Sunday, February 21, 2010

Don't try this at home

One of the most remarkable events in the history of the last surviving Supermarine Stranraer was a take off. That rare thing of a pure flying boat (not an amphibian, note) taking off from a land runway.

This occurred after a rebuild (as required for the Canadian Department of Transport) at Abbotsford Airport, BC, Canada, by Aerovive Ltd over a 7-month period in 1962, and costing C$40,000, including complete refrabricing of the wing and tail surfaces.

According to the RAF Museum's PDF record for the aircraft, it;
Flew from Abbotsford Airport runway No. 18 to the Fraser River at Sea Island - took off with the hull resting on a specially constructed detachable 4-wheel 'dolly' from which it lifted off when flying speed was reached. The dolly rolled to a stop at the end of the runway.
As it was not equipped with brakes, as can be seen above, it was retarded before the attempt by a rope attached to a (presumably full) Shell fuel bowser. This '40-minute test flight, flown by Slim Knights' was probably one of the most 'testing' take-offs in the type's career, notwithstanding the many open sea rescues by Stranraers in the war.

In this next photo we can clearly see that the dolly wasn't proof against the aircraft rolling to the starboard on the take-off run, but the potential disaster was averted.

Today this aircraft survives in the RAF Museum Hendon, last of its breed, and last complete example of the large, multi-engine pre-war biplane flying boats.

(And it has a secret. No one knows what unit codes it wore in service. If you can find evidence, the RAF Museum would be delighted to hear from you.)

Credits: Canadian Aviation Museum images. Thanks to Andy Simpson of the RAF Museum for his help and the various people who shared their memories of this hairy flight with me.


  1. James, the RAFM should have some cine footage of this. Several years ago I was contacted by someone involved with this event who'd subsequently been posted to the embassy over here around the time when the RAFM opened. He donated his film to the museum. I may still have the email but it was many moons and several computers ago.


  2. Robbo is quite right, the RAF Museum do have film of this. Check out:

  3. That was my father, Herman "Slim" Knights who was crazy enough to pilot that thing. Always a bit of a risk taker, he had been a Lancaster pilot in the war and returned home to be involved in many small west coast aviation companies: he flew for Associated Air Taxi,Queen Charlotte Airlines, PWA, and was part owner of Port Alberni Airways, TAS and KCR (Knights, Cadenhead and Rogers) out of the old Vancouver Airport, and finally Vice-President of Conair Aviation. Most of my summers as a child were spent camping on Shuswap lake as he flew out of the Kamloops base on air tankers for Skyways. Our favourite part of the summer was when he would fly by our lakeside campsite, skimming the lake with a reckless wing wag in a converted Avenger or TBM, often in formation with pilot Harry Bray. The RAF museum has our original Super 8 film of the take-off, having requested it from us in the 1970s.
    Karen Knights