Tuesday, February 16, 2010

More Landseaire

Thanks to Dan and Chris, I've been appraised of Maurice Allward's report on the Landseaire design in Flight of 1953. See here. (My original post is here.) This elaborates on the design, and implies that there will be a production run of these conversions. Sadly I've still not found the (presumed) LIFE article featuring the photos, so many questions still remain, but others answered by Maurice's article:
Sleeping accommodation is provided for eight persons in three double beds and two singles. Near each bed is an individual light, radio switch and speaker, curtains, vents for air conditioning system, and a telephone. Occupants may contact the shore by means of a marine ship-to-shore telephone. In addition to this item of electrickery, the converted aircraft are fitted with no fewer than seven communications receivers, two transmitters, a broadcast receiver, FM-AM radio and—a built-in television set! Passengers can thus communicate anywhere in the world—to ships at sea, to another aircraft in flight, or to a private telephone on land.

During the day the two single beds in the aft or "observation" cabin serve as seats. This cabin occupies the former mid-gun positions. On the starboard side, in place of the wartime blister, is a special one-piece blister typical of the luxuriousness of the other innovations: it is of specially free-blown Lucite to achieve good optical qualities without distortion and costs over £1,000. Measuring 7ft in length by 4&1/2 ft deep at its widest point it also has a permanent camera tripod in the centre, permitting panning of 180 deg up and down, fore and aft. A door to the rear of the observation cabin leads to a built-in stairway. This gives comfortable access when on land and can also be lowered afloat, when it makes an ideal diving board. Much of the 104ft-span wing can be used for sunbathing.
Noise is kept to a remarkably low level by a 4in-thick lining of Fiberglass. Over-all carpeting adds further to the comfort. A showerbath, in waterproof plastic, runs hot and cold water. The w.c. is electrically flushed when on water; in the air a chemical toilet is used. The galley, in white porcelain and stainless steel, rivals the equipment of the most modern kitchen. A three-plate cooking range, oven, large refrigerator and frozen-food unit are installed.
Externally, few alterations are made. The nose gun-turret and bomb-aimer's window are replaced by a sleek clipper-style bow. Slung under each wing, where bombs and torpedoes used to hang, are two 14-ft dinghies. Each boat fits snugly against the wing and is raised or lowered by a built-in electric hoist. Cruising speed with the boats in position is 175 m.p.h. The maximum range is, as might be expected, exceptional for a "private" aircraft, and is given as 3,000 miles.

A Landseaire costs a lot of money — $265,000, the basic price — means something not far short of £100,000. This, coupled with heavy operating costs, virtually lifts the craft beyond the reach even of most millionaires. King Farouk had one on order before his abdication, but mostly it is the executive class of wealthy corporations that are attracted by these fabulous toys.
Maurice mentions the driving force of these conversions is one "Glenn E. Odekirk, head of the Southern California Aircraft Corporation..."

David Legg, Catalina expert, and author of Consolidated PBY Catalina - The Peacetime Record said in this post on WIX:
In addition to the option of boats, these conversions usually included the removal of the bow turret, the addition of a horn-balanced rudder and an integral rear hull airstair. The rear blisters were retained but the port unit featured a hinged access panel whilst the starboard unit was replaced with a one-piece perspex unit without any framing. This latter feature has since been copied by other companies on a small number of non-Landseaire conversions.
Sadly it looks like the career of our subject aircraft was disappointingly short. So we should be even more grateful for the glimpse of this wondrous craft thanks again to the LIFE photos!

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