Why wheel-less floats on HMS Hermes' Flycatchers

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Admiral Beez

Oct 21, 2019
Toronto, Canada
I've just finished reading this book on the Fairey Flycatcher, The Fairey Flycatcher by | Book in preparation for my build of a 1/48 scale model kit of same.

In the book, the Flycatcher had three landing gear set ups. One with conventional wheels, another with flat-profiled floats which had integrated wheels, and lastly v-profile floats without wheels. At Hong Kong, HMS Hermes usually operated Flycatchers in the last format, with wheel-less floats (as shown in this model), meaning that the aircraft had to brought up to the the flightdeck on rolling platforms, and then craned over the side to the water. The book also says that the wheel-less Flycatcher was trialed on a larger Courageous class carrier for landing and taking off from a greased flightdeck, here's the video.


But why didn't the FAA just use their floats with wheels? You'd then have the option of using HMS Hermes as both a seaplane and conventional aircraft carrier.


Postwar amphibious floats have retractable wheels at the front. Perhaps this added too much weight, complexity or cost in the 1920s.

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Just a guess but perhaps the V-bottom floats handled better in the water? Turning and cross winds.
Could take-off and land in rougher water? Didn't pound as bad on the waves?
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Good point. BTW, that's an interesting photo of the one-off Fairey Flycatcher II, the proposal that lost out to the Hawker Nimrod. Note how unlike the original Flycatcher the machine guns are not attached to the external sides of the cockpit - as if the designers forget they needed to arm their fighter.

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I've always liked that photo of the Fairey IIIF with the Napier Lion inline W-12. Those are some clean lines for the 1930s.

I wonder if the Lion's OHV W-12 design could have had potential in WW2 in either aircraft or AFVs instead of Napier switching to the H-format and sleeve valves. It's use in high speed motor launches is interesting. IMO, the Air Ministry should have looked around the world in the early 1930s and told everyone at Napier, Bristol, etc. to quit it on sleeve valves.

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