In 1935 the British government took the bold decision to carry all mail within the Empire at the ordinary surface rate (in Britain then equal to 0.625 p). Combined with.increasing passenger traffic, this called for a sudden expansion of Imperial Airways and the equally bold decision was taken to buy 28 of a totally new flying-boat 'off the drawing board' from Short Brothers. Flying-boats were then favoured because they could be more heavily loaded than landplanes, the latter being constricted by the small and rough fields available. The prototype S.23 made its very successful maiden flight on 4 July 1936. It was named Canopus and all sister-ships had names beginning with C, the boats also being known as the C class.
Features included light-alloy stressed-skin construction; a cantilever high wing with electric Gouge flaps; four 685êW Bristol Pegasus Xc radial engines driving DH Hamilton two-position propellers; and a streamlined nose incorporating an enclosed flight deck for captain, first officer, navigator and flight clerk. A steward's pantry was amidships and in the normal configuration seats were arranged in front and rear cabins for 24 passengers. On long hauls sleeping accommodation was provided for 16, with a promenade lounge. On some routes experience showed that the mail capacity had to be raised from 1.5 to 2 tonnes, reducing the passenger seats to 17.
All 28 were delivered, plus three for Qantas (Australia). Two were long-range boats with increased weight and transatlantic range. Eleven S.30s (eight for Imperial and three for Tasman Empire Airways) had 663kW Perseus XIIc sleeve-valve engines and greater range - the first four also being equipped for flight refuelling to greater weight. The final two boats were S.33s with increased weight and Pegasus engines.
During World War II most of these great aircraft served on long routes all over the world. Four were impressed for RAF use with radar (two being destroyed in Norway in May 1940) and most were re-engined with the same 752kW Pegasus 22 engines as the Sunderlands (the derived military version). Their achievements were amazing: one made 442 crossings of the Tasman Sea, two evacuated 469 troops from Crete and one was flown out of a small river in the Belgian Congo in 1940. Others maintained schedules on the North Atlantic, between Britain and Africa, the dangerous Mediterranean route from Gibraltar to Malta and Cairo, and the Horseshoe route between Australia, India and South Africa. Most were retired in 1947
| ENGINE||4 x Bristol Pegasus XC, 686kW|
| Take-off weight||18370 kg||40499 lb|
| Empty weight||10659 kg||23499 lb|
| Wingspan||34.75 m||114 ft 0 in|
| Length||26.82 m||88 ft 0 in|
| Height||9.7 m||32 ft 10 in|
| Wing area||139.35 m2||1499.95 sq ft|
| Max. speed||322 km/h||200 mph|
| Cruise speed||265 km/h||165 mph|
| Ceiling||6095 m||20000 ft|
| Range||1223 km||760 miles|
|A three-view drawing (602 x 779)|
|Brian Tilley, Brintil=sky.com, 27.01.2013|
I was in the RAF and flew in th Canopus flying boat from Cairo in Spring 1946 to Dubai landing to refuel on the Dead Sea and on lake Habbaniyah for an overnight stop then Kuwait & Bahrain Onto Dubai. For duty at RAF Sharjah It truly was a wonderful experience for a young man of 18 . Canopus was the first C Class to be built and was dismantled in December 1946 the year in which I flew in her.
|David Gurney, gurney=global.co.za, 21.11.2012|
My father Captain 'Mack" Gurney was a senior captain flying these aircraft from Durban to England. He also ran the Imperial Airways Flyingb Training School at Vaal Dam. Have some literature and history about thewse wonderful machines.
|Tom Heald, tak_mot=hotmail.com, 26.06.2012|
I also servrd my apprenticeship in Shorts 1951/56 and had many flights on the Sunderland as ballast?? We had 2015 Air Training Squadron and apprentice supervisor was Squadron Leader that's why we got the flights. Even had one landing in bomb aimers position. Quite an experience landing in Belfast Lough
|John White, Jwhitefrance=gmail.com, 05.03.2012|
I served on the last of the R.A.F. Sunderlands of 205/209 Sqdrn in the Far East from 1956
to 1959 when they were finished . They were wonderful aircraft to work on, and fly in.
|Doug Rodrigues, mtnpilotdiver=msn.com, 06.07.2011|
I don't know if Shorts made more than one type of Flying Boat, but there is a Shorts flying boat on display at the Air Museum located next to the Oakland International Airport in Oakland, California, USA. I got to walk through the plane a couple of years ago. It's still there.
|Jeff Renshaw, jrendpd=att.net, 27.09.2010|
My father, E. W. "Ted" Renshaw, was navigator/radioman on the Canopus and other "C" class flying boats. Used to enjoy listening to him tell of flights throughout Africa and the east. I believe there is a front section, including cockpit, of a Short Brothers flying boat at the museum in Southampton, not sure which model.
|Yoel Sher, yoelavivs=gmail.com, 16.03.2010|
I have wonderful memories from a five day flight as a child on both the oldest boat Canopus and the newest one Cleopatra in January 1941, from Lourenco-Marques (Maputo, today) to Tiberias. Part of the trip was a fantastic safari, flying probably not higher than one thousand feet.We "landed" wherever there was some water, and stayed overnught at Mombassa, on Victoria Lake at Kisume, on the Nile at Khartoum and then in Cairo.
Would it be possible to find photos and the names of the crew members operating at that time?
|Martin Holmes, mrtnhlms=gmail.com, 12.09.2009|
What a way to travel. How I wish it were still possible! My Dad worked on these beautiful machines up and down Africa and along the Nile during the War with Imperial Air/BOAC...Cairo, Khartoum, Wadi-Halfa, Durban,and other places. At one time, both he (Stanley) and his elder brother (Dick), were "web-footers".
|JACK CAIRNS, joscjack=bigpond.com, 18.04.2009|
HI - I SERVED APPRENTISHIP IN SHORT BROS + HARLAND IN BELFAST IN 52-57 - ON SUNDERLANDS ETC. THERE IS A LOT OF INFORMATION ON THE INTERNET - TRY ENTERING SHORTS FLYING BOATS - THANX J.C.
|Geoff Gurr, geoff.gurr=cwgsy.net, 30.10.2008|
I flew as passenger in a C Class 'boat from Cairo to Nairobi, then later from Mombasa to Diego Suarez in Madagascar in 1944. Is there any way to trace the names of these 'boats, please?
|sandra.walters, sandra.walters=bombela.com, 31.10.2007|
Can you please give details of which flying boats were used on the Southampton - Vaal Dam South Africa route. Also what speed did she travel, how many passengers and the exact route (with stops) many thanks
|Trevor More, blank=hotmail.com, 05.08.2007|
The last S23 Empire boat was broken up in 1954. So, sadly, none survive and you cannot fly in one.
|John Haggman, jhaggman=kingeagle.net, 25.04.2007|
Where can I fly one? Can you please advise where any S.23's presently operate?
Do you have any comments about this aircraft ?