The Short Empire flying boat is a British designed aircraft which was in commercial service from 1937 to 1947. The airlines operating the aircraft were Imperial Airways, Qantas Empire Airways and TEAL. All three airlines are still with us today as British Airways, Qantas and Air New Zealand.
World War II resulted in many long runways being built on land which made the flying boat redundant as an airliner. Therefore it is a very interesting and short lived period in aviation history where the flying boat was queen of the sky.
The Qantas Flying Boat
This little video lasts for just over one minute and I learned the aircraft could carry 24 passengers and 1.5 tons of mail while cruising at 214 km/h over a 1,287km range.
What I really like about the video are the vintage shots of the aircraft in Australia. There is also a cute story about Qantas which is worth hearing. I doubt they could do that kind of thing with Qantas today!
Another Empire Flying Boat
British Pathé have a great online archive of original newsreels they have uploaded to YouTube. There are many shots of the exterior of the flying boat in this 48 second video and what is most surprising to me is how small it is. Compare the people in the boat to the aircraft.
Happily there are interior cabin shots including the meal service and the galley. I love how they are boasting about the fact it will take only “85 flying hours” to get from Australia to the UK. Considering the journey is about six weeks by ship, 85 hours is quite revolutionary by comparison.
Hooked? Here’s A Long One For You!
If those videos whet your appetite and you want more, the one below is for you. It’s called From Sea To Sky: The Story of the Flying Boats. Clocking in at just over an hour and a quarter, this documentary provides a very comprehensive look at the flying boat in Australia.
It covers pre-war, World War II and post-war service of the various types of flying boats, including the Catalina, Short Sandringham and others. If you don’t want to watch it, watch it for twenty seconds from the 6 minute 30 second mark.
It is a crying shame that no Short Empire flying boat exists today. The last one was scrapped in 1948 so there is no chance I will ever get to see one, let alone actually fly in one. It is an interesting period in aviation history that we should remember.
Of course, the American’s had some excellent flying boats too, but that is a post for another day. Thank you for reading and if you have any comments or questions, please leave them below.