The Flying Boats of The 50s

In a recent trip to England we came across a pretty interesting boat at a vintage museum. It’s not exactly a traditional boat you’d go fishing in, but more of a flying boat. Yes, that’s right a flying boat! A hybrid between a commercial plane and a boat. They’re called Solent’s or more commonly known as the “flying boat”. They’re quite vintage and were more commonly used in the 1950s by wealthy travelers. You’d be able to board a Solent and go from 10,000 feet above the air to 2 feet from the water where you’d be able to look closely into tropical waters and be able to pick out beautiful coral formations, whales, and sometimes even a shark from your window seat. The first airline to pick up these flying boats was Tasman Empire Limited (TEAL) which traveled the Coral Route. The Coral Route was just as exciting as it sounds. Passengers would get to experience a monthly island hopping extravaganza. The experience became so in demand that they doubled the amount of planes.

Before these planes became the first pick for rich vacation goers, they were originally just mail planes. After World War II, New Zealand was home of some of the best pilots who had learned how to wrangle tide charts and coral reefs alike as they came in to land in the lagoons of the South Pacific. These pilots would ferry mail from one island to the next with routes anywhere from Tahiti to the Fiji Islands. The people watching these planes conduct their daily mail routes were absolutely fascinated with the idea that these guys would just hop from island to island on their mail routes. It wasn’t long before someone fell in love with the idea of having passengers on board.

The absolute favorite destination spot for passengers was the island of Akaiami, which was a little uninhabited islet in the Cook Islands. The island was the closest thing men had ever seen to paradise on earth. A complete island left unscathed by any modern architecture of resorts, it was a place of complete serenity and dreams. Movie stars from across the world were often spotted taking exotic trips with the Solent. In fact some people were even lucky enough to have flown over Marlon Brando’s private island in Tahiti during the day of the solent. The idea of flying whenever you wanted and floating on the water in a moment’s notice was perfect. The Solent seaplane era was a true marvel of the 1950s.

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