|Virtual Aircraft Museum / United Kingdom / Fairey|
One of the criticisms of early Fairey aircraft was aimed at their appearance, for they were frequently regarded as being numbered among the most ugly aeroplanes in the air. It was an unkind attitude in an age when it was difficult to attain the sort of performance required by a general-purpose aircraft: one which might be expected to operate from and to a ship at sea, in addition to more conventional use as a landplane or seaplane.
Fairey's IIID, first flown in prototype form in August 1920, derived from the company's F.128 experimental floatplane of 1917. This introduced the Fairey Patent Camber Gear evolved for the Hamble Baby, which was then described as a trailing-edge flap and used to increase the lift of the wings. Today we would regard these aerofoil control surfaces as drooped ailerons, for they were used as ailerons in flight, but could be drooped symmetrically to enhance the lift developed by the normal wing surface. Tested as a two-seat sea-plane, the F.128 was known as the Fairey III. With a single frontal radiator behind the propeller and the floats replaced by a wheel landing gear, the designation became Fairey IIIA.
In modified form the designation became Fairey IIIB. These had float landing gear, increased wing area, and ailerons on the upper wing in addition to the Patent Camber Gear on the lower. The IIIC which followed had a performance increase of some 14%, almost entirely due to the installation of a Rolls-Royce Eagle VIII engine. It was regarded as one of the best seaplanes of its day, but it entered service too late to be involved in World War I.
The Fairey IIID benefited from considerable experience with Fairey Ills in both RFC and RNAS use. The prototype retained the Eagle VIII engine, but of the 207 built for service with the RAF and Fleet Air Arm, 152 were powered by Napier Lion IIB, V or VA engines. A large-span two-bay biplane with constant-chord wings, the IIID was operated as a landplane from shore stations and aircraft carriers, or as a seaplane for catapult launch from warships. In fact, on 30 October 1925, a IIID became the first standard FAA seaplane to be catapulted from a ship at sea.
In landplane form, the IIID was one of the first service aircraft to have oleo-pneumatic (oil/air) shock-absorbers. It was used to record the RAF's first flight from England to South Africa and its first official long-distance formation flight. Led by Wg Cdr C. W. H. Pulford, between 1 March and 21 June 1926 IIIDs completed a flight of almost 22,530km, Cairo-Cape Town-Cairo and thence to Lee-on-Solent. At no time throughout the period of almost four months was any delay caused by mechanical failure of any of the aircraft, speaking volumes for the soundness of the basic design of both airframe and engine.