Short Solent MK III for 11xx
Engines........4x 1690 HP Bristol Hercules 637 (sleeve valve)
Props..........De havilland 4 blade featherable
Max weight.....75,000 pounds
Maximum speed at 75,000 pounds............230kts.........7,200 feet
Maximum continuous rich mixture cruise at 215kts.…....at 4,700 feet
Take off over 50 foot obst..………......1,610 yards.....44 seconds
Climb to 10,000 ..........…………………….....12 min
Service ceiling ........………………………......16,000 feet
Range at 180 kts.....30 pax and 2,070 gallons fuel.......1,580 nm
Range at 145 kts.....30 pax and 2,070 gallons fuel.......1,725 nm
Range at 165 kts.....11 pax and 3,160 gallons fuel.......2,750 nm
Max fuel on board: 3160 gallons fuel x 6 pounds per gallon = 18,960 pounds fuel
Accommodation: Crew of seven and 34 passengers
length 87.8 feet
My intention on this project was to make sure the plane would be able to simulate the challenge that ocean navigation was in the 1940's and 1950's. Relying only on VOR and NDB and relying on complete dead reckoning in certain areas of the ocean. There was no satellite or inertial navigation, and the cruise altitude was too low to be getting vectors from air traffic controllers.
like many airplanes of this period the Solent has a retractable glass astrodome for using an octant for navigation which is the aviation equivalent of the maritime navigation tool known as the sextant. Aviators and sailors used to calculate position by not only observing star position but the most common object to "shoot" is the sun.
A sextant plug in is available here, and also more information on early navigation:
Once you get near the islands, you'll be able to use radio homing.
Comments from Brian Appaswami who beta tested / flight tested this plane for me:
"The farthest NDB I heard was in excess of 500 nautical miles. I found the available autopilot was more than adequate to relieve the burden of constantly being at the controls but constant monitoring of the progress was critical to accurate navigation, or one becomes seriously lost. Being very lost over the vast pacific is a very disconcerting feeling. According to my calculations with a gentle tail wind of about 6 knots and at a cruising speed of 210 knots, I'd have reached Hawaii in something like 14 hours, (with another 5 or 6 hours left in the tanks) at economical cruising speeds."
Note on the cockpit: The 2D panel was made by Sergio Santagada who was the 2nd most important person in xplanes early development, 2nd to Austin. He made all the early default instruments and scenery. He did an amazing job for me on the Solent panel because as a child he used to watch it take off and land in italy. In my opinion it is one of the best 1950s 2D panels i have ever seen so i decided to keep it as the way the plane is controlled and just have a simple 3D cockpit for eye candy. Therefore the 3D cockpit is for eye candy only, you still need to use the 2D panel to control the plane. Press ALT w for 2D panel, best is to set your control stick buttons to 3D cockpit/2D panel.
- In order to operate the plane you need to press ALT W to get 2D panel view, The 3D cockpit is for eye candy only.
- Use the lighting knobs at the bottom of the panel to see the 3D cockpit at night, at least one idle cutoff switch must be on.
- Up and down keys scroll the 2D cockpit up and down, presing shift while scrolling makes it go faster.
- X-plane default wave size/hieght is too high for operations of this plane, and probably all float planes. I recommend setting wave height to 1 foot. It usually takes off and lands in calm water including lagoons and bays. Waves are dangerous for floatplanes.
- This Short Solent cruises with a noticeable nose down attitude, this is the correct attitude of the real airplane, its not an error. The unusually noticable nose down attitude is related to the fact that it has more than normal upward wing incidence, and engine cant, related to the fact that it has to take off without rotating very much as it is neither on tricycle nor tailwheel gear.
- The side floats dont normally touch the water except at rest. they are protectors in case a wing starts to dip too much. When lined up for takeoff full opposite aileron to the float in the water is held till the float comes out of the water then ailerons used to keep wings level.
- The engine controls are accurately tuned so dont forget to use normal procedure to increase blade pitch as you accelerate and also as you gain altitude. Normally prop blade angle is set at minimum pitch (blue lever all the way up) for takeoff and landing to provide maximum power. During cruise and at higher altitudes the blade pitch is increased to the best angle for most efficient cruise. You can turn on inflight data output to see very detailed information and help understand the relationship of different engine settings. I recommend activating inflight data output to give precise viewing of speed, engine power, blade pitch, prop efficiency. It's a very interesting way to learn about using constant speed props.
- Aside from a few xplane compromises, the instruments are in the correct locations on the panel. I know some positions might seem a little odd such as magnetic compass on the bottom and trim wheels up top, however those are correct. The handles are not necessarily of the right type, for example the Solent trim controls are not trim wheels but trim levers. So consider it a refurbished panel. Many Solents have gone through plenty of rebuilding anyway.
- The Solent didnt have reversable pitch props so tying up to the mooring buoy required the pilot to gauge the effect of wind and tide to approach the buoy at the right angle and mimimum speed with two outboard motors just idling in case the bowman missed the mooring and he had to go again. The best pilots could gauge this so well that the aircraft would not swing at the mooring but sit on that heading when at rest."
- User made liveries can be found here:
- Solent CSL kit for flying online:
Pictures and information from Short Solent Mechanic Bob Cozens
Here are some pictures from Bob Cozens, who was a short solent mechanic during the 1950s, who I have been consulting with and also some interesting comments on procedures and history of the plane. All photos are circa ~1955
Here are various interesting answers from Bob to the various questions about the solent I have asked him over the last few months:
Originally the wingtip floats were toed out about 2 degrees and positive incidence of 6 degrees. When we got it to Hawai and started testing for American registration apparently the flight performance was based on stalling speeds and climb performance with 1 eng out, 2eng out, 3 eng out. The climb with 3 out was negative as you might expect. To try and reduce the drag Hawaian Airlines engineers changed the float rigging to zero degrees toe out and about 2 degrees, I think, positive incidence. This reduced the water handling characteristics and when the American test pilot, Dick Scott got in the lefthand seat after one circuit with Brian Monkton and proceeded to severely test handling on the water we were looking at the floats almost submerged and waiting for the bracing cables to snap with horrified looks on our faces especially Monkton's as he was an experienced boat pilot.
I was on board for some of the stall tests and it was quite an experience to see Dick wrestling with the aileron control wheel trying to keep things level down to the lowest speed he could. When it would finally let go you were looking down vertically to the waves beneath and lost about 1000 feet. They finally decided I believe that they had to reduce the weight by about 3000 pounds to be acceptable. So much for Brian's colour coordinated toilet seats and luxury chairs. What else could they throw out??
I was a Licenced Aircraft Maintenance Engineer (LAME) which is the Australian equivalent of your A&P mechanic despite the impressive name and was licenced on the Hercules engine not the Solent airframe. I never was at the controls when flying so I can't help you in that regard and as it is almost 50 years since we flew the boat to Hawai I can't remember much of the technical details, and probably there are no Solent pilots still alive today. I certainly don't know of any.
(The Solent didn't have reversable pitch props) so tying up to the mooring buoy required the pilot to gauge the effect of wind and tide to approach the buoy at the right angle and mimimum speed with two outboard motors just idling in case the bowman missed the mooring and he had to go again. The best pilots could gauge this so well that the aircraft would not swing at the mooring but sit on that heading when at rest.
The Hercules 637V engines had the master connecting rods in two adjacent cylinders (one in each row) instead of the usual 180 degrees apart, apparently to reduce vibration, probably at cruise power which, I think, was about 60% of full power, which was a bit much for long engine life. The engine trouble we had at Canton Island was like this. To refuel we had to taxi the plane to a mooring off the end of a jetty in the lagoon and then allow it to drift back near the jetty so that hoses could reach from the fuel bowser. When we went to start engines to taxi away one, number 4, turned over 3/4 of a rev and stopped locked solid. Removing cylinders for investigation revealed that a sleeve drive had slipped and going down when it should have been going up jammed against the crankshaft. As it would take several days or weeks to get a replacement engine we decided to remove the prop and front cover to get at the sleeve drive gears and found stripped teeth on two. So we sent for new gears, cylinders etc and replaced the faulty items successfully. This took about 10 days at anchor which was better than weeks delay and the cost of a replacement engine. Every thing we dropped in the water, nuts, washers etc was recovered by two scuba divers stationed there, it was a refuelling stopover for the piston engined flights across the Pacific. Under Australian regulations we would not have been allowed to do all this but as the aircraft was registered in the American Experimental category we could .
As you say the wingtip floats are not normally in the water except at rest, one at a time and perhaps at low taxi speeds. If a float digs in on takeoff you would be in trouble. When lined up for takeoff full opposite aileron to the float in the water is held till the float comes out of the water then ailerons used to keep wings level. Regarding waves, while flying boats do not like waves, too big a glassy smooth sea makes it difficult to unstick so if the water is like a millpond, a launch or maybe Search and Rescue which should be normally standing by, zigzags down the water runway to give a little bit of choppy water to aid unsticking.
The Solent would certainly have had an autopilot but I can't remember if it was a British one or a Sperry. It would have an AH and DG but I think that the pilot would have had to monitor speed and altitude. My main concerns were the four Hercules and being bowman to hookup to the buoy and release from the buoy or drop the anchor or drogue and pick them up. So I didn't have much to do with the airframe or instrunments.
I'm sure the Solent did not have radar at the time I knew them. Radar came into general use in civil aircraft a bit later . Ocean Navigation was by dead reckoning and sextant and star shots with I guess NDB and ADF used on near approach to land. All that newfangled stuff hadn't come into use yet! If it had been fitted with radar it would have been somewhere in the middle of the panel . Radar was used during the war for night fighters and for detecting enemy aircraft from the ground but not for weather.
Engine trouble Canton island, Solent pilot Brian Monkton
Front cover and cylander, Canton Island
Number 1 engine and float
N9946F at Rose Bay prior to delivery flight
Original model and performance by Michael Wilson
2D panel and 3d object exterior by Sergio Santagada
PBR Metal work by Peter Norman
Airfoils by Peter Meininger
BOAC, SPAL and TEAL paints by Ricky Bonilla
Custom sounds by Chris Wraight
Aquila paintwork by Sergio Santagada
Beaching gear by Derek Jacob
Scan of BOAC solent brochure from the collection of Lance Lobo
Some random scans from Bobs solent engine mechanics manual
Widescreen 2d panel by Sergio Santagada
Included is a version with accurately rendered beaching gear. In reality the Solent never took off or landed with beaching gear, the gear was attached and removed by hand to bring it ashore for maintenence. But I suppose one could use it to simulate an Indiana Jones sort of fantasy take off. Incidentally the Oakland Air Museum Solent was used in the first indiana jones movie, although the airline, pan am, was fictional.
Some photos of the beaching gear:
The 3D cockpit is for eye candy only, to operate the plane you need to use the 2D panel by pressing keys ALT and W to get 2D panel view. Best is to set control stick buttons to 2D/3D.
The 3D cockpit is for eye candy only, you still need to use the 2D panel to operate switches. Press keys ALT and W to get 2D panel view. Best is to set control stick buttons to 2D/3D.
Bora Bora Island screenshots by StevePHL
Photos by Bob cozens, circa 1955
Explanation of panel mouse click regions
PBR Metal screenshots by Peter Norman