It seems strange to think that eighty years ago there weren’t any C class flying boats in existence. I’m hoping to find that some of the air museums might have noticed that this is the anniversary of the first to be launched. It might be a vain hope, since it is also the 150th anniversary of the Royal Aeronautical Society.
Geoffrey was in Brindisi when the first C Class, Empire flying boat was commissioned, Canopus G-ADHL (picture from Airminded). The next to get off the ground was Centaurus G-ADUT, which he talks about in detail in the book, since he was Purser for the commissioning period. I love the way he talks about the tests the ‘boat was put through. I think it gave him a great feeling for the way they flew, as well as understanding the needs of the aircraft and its crew, even though he was a station manager. However there was another before Centaurus, which was crated up and shipped to the USA as Imperial Airways’ demonstrator for the potential of these aircraft for passenger transport across the Atlantic. Remember, it was only 1928 that Charles Lindbergh had done his solo flight across the ocean. Times were changing, all right!
The flying boats in Brindisi were the Scipio class. Shortly before Geoffrey arrived there had been a fire and one had burnt out in the harbour. These managed the trans-Mediterranean leg of Imperial Airways service to Australia and South Africa, handing over passengers, freight, and the all-important mail, to the Alexandria staff for onward transport, mostly by the Heracles (or Hannibal) luxury passenger biplane. Geoffrey distinguishes between the two since one was adapted for high-altitude flying, as needed in central Africa. I’m not sure which this is, and I’m only assuming it is pictured in Nairobi, since it matches a set of photos from his Nairobi film packet, and there is a hint of colonial architecture plus palm trees in the distance, below the plane’s nose.
I was reminded of the Hannibal when I saw an article for Croydon Airport about an exhibition at the Croydon museum. Croydon Airport has open days on the first Sunday of the month. I really must get down there this year.