Supermarine
Air Yacht

A three-engined luxury flying boat with an unlucky career.
The Supermarine Air Yacht G-AASE on its beaching trolley The Supermarine Air Yacht G-AASE on its beaching trolley

 

The Supermarine Aviation Works Air Yacht was designed by the 'Father of the Spitfire' RJ Mitchell.
 
It was a three engine, high wing monoplane with a flying boat hull, stabilised laterally by extended hull sponsons and thereby resembling the German Dornier Wal design.
 
It was built at the Supermarine Aviation Works at Woolston  for the Hon. AE Guinness (a member of the Guinness brewing dynasty). Guinness intended on using it for pleasure cruises around the Mediterranean, replacing his Supermarine Solent flying boat and it was based on a monoplane version of a 1927 design to meet the requirements of specification R4/27 for a reconnaissance flying boat for the Royal Air Force.
 
The prototype (G-AASE) was furnished and equipped to a luxury standard. Sadly however, when it first flew in 1931, it was found that the aircraft's maximum speed and performance was well below requirements.
 
Initially powered by three Armstrong Siddeley Jaguar engines (these were later replaced by the more powerful Armstrong Siddeley Panther IIAs), performance following the loss of one engine remained marginal and the aircraft failed to maintain the necessary altitude required for safe flight.

 

The aircraft contained an individual cabin for its owner (complete with toilet, bath and bed) plus seating for 5 additional guests. It featured a galley with full-cooking facilities beneath the wing, deep-pile carpets and settees, plus the luxury of electric lighting throughout. The aircrew meanwhile, were accommodated outside in an open cockpit within the upper nose of the aircraft.

 

Guinness decided not to proceed with his order, opting for the SARO Cloud instead. After a period of storage, an American eccentric aviation and motorboat enthusiast (Mrs June James) purchased the Air Yacht in October 1932. 

 

Mrs James came as a 'bit of a shock' for Supermarine, who were more used to dealing with pragmatic, long-winded negotiations with national governments. She could not understand that having seen the aircraft and decided to purchase it that she could not simply take it with her there and then. It took Chief Test Pilot Henri Biard some time to explain that the aircraft was being serviced at the time and that not only that the tide was out. She would have none of it and could not understand why the 12-ton aircraft could not be simply lifted out of the workshops by the Supermarine engineers and placed in the water ready for take-off!

 

Christened 'Windward III, the aircraft eventually left Woolston later that month, bound for a direct flight tp Egypt.

 

This was the first ‘cruise’  for the aircraft and it was not an resounding success. After landing at Cherbourg in worsening weather and after spending three hours on a very rough mooring, Mrs James and her passengers were taken to a suitable hotel ashore.

 

Eventually and upon reaching Naples in January 1933, the aircraft suffered an accident during take-off near Capri, resulting in a broken wing. Whilst thankfully there were no serious casualties, the aircraft was salvaged and finally beached. It never flew again and was sold for scrap a year later.

 

Specification


Powerplant Three 525 hp Armstrong Siddeley Panther IIA engines 
Span 92 ft 0 in
Maximum Weight 23,348 lb
Capacity  Four crew and six passengers
Maximum Speed 117.5 mph

 

Number built


 1        Sole example G-AASE

 

Survivors


None       Destroyed in accident