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Latécoère 631 — best looking of the flying boats?

5 November 2012

Latécoère 631 — best looking of the flying boats?

Jim Lund’s model of the Latécoère 631 flying boat airliner serving Air France — photo by Joseph May

The Latécoère 631 was one of the largest flying boats of her time in the 1950s. She was far ahead of her time when first flown in 1942 but WW II, and Germany’s occupation of France, halted what promised to be a fruitful career. Nonetheless, the 631 has to be one of the most graceful flying boats designs if not the best. The slender fuselage, butterfly-esque tail and wing floats which retracted into the outboard engine nacelles (one of the cleverest solutions in flying boat design to reduce parasitic drag).

Carrying more than 50 souls , the 631 had speed and range in 1942 which was hard to match — photo by Joseph May

Crewed by five with a capacity for 46 passengers the six Wright R-2600 Cyclone engines powered the ten aircraft built to fly 6035km/3750 miles at cruising airspeeds of 297kph/185 mph. After the fourth loss, and with the more economical four engine land based airliners, the 631 was retired. Alas, none survived the wreckers but we have Jim Lund’s model to be thankful for as well as displays in the Musée Historique de l’Hydravion in the French home town of Groupe Latécoère in Biscarrosse.

The cockpit deck and  wing floats which retracted into the outboard engine nacelles — photo by Joseph May

Thanks to famed scale modeller Jim Lund we can experience how the Latécoère 631 of Air France looked back in her day shortly the end of WW II. More of Jim Lund’s photos or the aircraft models and dioramas in the Oceans by Air: scale models and photographs by Jim Lund exhibit can be seen here.

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6 Comments leave one →
  1. 5 November 2012 14:17

    Joe…You’re absolutely correct…the most exquisite shape _I’ve_ ever seen on a flying boat…first class in historic DECO…and as futuristic as anything we have today?…..In my opinion, it would be the ICON general aviation….with the “Lake” a close second….

    • travelforaircraft permalink*
      5 November 2012 23:43

      I agree totally with you, Dave. The 631 had fine lines and was a good looker 🙂 Joe

  2. 5 November 2012 14:36

    That is a tremendously refined design for the era and definitely a beauty as far as flying boats go. That long, graceful nose and fuselage are what really grab me; most of the flying boats were a bit too snub nosed and tubby for my tastes.

    • travelforaircraft permalink*
      5 November 2012 23:54

      I have to agree, as well. The French do well in design, don’t they? The graceful nose likely gave pilots fits on take-offs and landings with regard to visibility, as compared to other seaplanes of the day, and the design reminds me of the Martin SeaMaster with a similarly high length to width ratio. If I’m right in that then the 631 may have been ahead of its time since it was the SeaMaster which was credited with being the first to have that high ratio, if I recall correctly. If we only had pilots and aeronautical engineers on staff as consultants so that we could pose these questions to them 😉 I also like the retractable float design with each float retracted into the outboard engine nacelle. The Catalina’s floats are ingenious, of course, but the 631’s had to be so much larger that wingtip location was probably out of the question in my amateur opinion.

      • 6 November 2012 01:27

        With the exception of the interwar period, where they were putting out some absolutely frightful designs, like the Amiot 143, Bloch MB-220 and Breguet BR-27; I’ll agree with you completely that the French have given us some truly beautiful aircraft to look at over the years.

      • travelforaircraft permalink*
        6 November 2012 15:49

        You’ve mentioned a few interesting aircraft which are not usually noted — thanks!

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