C.Barnes Short Aircraft since 1900 (Putnam)
Short Experimental Seaplanes N.2A and N.2B
The Royal Naval Air Service employed single-seat scout seaplanes from the earliest days of the war, and by 1916 had gained a comprehensive knowledge of their capabilities and limitations; they were almost exclusively derived from the Sopwith Tabloid, winner of the Schneider Trophy in 1914, and Sopwith Babies were built in large numbers by both the parent company and Blackburn; there was also an improved version redesigned by Fairey, called the Hamble Baby and built by both Fairey and Parnall. They were flown from many shore stations and formed part of the complement of most of the early seaplane carriers. As the U-boat menace increased, the diversity and quantity of gear required to be carried by anti-submarine scouts became too much for a solo pilot to cope with, and the need for a small fast two-seat seaplane became evident. During the latter part of 1916 Short Brothers put forward two designs for this role; the first was a ‘pint-size’ version of the 310-A seaplane, proposed by Horace Short, while the second represented a different approach by Oswald Short in collaboration with the Admiralty Board of Inventions and Research; both designs were intended to satisfy the Air Department’s specification N.2A, which covered seaplanes and deck-landing landplanes. One prototype of each was ordered, the first from Rochester and the second from Eastchurch, both with the same engine, the 200 hp Sunbeam Afridi.
The Rochester machine, Experimental Scout No. 1, S.313 (serial N36), was ready first and was launched on 2 January, 1917; it was a stubby single-bay sesquiplane with the upper wing span much greater than the lower; the crew were placed close together behind the wings, which carried plywood wing-tip floats and were slightly staggered. The top centre section was open and incorporated a false spar aft of the true rear spar so as to provide vertical hinges for wing folding. A refinement was the completely submerged radiator below the engine, for which cooling air was taken in through the open front cowling and discharged through side ducts above the lower wing roots. The engine was enclosed in a hinged, many-louvred bonnet, like a motor-car, and had bifurcated downswept exhaust pipes in front. Official insistence on compactness had resulted in the fuselage being shortened to the limit, and consequently Ronald Kemp found it nose-heavy and could not get it off the water, as it had insufficient elevator control; to put matters right an extra bay was inserted in the rear fuselage, increasing the tail arm by 2 ft; thus modified, it was redesignated Experimental Scout No. 2 and was flown rather precariously by Kemp on 23 January, but its handling and performance were disappointing, so it was abandoned.
Scout No. 1 - Span 46 ft (14 m); length 31 ft 6 in (96 tn); area 450 sq ft (41-8 m3). Scout No. 2—Length 33 ft 6 in (10-2 m); otherwise as for Scout No. 1.