This week in… 1951

The Princess, designed and built at the Saunders-Roe facility on the Isle of Wight, was the largest flying boat ever made. Designed to carry more than 105 passengers, the two-decked, 10-engined plane weighed 154 tonnes, had a wing span of 66.9m and stood 17m high.

After a visit to the Saunders-Roe site, The Engineer reported with some excitement on the preparations for the aircraft’s first flight trials.

‘At take-off the machine will develop 35,000 ebhp,’ wrote the magazine. ‘Its fuel load of 14,500 gallons of kerosene, carried within integral wing tanks, amounts to more than one third of the gross weight of the aircraft. The machine will cruise at an airspeed of 380mph and at heights up to 40,000ft.’

The aircraft (below) flew for the first time in August 1952 and enjoyed a number of successful flights over the following years. But, although there were initially a number of promising orders for the aircraft, they were all eventually cancelled and only three were built. The Princess was the last flying boat ever built in the UK.

Undeterred by the Princess’s lack of commercial success, Saunders Roe briefly looked into the possibility of developing an even larger, 670-tonne, flying boat for P&O ferries but these plans were eventually shelved. The company later became part of Westland Aircraft, which itself became Westland Helicopters before merging with Agusta a few years ago to become AgustaWestland.