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Plane Crash Diaries

Episode 23 - Imperial Airways and the link between flying boats and passenger briefings

Plane Crash Diaries
Plane Crash Diaries
This is episode 23 and we’re dealing with flying boat accidents.

You may be surprised to hear but one accident in particular involving an Imperial Airways flying boat in 1939 set in motion the use of specialised carb heaters for all aircraft. The safety inspector also recommended that all passengers should be instructed in the fastening of lifebelts and location of emergency exits as well as other lifesaving equipment like rafts become mandatory in aircraft flying over the ocean.

So all those trips you’ve taken where the cabin crew point out the emergency exits and spend time showing you how to use a lifejacket can be directly linked to this one accident in 1939.

Remember this series is really about aviation safety more than just a story about a crash. Discovering the cause of an accident usually implies a technical or human error which must not be repeated and much of what we’ve heard so far in the previous 22 episodes seeks to identify those moments.

First a quick word about flying boats and amphibious aircraft.

Frenchman Alphonse Pénaud filed the first patent for a flying machine with a boat hull and retractable landing gear in 1876, but Austrian Wilhelm Kress is credited with building the first seaplane Drachenflieger in 1898, although its two 30 hp Daimler engines were inadequate for take-off and it later sank when one of the two floats collapsed.

A flying boat is not amphibious, just by the way. It’s an aircraft that has to land and take off using water with no fixed landing gear. It’s also different from a floatplane which has two or more slender floats mounted under the fuselage for buoyancy. A flying boat uses its fuselage as part of the buoyancy like a boat – thus flying boat.
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