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The Sea Dart: The World’s Fastest Flying Boat

Written by on Wednesday, May 30th, 2012

When you hear the word “seaplane” the first thing that comes to mind is clunky-looking propeller aircraft with enormous pontoons. Most seaplanes of today may be somewhat slow and bulky compared to their sleeker jet fighter cousins, but not all amphibious aircraft were quite so humble.

The Convair F2Y Sea Dart is a little-known seaplane aircraft that was intended to be capable of supersonic flight. The Convair never made it past prototype phase, but this aircraft has a history as unique as its design.

The US Navy began experimenting with aircraft carriers shortly after the invention of heavier-than-air flight, but as aircraft became stronger and stronger the Navy became increasingly concerned. They feared that landings and take-offs aboard an aircraft carrier would invite disaster. So, in 1948, the Navy held a competition to for a supersonic seaplane interceptor design.

Convair won the competition with their Sea Dart design. This sleek, delta-winged fighter had two retractable water skis on the bottom, which would enable it to cruise along the surface of the water in essentially the same way that a water skier would. A special watertight hull and turbojet intakes mounted high above the wings would make the Sea Dart a fully sea-worthy aircraft that could take-off from the surface of the water.

Well, the Sea Dart was successfully buy generic valium no prescription able to take-off and land, but it wasn’t able to do much else. It was unable to break the sound barrier with its under-powered engines, and the skis created intense vibrations on take-off and landing. The Navy already had plenty of subsonic aircraft that could safely operate aboard an aircraft carrier, so a slow Sea Dart was simply a waste of money.

The Navy cancelled a second prototype and went with a redesign, resulting in the YF2Y-1 Sea Dart. The Navy was hopeful with version 2.0, but the aircraft disintegrated during a low-level demonstration in 1954, which resulted in the death of the pilot. That was the final nail in the coffin of the Sea Dart; the Navy suspended the program and the whole project was eventually killed.

Even if the tests had been successful, the Sea Dart was destined for failure. The Navy eventually overcame its fear of using supersonic aircraft with aircraft carriers, which completely mitigated the need for supersonic seaplanes.

Four Sea Dart prototypes remain to this day. They can be found at the Smithsonian, the Wings of Freedom Aviation Museum, the Florida Air Museum, and the San Diego Aerospace Museum.

 

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