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 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, thereby resembling somewhat the German Dornier Wal design. It was built at Woolston  for the Hon. AE Guinness (a member of the Guinness brewing dynasty) for pleasure cruises around the Mediterranean, replacing his Supermarine Solent flying boat. 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 Air Yacht was registered G-AASE and furnished and equipped to a luxury standard. 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 as the aircraft failed to maintain  the necessary altitude for safe flight.


The aircraft contained an individual cabin for its owner (complete with toilet, bath and bed) plus seating for 5 additional guests, a galley with full-cooking facilities beneath the wing, deep plie carpets and settees plus the luxury of electric lighting throughout.  


The aircrew meanwhile, were accommodated in an open cockpit in the upper nose of the aircraft.


Guinness decided not to proceed with his order, opting for the SARO Cloud instead and after a period of storage an American, Mrs June James, an excentric aviation and motorboat enthusiast, 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.  


Mrs James could not understand that having seen the aircraft and decided to purchase it that she could not simply take it there and then.  It took Chief Test Pilot Henri Biard to explain that the aircraft was being serviced, not only that the tide was out - Mrs James would have none of it and could not understand why the 12-ton aircraft could not be simply lifted by the Supermarine engineers and placed in the water.


Christened 'Windward III, the aircraft left Woolston bound for Egypt later that month.


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


Eventually reaching Naples, the aircraft had an accident during take-off near Capri in January 1933, resulting in a broken wing. Whilst thankfully there were no casualties and although the aircraft was salvaged and beached, it never flew again and was sold for scrap.


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


None       Destroyed in accident