Incident Short S.35 Shetland Mk I DX166, Monday 28 January 1946
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Date:Monday 28 January 1946
Time:evening
Type:Short S.35 Shetland Mk I
Owner/operator:MAEE (Marine Aircraft Experimental Establishment)
Registration: DX166
MSN: S.35/01
Fatalities:Fatalities: 0 / Occupants: 2
Other fatalities:0
Aircraft damage: Destroyed
Location:RAF Felixstowe, Suffolk -   United Kingdom
Phase: Standing
Nature:Military
Departure airport:RAF Felixstowe, Suffolk
Destination airport:
Narrative:
The Short S.35 Shetland was designed to meet the requirements of Specification R.14/40 which called for a four-engine long-range reconnaissance flying-boat capable of carrying a 4,000 lb (1,814 kg) bomb load and heavy defensive armament. Designed and constructed by Short Brothers with the collaboration of Saunders-Roe, work was initiated in 1940, utilizing the results obtained from the small-scale test flights carried out with the Saunders-Roe A.37 in 1942/44, when the Shetland hull, tail assembly, and wing-tip float profiles had been evaluated.

Shorts were responsible for the manufacture of the larger part of the structure, and for assembly and flight testing, with Saunders-Roe in charge of the detail design and wing component manufacture, including flaps, ailerons, engine mountings and wing-tip floats. At the time of its appearance the Shetland was the largest British flying-boat ever built, only 50 ft (15.24 m) less in wing span than the American Martin Mars.

Powered by four 2,500 hp Bristol Centaurus XI sleeve-valve engines, the machine embodied several interesting technical developments, including the Rotol auxiliary generators which drove all ancillaries and supplied alternating current for the first time on any British aircraft, the reversible-pitch inner propellers for water maneuvering, and the Centaurus engines themselves, mentioned for the first time in connection with this aircraft. The huge hull, 110 ft (33.53 m) in length, had two decks and accommodated a crew of eleven, with gun turrets in bow, dorsal, and tail positions and full arrangements for crew comfort and operational duties for patrols of up to 25 hours duration.

Two prototypes were ordered, the first of these, serial DX166, making its initial flight from the Medway on December 14, 1944, piloted by John Lankester Parker on his last assignment as chief test pilot after 38 years with the company. By this time many changes had taken place in operational requirements, and the prototype was not fully equipped for military duties, being fitted with dummy bow and tail turrets only and no military equipment

After initial manufacturers test flying and trials, DX166 was delivered to the Marine Aircraft Experimental Establishment (MAEE) at Felixstowe in October 1945. Testing indicated satisfactory water handling but the stabilising floats were mounted too low and did not offer sufficient clearance for takeoffs with maximum load. Flight testing revealed problems with the harmonisation of controls and marginal longitudinal stability.

Before the trials were complete, they were halted by the complete loss of the aircraft by fire at its moorings at RAF Felixstowe on January 28, 1946. The Air Ministry board of Inquiry attributed the cause of the fire as being due to an overheating oven in the aircraft's galley. However, according to Colin Cummings' book "Final Landings" (see link #4) the more detailed explanation is:

"The port auxiliary generator was being used to charge the aircraft's batteries, and to provide heat in order to prepare hot drinks for the two ground crew on board, who had been tasked with "safety guard" duty. When the generators caught fire, due to the cooling shutters having been incorrectly closed while in use, the blaze spread, and the aircraft sank at its moorings. The two ground crew on board jumped out of the aircraft, into the water, and swam ashore"

Sources:

1. Barnes, C. H.; James, D.N. (1989). Shorts Aircraft since 1900. London: Putnam. ISBN 0-85177-819-4.
2. Green, William (1972) [1962]. War Planes of the Second World War: Flying Boats. V. London: Macdonald & Co. ISBN 0-356-01449-5.
3. Halley, James (1999). Broken Wings – Post-War Royal Air Force Accidents. Tunbridge Wells: Air-Britain (Historians) Ltd. p.29 ISBN 0-85130-290-4.
4. Final Landings: A Summary of RAF Aircraft and Combat Losses 1946 to 1949 by Colin Cummings p.49
5. National Archives (PRO Kew) File AVIA 5/28/W2319: https://discovery.nationalarchives.gov.uk/details/r/C6578165
6. https://1000aircraftphotos.com/Contributions/GrattonAubry/7922.htm
7. https://www.airteamimages.com/short-shetland_DX166_united-kingdom---royal-air-force_144325.html
8. http://www.shu-aero.com/AeroPhotos_Shu_Aero/Aircraft_N/Short/S_35_Shertland_I_DX166_01_large.jpg
9. https://www.agefotostock.com/age/en/Stock-Images/Rights-Managed/MEV-10838443
10. http://www.seawings.co.uk/shetplan1.htm
11. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/RAF_Felixstowe
12. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Marine_Aircraft_Experimental_Establishment

Revision history:

Date/timeContributorUpdates
21-Nov-2019 01:00 Dr. John Smith Added
21-Nov-2019 01:01 Dr. John Smith Updated [Narrative]
05-Jun-2021 20:15 Dr. John Smith Updated [Time, Total occupants, Source, Narrative]
13-Jul-2021 16:12 Dr. John Smith Updated [Cn, Source, Category]
22-Jul-2023 13:24 Dr. John Smith Updated

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