The Golden Age of Flight encompassed the years between the two World Wars and introduced airline travel to the masses. With it, large aircraft with boat-like hulls emerged that could take-off and land on water featuring extensive operational ranges and steady flight characteristics. This opened many routes of world to passenger flight (even overnight endeavors) on these machines and many manufactures delivered varying designs utilizing very similar configurations. Short Brothers was one such concern and made a name for itself by initially delivering aircraft during the First World War (1914-1918) and supplying the British military with capable flying boats into World War 2.
One of their most important contributions of World War 2 became the Short S.25 Sunderland which first flew in 1937 and was adopted in 1938. It was built across 777 examples and served the Royal Air Force among others throughout the war. From this design stemmed the Short S.45 Seaford of 1944 of which 10 examples appeared and served RAF Coastal Command as a maritime anti-ship platform - though arriving too late to see service in World War 2. The evolution of the line then continued with the Short S.45 Solent which also missed out on World War 2 service, first flying on November 11th, 1946 (the war was over by September of 1945).
Characteristic of these aircraft types, the Solent was given a deep boat-like hull fuselage which allowed for its water landing and take-off requirement. This forced an elevated empennage as well as high-mounted wings, the latter for clearing the engine propeller blades over the water's surface. The tail unit utilized a single vertical tail fin (of a rounded tip and of a large area design) with low-set horizontal planes. Pontoon legs were added outboard of the outermost engine installations at the wings to cover tipping of the aircraft on water. The cockpit was of the stepped variety with commanding views over the front of the fuselage and unobstructed views of the inboard engines for both pilots from their respective positions. The fuselage sides were dotted by rectangular windows for viewing while the aircraft was constructed largely of aluminum. Access doors allowed for entry/exit of the aircraft. A typical in-flight crew numbered seven (pilot, co-pilot, navigator, radioman, flight engineer and two flight attendants) with passenger seating for up to 34 persons.
The Solent was produced in three major versions beginning with the "Solent 2". This was delivered to the British Overseas Airways Corporation (BOAC) through twelve examples, all produced at the Rochester facility. The Solent 2 was powered by 4 x Bristol Hercules 637 radial piston engines of 1,690 horsepower each. This supplied the aircraft with a maximum speed of 273 miles per hour, a range of 1,800 miles, a service ceiling of 17,000 feet and a rate-of-climb of 925 feet per minute. Dimensions included a length of 87 feet, 8 inches, a wingspan of 112 feet, 9 inches and a height of 34 feet, 3.75 inches. Empty weight was listed at 47,760lbs with a loaded weight of 78,000lbs.
The "Solent 3" arrived in seven examples of which six were completed at Queen's Island and the last at Hamble. These were all conversions of existing Seaford models.
The "Solent 4" differed by its installation of 4 x Bristol Hercules 733 series engines and four of the type were produced at Belfast.
Operators of the S.45 Solent line (beyond Aquila Airways and BOAC of the United Kingdom) included South Pacific Airlines of the United States, Trans-Oceanic Airways of Australia and Tasman Empire Airways Limited of New Zealand. The Solent did not officially see any military service during its tenure though it was evaluated by the British Marine Aircraft Experimental Establishment for a time in 1950.
In all, twenty-three Solent aircraft existed with sixteen of the type being "new-build" models, the remaining seven direct ex-Seaford conversions.