P.London Saunders and Saro Aircraft Since 1917 (Putnam)
In January 1911, a particularly strange craft was launched onto the Medina from the Saunders sheds, then in the process of being expanded and rebuilt. Designed by a Frenchman, M. Roger Ravaud, this machine employed two transverse floats and an aerodynamic, rather than water, rudder for directional control. The craft was powered by a 50 hp Gnome aero-engine driving an airscrew rather than a water propeller. Indications are that it was fairly successful, though rather on the slow side; Ravaud intended installing a 100 hp Gnome, which he perhaps optimistically hoped would yield speeds of up to 60 mph. It is difficult to classify Ravaud's craft because it employed such a peculiar variety of features. Intended for Monaco, it never arrived; indications are that it operated in the Shoreham area instead.
H.King Aeromarine Origins (Putnam)
More curious still was a craft built early in 1911 by S. E. Saunders Ltd of East Cowes, Isle of Wight. 'Sam' Saunders, of whom I shall have more to relate, had undertaken aeronautical work for Sir Hiram Maxim, and formally announced his entry into the aircraft business in 1909. A news item of November that year ran:
'Messrs S. E. Saunders Ltd are opening a new department for building everything required for aero navigation. Mr Saunders, the head of the firm, is eminently qualified to do full justice to customers' requirements in this new branch of the business, as no man in the boat-building trade in this country has had so much experience in wood working in which the chief object has been lightness of construction combined with strength. For the past 35 years, Mr Saunders has been working in this direction, and this long experience has taught him invaluable lessons in regard to the selection of light woods for the particular purpose required. In addition, Mr Saunders has seen most of the aerial machines in flight and has also had an opportunity of examining them in their sheds. He is confident that in the choice of woods and methods of construction he can save weight without in any way sacrificing strength.'
Then, after a little over a year, in the opening weeks of 1911:
'Satisfactory floating tests were made on Monday with an aero motor boat which has been built to the design of M. Ravaud, the French airman, at Messrs S. E. Saunders and Co's works... The designer has personally superintended the building of the machine, which is about 20 ft long and consists of two flat floats carrying above them a boat-shaped hull capable of accommodating two or three persons. It is driven by an air propeller with a 50-h.p. Gnome engine. At the bow there is a rudder above water... Messrs Saunders, who are builders of the hydroplanes and motor boats for the Duke of Westminster and others, are proposing to develop at East Cowes a centre for marine aviation, and have built a shed up the river Medina, near Osborne Naval College engineering workshops.'
When I resurrected this delightful specimen (Air-Cushion Vehicles of November 1963) I quoted no fewer than four different renderings of the 'designer's' name - 'Revaud', 'Ravaud', 'Pavaud' and 'Payaud'. To these I am now able to add 'Rivaud' and 'Rayaud'. But as I remarked at the time compared with contemporary descriptions of the craft itself, the rendering of Ravaud's name was almost unanimous. She was declared by various observers and authorities to be an 'aeroscaphe', 'motoscaphe', 'curious hybrid', 'aero motor boat', 'hydro-aeroplane', 'sea flier', 'aero-hydroplane', 'half an aeroplane and half a hydroplane', 'skimmer with aerial propeller' and 'aeroquat' .
Launched in January 1911, this chimera was intended to appear at Monaco later in that year. It failed to arrive, although it may have operated in the Shoreham district. The intention was to install a Gnome engine of 100 h.p., and with this Ravaud was hoping for a speed of about 60 m.p.h.
A dynamic interface vehicle if ever there was one. Or should she, after all, have been included in the chapter on hydrofoils; because I find that Ravaud declared that the bottoms of the floats were (or could be) 'constituted by blades', serving 'to raise the vessel clear of the water'.
And in case the glorious photograph I reproduce should provide further bewilderment, I must explain that Ravaud is facing astern.
L.Opdyke French Aeroplanes Before the Great War (Schiffer)
Deleted by request of (c)Schiffer Publishing