January 1946: developments in the civil aviation sector

WWII ended in 1945 but - as The Engineer reported in January 1946 - it wasn’t long before hostilities broke out in the civil aerospace market

The Miles Aerovan was designed as a military vehicle transporter and subsequently modified for civilian use
The Miles Aerovan was designed as a military vehicle transporter and subsequently modified for civilian use - The Engineer

The Engineer’s third issue of  1946 saw the publication of  a bullish article providing a roundup of aircraft developments in the civil aviation sector from 1945.

Sensing the post-war battle for market dominance, the magazine singled out the US as a significant competitor before embarking on its review of British innovation in the civil aviation space.

“The American manufacturers at one time thought that they [UK aircraft manufacturers] would have nothing to offer foreign buyers for several years,” said The Engineer. “They have been somewhat surprised to discover that we already have 20 different designs of civil aircraft in production or in an advanced stage of development, ranging from single-engined goods or passenger machines to an eight-engined, 110 ton transatlantic landplane.”

Our correspondent continued: “They have, too, freely admitted that while they may be ahead of us in equipment, we are far ahead of them in sales propaganda in overseas markets.”

Many of these innovations were derivatives of aircraft developed for the war effort, among them the Shetland Flying boat that was jointly designed and produced by Short Brothers Limited and Saunders Roe Limited.

At the time the aircraft was the largest British aircraft ever to have flown and was originally intended for service with the RAF Coastal Command before being reclassified as a civil flying boat.

The Shetland - at 110’ in length with a 150’ wingspan - was driven by four Bristol Centaurus engines giving a total power of some 10,000HP, and had a fully laden weight of 130,000lb,

“In spite of its size, it has a maximum speed of 267mph, cruising at about 186mph, it has a range of 4650 miles with a payload of 7620lb, or alternatively a range of 2076 miles with a payload of 30,000lb,” noted The Engineer, adding that it had accommodation on two decks for 70 passengers and a crew of 11. The upper deck housed compartments with enough capacity to hold 6600lb of freight and mail.

Another aircraft modified from a military design was the Sandringham flying boat, a civilian version of the Short Sunderland with extensive modifications to the aircraft interior.

Another aircraft modified from a military design was the Sandringham flying boat, a civilian version of the Short Sunderland with extensive modifications to the aircraft interior -

“Accommodation is provided for 24 passengers for by day, 16 on the lower deck and eight on the upper,” said our correspondent. “For night flights the seats can be arranged as births for 16 passengers.”

Heating, ventilation and sound proofing of the passenger and crew accommodation were reported as receiving close attention, and a service lift was provided so that orders for meals and refreshments received at the buffet on the upper deck could be sent down to the lower deck.

“The power plant consists of four Bristol Pegasus engines of 1050HP each,” said The Engineer. “The all up weight amounts to 56,000lb, and at a cruising speed of 190 mph, the range in still air is 2200 sea miles. In addition to the passenger accommodation, the flying boat has two freight and mail compartments with a total capacity of 477 cubic feet.”

The Miles Aerovan was singled out for ‘special attention’ due to its wartime design as a vehicle transporter and subsequent modification for civilian use where it could carry a one ton load and travel 450 miles at a cruising speed of 110mph.

“The fuselage is of plastic bonded wood construction and its after end is hinged to provide a five foot square entrance for freight,” said The Engineer. “When the aircraft is used as a passenger carrier, the passengers enter through the cockpit door and then through a second door in a partition between the cockpit and the cabin. Accommodation can be provided from 6-to-10 passengers. The wings are of wooden construction and are fitted with Miles external aero foil flaps and slotted ailerons.”

The Engineer added that the tail unit was a metal boom carrying three fins and rudders and that the aircraft could get airborne with two Gypsy Major or two Cirrus Major engines.


“Various alternative special arrangements of the accommodation can be provided,” continued our correspondent. “In one, the aircraft can be arranged as a flying caravan with living, sleeping and cooking accommodation for two people. In another form, it can be fitted up as a travelling showroom or shop and can be provided with tanks for 200 gallons of liquid goods in addition to solid cargo.”

Finally, The Engineer turned its attention to the Avro Tudor I, an aircraft designed from the start as a civil airliner with a 10’ diameter circular pressurised fuselage that was 80’ long and could provide day and night day accommodation for 12 passengers on long flights (24 if sleeping berths weren’t required).

“The power plant consists of four Merlin engines driving De Haviland constant-speed propellers, the pitch of which may be reversed to give a breaking action for landing purposes,” said The Engineer. “The aircraft is designed to fly at an operating height of 25,000’, at which height it should be free from weather disturbances and icing conditions. The pressurising of the fuselage is such as to ensure to the passengers and crew an atmospheric pressure equivalent to that at. 80,000’.”

Designed to serve the North Atlantic route, the Tudor 1 could not compete with aircraft designed by Douglas (DC-4) or Lockheed (Constellation) but that didn’t stop the Ministry of Supply in its pursuit of the UK civil airliner for BOAC, which at the time favoured US aircraft that weighed less and carried more passengers.