Skip to content

By David Rooney on

Flying Boats At Southampton

I talked last time about my recent trip to Southampton. While in town, I popped into the wonderful Solent Sky aviation museum.

Solent Sky aviation museum, Southampton (David Rooney)

Whilst much of our aircraft collection is on show in London, and our Wroughton site houses some of the bigger craft, we also have a number of aeroplanes (and other transport artefacts) on loan to other museums.

Solent Sky is home to our Short flying boat. Built in 1943 as a military-specification ‘Sunderland’, it was later converted to the civilian ‘Sandringham’ version, which involved new engines, removal of guns, bigger windows and the installation of seats and galley.

Short 'Sandringham' flying boat, 1943 (David Rooney)

Things have changed somewhat in passenger air travel since then – I wouldn’t like to see this sign under the window of a Jumbo Jet!

Sign under passenger windows in Short 'Sandringham' (David Rooney)

It had a long and fruitful career, under a variety of names including ‘Beachcomber’ and ‘Southern Cross’, until its last flight in 1981. It had flown a total of 19,500 hours – a record for its type.

'Beachcomber' (David Rooney)

Soon after, with the help of the National Heritage Memorial Fund, the Science Museum purchased it and plans were made for a new aviation museum in Southampton to house it. In 1984, Solent Sky opened its doors.

It’s a terrific place. Visitors can enter the passenger cabins and flight deck of the Sandringham and, as someone who’s only flown in modern passenger jets, it was a real eye-opener to imagine flying in this 1940s airliner.

There’s tons to see at Solent Sky. The volunteer guides were really welcoming, the exhibits are superb and they’ve a substantial library and archive for those wanting to delve deeper.

One comment on “Flying Boats At Southampton

  1. I used to live in the village of Borstal, 1/2 mile away from the old Shorts factory at Rochester. The local pub is the Canopus, named after a “C” class. I had no idea this one existed, but I have seen the ones at Duxford and RAF Museum Henley. I will have to visit Solent Sky!
    In the cliffs behind the Short factory there is an amazing warren of tunnels and rooms, many used for war-time production and storage. There is a You Tub video exploring part of the tunnel system, and quite a few clips of flying boat operations on the Medway. This would not be possible now, because of the A2 /M2 and Eurostar bridges.

Comments are closed.