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Speed is the key

Schneider Trophy

The Schneider Trophy was an international race set up to promote the development of air travel by aeroplanes that could land and take off from water. The French industrialist Jacques Schneider offered a trophy as the prize in 1913.  Initially the competition's aims were to highlight safety and promote marine aircraft developments but by the end it had become a quest for speed. The French won the first contest, held in Monaco in 1913.  Britain won it in 1914 with a twin seater seaplane dubbed the Sopwith Schneider. Supermarine first entered the competition in 1919 with an adapted commercial flying boat called the Sea Lion. The race was unfortunately called off because none of the competitors finished the course satisfactorily. Supermarine had to wait until 1922 to win the race with R.J. Mitchell’s redesigned Sea Lion II, stopping the Italians from winning the trophy outright. This left the field open for Supermarine and Mitchell to develop even more competitive designs. 

Mitchell soon realised that the racing flying boats just weren’t fast enough to win the trophy in the future and so he designed and developed over the next nine years a series of new faster streamlined seaplanes known as the S series. The first model to race was the S4,  in the 1925 competition. Despite not winning, it set a new world air speed record over Southampton Water of 226.75mph (365 kmh). The next three models produced the S5S6 and the S6b all won their races. This meant that Supermarine and Britain had won the trophy three times in a row and

[47551] Schneider trophy S6b plane

magnify  S6b winner of the Schneider Trophy in 1931
this confirmed Britain in 1931 as the outright and final winner of the Schneider trophy. 

The S6b, flown by Flt Lt G. H. Stainforth went on to set a new world air speed record of 407mph (655 kmh) that wasn't beaten until twenty years later. 

The success of the 'S series' enabled Mitchell to focus in a more commercial direction and he developed more flying boats before using the designs of the racing planes as the basis of his greatest and most famous work, the Spitfire.


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