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Vickers Viking IV–popular early 1900s aircraft and ’70s movie star

9 June 2022

The Vickers Viking amphibian was designed shortly after World War I and was of typical flying boat designs of the day with a wood and fabric fabrication, a single shoulder mounted pusher engine arrangement, boat hull for a fuselage, and biplane wings equipped with floats. The wooden construction of the Viking required boatright skills to manufacture since the hull and frames were made of mahogany (the hull of two skins of laminate strips on a 90º bias) with lesser stressed components derived from elm. As was typical of the day, the cockpits were the open type and in-line with one for each person. Military versions had the gunner/observer in the bow cockpit with the pilot’s cockpit just ahead of the wings and below the radiator of the engine— an additional one or two cockpits were aft of the wings. The aircraft was tad over 34 feet long and the wings spanned 54 feet.

The Viking IV model was powered by a Napier Lion which is an interesting engine being one of the most powerful and widely used back in the day. It is a water cooled 12-cylinder 450 hp reciprocating engine with three banks of four cylinders each—this arrangement has been described both as a W-engine as well as the more colorfully termed broad arrow plan.

Vickers Viking IV replica hull in the Brooklands Museum (Weybridge UK)—Michael Dowman ©2022

Two famed aviators died in Viking crashes but recall that aircraft accidents happened more-often-than-not during the 1910s and 1920s. Sir John Alcock (of Alcock and Brown, the first to fly nonstop across theAtlantic Ocean) met his end flying a Viking I during 1919 while attempting a water landing at Cottévrard France. Ross Smith (first to fly from England to Australia), along with J.M. Bennett, perished in 1922 at Byfleet UK in a Viking IV. These unfortunate deaths notwithstanding, Vikings served in the military services of several countries—usually as patrol and communication aircraft. Viking IVs could cruise at 91 mph for up to 4.75 hours with a service altitude of 3000 feet (which would take a few minutes to attain).

Interestingly, a Viking IV model replica was built to appear in the 1977 film, The People That The Forgot and is now housed in the Brookslands Museum. The images in this post were recently taken of this replica (under restoration) in that museum by Michael Dowman and sent over for the making of this post, for which we are thankful 🙂

Vickers Viking IV replica hull and wing floats in the Brooklands Museum (Weybridge UK)—Michael Dowman ©2022

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