TEAL SOLENT IV NEARLY LOST BEFORE DELIVERY

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TEAL SOLENT IV NEARLY LOST BEFORE DELIVERY

Postby solentfan1950 » Sat Aug 03, 2013 4:01 am

It is not commonly known that the former TEAL flagship ZK-AML Aotearoa II was nearly lost while carrying out hot weather trials in the Sudan several months before the company took delivery of the aircraft in November 1949.

Being the first of a new class, AML’s flight testing took much longer than previous models. The schedule was further prolonged by a serious incident that almost caused the loss of the aircraft before TEAL could take delivery, an event that to the author’s knowledge has never been previously recorded.

Being a prototype, the test programme required that the aircraft undergo hot weather trials before MOT certification could be granted. Thus on 2 July 1949, AML was flown by a Short Bros crew to Gordon’s Tree, (Khartoum) in the Sudan for what should have been a week of tropical trials on the Nile. Gordon’s Tree is notable for being the former port-of-call on the Nile for BOAC flying boats immediately after WW2.

After a week of uneventful flight trials at Gordon’s Tree, a near catastrophe occurred on 12 July when the flying boat began ‘porpoising’ while coming in to land causing the loss of the port float and forcing the pilot to rapidly beach the aircraft to prevent it capsizing.

Photographs taken after the incident show the aircraft lying at an acute angle in shallow water with its starboard float and outer wing totally submerged. Its port wing, on which several young Sudanese are squatting, is pointing skywards, notably without its float.

A close up view showed that after being ripped away from the port wing, the float damaged the port tailplane’s leading edge as it departed the aircraft. Following arrival of a replacement float from Belfast, AML was airborne again within 10 days and after an extra week’s test flying at Gordon’s Tree it returned to Queens Island, Belfast on August 2nd.

Further test flights were conducted throughout August from Hythe on Southampton Water, after which the aircraft returned to Belfast where it remained ‘on the hard’ until late November.

On 26 November, under the command of TEAL Captain Ian Patterson, ZK-AML left Belfast on the first leg of its delivery flight to New Zealand. Calling first at Southampton (Hythe), the flight continued on to Augusta, Alexandria, Bahrain, Karachi, Rangoon, Singapore, Surabaya, Darwin, Bowen, Sydney and finally Auckland. Ironically, AML, the first of TEAL's new Solents to fly, was the last home, landing safely at Mechanics Bay on 7 December.

Flight testing for TEAL’s three remaining Solent IVs took considerably less time and passed without incident. With MOT certification finally granted they began their long delivery flights to New Zealand, ZK-AMM Ararangi arriving at Auckland on 29 September, ZK-AMN Awatere on 23 October and ZK-AMO Aranui on 30 November.

ZK-AML Aotearoa II was not only the first Solent Mk IV built by Short Bros but it was also the first Solent to be built at their Queens Island, Belfast, seaplane works. Until then, all Solent IIs and IIIs had been built on the River Medway at Rochester, Short Bros primary home for more than 30 years.

Built to TEAL’s stringent specifications, ZK-AML made its maiden flight on 20 April 1949 and was officially christened by HRH Princess Elizabeth (later the Queen) at Queens Island on 26 May.

The Solent Mk IVs were a vast improvement on the earlier Mk IIs and IIIs, having been built from the keel up expressly for TEAL. Accommodation for 45 passengers was provided in seven cabins on two decks, joined by a spiral staircase.

Each passenger seat, upholstered in deep blue with cream antimacassars, were equipped with a “winged” headrest, armrests with ashtray and recline button and a folding table for meals, writing, card-games and an overhead reading light and a warm/cool air louvre. Four seats forward of the main entrance foyer could be converted into twin bunks for the carriage of invalids. Bassinets were fitted as required.

In addition to the passenger cabins, the Solent boasted a spacious flight deck, crew rest section, galley, four toilets, and a main entrance foyer at the rear of the aircraft. Passengers’ luggage and air freight was carried in a forward cargo hold of 220 cubic feet and an aft compartment of over 400 cubic feet.

The crew of seven consisted of Captain, First Officer, Radio Officer, Flight Engineer, Senior Flight Steward, Flight Steward and one Flight Hostess. The First Officer was also the Navigator - all TEAL pilots were required to hold a First Class Navigator’s Licence.

Image

ZK-AML Aotearoa II touching down on Belfast Lough following its maiden flight on 20 April 1949. All TEAL's Solent IVs were delivered with the New Zealand flag on the port side of their tail fins and the Union Jack on the starboard. During their first year of service the Union flag was replaced by the New Zealand ensign. Short Bros. & Harland photo.

Image

ZK-AML returning to the Short Bros. factory following its maiden flight on 20 April 1949. Note the Union flag on the starboard tail fin. The aircraft's name Aotearoa II was positioned on each side of the fuselage below the cockpit the day before the royal christening ceremony on 26 May 1949. Short Bros. & Harland photo.

Image

ZK-AML being readied for its royal christening at the Short Bros. & Harland factory at Queen's Island, Belfast. Note the Union flag hiding the aircraft's name. When HRH Princess Elizabeth released the bottle of Australian wine to christen the aircraft the flag was lowered, revealing the flying boat's name. Short Bros. & Harland photo.

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The scene at Short Bros. & Harland's factory on the occasion of the christening by HRH Princess Elizabeth of Short Solent Mk.IV Aotearoa II on 26 May 1949. Short Bros. & Harland photo.

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HRH Princess Elizabeth christens the TEAL flagship Aotearoa II with a bottle of Australian wine at Belfast on 26 May 1949. Short Bros. & Harland photo.

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TEAL Solent Mk.IV ZK-AML Aotearoa II aground at Gordon's Tree, Sudan in July 1949. Note the damage to the port tailplane caused by the float when it was ripped from the port wing while landing. Photo supplied by the late Captain Ian Patterson.

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ZK-AML aground at Gordon's Tree, Sudan. Note the group of Sudanese perched on the port wing, and the missing port float. Photo supplied by the late Captain Ian Patterson.

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Given that only the port float is reported to have departed the aircraft during the landing accident, it is unknown why the starboard outer wing is submerged. Photo supplied by the late Captain Ian Patterson.
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Re: TEAL SOLENT IV NEARLY LOST BEFORE DELIVERY

Postby Cameraman » Sat Aug 03, 2013 8:49 am

Hi Solentfan,

I love the period feeling in the second shot and the last image is a corker!

Regards

Reggie
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Re: TEAL SOLENT IV NEARLY LOST BEFORE DELIVERY

Postby flyernzl » Sun Aug 18, 2013 6:50 am

Thanks for that additional information.
First I have ever heard about the incident. No doubt it was hushed-up at the time.
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Re: TEAL SOLENT IV NEARLY LOST BEFORE DELIVERY

Postby Kenny » Sun Aug 18, 2013 10:49 am

My guess about the starboard wing submergence would be the pilot compensating for the loss of the port float, the starboard one "dug-in", and that's all she wrote...?
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