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Wednesday, 17 March 2010

Airfix Short Sunderland III

An Airfix 1/72 scale kit of a Short Sunderland III flying boat dating from the mid 1980's. This is a good example of the distinctive so called "map top box" design which Airfix introduced around this time.

The aircraft depicted on the box belonged to 423 Squadron of the Royal Canadian Air Force and operated from Castle Archdale, Northern Ireland in 1943 - 1944.

The first S.25 (Sunderland Mark I) flying boat built in Short's factory at Rochester, Kent, flew from the River Medway on 16th October 1937. The Air Ministry was very enthusiastic about the new aircraft and had even ordered 21 production examples in March 1936, well before the first test flight.

The first production Sunderland Mark I's entered service with 230 Squadron RAF based in Singapore in June 1938 and by the outbreak of World War II in September 1939, forty aircraft were operational with RAF Coastal Command.

The Sunderland could carry up to 2000 lbs of bombs, mines or depth charges. The aircraft was also well protected with up to eighteen machine guns and could hold it's own against German fighter aircraft.

The aircraft was used for a number of roles including air sea rescue, as a troop carrier, as a transport and in convoy protection (anti submarine).

Apart from at Rochester, Sunderlands were also built at Short's factory in Belfast, Northern Ireland and by the Blackburn Aircraft company in Dumbarton, Scotland.

In August 1941 the Sunderland Mark II was introduced with Pegasus XVIII engines, a modified tail turret and a dorsal turret with twin .303 machine guns.

Later in 1941 production switched to the Sunderland Mark III which became the most common variant with 461 built mainly by Short Brothers in Rochester and Belfast. 35 aircraft were produced at a temporary Shorts plant at White Cross Bay on Lake Windermere.

The Sunderland Mark III was very effective in the fight against German U boats during the battle of the Atlantic. The aircraft flew on long patrols of up to fourteen hours meticulously hunting down the U boats which were attacked with depth charges and strafed with machine gun fire.

A Sunderland Mark IV was developed (later designated S.45 Seaford) for use in the Pacific theatre. Thirty production models were ordered but only eight production were completed and never got beyond operational trials with the RAF.

The Sunderland Mark V was powered by American Pratt & Whitney R-1830-90B Twin Wasp engines which were also used on the Catalina and Dakota. These engines provided greater performance and enabled the aircraft to be flown in an emergency with only two of the four engines operational.

The first Mark V reached operational units in February 1945. The last Sunderland was delivered in June 1946 after a total production run of 749 aircraft.

Apart from the RCAF and RAF, Sunderlands saw service with the RAAF, RNZAF, French Navy, the Norwegian Air Force, the Portuguese Navy and the South African Air Force.

Post war converted military Sunderlands were used by many airlines around the world including BOAC, Ansett, Qantas and Aerolineas Argentinas. Short's civilian conversion of the Sunderland was called the Short Sandringham.

An example of the Airfix kit is currently for sale on Ebay here

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