Short Shetland

The Short Shetland was a British high-speed, long-range, four-engined flying-boat built by Short Brothers at Rochester, Kent for use in the Second World War. It was designed to meet an Air Ministry requirement (defined in Specification R.14/40) for a very-long range reconnaissance flying boat. The design used the company's experience with large scale production of the Short Sunderland. The end of World War II prevented the Shetland from entering production, though it does have the distinction of being the first aircraft designed with a 110 Volt electrical system.

Short Shetland
Class Aircraft
Type Reconnaissance
Manufacturer Short Brothers
Origin United Kingdom - UK (Great Britain)
Country Name Origin Year
United Kingdom - UK (Great Britain) 1944
ManufacturerName Production From Production To Quantity
Short Brothers 2 View

Specification R.14/40 replaced an earlier specification R.5/39 which was an up-armed revision of specification R.3/38 for a faster flying boat than the Short Sunderland. Shorts, among others, had tendered a design for R.5/39 but the Ministry had changed their minds about the need for an immediate replacement for the Sunderland. R.5/39 had considered a maximum weight up to 84,000 lb (38,102 kg) - R.14/40 allowed for a maximum takeoff of nearly 100,000 lb (45,359 kg) with a bomb load of 20,000 lb (9,072 kg). The projected engines were the Bristol Centaurus radial or the Napier Sabre inline.

Shorts and the other British manufacturer of big flying boats, Saunders-Roe (Saro), were involved in the competitive tender for R.14/40; Saro proposed the Saunders-Roe S.41. Rather than selecting either company's design, the Air Ministry asked the companies to submit a combined project, stipulating the terms under which the work was to be shared between them. The detailed design was performed by Saro, their experience with the "Shrimp" contributing to the hull shape, as well as building the wing. Shorts built the hull and tail and did the final assembly.


Short S.35 Shetland I

The first prototype and what was to be the only Shetland I (Serial Number DX166) first flew on 14 December 1944, piloted by Shorts' Chief Test Pilot John Lankester Parker as captain and Geoffrey Tyson as co-pilot. The aircraft flew without gun turrets (its role having been revised to that of unarmed transport before its maiden flight); it was delivered to the Marine Aircraft Experimental Establishment (MAEE) at Felixstowe in October 1945. Testing indicated satisfactory water handling but the stabilising floats were mounted too low and did not offer sufficient clearance for takeoffs with maximum load. Flight testing revealed problems with the harmonization of controls and marginal longitudinal stability. Before the trials were complete, the aircraft burnt out at its moorings on 28 January 1946 as a result of a galley fire.

Short S.40 Shetland II

With the end of the war, the second prototype (Serial Number DX171) was completed as a civil transport and designated Shetland II. It was designed to carry 70 passengers but only 40 seats were fitted. Registered "G-AGVD," the Shetland Mk. II's first flight took place on 17 September 1947. After trials, it was delivered to Short's factory at Belfast, but no orders were forthcoming and it performed only limited flight trials before being scrapped in 1951.

Role reconnaissance flying-boat
Manufacturer Short Brothers
First flight 14 December 1944
Number built 2

General characteristics

  • Crew: 11
  • Length: 110 ft 0 in (33.54 m)
  • Wingspan: 150 ft 4 in (45.83 m)
  • Height: 37 ft 0 in (11.28 m)
  • Wing area: 2,624 ft² (243.9 m²)
  • Empty weight: 75,860 lb (34,481 kg)
  • Loaded weight: 120,000 lb (54,545 kg)
  • Max. takeoff weight: 125,000 lb (56,818 kg)
  • Powerplant: 4 × Bristol Centaurus VII 18-cylinder air-cooled radial engine, 2,500 hp (1,864 kW) each


  • Maximum speed: 263 mph (229 knots, 423 km/h)
  • Cruise speed: 183 mph (159 knots, 295 km/h)
  • Range: 4,000 mi (3,478 nmi, 6,440 km)
  • Endurance: 25 hr 50 min
  • Service ceiling: 17,000 ft (5,182 m)
  • Rate of climb: 900 ft/min (4.6 m/s)


  • Guns: (as planned)
    Three turrets, each with 2 × 0.5 in (12.7 mm) Browning machine guns in nose, mid-upper and tail positions, and 1× 0.5 in machine guns in port and starboard beam positions
  • Bombs: Up to 4,000 lb (1,800 kg) of bombs or depth charges

End notes