After two posts about flying boats that just did. not. work, it’s kind of refreshing to be able to do a post about one that did.
Of course, the fact that it worked did not prevent it from being a complete failure; nevertheless, from a functional standpoint, it worked! The Saunders-Roe Princess is a flying boat that was actually a perfectly functional seaplane that did everything it was supposed to, and actually did it quite well.
But oh, how it did it is the thing that is most interesting! This was a six-prop, ten-engined plane, using turboprop engines. Yes, you’re reading that right. Now, technically, it is a ten-prop plane, because the inboard four propellors are contra-rotating, with each propellor powered by its own turboprop engine; the outboard two propellors are conventional turboprops. And what do you know, but it actually worked.
The plane was stable, it flew nicely, it had ample power — although revisions were waiting in the wings to equip it with more powerful engines — and could carry over 100 passengers in spacious comfort on two decks. The problem was that during its development, advances were made in aerodromes (later “airports”) and runways became more available. In addition, long-range jetliners quickly started to show up on the scene, and the need for a large, luxurious, flying ocean liner gradually dried up.
Many companies considered buying the Princesses as cargo planes — including NASA and Airbus — but in the end they were just found to be obsolete. At one point, the USAF considered experimenting with them to outfit them with nuclear powerplants, but even this project proved fruitless. Just think: these luxury liners almost became a delightful crossover between all the different posts we’ve touched on in the last two weeks.
Instead, they simply became scrap, as happens all too often with anything truly interesting in the world of aeronautics.
[Editor's Note: Since many of our American writers are off shopping celebrating Thanksgiving a month late, content will probably be light for the next few days. We wish you all a very happy shopping experience holiday, and hope you and your loved ones have a great weekend.]