Boeing 747? Airbus A380? Tiny, both of them, compared with a plane that was seriously proposed but sadly never built: the Saunders-Roe P192 Queen.
“She is 318 feet long, has a wingspan of 313 feet, weighs 440,000lbs and carries up to 1,000 passengers,” writes Jonathan Glancey.
P&O, alarmed at the way aviation was eating into its core long-haul passenger market, contemplated ordering five of these five-storey flying boats. Conveniently, the craft could begin its journeys on P&O’s home turf, or at least water, in Southampton – and passengers could enjoy the grand dining room as they flew, slowly but magnificently, halfway around the world.
The watery way to Sydney sounds tantalising: “On the passage to Australia, the aircraft will call at Alexandria, Karachi, Calcutta, Singapore and Darwin.”
As you may have noted in the week that Qantas celebrated its centenary, long-haul aviation took a different route – with land-based planes, ideally flying nonstop, the order of the day when the Australian carrier gets back to international business. But Glancey’s formidable new book, Wings Over Water, takes travellers back to an era when, for many aviators, water was the natural starting point for an air journey.
He tells the story of the Schneider Trophy, “the world’s greatest air race” – which was announced in 1912, just nine years after the Wright Brothers’ first successful powered flight.