Saunders Roe Princess G-ALUN flypast at the Farnborough SBAC Show in September 1953

Saunders Roe Princess G-ALUN flypast at the Farnborough SBAC Show in September 1953

In the first half of the 1900’s airline travel boomed. During World War II, there was a shortage of materials for making aircraft and proper runway facilities. Because of a lack of proper airports, the popularity of flying boats soared (get it soared?). Flying boats were purpose-built to land on the water and provide air transportation for all over the work (as long as water was around).

The 1940’s saw the biggest use of flying boats to get passengers around the world, but by the beginning of the 1950’s,  more and more land based aircraft were being used.

The Saunders-Roe Princess was one of the last flying boats designed and built, but it never made it into service. Her journey started in 1945 when Saunders-Roe wanted to build an aircraft that could used by British Overseas Airways Corporation (BOAC). Their bid was successful an in 1946 three aircraft were ordered by BOAC.

Engineers decided to have the airplane powered by ten turboprop engines. The four inner propellers had contra-rotating propellers, driven by a twin engine. The two outer propellers were single and powered by one engine. Although the engines were unique and head of their time, the complexities ended up dooming the aircraft type. The total thrust was not as they had expected and the gearing was not able to handle the engines.

The Princess was a double decker plane, designed to fly 105 passengers very comfortably. The aircraft was to be the pinnacle of flying boats, but it never got to see that day. In 1951 BOAC cancelled their orders. NASA looked at using the aircraft for transporting Saturn V rocket parts, but decided against it. Airbus even looked at using the Princess to transport A300 sections, but decided on the Super Guppies instead. There was hope the aircraft would be used in some capacity, but never were. In 1967 all three were destroyed.

Seeing such a beautiful plane destroyed is a real shame. One could have found its way to a museum or into a collector’s hands.

Additional media:
* Old video on making the Saunders-Roe Princess
* Airshow fly by of the plane
* Some color video and seeing her twin blades
* A few photos from Airliners.net
* Article on the aircraft written in 1952 by Flight

Image: RuthAS via Wikipedia

EDITOR-IN-CHIEF & FOUNDER - SEATTLE, WA. David has written, consulted, and presented on multiple topics relating to airlines and travel since 2008. He has been quoted and written for a number of news organizations, including BBC, CNN, NBC News, Bloomberg, and others. He is passionate about sharing the complexities, the benefits, and the fun stuff of the airline business. Email me: [email protected]

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2 Comments

I have one of these Saunders Princess SR45 Vintage flying Propliner Boats in my Hanger now, I fly it often too, its a Beauty too, I Chromed the bottom of the hull it looks so much better ! I’m only able to fly it tho in my Microsoft flight simulator FSX Edition. The joys of Flight Simulation !!!

ray dorrity

i remember seeing these magnificent flying boats everytime i went to the beach at calshot or went across to the island.
so sad that nobody thought to preserve one as a tourist attraction (think of howard hughes “spruce goose”!)
Shame on UK!

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