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17thfabn
Ohio OH USA
Posts: 135
Joined: 2008
Float Planes & Sea Planes
1/4/2020 9:07:29 PM
The heyday of float planes and their bigger cousins the Sea Planes was World War II.

During World War II Float Planes in the USN they were mainly carried by cruisers and battleships. Other navies also carried them on battleships and cruisers. The Germans also had them on of some their commerce raiders. And some nations had the few oddball submarine aircraft carriers. And some operated from harbors. If equipped with wheels they could also operate from run ways. From ships they would be launched from catapults.

The bigger Sea Planes operated from bases and could take off from runways or the water. The USN and some other navies had Sea Plane Tenders. The Sea Plane Tenders supported Sea Planes, providing them maintenance supplies and fuel.

In how heavy seas (sea state) could Sea Planes and Float Planes take off and land in?

I have seen accounts of Sea Plane Tenders setting up in atolls to give a sheltered area to launch their seaplanes.

I have also seen lots of accounts float planes in the Pacific Theater. Not near as many in the Atlantic.

Float Planes would have been handy during the early days of the battle of the Atlantic. In the period before widespread use of escort carriers in the Mid Atlantic air gap.

Were the seas too heavy in the Mid Atlantic for these aircraft to operate?
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Withdrawal in disgust is not the same as apathy.
Brian Grafton
Victoria BC Canada
Posts: 3577
Joined: 2004
Float Planes & Sea Planes
1/7/2020 8:28:53 PM
17th, I've not followed float planes, seaplanes and amphibious much, to be honest, though I live a part of the world where relatively small float planes aren't part of our transportation network. If you noticed a (rather skeptically received) announcement of a first (un-passengered) flight of a small a/c on floats, that involved (I believe) my city's harbour. The a/c was based on a De Havilland Beaver, and the flight was initiated by Harbour Air, based in Richmond, BC (just south of Vancouver).

If the heyday of such a/c was WW2, I know the RN had ship-based a/c in WW1 as well. Rather than catapult launch, they were craned over the side and used the lee area of the mother ship for smooth sea from which to take off.
[quot]And some nations had the few oddball submarine aircraft carriers.
Personally, I don't see anything odd about a submarine carrying an a/c, though power and size issues must have been a challenge for naval architects. Going on memory now, but I believe the French developed two such vessels (one was named, IIRC, Surcouf), and I believe she saw action. The IJN developed many more (I believe they commissioned some 40+ ships in the 30s and 40s; the last of them was the I-400 class, designed to attack the US but either not operated or sent on only one mission before the end of the war.

I guess the most famous of US water-based a/c was the Consolidated PBY, best known as the "Catalina", or the PBY-A (?), the amphibious version (which in Canada we called "Canso". But the finest monster the US developed was, IMHO, the Martin(?) Mars. The Mars arrived just too late for use in WW2, though had The Bomb not been successful I'm sure it would have played a major role in the invasion of the Japanese homeland. I don’t count the Howard Hughes creation (was that the :spruce Goose”), because it was a one-off.

Ultimately, three Mars bombers took up residence about 100 km north of me, where they were converted to water-bombers. They were sold (maybe to California interests) about five years ago, but at one point I toured them at winter quarters on Sproat Lake. I was there with a friend, who was negotiating for a German museum to buy one of the two remaining Mars a/c and was given a wonderful tour both of one of the a/c but also of their on-site museum (which included some still-unused engines).

British/RN development ran throughout the inter-war years. Keep in mind that through bases across the Empire and Commonwealth, a/c appearance and availability was much more rapid and potentially more impactful that a “gunboat”. Most of the British interwar multi-engined a/c were built according to “conservative” specs: bi-plane; open cabins and//or turrets; cumbersome but with some ability for flying distance.

Yet by the time of WW2, the Short Sunderland was coming into service with RAF Coastal Command. For it’s time, It was a huge a/c, about 12 feet longer than a B-17. It was created as a recon a/c, but grew increasing offensive capability in ASW as the war progressed.

Perhaps the most bizarre of the RNAS a/c was the “Stringbag”, or more formal the Fairey “Swordfish”. An open-cockpit biplane which was obsolete at war’s instigation, I remained on roster until the end of the war. Time after time, the air crew demonstrated extraordinary bravery in flying these a/c against enemy navies, with surprising success. Taranto was a Stringbag success; so was Bismarck.

Germany too had some fine sea planes. Dornier was a recognized builder during the interwar years, and in fact was building Do-24s (larger, 3-engined versions of the Do-18, a highly successful design) for the Netherlands navy (for search and rescue work) when war broke out. Bloss and Vohm, basically a ship-building company (based, I believe, in Hamburg) also built a number of sea planes for the Luftwaffe. Typically, IMHO, they were ugly but serviceable a/c. Most German sea-capable a/c during the war were used for recon and rescue, IIUC. They saved a number of Luftwaffe personnel during BoB, e.g. They were, IIUC, the equivalent of the various British groups who effected salvation for many Luftwaffe a/c lost.

Cheers
Brian G

PS: Two personal memories.

My father was born in 1911 or 1912 (yes, there is some question) and was raised at Pt Atkinson Light House on the north shore of Vancouver’s Burrard Inlet. On the south shore was a naval base located in Jerry’s Cove (which became Jerricho). In 1922 he saw his first flying machine. It was a floatplane flying out of that Jerricho naval base. Never figured out which a/c he may have seen, but I assume it was British rather than Canadian.

For a year or so in the 1980s, I flew each week-end from Nanaimo to Sechelt (a local BC air service on float planes). My mother was ailing, and I wanted time with her. The quickest way to reach Sechelt was by float plane; by ferry and highway from Nanaimo to Sechelt was 4 hours+; by air it was 10 minutes. Mostly I flew De Havilland Beavers, and in fact the S/N of one of the a/c I flew on was “0004”, a very early Beaver indeed. I also flew on some Cessna 172s on pontoons, but these were less local airlines and more typically bush pilots accepting a passenger to help cover the cost of fuel.

Things have become more urban and more controlled than 30 years ago, if not more civilized. But a “best way” to get to Sechelt from Victoria is still by float plane.

Cheers
B
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"We have met the enemy, and he is us." Walt Kelly. "The Best Things in Life Aren't Things" Bumper sticker.
George
Centre Hastings ON Canada
Posts: 11529
Joined: 2009
Float Planes & Sea Planes
1/7/2020 9:10:22 PM
Quote:
Float Planes would have been handy during the early days of the battle of the Atlantic. In the period before widespread use of escort carriers in the Mid Atlantic air gap.

Were the seas too heavy in the Mid Atlantic for these aircraft to operate?


British floatplanes (Supermarine Walrus) did sink 5 u-boats. I would think that those would have occurred on the western approaches or in the channel.



The Fleet Air Arm had one stationed on Sable Island, Nova Scotia until 1942. It was responsible for tracking u-boats though originally it was designed to assist RN ships during combat, tracking the flight of shells; a spotter if you like.

However, I don't think that the Walrus had the range to make it to the dead zone in the mid-Atlantic.

RCAF base at Dartmouth was the largest RCAF base on the east coast and its pilots employed a variety of float planes or flying boats to track u-boats off the east coast. Bases in Gander, NFLD did the same. 9 squadrons of Bomber/Recce RCAF squadrons flew out of Dartmouth in a variety of planes.

These includes Supermarine Stranraers. The RCAF's first mission of the Second World War was flown from RCAF Station Dartmouth on 10 September 1939 by a 5 Squadron Stranraer flying boat tasked to conduct a search for enemy ships off Halifax harbour.



Cansos. (Consolidated PBY Catalina)

This plane sunk 40 u-boats during the war. It was also flown in the Pacific and one RAF pilot and another RCAF pilot were awarded the Victoria Cross for valour as they pressed home their attacks and sunk two u-boats.



But the development of long range aircraft was the key to closing the mid-Atlantic gap or "black pit". That gap was about 300 miles wide.

It was the development of the long range Liberator bomber that allowed the gap to be closed and air cover could be provided both from the east coast of Canada and from Britain. As well, there was an air base on Iceland and I know that RCAF pilots flew out of Iceland too but I don't know what they were flying.

The USN, RAF and RCAF flew the Liberator. American made but I think that the Brits coined the name and it stuck.




EDIT: I did have a question. What is the difference between a float plane and a flying boat?
George
Centre Hastings ON Canada
Posts: 11529
Joined: 2009
Float Planes & Sea Planes
1/7/2020 11:02:19 PM
It is interesting to note that by the end of hostilities in Europe, 290 u-boats had been destroyed by aircraft while 246 were destroyed by surface vessels. These were in the European theatre. (Buckley, John, Air Power and the Battle of the Atlantic)

Of the 290 destroyed by aircraft, the RAF had 195 of those kills.

Most u-boats that were sunk by aircraft of RAF Coastal Command. That command included 7 RCAF squadrons flying in Britain.

RCAF Coastal Command Canada accounted for 19 u-boats on this side of the ocean.

So aircraft were very important to winning the Battle of the Atlantic.

I should add that u-boats did shoot down allied aircraft but I do not have the numbers.

17thfabn
Ohio OH USA
Posts: 135
Joined: 2008
Float Planes & Sea Planes
1/8/2020 11:03:35 PM
Quote:
Quote:
Float Planes would have been handy during the early days of the battle of the Atlantic. In the period before widespread use of escort carriers in the Mid Atlantic air gap.

Were the seas heavy in the Mid Atlantic for these aircraft to operate?


EDIT: I did have a question. What is the difference between a float plane and a flying boat?


Float planes were smaller and usually single engine. They were mostly carried on ships such as cruisers. They had floats that projected from the wings into the water. Some examples:

Examples:
Voight King Fisher
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Vought_OS2U_Kingfisher

Curtis Seagull

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Curtiss_SOC_Seagull

Seaplanes were much larger and usually multi engine . The hull of the plane itself was the main point of flotation.

Examples :

PBY Catalina

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Consolidated_PBY_Catalina

Short Sunderland
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Short_Sunderland
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Withdrawal in disgust is not the same as apathy.
17thfabn
Ohio OH USA
Posts: 135
Joined: 2008
Float Planes & Sea Planes
1/8/2020 11:11:22 PM
Quote:
Quote:
Float Planes would have been handy during the early days of the battle of the Atlantic. In the period before widespread use of escort carriers in the Mid Atlantic air gap.

Were the seas too heavy in the Mid Atlantic for these aircraft to operate?


British floatplanes (Supermarine Walrus) did sink 5 u-boats. I would think that those would have occurred on the western approaches or in the channel.

But the development of long range aircraft was the key to closing the mid-Atlantic gap or "black pit". That gap was about 300 miles wide.

It was the development of the long range Liberator bomber that allowed the gap to be closed and air cover could be provided both from the east coast of Canada and from Britain. As well, there was an air base on Iceland and I know that RCAF pilots flew out of Iceland too but I don't know what they were flying.

The USN, RAF and RCAF flew the Liberator. American made but I think that the Brits coined the name and it stuck.




The escort carriers also played a role in closing the Mid Atlantic air gap.
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Withdrawal in disgust is not the same as apathy.
Brian Grafton
Victoria BC Canada
Posts: 3577
Joined: 2004
Float Planes & Sea Planes
1/9/2020 8:38:18 PM
Meant to send this yesterday, but had a friend drop in just as I was finishing it. It repeats a lot of 17th's info, with rather different examples.

There are three general categories of a/c designed for use at sea (or on water). I don’t know much, but this is my understanding.

1. Float plane. Basically, a float plane has the fuselage of a typical a/c, but relies on two or more attached pontoons (buoyancy devices) on which to land and then to keep the fuselage above the water’s surface. Most float planes have adaptive capabilities: there are wheeled variations, or balloon tire variants, or ski variants.

In Canada, where bush piloting is still active, DeHavilland Canada has developed a series of fine a/c with such landing flexibility. The Beaver, the Single Otter and the twin Otter come to mind. But one of the oddest success stories of WW2 was the Fairey “Swordfish” which flew on both floats or wheels. Obsolescent when the war began in 1939, she nevertheless played major roles in the attack on Taranto and the crippling of Bismarck, and assumed huge risks during the Channel Dash.

2. Flying boats. The term is often interchangeable with “Seaplanes”, though it shouldn’t be. A flying boat lands using its hull as a primary landing surface. The lower structure of the fuselage is not only strengthened but is also shaped like the hull of a boat or ship capable of high speed. By WW2, nearly all flying boats utilized “stepped hull” design to lift the body of the a/c clear of the water at relatively low speed for easier takeoff.

Most flying boats were either high-wing mounted or even supra-mounted, to get both the main wing and the engines above the spray of landing or taking off in less than calm conditions.

3. Amphibians. To develop an effective a/c design that make an a/c equally comfortable on land and at sea makes huge sense, but only a few military a/c were successful in this configuration. The obvious success was the Catalina/Canso, by Consolidated. I was raised to believe that the Catalina was a seaplane and the Canso a Canadian amphibious derivative. Not sure where the argument stands now.

Some a/c were designed to be adaptable, which defines the Catalina entirely. Some, like the DC-3/DC-4, or the various DeHavilland a/c simply adapted to meet conditions, accepted balloon tires and skis despite their limitations.

Cheers
Brian G
----------------------------------
"We have met the enemy, and he is us." Walt Kelly. "The Best Things in Life Aren't Things" Bumper sticker.
George
Centre Hastings ON Canada
Posts: 11529
Joined: 2009
Float Planes & Sea Planes
1/9/2020 8:47:15 PM
Thanks for that clarification Brian.

George
George
Centre Hastings ON Canada
Posts: 11529
Joined: 2009
Float Planes & Sea Planes
1/9/2020 9:30:26 PM
Quote:
The escort carriers also played a role in closing the Mid Atlantic air gap.


I was never sure whether those small escort carriers existed in sufficient numbers to accompany convoys on close escort duty with corvettes, frigates and destroyers. Some literature does say that escort carriers could accompany a convoy.



There were some convoys that were especially hard hit to spring of 1943. I wonder whether it would be possible to check to see whether they had an escort carrier with them.

Did every convoy from the summer of 1943 on have a close support escort carrier with them?

I thought that they were most useful as part of the support groups (hunter-killer to USN) that were tasked to hunt down the u-boats as they tracked convoys.

HMS Trumpeter, St. John's, Newfoundland, late 1943




HMS Audacity was the first RN Escort carrier and it entered service on June 17, 1941. The ship was sunk in September of the same year but the British were convinced that merchant hulls could be used to converted to escort carriers. The USN picked up on that same concept and produced a lot of these carriers which were loaned to the RN, under lend lease. They were returned to the USN in 1946.




17thfabn
Ohio OH USA
Posts: 135
Joined: 2008
Float Planes & Sea Planes
1/9/2020 10:41:17 PM
Quote:
Quote:
The escort carriers also played a role in closing the Mid Atlantic air gap.


I was never sure whether those small escort carriers existed in sufficient numbers to accompany convoys on close escort duty with corvettes, frigates and destroyers. Some literature does say that escort carriers could accompany a convoy.



There were some convoys that were especially hard hit to spring of 1943. I wonder whether it would be possible to check to see whether they had an escort carrier with them.

Did every convoy from the summer of 1943 on have a close support escort carrier with them?

I thought that they were most useful as part of the support groups (hunter-killer to USN) that were tasked to hunt down the u-boats as they tracked convoys.

HMS Trumpeter, St. John's, Newfoundland, late 1943





I think the tactics evolved. When the escort carriers where in short supply they were best used in the hunter killer groups.
----------------------------------
Withdrawal in disgust is not the same as apathy.
G David Bock
Lynden WA USA
Posts: 480
Joined: 2020
Float Planes & Sea Planes
5/19/2020 3:58:02 PM
Quote:
Meant to send this yesterday, but had a friend drop in just as I was finishing it. It repeats a lot of 17th's info, with rather different examples.

There are three general categories of a/c designed for use at sea (or on water). I don’t know much, but this is my understanding.

1. Float plane. Basically, a float plane has the fuselage of a typical a/c, but relies on two or more attached pontoons (buoyancy devices) on which to land and then to keep the fuselage above the water’s surface. Most float planes have adaptive capabilities: there are wheeled variations, or balloon tire variants, or ski variants.

In Canada, where bush piloting is still active, DeHavilland Canada has developed a series of fine a/c with such landing flexibility. The Beaver, the Single Otter and the twin Otter come to mind. But one of the oddest success stories of WW2 was the Fairey “Swordfish” which flew on both floats or wheels. Obsolescent when the war began in 1939, she nevertheless played major roles in the attack on Taranto and the crippling of Bismarck, and assumed huge risks during the Channel Dash.

2. Flying boats. The term is often interchangeable with “Seaplanes”, though it shouldn’t be. A flying boat lands using its hull as a primary landing surface. The lower structure of the fuselage is not only strengthened but is also shaped like the hull of a boat or ship capable of high speed. By WW2, nearly all flying boats utilized “stepped hull” design to lift the body of the a/c clear of the water at relatively low speed for easier takeoff.

Most flying boats were either high-wing mounted or even supra-mounted, to get both the main wing and the engines above the spray of landing or taking off in less than calm conditions.

3. Amphibians. To develop an effective a/c design that make an a/c equally comfortable on land and at sea makes huge sense, but only a few military a/c were successful in this configuration. The obvious success was the Catalina/Canso, by Consolidated. I was raised to believe that the Catalina was a seaplane and the Canso a Canadian amphibious derivative. Not sure where the argument stands now.

Some a/c were designed to be adaptable, which defines the Catalina entirely. Some, like the DC-3/DC-4, or the various DeHavilland a/c simply adapted to meet conditions, accepted balloon tires and skis despite their limitations.

Cheers
Brian G


Brian, you've got here fairly well; allow me to tweak the details some.

Basically, if the aircraft can land upon and take off from water, it is a "Sea Plane".

There are two basic categories;
1) Float Planes - Nominally these are "land planes" modified with two or more pontoons/flotation devices in place of wheeled landing gear. Usually these were single engine aircraft, though there were a couple multi-engine designed as such, and some experimental modifications, such as was done with a DC-3/C-47.
Heinkel He 115


https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Heinkel_He_115
[Read More]
As an example ...

Float planes were often carried by battleships and cruisers for use as scouts and gunfire spotting/direction. In addition to some of those mentioned already, one interesting example was the IJN Rufe;

Nakajima A6M2-N
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nakajima_A6M2-N
[Read More]

Note that while warships carrying float planes often launched them by catapult, the ship would have to stop motion to recover the landed float planes. Fairly calm seas (low waves) and limited danger of the ship being attacked would apply. Often, such as the case of ship engagements in "The Slot" during the Solomans campaigns, warships would send off their float planes to a nearby 'base' to reduce the fire risk from ship to ship combat.

2) Flying Boats: These tend to be aircraft designed with the lower part of the fuselage in the shape of a boat hull to serve as the primary flotation device/system, with sponsons or outrigger floats toward the wing tips. As mentioned there were many types, such as the Short Sunderland


https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Short_Sunderland
[Read More]

And the near ubiquitous Consolidated PBY Catalina


https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Consolidated_PBY_Catalina
[Read More]

Along with use as warplanes, many flying boats served in commercial aviation, especially since in the 1930-1940s there were very few airports/landing strips on land, especially with paved runways and ramps able to handle the load of heavier, multi-engine aircraft. Since many destinations for early air travel were coastal and had ports for ships, these were also sites for flying boat terminals. Pan American Airways, Pan Am, is a classic example of commercial flying boat use and as that airline grew, it was a front runner in aircraft design, safety, navigation, and support facilities. Many of it's airways/routes would later serve in WW@ for Air Transport Command (ATC) service.
Martin M130 Clipper

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Martin_M-130
[Read More]

Boeing 314 Clipper


https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Boeing_314_Clipper
[Read More]

3) Amphibians

Usually tend to be either float planes or flying boats that have been modified with addition of wheels to enable then to land on land as well as water. Some types do start out designed as amphibians, such as one of Pan Am's original "clippers" from Sikorsky, the S-38;


https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sikorsky_S-38
[Read More]
Or the Grumman Goose;


https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Grumman_G-21_Goose
[Read More]

Consolidated PBY-5a Catalina marked the transition to purpose built as amphibian;


One interesting example of a float plane amphibian is the Cessna R172K Hawk XP;

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cessna_172
[Read More]

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TANSTAAFL - There Ain't No Such Thing As A Free Lunch
G David Bock
Lynden WA USA
Posts: 480
Joined: 2020
Float Planes & Sea Planes
5/19/2020 4:04:11 PM
List of seaplanes and amphibious aircraft
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_seaplanes_and_amphibious_aircraft
[Read More]
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TANSTAAFL - There Ain't No Such Thing As A Free Lunch

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