This edited article about the Singapore flying-boats originally appeared in Look and Learn issue number 737 published on 28 February 1976.
An armada of canoes descended in a war charge on to the “great bird” which had just swooped out of the sky and now lay at rest on the waters of Lake Victoria at Entebbe on Africa’s Ugandan shore.
But the men in the canoes had come to greet the Short Singapore 1 flying boat in which Sir Alan Cobham and his crew were returning from a pioneering tour of Africa.
Built in 1926, the Singapore 1 was the first flying boat of metal construction to be supplied to the R.A.F. After its first flight in August, 1926, the machine took part in a cruise to the Baltic ports. It was then lent to Cobham for his survey flight round Africa.
Leaving in November, 1926, the plane flew a distance of 23,000 miles. The outward journey was made by way of the Nile and the African lakes to Beira (Mozambique) and Cape Town. The homeward journey was by way of the west coast and ended at Plymouth.
About 80 take-offs and 80 landings were made in widely varying conditions. The flight proved the practicability of the use of large flying boats on a trans-Africa air route.
Later, various alterations were made to the flying boat. Rolls-Royce Buzzards were substituted for the Condor engines, a new planing bottom was fitted and slots were provided in the upper plane.
These improvements gave the machine a maximum speed of 132 miles an hour. It took off easily in the open sea even when loaded to 4,000lb. beyond the designated weight allowance.
The final R.A.F. service version was the Singapore III. Some of these in camouflage paint, remained in service after the outbreak of World War II.
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