Felixstowe F.2a - The Felixstowe F.2a was probably the most successful flying boat of the First World War. With a crew of 5 it was capable of carrying out long range reconnaissance, anti-submarine and anti-shipping patrols of up to 10 hours duration. The development of the Felixstowe F.2a is staggeringly convoluted but was essentially an Anglo-American design which can trace its development from the pre war Glenn Curtiss & Cyril Porte designed 180hp twin engine ‘America’ flying boat design. This basic design was improved and strengthened successively by both Curtiss and Porte (having now returned to service in the RNAS after the outbreak of war despite suffering from Tuberculosis) over the next few years until July 1917 when Porte arrived at the deep ‘V’ hull with full side fins so characteristic of the Felixstowe flying boats, so called because they were developed at the RNAS Seaplane Experimental Station at Felixstowe in Suffolk. Although technically now a wholly Porte design these flying boats were referred to as ‘America class’ by the Royal Navy and as ‘Curtiss’ types by the Germans. The twin 375hp Rolls Royce Eagle VIII engine powered Felixstowe F.2a featured a deep ‘V’ hull constructed using boat building techniques with diagonal planking on the bottom while the tops of the fins were ply and doped fabric. The sides of the upper hull were ply while the top coamings and rear were covered with linen, as were the wings and tailplane. Ply walkways were positioned on the coaming near the engineer’s hatch and on the bottom wing under the engines. A modified Liberty engine powered version was manufactured by Curtiss in America as the H.16. On 31 July 1918 Felixstowe F.2a N4305 took off from Great Yarmouth Air Station on a routine patrol.
Felixstowe flying boat wings and tailplane upper surfaces usually appear very dark in photographs and have been recorded simply as "green" with the bottom surfaces remaining heavily varnished Clear Doped Linen. The bottom of the wooden planked hull, bow, side & tailplane struts and fin tops were finished with gloss black bituminous tar based paint inside and out for waterproofing. The plywood panels of the superstructure were heavily varnished with their joints being sealed with the same bituminous tar based paint while the coamings often remained Clear Doped Linen (CDL) as did the lower surfaces of the wings and tailplane. In some instances the coamings were finished with the same protective dope as the wings and tailplane. All metal fittings were painted gloss black although those on the engine bearers and interplane struts appears to have been frequently overpainted Battleship Grey along with the wooden struts. Most surfaces featured a gloss finish when new which weathered to a dull matt appearance after short periods exposed to harsh saltwater. Many British flying boats featured brightly coloured dazzle paint finishes for identification purposes from the middle of 1918 onwards. Any history of these aircraft here is of necessity very brief, therefore we encourage you to seek the references listed below for a more thorough understanding of these significant aircraft.
Hansa-Brandenburg W.29 - Allegedly designed by Ernst Heinkel one night on the back of a cabaret wine list, the W.29 was essentially a Hansa-Brandenburg W.12 biplane with the top wing removed. The advanced monoplane design, with improved performance due to the reduction in drag afforded by the 50% reduction in wings, was achievable because of the highly rigid nature of the float and strut arrangement. The W.29 was a worthy successor to the W.12 in its task of patrolling the North Sea and harassing RNAS flying boats and British surface vessels. 199 W.29s were built in 2 versions, 156 C3MG (aircraft equipped with 3 machine guns) and 43 C2MGHFT (with 2 machine guns and wireless equipment). The W.29 was powered by 3 different engines during its production, the 185ps BMW IIIa, 185sp Benz Bz.IIIa and the 150hp Benz Bz.III which was the most numerous. The advanced design of the W.29 ensured that it saw lengthy post war service with the Deutsche Luft-Reederei (German Air Carrier) and Norway as well as being license built in Denmark and Japan. On 31 July 1918 Friedrich Christiansen was leading a patrol of 5 aircraft from 1. C Staffel in Hansa-Brandenburg W.29 2512 when they encountered Felixstowe F.2a N4305.
From April 1918 onwards German seaplanes were directed to have all surfaces visible from above grey-brown, grey-blue and “grey-violet in regular hexagons…”, areas visible from the sides painted “grey-blue”, areas visible from underneath to be “light blue” except the fabric surfaces which could remain in their natural colour. Photographic evidence suggests that these directives were followed by Hansa-Brandenburg with the exception that the W.29 floats and struts were painted with black bituminous tar based paint for protection from salt water. Upper surface rib tapes are invisible in the photographs available to us and we are now of the opinion that the hexagon camouflage finish applied to Hansa-Brandenburg seaplanes was painted, and not printed onto fabric as previously thought (and erroneously repeated by some internet experts). The grey-blue applied to the plywood fuselage sides appears matt while the grey-blue used on the cockpit cowlings and metal engine cowlings appears very glossy, in some cases with an almost ‘mirror like’ finish.