Short S.B.6 Seamew


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Short S.B.6 Seamew

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.


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.

Short S.B.6 SeamewA three-view drawing (800 x 456)

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.

Short S.B.6 Seamew

 ENGINE1 x 1780hp Armstrong Siddeley Mamba turboprop
  Take-off weight6804 kg15000 lb
  Wingspan16.75 m55 ft 11 in
  Length12.50 m41 ft 0 in
  Max. speed378 km/h235 mph

Short S.B.6 Seamew

Comments1-20 21-40
Phil Runciman, e-mail, 30.12.2017 09:50

Colin, I remember your brothers very well. I came back to NI for the first time in 1996 for the 9th June. I stayed with Mr. Gould my old maths tutor. (My father thought being 9th in the form at The Upper Sullivan School was not good enough. He matriculated with 100%!) John Davis pruced a film, "The Uncle Jack" with crash in it. The plane had an aileron repair which was completed prior to the crash.


Colin ralphson, e-mail, 02.12.2017 23:55

I used to sit and listen to Listen with Mother with Tracy. We were 4 /5 then. She had damaged her hands when her dad was killed . As her bestest friend I was standing next to her as the sorry tale of her fathers death was announced at assembly. Phillip and his brothers were friends with my idiot brothers. Iron files inserted into bamboos is still a vivid memory which was stuck in one of their legs. I missed the air show but not the funeral. As a grown up of 69 I still wonder why anyone was trying to do aeronautics in such a rubbish plane and how that would help sell a light bomber. Very few planes in any era are rated to do anything but fly in a straight line. Memories of a sad unforgettable episode.


Hugo Ross, e-mail, 09.06.2016 17:47

re John Bell's comment on 06.04.2016, the 'pranged' Seamew XA209 was flown again 10 days later.


Hugo Ross, e-mail, 09.06.2016 17:34

There is no memorial, to my knowledge, except a grave in Holywood Cemetery. 60 years ago today, actually.


Rob Carter, e-mail, 09.06.2016 10:32

This happened sixty years ago yesterday which got me thinking, is there any sort of memorial to the crash or to remember Wally Runciman?

I've always found the Seamew an intriguing aircraft and would love to know if anyone has any parts from one?


John Bell, e-mail, 06.04.2016 19:27

With reference to Mickharp's email of the 5 /1 /2016 I think that he is referring to the first flight of the Seamew. Due to wrong throttle settings on the Mamba engine, Wally Runciman could not reduce the airspeed for a safe landing. He opted to switch the engine off and do a 'dead stick' landing but undershot the runway at Victoria Park! The aircraft was repaired and appeared at Farnborough that September! In his logbook Wally simply wrote 'Pranged'!!


edwin boggs, e-mail, 17.03.2016 01:40

i too was at the airshow and witnessed the crash as a 12 year old . my memory is of 2 loops and straight into a slow rol . I always believed the aircraft stalled inverted .I also was employed by Shorts as a final assembly inspector and later had a career as a commercial airline captain

reply, e-mail, 05.01.2016 12:06

I remember seeing this crashed aircraft. I actually lived in a Nissan hut in Victoria Park just about 200 yards from the crash site. There still exists today a narrow stretch of water roughly the width of a canal and this runs along the edge of the George Best City Airport from the site of the boat club which can be seen from the Belfast to Holywood dual carriageway. This stretch of water is tidal. I remember that the plane crashed just on the bank at the water's edge and lay there unattende for some time. I was only 9 at the time but the memory is very vivid. Although I never actually saw the crash I have thought about what I saw that day many times.I was actually looking for info about it when I came across this forum.


Leo Harford, e-mail, 08.01.2015 10:18

I was at the air display with my dad. I was 9 years old.I remember that the aircraft started to loop at low altitude
and went straight into the ground quite close to us.


THOMAS MC KENNA, e-mail, 24.12.2013 00:55



harry baker, e-mail, 03.08.2013 15:42

I was thirteen when I witnessed this terrible crash. I eill never forget the black smoke and the shock of witnessing this tragedy. My father who worked in Shorts had introduced me to mr runciman shortly before the flight. I remember he was very nice to me and showed me around the ill fated plane. Everyone was totally in shock.


Bob Imrie, e-mail, 12.05.2013 14:23

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, e-mail, 26.03.2013 21:40

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, e-mail, 30.09.2011 16:58

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, e-mail, 22.09.2011 19:40

I apologise! I got the date wrong, sorry!

A typo!

It was the 9th June 1956 that the crash happened.

The 9th june happens to be my wife's birthday.


Adrian Boyce, e-mail, 22.09.2011 19:31

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, e-mail, 13.02.2011 00:59

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.


Barry, 07.01.2011 15:15

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, e-mail, 18.11.2010 10:14

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.


Hugo, 03.11.2010 11:53

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.


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