Remembering the Flying Boats That Once Ruled the Skies

Startups are also exploring the concept

Flying boat
One of BOAC's nine new Plymouth class Sandringham flying boats in flight which come into service on the Poole-Bahrain-Karachi route.
PA Images via Getty Images

Years ago I made a wrong turn when catching a flight out of LaGuardia Airport and ended up at the historic Marine Air Terminal. As the National Parks Service notes in a description of the facility, it’s “the only active airport terminal dating from the first generation of passenger travel in the United States — the ‘Golden Age of the Flying Boat.’”

These vehicles are a lot larger than the seaplanes you might see in rural areas and around waterfronts today — imagine something the size of a passenger plane, but which took off and landed on the water. It was a very different time for air travel — one where runways were not yet widespread.

And, as Sean Cudahy recounts in an article for The Points Guy, a new documentary is revisiting that point in aviation history. The title of the film is Flying Boat, and — if the trailer is any indication — it looks to both provide a primer in the history flying boats and explores the efforts underway to restore and preserve existing airplanes of this type.

In an interview with the magazine Colorado Arts and Sciences, documentary director Dirk Braun described being taken with flying boats from the first time he saw one in college — specifically, a Grumman Albatross. “I deemed the [A]lbatross the greatest adventure machine and was fascinated by its capability and design, and all of that transferred to my making this film,” he told the magazine. “As a person interested in film, I pictured flying the [A]lbatross to iconic and exotic places and could envision that being something very spectacular.”

The Age of Self-Flying Planes Is Upon Us
No pilot? No problem. At least that’s the hope.

Writing at The Points Guy, Cudahy points out that amphibious aircraft are still being developed today — though not quite in the same configurations as the flying boats of yesteryear. Earlier this month, CNBC reported on the work being done by Regent, an electric seaglider startup that has a number of airlines and water taxi services interested in its vehicles. Regent is also working on the Monarch, a vessel that holds 100 passengers — something that might bring the age of flying boats full circle.


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