The Supermarine S.6B: The Evolution of A British Pride
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The Supermarine S.6B: The Evolution of A British Pride

The Supermarine S.6B: The Evolution of A British Pride, The Supermarine S.6B at the Schneider Trophy races

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The Schneider Trophy was instrumental in the inception of the Supermarine S.6B. Founded by Frenchman Jacques Schneider, it was devised as a forum of advancement for amphibious aircraft designs employing developments in engine and aerodynamics to achieve the highest speed attainable. The first launch of the Schneider Trophy competition was held in Monaco in 1913.

After the First World War, the contest became popular as participated by Americans, Italians and British. The Englismen’s first taste of victory happened in Monaco in 1914 with the Sopwith Tabloid floatplane followed by another win in 1922 when a Supermarine Sea Lion II dominated the event in Naples, Italy. In the effect of the success of the Supermarine aircraft, the same type was entered in 1923 with an upgraded engine (Supermarine Sea Lion III) when the British hosted the competition in Cowes, Isle of Wight on 27th and 28th of September. Unlike the Italians who dominated the contest twice when they hosted the event however, the British only made it on the 3rd place (with Supermarine Sea Lion III). The Americans gained the lead taking the first and second places with two US Navy Curtiss CR3 floatplanes. The loss affected the Supermarine company so much that Reginald Mitchell, its chief designer abandoned the flying boat design which brought the introduction of a sleek, more aerodynamic floatplane configuration in what was to be known as the Supermarine S.4.

The Supermarine S.4 despite its clean design and promising looks didn’t proved its worth however when it pancaked on Chesapeake Bay due to aileron flutter while on flight trials for the 23-26 October 1925 competition set in the US. Thus the victory was seized again by the Americans when 1st Lt. James Doolittle piloted the US entry, a Curtiss R2C-2 aircraft. The British other entry, a Gloster III only gained the second place. The failure of the Supermarine S.4 design brought Reginald Mitchell back on the drawing board for the redesign of the basic S.4 airframe by employing modifications that resulted into the Supermarine S.5. The notable change was indicated by the placement of the wings where the former mid-wing set up on the S.4 was replaced by the low wing configuration on the S.5. The lesson of the aileron flutter, also brought the installation of two cable wing supports running from the fuselage to both wings. The Supermarine S.5 did proved worthy when it won the Schneider Trophy in 1927 with the competition set in Venice, Italy (The British didn’t join the competition in 1926) bagging both first and second places.

One of the two surviving S.6B at Solent Sky Museum at Southampton, U.K.

Top View of the S.6B

The Schneider Trophy race of 7 September 1929 (The race was cancelled in 1928 owing to Jacques Schneider’s death) was just the right time and it was destined for the Supermarine S.6. Reginald Mitchell adopted the proven Supermarine S.5 with a new engine from Rolls Royce thus giving birth to the Supermarine S.6. Britain entered two S.6 at the race which was brought back on British grounds at Calshot Spit, one of the two Supermarine S.6 took the lead winning the trophy leaving the second place to the Italians with their entry, an M.52R. The last and final year of the race in 1931 which remained at Calshot Spit was just another victory for the Supermarine S.6 which was modified into the S.6B with another Rolls Royce engine installed. The competition was only between two Supermarine S.6Bs since the Italian entries were plagued with problems even taking the lives of its pilots on test flights from the very start, the momentous date was 13 September 1931, quite a coincidence for the day of the event and the year which were just opposites of two numbers (and further to think that the Schneider Trophy started in 1913). But instead of proving number 13 as an unlucky number, it proved lucky for the Supermarine S.6B to etch her name in history. Piloted by Flt. Lt. John Boothman, the winning S.6B (S1595) averaged 340.98 mph winning the race in 47 minutes also establishing a world record as the fastest airplane in the world at that period. The Supermarine S.6B exceeded the record further when on the 29th of September 1931, Flt. Lt. George Stainforth averaged 407.5 mph at five straight 1.9 mile trials over Southampton making the type of aircraft the first airplane to beat the 400 mph mark. As for Reginald Mitchell it was a design experience that was to assist in his future work on the configuration of aircraft that will influence the course of history, the Supermarine Spitfire.


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Comments (10)

Quite interesting. Nice job. (Appreciate the reference material)

Thanks, James. I took a holiday from wikipedia, lol.

My favorite feature articles (Aircraft) from Will, thank you.

A really informative article Will. I had heard of this aircraft before Will, but knew very little about it. I hope that you had a safe and happy New Year.

Thanks Ron, Jerry. Yes I did had a safe and happy new year. I hope you all did as well.

Another great piece from yours. you must have spent much time here.

ha ha ha I was totally confused, With dial up the pictures often don't load and I misread the title - thought it was about submarines, I was confused when you mention aircraft, but should have realized I had it all wrong - of course you write more about air craft than underwater craft.. dumb me...

Thanks, Chan. That's the problem with the internet, Brenda. Sometimes it happens to my desktop and I suspect I have stored too much on the hard drive that the memory can't cope up. Anyway, my topic was about an amphibian plane so it's quite close to a submarine.

I made the same mistake and was expecting submarines. Who says you need to be able to read to be a writer lol

Interesting and insightful read. Thanks deep blue