Flying Boat
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Basic Information

A flying boat - as the name implies is a form of aircraft which is also a watercraft. Constraints of engineering generally mean that the aircraft aspects will predominate, but a flying boat is distinguished from the potentially similar seaplane by having an actual watercraft hull and being seaworthy (to some degree) in its own right (whereas the seaplane is simply an aircraft with floats instead of landing gear and thus sits on top of the water rather than in it. Prior to the era of the big jetliners, this class included some of the biggest aircraft ever built - the water landing effectively removing constraints based on runways and landing gear. In their era, they were favoured for long range flights and in many cases pioneered international air-travel, being able to put down wherever there was water and so sidestepping the need there would otherwise have been to line their routes with expensive infrastructure.

In wartime, flying boats were favoured for ocean reconnaissance, anti-submarine warfare and search and rescue - again, exploiting their long range and sea landing capacity. In the Pacific Ocean in particular it was found that by positioning a tender at some remote atoll, a huge area of otherwise trackless sea could be kept under convenient observation by a flying boat squadron. As large, slow aircraft they tended to be at a disadvantage in any kind of aerial combat, and likewise against any reasonably well armed surface target, but against that they were also stable gunnery platforms with an impressive payload capability and, when correctly equipped and properly manned could be surprisingly deadly.

Upgrades to global infrastructure, the invention of rotary-wing aircraft and the development of the big jetliners have pushed the flying boat into the background of aviation in the modern era, although they can still be found working more remote areas - including the Pacific Rim - where large runways are not to be hoped for, but most settlements have some kind of sea access or are built on a significant river. They also have significant potential for taking cargo to places where there are few, if any, people to build any kind of infrastructure. Which is ideal for small groups of adventurers…

Related to the flying boat, and very much of the modern era is the ekranoplan - a vessel which blurs the line between air and watercraft even further.


1. full source reference

Game and Story Use

  • As noted, a great form of mobile base for a small group. Into the 1950s military surplus flying boats could be had relatively cheaply if you knew the right people.
  • (not to be confused with the rotary wing pilot's cynical dismissal of the fast jet boys : "anything will fly if you throw it hard enough")
  • The watercraft thing is genuine. There are a couple of instances (mostly from WW2) of downed flyingboats being "sailed" back to base, or at least floating well enough to be towed. Absent something to specifically sink them, most (successful) designs are moderately seaworthy.
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