Flying Boats and Seaplanes: Passion or Just Perverse?

Airfix 1-72nd Short Sunderland III

For me flying boats and float planes are a passion! (You may have noticed??)

There is something about these aircraft that exude grace, power and reliability all wrapped up in a menacing package. Some like the Short Sunderland, Consolidated PBY5 Catalina and the Kawanishi H8K2 (Allied code name Emily) were accomplished killers. In the cases of the Sunderland and the Emily, were heavily armed and armour plated targets. The Emily having a massive total of five 20mm cannon (yes that’s FIVE!) and 4 303 calibre machine guns.

Some, like the German He115 and the Italian Cant Z506B, were effective torpedo and anti submarine platforms. Although not flying boats they were dedicated maritime airplanes. Both were bombers and shipping strike aircraft, although their speed made them vulnerable to single engine fighters they did have a reasonable defensive armaments. Unfortunately the more armaments you put in an airplane the more you degrade their performance leading to a catch 22 situation.

These aircraft also did duty as air sea rescue airplanes, the crews of these aircraft did not distinguish between friend or foe and rescued all in need. Not as altruistic as it might appear as an enemy flyer rescued was an experienced pilot or air crew no longer available to the enemy, as well as a rich source of intelligence. Not all flying boats were large, the Supermarine Walrus and Blohm und Voss were smallish but rugged aircraft. The Walrus being a navy co-operation aircraft, while the Bv138 was a reconnaissance platform with a reported internal bomb load of some 661 pounds, so either mines or depth charges could be carried. Others like the Catalina, Sunderland and H8k2 Emily had huge range.

Cant Z506B

They needed to as they had vast amounts of ocean to scour for signs of the enemy and engage him. The Catalina had a huge capacity to loiter while the H8K2 and Sunderland were shown respect because of their large defensive armaments. The Germans nick named the Sunderland the flying porcupine because of all her machineguns.


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Most combatant nations had them whether indigenous or imported, a few had many different types, like the Japanese. Being an island nation and reasonably isolated. Her conquests in the south pacific had little or no airstrips so flying boats and float planes were essential to the protection and resupply of her forces. The good allied designs (and a few of the axis) served on long and hard after the war not being retired till decades after the close of world war two. Some were military conversions of civilian types like the Short Sunderland which was a strengthened militarised version of the Short Empire class flying boat.

Blohm und Voss Bv 238

Few aircraft can match the majesty and grace of one of the large flying boat’s taking off from the water. The Germans built some of the largest flying boats, namely the Blohm und Voss Bv222 and Bv238 huge six engined giants. I must admit to loving the Bv222 Wiking, I have had it on my want list since Revell produced a kit of it in 1-72nd scale. Germany has a history of producing large flying boats the DoX prior to world war two and both Bv222 and Bv238 during. These flying boats were an exorbitant waste of limited resources and personnel built for a purpose that was rendered largely obsolete by the course of the war. They appear to me to be a part of the German philosophy that bigger is better.

So whether it had floats or a hydrodynamic hull with a planing step I love them all. I have a number to build for my RNZAF collection (of which I’ll describe in more detail in a later article). The RNZAF used a few types during world war two in the south west pacific area, from the old and war weary to the brand new.

Well that’s all for now!



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Avid WW2 aviation enthusiast and modeller. Been making model kits since age nine and I now model mostly ww2 model airplanes. (my wife is an understanding one!)

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