Short Solent

The Short Solent is a passenger flying boat that was produced by Short Brothers in the late 1940s. It was developed from the Short Seaford, itself a development of the Short Sunderland military flying boat design, which was too late to serve in World War II.

S.45A Solent
The Aquila Airways Solent 3, G-AKNU, Sydney taking-off from Funchal
Role passenger flying boat
Manufacturer Short Brothers and Harland
First flight 11 November 1946
Primary users BOAC
Number built 16 (and 7 converted S.45 Seafords)
Developed from Short Seaford

The first Solent flew in 1946. New Solents were used by BOAC and TEAL, production ending in 1949. Second-hand aircraft were operated until 1958 by a number of small airlines such as Aquila Airways.

Design and development

The Short S.45 Solent was a high-wing monoplane flying boat of aluminium construction. Power was provided by four Bristol Hercules[1] engines.

The aircraft could be fitted for 24 passengers with day and night accommodation or 36 day passengers. The cabins (four on the lower deck and two on the upper) could be used to sleep four or seat six. The upper deck included a lounge/dining area next to kitchen; the lower deck had two dressing rooms, toilets and three freight compartments. The flight crew was five (two pilots, navigator, and radio operator with the flight engineer in a separate compartment behind the flight deck opposite crew rest berths) and there were two stewards to attend to the passengers.[2]


The Solent 2 introduced by BOAC could carry 34 passengers and 7 crew. Between 1948 and 1950, BOAC operated their Solents on the three-times weekly scheduled service from Southampton to Johannesburg taking a route down the Nile and across East Africa. The journey took four days, including overnight stops. The Solents replaced Avro Yorks running the service.[3] The last Solent-operated service on the route departed from Berth 50 at Southampton on 10 November 1950, bringing BOAC's flying-boat operations to an end.[4]

Tasman Empire Airways Limited (TEAL) operated a total of five Solent 4s between 1949 and 1960 on their scheduled routes between Sydney, Fiji, Auckland and Wellington. The last TEAL Solent service was flown between Fiji and Tahiti on 14 September 1960[4] by ZK-AMO "Aranui", which is now preserved. The TEAL Solents could carry 45 passengers and all versions of the type provided a great deal of space and luxury compared with contemporary or modern land-based aircraft.

Several Solents served Aquila Airways on their routes from Southampton to Madeira and the Canary Islands using ex BOAC and TEAL aircraft. On 15 November 1957, Aquila Airways G-AKNU, a Solent 3, crashed near Chessell, Isle of Wight, after it experienced loss of power to two engines.[5] The crash killed 45 out of the 58 on board. British commercial flying-boat operations ceased on 30 September 1958 when Aquila Airways withdrew its Madeira service.



  • Solent 2
civilian version for BOAC of the Short Seaford, 12 aircraft built at Rochester[8]
  • Solent 3
converted S.45 Seaford. 7 aircraft – 6 at Queen's Island, Belfast, 1 at Hamble[8]
  • Solent 4
powered by Bristol Hercules 733, four aircraft built at Belfast[8]


  • Trans-Oceanic Airways
 New Zealand
 United Kingdom
 United States
  • South Pacific Airlines

The only military use of the Solent was for trials at the United Kingdom Marine Aircraft Experimental Establishment in 1951, the former BOAC Solent 3 was scrapped after the trials.

Accidents and incidents

15 November 1957 – Aquila Airways Solent G-AKNU crashed on the Isle of Wight. The aircraft took off at around 10:40 pm from Southampton Water for Lisbon, Madeira and Las Palmas. Around 20 minutes later, the crew reported the failure of number 4 engine and turned back. Soon after, number 3 engine also stopped and around one minute after the radio report, the aircraft crashed into a chalk quarry near Chessell, killing 45 of the 58 people on board.[9][10] No cause for either engine failure was established in the subsequent investigation.[11]

A memorial to those killed is in St Mary's Church, Brook. A tree and a plaque mark the crash-site.[12]

Specifications (Solent 2)

Data from Barnes and James[13]

General characteristics

  • Crew: 7
  • Capacity: 34 passengers
  • Length: 87 ft 8 in (26.72 m)
  • Wingspan: 112 ft 9 in (34.37 m)
  • Height: 34 ft 3 14 in (10.446 m) [14]
  • Wing area: 1,487 sq ft (138.1 m2)
  • Empty weight: 47,760 lb (21,664 kg)
  • Gross weight: 78,000 lb (35,380 kg)
  • Powerplant: 4 × Bristol Hercules 637 14-cylinder radial engines, 1,690 hp (1,260 kW) each


  • Maximum speed: 273 mph (439 km/h, 237 kn)
  • Cruise speed: 244 mph (393 km/h, 212 kn) [14]
  • Range: 1,800 mi (2,900 km, 1,600 nmi)
  • Service ceiling: 17,000 ft (5,200 m) [14]
  • Rate of climb: 925 ft/min (4.70 m/s) [14]


  1. National Archives Airworthiness Division Type Records
  2. Flight 3 January 1946 p10
  3. "To South Africa on the First Springbok Flying-boat Service" Flight 1948
  4. Jackson 1988, p. 160
  5. Flight, 8 August 1958, p. 208
  6. Solent at the Oakland Aviation Museum, Oakland, California
  7. Verschuere, Gilles. "The Making of Raiders of the Lost Ark: Concluding the Adventure." The Raider.Net, 2009.
  8. Barnes and James, pp. 407–409
  9. Ranter, Harro. "ASN Aircraft accident Shorts S.45 Solent 3 G-AKNU Chessel Down". Retrieved 11 October 2019.
  10. "45 Dead in Flying Boat Crash". The Times (54001). London. 18 November 1957. p. 12.
  11. "CIVIL AVIATION: Solent Accident Report". Flight. 74: 971. 28 September 1933. No. 2585. Retrieved 10 October 2019.
  12. "Memorials and Monuments on the Isle of Wight – Brook Short Solent air disaster". Retrieved 11 October 2019.
  13. Barnes and James, p. 412
  14. Jackson 1988, p.160.
  • Barnes, C.H.; James D.N. (1989). Shorts Aircraft since 1900. London: Putnam. ISBN 0-85177-819-4.
  • Jackson, A.J (1988). British Civil Aircraft since 1919 Volume 3. London: Putnam. ISBN 0-85177-818-6.
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