The ungainly Seamew was conceived as a cheap, rugged anti-submarine
aircraft able to operate from small carriers used by the UK and some other
allied nations. To this end it was built with a fixed landing gear and a strong
structure. Despite this, the prototype was badly damaged on its first landing,
although it was repaired in time for the Farnborough Air Show.
In handling terms the Seamew was described as having some 'vicious
tendencies'. It was capable of aerobatics, but the chief test pilot seemed to be the
only one able to wring the full manoeuvrability out of the Seamew - until he
stalled the prototype Mk.2 during a display and was killed. Production began for
RAF Coastal Command and the Royal Navy, but the RAF order was cancelled
in 1956 and the Navy's was a victim of the defence cuts of the following year.
|A three-view drawing (800 x 456)|
| ENGINE||1 x 1780hp Armstrong Siddeley Mamba turboprop|
| Take-off weight||6804 kg||15000 lb|
| Wingspan||16.75 m||55 ft 11 in|
| Length||12.50 m||41 ft 0 in|
| Max. speed||378 km/h||235 mph|
|Bob Imrie, r.imrie123=btinternet.com, 12.05.2013|
When I was stationed at RNAS Lossiemouth in the early 50s
we had a Seamew and I watched it do circuits and bumps.
Approaching runway 23 from the sea, I recall it seemed to hang in the air, with a short land on. I think it was being assessed for maintenance as well.Of course we got the Gannet!
|Allan Chapple, allan.chapple=talktalk.net, 26.03.2013|
I am yet another who was at that show as a 13 year old. Fascinated by aircraft I went on to join the RAF as a BE in 1959. My recollection of the accident was that the pilot was tying to put the aircraft throught too many manoeuvres in one sequence and as a result he was too close to the ground and too slow when he attempted to recover from a very high banked turn. As others have said it remains an unpleasant memory of my childhood but it will probably remain with me for ever.I was interested to read the pilots comments that it was very difficult to fly. Why did they persist as it seemed it was never going to work?
|John Baines, rafpilot=gmail.com, 30.09.2011|
I too was at the airshow on the day the Seamew crashed. I was an apprentice at Shorts at the time , working in the Flight Safety department. As I recall the Seamew was in competition with the Fairey Gannet for a government contract and both aircraft were being displayed that day at Sydenham so there was some competition. My recollection is that the Seamew started a loop from an extremely low level, and was unable to complete the loop. Very tragic day.
|Adrian Boyce, aboyce_au=yahoo.com.au, 22.09.2011|
I apologise! I got the date wrong, sorry!
It was the 9th June 1956 that the crash happened.
The 9th june happens to be my wife's birthday.
|Adrian Boyce, aboyce_au=yahoo.com.au, 22.09.2011|
I too was at the Air Display at Sydenham on that unfortunate and fateful day 8th June 1956.
I was a schoolboy of almost 10 years old. As an observer who knew very little about Aircraft or flying and a memory from 55 years ago, it was one of those incidents that you never forget.
I recall the Seamew flying, what I thought was a bit low, it seemed to do a loop but didn't recover from the loop and flew directly into the ground!
At first I thought it was a stunt, you know, it could'nt be real, but it was.
The Air Display was immediately cancelled, as it should have been.
I remember the black smoke rising in clouds into the sky.
On my way home, I stood on the footbridge over the railway tracks at Sydenham station and looked back over Shorts Aerodrome as the smoke continued to rise into the sky.
It was only today that I learnt the Pilots Name, 55 years later.
|John Bell, j.bell10=ntlworld.com, 13.02.2011|
I was interested to read Phil Runciman's comments about another factor intruded which might have a bearing on the crash of the Seamew. I wonder would Phil be able to contact me about this, please. I am in the process of writing a book about it called 'The Seamew Story' and am collecting information about the Seamew, pictures and any comments from pilots who flew them. Obviously Wally Runciman would feature as he was so closely associated with the aircraft. I find it a shame that today the statement 'pilot error' often condemns the pilot with little by way of redress.
Jim Winchester descibes this aeroplane in "The World's Worst Aircraft" as "a camel amongst race horses". Only 19 were built in total.
With referce to Phil Runciman's comments it has been recorded elsewhere that his father "Wally" Runciman was "a very experienced pilot".
|Phil Runciman, runcie=xtra.co.nz, 18.11.2010|
Hugo said, "It dropped out of a slow roll - not the sort of error a highly experienced test pilot would have made." Having seen this and similar manoeuvres repeated over Belfast Lough on many occasions I would conclude that another factor intruded. The crash investigation did not explore that idea. It came up with the "pilot error" tag. Brooky had a higher opinion than Hugo's of his abilities, as did Arthur Pearcy. My father joined Short because Brooke-Smith was in hospital after crashing the Sherpa. He survived his crash but my father did not. Nowadays the simulators are often harder to fly than the actual aircraft. Times change.
A couple of points: It was not the chief test pilot who was responsible for, had the most hours on and could manage the Seamew best. Shorts' CTP at the time was Brooke-Smith, the Seamew's test pilot was W.J.Runciman. Also the aircraft did not stall and crash. It dropped out of a slow roll - not the sort of error a highly experience test pilot would have made.
|JACK CAIRNS, joscjack=bigpond.com, 18.04.2009|
HI BUD - YES , I ALSO WAS THERE AT THE CRASH - VERY SAD - I LATER SERVED APPRENTISHIP AT SHORTS - MANY FED. GOVT FUNDED AIRCRAFT BUILT , NO AIRLINE OR MILITARY ORDERS - USUAL STORY WITH GOVT DEPT PROJECTS - UNIONS DID NOT HELP - J.C.
|John Bell, j.bell10=ntlworld.com, 03.03.2009|
I saw the Seamew during many of the test flights as a small boy. I also was there when it crashed at the Sydenham Air display. One interesting fact - I watched it climb one day to about 3,000ft and then stop the propellor and it then dived downwards. This happened several times and I gathered this was to try and improve the diving speed without the drag of the propellor!!
|Robin Tuff, chesilfan=thetuffs.co.uk, 21.02.2007|
The Seamew never entered service. As a cocept it was alrerady out of date
Do you have any comments about this aircraft ?
FACTS AND FIGURES
© The Mk 2 was a version for Coastal
Command with larger wheels and
manual wing folding. It was cancelled
after rwo were completed.
© The fixed undercarriage legs
could be jettisoned in the
event of a ditching at sea.
© The need to house a large search
radar under the belly led to the
adoption of a tailwheel undercarriage
layout, which by the mid-1950s was
regarded as somewhat old-fashioned
for carrier aircraft.