Sandringham Flying Boat

The Short Sandringham Flying Boat at Solent Sky is a gem, and she dominates the museum, however, this old lady has an interesting history. To quote their website:

Short Sandringham VH-BRC 

This aircraft was built in 1943 as a Short Sunderland Mk 1II and delivered to the RAF with serial JM715 on July 8th of that year.  It was held in reserve with four other Sunderlands to be converted to transport Chariot midget submarines and their crews for use against the Tirpitz German pocket battleship, which was operating from a Norwegian fiord.  This mission did not materialize and the aircraft was subsequently converted to Mark 5 specification in April 1945 and again stored.  It was transferred to Short Brothers at Belfast in 1947 and converted into a Sandringham MkIV Tasman class with seating for 30 passengers. It was leased to TEAL  (Tasman Empire Airways Ltd) on October 29th 1947 was registered ZK-AMH and named RMA Auckland. The aircraft was used on the Auckland – Sydney service until December 1948 before being sold to Barrier Reef Airlines in Australia in 1950 and registered VH-BRC.  It flew with this airline on various island services until January 23rd 1951 then being sold to Ansett Flying Boat Services Pty Ltd in 1952.  The Sandringham named ‘Beachcomber’, flew on the Sydney – Lord Howe island service before finally being withdrawn in 1974. On withdrawal it was sold to Captain C. Blair of Antilles Air Boats Inc. (Virgin Islands) becoming N158C.  Renamed ‘Southern Cross’ and re-registered VP-LVE in March 1976 it flew in the Caribbean and at one time flew his wife, the film actress Maureen O’Hara across to Studland Bay (Dorset) and whilst there flew pleasure flights around the area. On Captain Blair’s death in an air crash in 1978 the aircraft was stored until 1980 in Puerto Rico when it was earmarked for purchase by the Science Museum, conditional on it’s delivery to the UK. It was re-registered N158C and flew from Puerto Rico in October 1980 but having been delayed in Ireland it eventually arrived at Calshot on February 2nd 1981, it’s total flying time to this date being 19,500 hours. It was purchased by the Science Museum for £85,000 in 1982 and was re-painted as VH-BRC in Ansett ‘delta’ colours being designated to become the centrepiece for a new Museum to be called the Southampton Hall of Aviation.  This museum opened on May 26 1984 eventually becoming the Solent Sky Aviation Museum.”  (

© DRW 2013-2018. Created 26/10/2015