1931 Schneider Trophy, Moment of Triumph
“Moment of Triumph” by Gerald Coulson depicts the moment Flt.Lt.J.N. Boothman rounded the final pylon on Sunday 13th September 1931 to win The Schneider Trophy outright, at an average speed of 340.08 mph.
Despite the great acclaim of the 1929 victory, British preparations for the next contest were hampered by the deep depression of 1930 which caused government sponsorship to fade. Until Lady Houston came forward and donated £100,000, the British team was unable to form. This left a mere nine months in which to develop a new machine and train pilots. R.J. Mitchell proposed modifications on his S.6 to an S.6B standard so as to accommodate an improved `R’ engine. In true British Bulldog style, the job was done and the S.6B was ready for flight by August 1931. Rolls Royce had managed to reliably squeeze out another 450 hp (23% increase) for a weight premium of only 6.5%; an amazing achievement.
DESCRIPTION OF THE SEAPLANE
By R. J. Mitchell
The Supermarine Aviation Works (Vickers), Ltd.
The final decision to take part in the Schneider Trophy Contest of 1931 was not reached until early in that year. An order was then placed with the Supermarine Aviation Works (Vickers), Ltd., for the supply of two new seaplanes. Since only six months were available for the design and construction of these seaplanes it was impossible to build seaplanes to an entirely new design and it was therefore decided to utilise the 1929 S.6 design and obtain increased performance by increasing the efficiencies of seaplane and engine to the greatest extent possible in the short time available.
Subsequent to the 1929 contest the rules had been modified so that seaworthiness trials had to be carried out immediately prior to the race, and since the length of the course itself was unaltered this meant that additional fuel had to be carried to cover the extra flying time.
Meantime the engine manufacturers promised an increase of about 400 H.P. and stated cautiously that they might be able to give a great deal more.
It was evident that new floats would be required to cope with the increase in load due to the extra engine weight, fuel, oil, tanks, coolers and radiators, which would inevitably follow increased horse-power, and in the end the all-up weight of the proposed S.6B was 6,250 lb., nineteen per cent, greater than the 1929 type, and on this basis the detail investigations were started.
The High Speed Flight of 1931 assemble at Calshot. Left to Right. Flt.Lt. E.J.L. Hope. Lt. G.L. Brinton, R.N., Flt. Lt. F.N. Long, Flt.Lt. G.H. Stainforth, Sqdn. Ldr. A.H. Orlebar, Flt.Lt. J.N. Boothman, Fg.Off. L.S. Snaith and Flt. Lt. W.F. Dry, Engineering Officer.
Italian hopes for victory in 1931 rested firmly with Mario Castoldi using a new Fiat AS.6 engine driving contra-rotating propellers to cancel out gyroscopic effects. The resulting machine was the MC.72, a sleek dragonfly of an aircraft which reached 375 mph in early trials. However, the Italians suffered an early setback when the veteran Dal Molin was killed whilst making an attempt on the world speed record in the Savoia-Marchetti S.65 on 18 January 1930. Inevitable development problems with the MC.72 cast doubt on its appearance in the 1931 contest with the first aircraft not flying until June 1931.
Carburation problems hampered the flight testing and then Captain Monti was killed when the first MC72 spun into Lake Garda. The British were in no mood to postpone the contest and so the Italians were forced to withdraw. In an effort to counter the inevitable outright British win of the Schneider Trophy, an attempt was made on the world speed record by the Italians, two days before the contest. Unfortunately the pilot, Bellini, flew the second MC.72 into a hill after presumably being affected by exhaust fumes. A tragic end to Italy’s valiant efforts to gain the Schneider Trophy.
The French were no luckier after their vain attempt to produce an entry for the 1929 contest. A half-hearted attempt to develop a competitive machine, the Bernard HV.220, failed due to lack of time and money. Finally the crash of a Bernard HV.120 training machine with the consequent death of Lieutenant Borgault removed any hopes of a French victory.
So it was that the British were left with a simple fly-over to clinch the Trophy for all time. But they too had their misfortunes. The only Royal Navy member of the High Speed Flight’s band of pilots, Lieutenant G.L. `Gerry’ Brinton was killed in an S.6A take-off incident on the Solent (the S.6A was a modified S.6 to S.6B standard in almost all respects, except for float size) on August 18, 1931. Squadron Leader `Harry’ Orlebar was lucky to escape when severe tail flutter all but tore off the rear end of his S.6. Then when the first S.6B arrived at Calshot on 21 July, the increased engine torque made take-off impossible. A change of propeller fortunately alleviated this particular circumstance.