The SR.A1 is an example of one of the rarest categories of aircraft - a jet fighter flying-boat - and is also one of Britain's earliest jet aircraft. This wartime design was intended to be operated by the RAF from islands or depot ships in remote parts of the world but was not completed until the war was over. The three aircraft built were used for experimental purposes for several years. SR.A1 was designed by Saunders-Roe of Cowes, Isle of Wight during 1943 Armament consisted of four 20mm cannon.
The first example (TG263) was rolled out in July 1947 and made its first fligh tfrom the Solent on the 16th, piloted by Geoffery Tyson. The other two prototypes (TG267 and TG271) flew in April and August 1948. The SR.A1 was demonstrated at the Farnborough air show in 1947 and 1948 where
Tyson thrilled the crowds with his low-level inverted flypasts. The SR.A1 is also noteworthy in that it was the first British aircraft to be fitted with a production ejection-seat and was the only aircraft designed to fly with the Metrovick Beryl axial flow jet engine, probably the most advanced aero engine in the world at the time.
Chief Naval Test Pilot Lt Cmdr Eric "Winkle" Brown flew the third SR A/1, TG271, for the first and only time on 12 Aug 1949 at the behest of Saunders-Roe. He wrung out the tubby little 'boat', reaching Mach .82, pretty much the top speed of the SR A/1, in a dive. On landing, a submerged log holed the front hull and ripped off the starboard stabilizing float. Despite his best efforts, Brown could not keep the starboard wing from digging in and cartwheeling TG271 onto its back. Struggling free underwater, Brown almost succumbed, but was held up by Geoffrey Tyson, the Saro test pilot responsible for the majority of the SR A/1 testing, who had leapt off the supporting launch when he saw Brown in trouble. Despite extensive searching, the sunken third SR A1 prototype was never located.
TG263 is the sole surviving example of the three SR.A/1s.When trials were complete it was presented to the College of Aeronautics at Cranfield where it was used as an instructional airframe until 1966 when it was purchased by Peter Thomas for his Skyfame Aircraft Museum at Staverton. In 1978 it was purchased by the Trustees of the Imperial War Museum and transferred to their museum at Duxford, Cambridgeshire where it was restored to its original service markings. In 1993 it was made available to the Southampton Hall of Aviation so that it could be displayed at the museum closest to its original home.
One of TG263 turbojets was used to power Donald Campbell's K7 Bluebird hydroplane in his record breaking attempts on Lake Coniston.
In 1966, the Metropolitan Vickers "Beryl" turbojet was replaced by a Bristol-Siddeley Orpheus - originally built to power a British cruise missile - and it was using this engine that Donald Campbell sadly died when his K7 Bluebird flipped up and crashed at high speed on 4 January 1967.Although the SR.A/1 never received an official name, it was referred to by company workers as 'Squirt'.
Artist Paul Howard.
Available as an A3 size or 20x16 print.