The Short Solent flying boat was designed by Short Brothers and Harland and first flew on 11 November 1946. Powered by four Bristol Hercules engines, it could seat 36 to 44 passengers in day configuration, and 24 when using sleeping berths on overnight flights. Solents were built at Rochester in Kent, with some also being manufactured at Queens Island in Belfast.
With a still air range of up to 4,830km (3,000 miles) and a cruising speed of 393km/h (244mph) long flights proceeded at a stately pace. BOAC flights from Southampton to Johannesburg operated thrice weekly and took four days including overnight stops. A far cry from todays 11 hours!
Short Solent Flying Boat Video
Following on from the last video about the American Airlines Vultee V-1, this time we head over to the UK for a look at the Short Solent flying boat. First up is an excellent film produced showing TEAL Solents, which runs for just over four minutes. TEAL, by the way, is short for Tasman Empire Airways Limited, which today is better known as Air New Zealand.
This fantastic presentation gives a real feel for the services, with great air to air footage and some from the cabin and cockpit. The water streaming across the window during take-off is something unique to flying boats and something rarely seen today. There is colour footage from two minutes in.
TEAL used the Solent on their famous Coral Route, which was from Auckland to Papeete in Tahiti, via Suva in Fiji and Aitutaki in the Cook Islands. The first service took place on 27 December 1951 and was originally once a month, but it proved popular and became twice monthly. Apia in Samoa was added as a stop in 1952.
It looks like everyone is travelling in style and the meals look quite hearty and filling. I’m quite jealous as I would have loved to experience something like this.
One More Short One
Next up is a short newsreel produced by British Pathé from 1949 that runs for 49 seconds. It shows one of the aircraft landing on the Thames in London, an unusual event. I do wonder if it was the last time this occurred, as flying boats didn’t last much longer in the UK.
The interior of the Solent was divided into cabins, with four on the lower deck and two on the upper deck. These could carry six or four, depending on whether it was a daytime or nighttime service. There was also a kitchen and lounge/dining room upstairs, with dressing rooms and toilets on the lower deck. Definitely different to today!
Just 16 Short Solent flying boats were produced and BOAC only operated theirs from 1948 until 10 November 1950. TEAL operated five aircraft from 1949, with their final service taking place on 14 September 1960. You can read more about their boats here.
Trans-Oceanic Airlines in Australia ran services from 1951 to 1953, and Aquila Airways in the UK used them from 1952 to 1958. Coincidentally, the end dates for the Solent at these carriers was also when the airlines ceased operations. There are two preserved Solents, one at the Oakland Aviation Museum in California and one at the Museum of Transport and Technology in Auckland, so you can still see one today.
Have you ever been on a flying boat before or even a Short Solent? What did you think of the videos? Thank you for reading and if you have any comments or questions, please leave them below.
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Featured image via MOTAT.