STATUS: Retired, Out-of-Service
MANUFACTURER(S): Seaplane Experimental Station (Felixstowe) - UK
OPERATORS: United Kingdom (retired)
LENGTH: 63.16 feet (19.25 meters)
WIDTH: 123.03 feet (37.5 meters)
HEIGHT: 27.49 feet (8.38 meters)
WEIGHT (EMPTY): 18,607 pounds (8,440 kilograms)
WEIGHT (MTOW): 33,069 pounds (15,000 kilograms)
ENGINE: 5 x Rolls-Royce Eagle VIII inline piston engines (with two paired in pusher/puller fashion) developing 334 horsepower each and driving two-bladed propeller units.
SPEED (MAX): 96 miles-per-hour (155 kilometers-per-hour; 84 knots)
RANGE: 621 miles (1,000 kilometers; 540 nautical miles)
CEILING: 12,008 feet (3,660 meters; 2.27 miles)
RATE-OF-CLIMB: 355 feet-per-minute (108 meters-per-minute)
Detailing the development and operational history of the Felixstowe Fury (Porte Super-Baby) Five-Engine Triplane Flying Boat Aircraft.
Entry last updated on 3/26/2018.
Authored by Staff Writer. Content ©www.MilitaryFactory.com.
The short experience that the British Royal Navy Air Service (RNAS) had with the over-sized American Curtiss "Wanamaker" (Model T) triplane flying boat (detailed elsewhere on this site) of 1916 led to the development of an indigenous aircraft of similar form and function. While the Wanamaker was ordered in some twenty examples for service in World War 1 (1914-1918) by the RNAS, the only one built in the series crashed on its maiden flight and ended hopes that the machine would be a long-term solution (the 20-strong contract was subsequently cancelled). British engineers at the Seaplane Experimental Station (Felixstowe) took the idea and evolved it further to produce the Felixstowe "Fury" - an equally-large flying boat design with the purpose that it fulfill a long-range maritime patrol bomber role in service.
The aircraft was the brainchild of one John Cyril Porte (1884-1919), an officer of the Royal Navy / Royal Air Force, and therefore came to be known by the name of "Porte Super-Baby". The resulting aircraft was dimensionally larger than the earlier Curtiss Model T along some lines and recognized as the largest seaborne aircraft of the period. Furthermore, for its time, the flying boat became the largest-ever constructed and flown for Britain and its size was such that servo-motors (these eventually deleted) were installed to aid in its controlling - the first time ever this had been done to an aircraft in aviation history.
Like the Curtiss aircraft, the "Fury" held a boat-like hull for the requisite water landings and take-offs - its construction arrangement (involving cedar) an original Porte design. A triplane mainplane configuration was used which incorporated three separate elements: an upper, middle, and lower span. The upper and middle elements were of equal span while the lower element was the shortest of the three. The engines were installed along the top surface of the middle span as in the Curtiss flying boat. Parallel struts and cabling were used for supporting these large members. The tail unit was of a biplane configuration (though unlike the Curtiss Model T which had a single vertical fin).
Overall dimensions included a length of 63.1 feet, a span of 123 feet, and a height of 27.5 feet. Empty weight was 18,565lb against an MTOW of 33,000lb.
As designed, the aircraft was to be powered by 3 x Rolls-Royce "Condor" engines of 600 horsepower each. Their unavailability meant that 5 x Rolls-Royce "Eagle VII" was used in their place, these outputting a lesser 334 horsepower each and driving two-bladed propeller units. The five units were arranged as two paired (in puller-pusher configuration, positioned outboard of centerline) with the remaining unit set as a traditional pusher (at center). Performance went on to include a maximum speed of 97 miles per hour (slower than the Curtiss) and a service ceiling of 12,000 feet. Rate-of-climb (slightly lower than the Curtiss model) was listed at 353 feet-per-minute.
As a military-minded creation, the aircraft was slated to carry no fewer than 4 x Lewis Machine Guns in various trainable mountings about the fuselage as well as a modest bomb load. These were not fitted due to the end of the war.
The progress of World War 1 eventually saw the conflict meet its end in the Armistice of November 1918. The Fury was readied in early October of that year but not delivered to the RNAS until the end of the month meaning that a maiden flight was not recorded until November 11th, 1918 - the same day that the war was officially over. As such, the Fury was not pushed to see combat service in The Great War.
Nevertheless, the aircraft was retained to undergo various tests which took it into 1919 by which point the design was successfully proven over various impressive distances and altitudes. For a brief time it was considered to enter the aircraft into a trans-Atlantic crossing challenge but the logistics of the commercial market venture ruled the large military aircraft out of contention. Instead, private long-endurance tests were planned to further prove the Fury sound - primarily a route established between British shores, over Africa, and into the South African city of Cape Town.
However, all that proved moot when the aircraft crashed into the water off Felixstowe on August 11th, 1919 during a low-level flight at-speed just after it had taken off. All but one of the seven crewmen were rescued by boats. The aircraft was towed back to base in time but never flew again.
Of note related to the Fury program was the Gosport Model G9, a civilian market venture of the Fury intended as a passenger hauler. To fulfill this role, the fuselage was to be modified to carry up to twelve passengers in style (as well as their luggage) and power was to come from a triple engine arrangement (3 x Rolls-Royce Condor). This design did not progress beyond a proposal.
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This entry's maximum listed speed (96mph).
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Graph showcases the Felixstowe Fury's operational range (on internal fuel) when compared to distances between major cities.
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