterburners. Corrective action was taken on later P6M-1 and P6M-2 models, which mounted their four turbine nacelles in a toed-in manner so that jet exhausts were directed outboard of the rear fuselage. Other problems encountered by the first experimental XP6M-1 were unexplained vibrations throughout the hull, plus rear turret and rotary bomb rack malfunctions.

By late 1955, most problems with the XP6M-1 were determined to be curable, and the Navy assigned an evaluation team from its nearby Naval Air Test Center in Maryland to work with Martin during further development. In December 1955, a mixed crew of Martin and Navy personnel took one XP6M-1 up for a routine test flight. While descending at full power from 8,700 feet, the test aircraft suddenly exploded and disintegrated in the air, killing all four occupants.

The Navy immediately instituted an exhaustive accident investigation into the loss of the XP6M-1, concluding that the plane had experienced longitudinal divergence that tore the engines loose and caused the wings to fold entirely under the airplane before they broke away. The investigation could not ascertain the cause of the divergence but suggested that it might have been the result of a failure in the activator for the horizontal stabilizer. The Navy’s continued confidence in the SeaMaster program drove further development of the aircraft, and there was no cancellation of the contracted six YP6M-1 service evaluation planes. With surprisingly little delay, the remaining XP6M-1 resumed testing in May 1956. It was modified to include new flight instrumentation, plus ejection seats for all four crew members. During a flight test in November 1956, the aircraft again broke up in the air, although this time all crew members ejected safely. An investigation traced the cause to an error in the design calculation for the tail control system.

Throughout 1958, the YP6M-1s tested their mine-laying, bombing, navigation, and reconnaissance systems. The Navy proceeded with 24 production versions of the P6M-2s, the first of which was delivered by Martin early in 1959. These aircraft were powered by more powerful non-afterburning Pratt & Whitney J75-P-2 turbojet engines that permitted a substantial increase in gross weight for the aircraft. Since this meant the SeaMasters sat lower in the water, their wing anhedral was eliminated. The P6M-2s were also fitted with improved navigation and bombing systems, plus midair refueling probes. In this production version, the SeaMaster was an impressive weapon. It achieved the specified 650 miles per hour for on-the-deck attacks. But the aircraft also evidenced some unpleasant flight characteristics, such as rapid changes in directional trim, severe buffeting, and wing drop requiring high control inputs to counter. These defects were traced to larger engine nacelles required by the J75 engines. Other problems also became evident as testing continued, such as tip floats digging into the water during choppy seas and engine surges.

In August 1959, the Navy canceled further operational development of the SeaMaster program. By then, the modern equivalent of $2.5 billion had been spent on the SeaMasters, which had ballooned in cost and suffered numerous, still unsolved technological problems. The Martin P6M SeaMaster development joined the Convair Pogo, Sea Dart, and Tradewind programs as failed elements of the SSF.

The Carrier Wins Over the Seaplane Striking Force

In retrospect, while the SSF concept had its ardent and articulate advocates, it was probably never going to perform a primary role in the Navy’s nuclear strike mission. Jet aircraft and carrier advancements obviated the four aircraft conceived to implement the program, but it was also overtaken by extraneous worldwide events. Seaplane advocates in the Navy were far outweighed by senior carrier aviators, whose influence became dominant during the 1950s. Perhaps most important, the rapid development of ballistic missiles dramatically reduced the need for manned aircraft as delivery vehicles for nuclear weapons. The Seaplane Striking Force was a costly concept whose time never arrived.


From PS-1 to US-1

The PS-1 was a major success for Shin Meiwa, but the project proved controversial.

The sonar technology of the day prevented the PS-1 from tracking submerged targets from the air. To scan the water, the aircraft would have to land and use its dipping sonar. Repeated take-off and landing was fuel inefficient. And even though the PS-1 could carry 20 sonobuoys, new maritime patrol aircraft such as the Lockheed P-3 Orion could carry four times as many. It was inevitable, then, that the Defense Agency would decide to purchase the P-3 in 1980 and cancel plans for a PS-1 successor.

The PS-1 was also a costly experiment. Designing brand new aircraft, let alone producing them, is prohibitively expensive — particularly for small production runs. Shin Meiwa was already looking at how to milk the PS-1 even before the Defense Agency chose its successor.

One windfall was engineering know-how. The hydraulics and engine control technologies developed for the PS-1 fed back into company’s other enterprises. Shin Meiwa also managed to export its roll-dampening system back to Grumman and Martin.

The other way Shin Meiwa exploited its initial investment was by pursuing variants of the aircraft for other roles. Japan’s Albatross search and rescue fleet had been in service for over a decade by the time the PS-1 arrived, and Tokyo was searching for a replacement. Shin Meiwa stripped out the anti-submarine warfare equipment from the PS-1 and replaced it with rescue equipment and a greater fuel capacity to create the US-1 — Japan’s first amphibian.

That’s right. Despite being developed from the amphibious Albatross, the PS-1 had tricycle beaching gear that wasn’t strong enough to use for take-off and landing. The US-1, on the other hand, had a retractable water-tight undercarriage which allowed it to use Japan’s runways, so that rescued patients could be transferred to waiting ambulances.

The Defense Agency bought 20 US-1s, which began to enter service in 1975. Shin Meiwa supplied the last US-1 in 2004, and the type remains in service with the Maritime Self-Defense Force in 2015.

[caption align=”aligncenter” width=”680"]

The unique spray suppression deflectors are visible as the aircraft takes off at sea. JMSDF photo[/caption]


History of the Paper Airplane

Paper airplanes have a more noble and storied history that their slender, folded frames bespeak. Considered by most in modern times to be a child’s pursuit, the humble paper airplane has played an important part in man’s quest for flight.

The First Gliders and Research Models

The exact origins of paper airplanes are lost in the mists of ancient early civilization, but evidence points to folded paper gliders being developed and refined concurrently in Ancient China and Japan sometime around 500 BC. Though records point to increased and widespread manufacturing of these folded paper gliders for nearly a century after this period, no images or details remain regarding how they were constructed, or even what form these original paper aircraft took.

For over a thousand years after this, paper aircraft models were built and studied by the pioneers of powered flight in order to design larger machines. Leonardo da Vinci wrote of constructing a model plane from parchment, and using paper models to test his ornithopter and parachute designs.

A design for da Vinci’s Ornithopter.

The Dawn of Modern Aviation

In the late 19 th century, modern aviation pioneers such as Sir George Cayley, Clement Ader, Charles Langley, and Alberto Santos-Dumant would test their ideas with paper models to confirm (in scale) theories before putting them into practice with larger, heavier craft.

But perhaps the most significant and influential use of paper airplanes in aircraft design happened over a four-year period, from 1899 – 1903, in Dayton, Ohio. The Wright Brothers built many and varied paper models, and testing them in their homebuilt wind tunnel, gained a much greater understanding of the forces at play on an aircraft during flight. In particular, as the Wrights observed the forces produced by flexing and bending the wings on their paper models, they determined that control through warping of flight surfaces would be the most effective method, leading to their developing more refined aileron and elevator control surfaces*.

The Wright Brothers wind tunnel, in 1901.

Following the aviation explosion in the early 20 th century, paper airplane models remained a valuable testing asset, with Jack Northrop (a co-founder of the Lockheed Corporation) using them to test experimental new designs in the 1930s, and German designers Heinkel and Junkers using paper airplane models to establish basic performance and structural form in many important projects, such as the development of tactical bombers.

The Paper Aircraft of Today

Though the rise of technology dramatically lessened the overall use of paper models in testing, technology has given the paper airplane a new lease in life as a serious pursuit for aviation enthusiasts and model builders. With the widespread availability of CAD (Computer Aided Design) software, the rise of the Internet, and inexpensive printers allowing for accurate reproduction of the design parts, paper airplane designs have become both more complex, requiring precise cutting, folding and gluing, and more easily available to the public.

In fact, with the right design additions and material, people were able to dramatically increase the glide distance of these new craft by five or six times as much as the standard folded paper airplanes. Two people in particular stand out in the field of modern paper airplane design: Japanese Professor Yasuaki Ninomiya, and South African Professor E.H. Mathews.

In the 1980s, Professor Ninomiya started designing advanced paper airplanes, which he sold under the name ‘White Wings’. Originally an all paper design, these planes required patience and skill to assemble, eventually leading Professor Ninomiya to supplement the design with a balsa wood fuselage, which made construction easier. Among Professor Ninomiya’s innovations was creating the first paper models with a working propeller driven by airflow**.

At roughly the same time, Professor Mathews, a professor of Thermodynamics, published his first collection of high performance model paper airplanes, under the title ‘Paper Pilot’ (1984). The collection featured patterns of parts printed on lightweight cardstock, and was successful enough that Professor Mathews published additional volumes Paper Pilot 2 (1988), Paper Pilot 3 (1991), and 12 Planes for the Paper Pilot (1993). Among Professor Mathews’ more unique designs was the Papercopter, a stable model helicopter design using a trimmable annular ring with the body of the craft suspended below.

Paper Airplane World Records

As with most hobbies, there is a serious worldwide community of paper airplane enthusiasts, and they have, over the last three decades, set and re-set two records that are contained in the pages of the Guinness Book of World Records***. They are the ‘Distance’ and ‘Time Aloft’ records.

Aeronautical engineer Ken Blackburn held the ‘Time Aloft’ record for 13 years (1983 – 1996) and regained it once more in 1998 by keeping a paper aircraft (classified as a ‘glider’) aloft for 27.6 seconds. He held the record for another 12 years until in 2010, Takuo Toda, chairman of the Japan Origami Airplanes Association, broke Blackburn’s record by keeping a plane aloft for 27.9 seconds.

Takuo Toda, holder of the ‘Time Aloft’ paper airplane world record.

Two years later in 2012, Mr. Toda broke his own record, managing to keep his paper airplane aloft for 29.2 seconds! Below is a video of the world record setting flight:

Interestingly, this in not the only Guinness World Record held by a member of the Japan Origami Airplanes Association. On January 10 th , 2010, JOAA Instructor Fumihiro Uno set the record for Paper Aircraft Accuracy, by throwing a paper airplane into a bucket 13 consecutive times over a period of two and a half minutes, from a distance of 9 feet, 10 inches (3 meters). Here is a video of this strange record being set:

Joe Ayoob set the current world distance record of 226 feet (69.14 meters) throwing a paper airplane designed by aircraft designer John Collins, in February of 2012.

Joe Ayoob and John Collins, the ‘Distance’ paper airplane world record holders.

Below is a video of this incredible throw:

Paper Airplanes Take Flight… in Space?

A prototype paper plane passed durability tests in a wind tunnel, and JAXA, the Japanese space agency, considered launching planes from the International Space Station. This idea was put on hold by the prototypes developers Takuo Toda (aforementioned holder of the ‘Time Aloft’ world record) and Shinji Suzuki, an aeronautical engineer and professor at Tokyo University, when they realized it would be next to impossible to track the planes once released, if any of them were able to survive re-entry.

Interestingly, in February of 2011, 200 paper airplanes designed to maintain stable flight in winds of up to 100 miles per hour were launched from a weather balloon 23 miles above Germany. These planes, equipped with memory chips from which flight data could be downloaded, were found all over Europe, in North America, and even Australia!

Paper airplanes have played a unique and important role in the history of aviation, and should be paid proper respect. Also, they’re really fun to play with too. For anyone in the mood for a little fun, below is a standard airplane design which can have you flying your own craft in minutes. Enjoy, and next time May 26 th rolls around, fly a paper airplane in observance of the unofficial National Paper Airplane Day.

[EDIT: I previously had National Paper Airplane Day as June 21st, but reader Richard LeCour set me straight and provided the correct date of May 26th.]

* – Though first patented in 1868 by British scientist and inventor Matthew Piers Watt Boutlon, the Wright Brothers were granted a US Patent for the invention of a ‘system of aerodynamic control that manipulated an airplane’s control surfaces’ in 1906. This caused considerable litigation back and forth until the advent of World War 1 caused the US Government to step in and broker a legal resolution to the issue.

** – Professor Ninomiya’s first prop driven paper models were of the Cessna Skymaster and Piaggio P.136.

*** – The Guinness Book itself holds two world records: The best selling copyrighted book series of all time, and one of the most frequently stolen books from US Public libraries.

EDIT: In the comments section below, reader Kevin Saunders mentions the 1st International Paper Airplane Contest, and the accompanying publication, The Great International Paper Airplane Book. Though it was first published in 1971, those who are interested can still find and purchase a used copy through either Amazon or eBay.


1st Annual Photo Contest Prize Winners

Last May, we asked you to send us your best aerospace photographs, and wow, did you ever. By the close of our first photo contest, we had received more than 2,400 entries in four categories: Civilian, Military, Spacecraft, and People & Planes. Photographers submitted entries from across the United States and around the world, from Hong Kong to Mozambique to Macedonia. We received images of rocket launches, and the space shuttles being piggybacked to their new homes. We saw A-10s popping flares after refueling over Afghanistan, and World War II aircraft honoring veterans at air shows. There were photos of airliners landing and hot-air balloons rising. See finalists in the Civilian, Military, Spacecraft, and People & Planes categories here.

We now present the winners. Thank you to everyone who entered a photograph or voted for a favorite in our Readers’ Choice category. We hope these photographs inspire you to look up when you hear an airplane passing overhead or follow future rocket launches. And be sure to enter our 2014 photo contest.


Sea Dart: This Supersonic Seaplane Was Built to Make Aircraft Carriers RIP

In early 1948, the Navy initiated a design contest for a high-performance, supersonic seaplane fighter that could operate from forward areas without the need of either carriers or land air bases.

Here’s What You Need to Remember: The first few years after World War II were challenging ones for the U.S. Navy. Massive demobilization of personnel and rapid scrapping or retirement of ships created internal disruptions. The formation of a new Defense Department, combined with sharp reductions in defense spending, led to bitter rivalries among the American military services, each seeking its proper share of increasingly limited resources. Birth of an independent Air Force eager to gain control over all airpower accelerated an internecine struggle with the Navy, leading to the sudden 1949 cancellation of a proposed new aircraft carrier, USS United States.

In this milieu, the Navy faced a concurrent operational challenge: the adaptation of larger, heavier, and faster jet-powered aircraft to existing carriers that had supplanted battleships as primary projectors of naval power during the war. Senior naval aviators were concerned that the new supersonic jet aircraft, with their greater weight and higher takeoff and landing speeds, might not be able to operate safely from available carriers—or even new ones of any reasonable size. One theoretical solution was the Seaplane Striking Force (SSF), in which newly developed seaplanes and vertically launched and recovered aircraft would be unshackled from the need for land-based runways or large aircraft carriers.

As envisioned by Navy planners circa 1950, the SSF included as its primary strike weapons high-performance, four-engine, jet-powered seaplanes. These would be supported by a system of technologically advanced, water-based, or short takeoff and landing aircraft in defensive roles, large long-range flying boats for resupply, and relatively inexpensive surface ships and diesel-powered submarines as supporting tenders and refueling and maintenance stations. The centerpiece of the 1950s concept was the P6M SeaMaster flying boat, designed by the Glenn L. Martin Company of Baltimore. In support of the SeaMasters’ conventional or nuclear long-range attack mission were three aircraft proposed by Consolidated Vultee Aircraft Corporation of San Diego (Convair). These included the vertical takeoff and landing XFY-1 Pogo tail-sitter defensive fighter aircraft the F2Y-1 Sea Dart, an innovative delta-winged jet fighter that could take off and land from water and the R3Y Tradewind, a sleek, large, four-engine turboprop flying boat.

The Convair XFY-1 Pogo

The Convair XFY-1 Pogo was perhaps the least significant among the aircraft elements of the proposed SSF. Designed as a vertical takeoff and landing fighter that could operate from a relatively small platform ashore or on a ship, the Pogo would be a fighter liberated from the need for a land runway or aircraft carrier flight decks. It would ostensibly be used to flight decks. It would ostensibly be used to defend SSF forward operating bases and strike aircraft or convoys at sea. As originally designed by Convair, Pogo was an innovative tail-sitter with stubby delta wings and fins above and below the fuselage. Four small landing wheels were affixed to hydraulic pegs at the ends of the wing and vertical stabilizers.

The Pogo had three major flaws. First, the XFY-1 was powered by a huge turboprop engine in an era when American manufacturers were experiencing seemingly insoluble problems developing such engines with satisfactory power and reliability. The Pogo mounted the Allison YT40-A-16, which consisted of two coupled Allison T38 engines producing 5,500 estimated shaft horsepower driving two three-bladed, contra-rotating propellers. The propellers were intended to operate as helicopter rotors while the aircraft was in or near vertical mode during landings and takeoffs. Second, the vertical takeoffs and landings were foreign to pilots who were used to landing on runways or ships while flying forward with full view of the landing area and its periphery. Landings in particular were challenging and hazardous for fledgling pilots because a Pogo aviator had to land by looking over his shoulder or into rearview mirrors while descending to the pad. Third, even if the engine problems were resolved, maximum flight speeds for Pogo would barely exceed 550 miles per hour, far less than the speed of the new jet fighters deployed by the most probable enemy, Soviet MiGs. In addition, the relatively slow but lightweight Pogo lacked spoilers and air brakes and could not slow down efficiently after flying at high speeds.

Initial flight tests for the radical Pogo, perhaps unsurprisingly, were conducted indoors and tethered at Naval Air Station Moffett Field, California, in early 1954. Convair engineering test pilot and Marine reserve Lt. Col. James F. “Skeets” Coleman made the first untethered test flight at Lindbergh Field, San Diego, in August, reaching an altitude of 40 feet. Coleman continued takeoff and landing practice at Naval Auxiliary Air Station Brown Field, California, logging nearly 60 flight hours in 70 such drills, one of which attained an altitude of about 150 feet. In November, he became the first American pilot to finish a complete flight in the aircraft. He executed a vertical takeoff in Pogo, transitioned to horizontal flight over San Diego for about 20 minutes, then landed vertically within a square measuring 50 feet on each side. Attesting to the difficulty of flying the aircraft, Coleman was awarded the 1954 Harmon trophy, given annually to the world’s outstanding aviator.

During its brief career, the sole experimental Pogo logged only about 80 flights. By late 1954, it had become obvious that the aircraft would never overcome its three major problems. The XFY-1 program was terminated by the Navy in August 1955. Convair continued briefly with limited testing of the aircraft, which was grounded for good in November 1956. The single prototype of the unsuccessful Pogo was later transferred to the National Air and Space Museum at Suitland, Maryland, where it currently remains.

The XF2Y-1 Sea Dart

In early 1948, the Navy initiated a design contest for a high-performance, supersonic seaplane fighter that could operate from forward areas without the need of either carriers or land air bases. Convair entered the contest in October 1948 via its proposal for a delta-winged design with streamlined hull that rested on the water and rose up on a pair of retractable hydro-skis for takeoffs and landings. After two years of extensive testing and empirical revisions of seaplane designs, Convair was awarded a contract in January 1951 for two prototypes, which were assigned the designation XF2Y-1, Sea Dart, and became an essential element of the SSF concept. The Sea Dart was to be powered by two afterburning Westinghouse J46 jet engines, providing 6,000 pounds of thrust each, fed by a pair of air intakes mounted high on the sides of the fuselage above the wing and behind the cockpit. This configuration was chosen to prevent water spray from entering the intakes during takeoffs and landings. The plane was fitted with a set of dive brakes on the lower rear fuselage, which also doubled as water brakes and rudder while taxiing on the surface.

Sea Darts took off and landed on a pair of retractable hydro-skis that extended outward on hydraulic legs from recesses cut into the lower hull, one ski on each side of the hull. The Navy had such confidence in the design that it ordered 12 production F2Y-1 aircraft in August 1952. Pending the availability of the J46 jets, the first prototype XF2Y-1 was fitted with two non-afterburning Westinghouse J34 engines providing only 3,400 pounds of thrust each. Initial flight tests in April 1953 revealed that the aircraft was severely underpowered for its weight. In addition, the hydro-skis vibrated so much during takeoffs and landings that the aircraft was extremely difficult to control. To cure the vibration problem, the skis were redesigned and their hydraulic legs improved. But inadequate thrust and seemingly insoluble vibration problems with the hydro-skis continued to plague the Sea Dart. In October 1953, the Navy canceled the remaining XF2Y-ls.

The first of four contracted YF2Y-1 service test aircraft joined the program in early 1954. It was powered by a pair of afterburning Westinghouse J46 turbojets. In overall appearance, the YF2Y-1 was similar to the XF2Y-1 except for the revised nacelles housing more powerful J46 engines. Convair test pilot Charles E. Richbourg made the initial flight tests of this Sea Dart. In August 1954, at an altitude of 34,000 feet, he took the first YF2Y-1 through the sound barrier while in a shallow dive, making the Sea Dart the first and to date the only seaplane to go supersonic. Since the Sea Dart had been designed before the application of the fuselage area rule, the aircraft experienced high transonic drag and remained unable to exceed the speed of sound in level flight.

The Fatal End of the Sea Dart Program

By the fall of 1954, both the Navy and the manufacturer were confident that all three aircraft being developed by Convair were ready for a public demonstration of their capabilities. In November 1954 the Navy scheduled a daring but, in retrospect, premature flight demonstration in San Diego for all three aircraft. Invited for the performance were high-ranking Navy officers and Defense Department officials, Convair management and engineering personnel, and a large press contingent. The first act was performed by the XFY-1 at Naval Auxiliary Air Station Brown Field, where the experimental Pogo made a successful vertical takeoff, conversion to level flight, and safe vertical descent on its quadruple landing wheels. Following this performance, guests were transported to Convair’s seaplane ramp on San Diego Bay, where they were treated to an impressive flyby from the R3Y Tradewind.


Watch the video: Υδροπλάνο στην Λίμνη Παμβώτιδα Ιωάννινα Seaplane on Lake Pamvotis Ioannina (January 2022).