The Felixstowe F.2A was widely used as a patrol aircraft over the North Sea until the end of the war. Its excellent performance and maneuverability made it an effective and popular type, often fighting enemy patrol and fighter aircraft, as well as hunting U-boats and Zeppelins. The larger F.3, which was less popular with its crews than the more maneuverable F.2a, served in the Mediterranean as well as the North Sea.
The F.5 did not enter service until after the end of World War I, but replaced the earlier Felixstowe boats (together with Curtiss flying boats) to serve as the RAF’s standard flying boat until being replaced by the Supermarine Southampton in 1925.
The Felixstowe F series flying boats were a joint British and American development during the First World War. The predecessors of the Felixstowe were the Curtiss boats designed by a former Royal Navy officer and acquaintance of Curtiss, John Cyril Porte.
The H-12 Curtiss hull, and a new production aircraft, powered by 345-horsepower Rolls-Royce Eagle VIII engines, began to be supplied to British naval air units late in 1917. This version was designated the Felixstowe F-2A. The Curtiss-built version of the F-2A was identified as the Curtiss H-16. Fifty H-12s, powered by 275-horsepower Rolls-Royce Eagle engines were delivered to the British. The design was one of the most successful flying boats of the war.
Zeppelins climbed and dove quite quickly compared to airplanes. A good example is the Felixstowe F2.A, which had several early successes in downing Naval Scouting Zeppelins (two in fact). However, once the Germans identified the threat they were able to avoid the Felixstowe by simply out climbing it, which the Zeppelin did readily. This is because 60% of a Zeppelin’s cargo was water ballast, which could be dumped via electronic control from the command car, lightening the ship by up to 15 tonnes virtually instantaneously.
The German Zeppelin L-22 was destroyed by an H-12 on May 14, 1917 (the first enemy aircraft to be downed by an American-built airplane) and six days later another H-12 sank the German submarine UC-36.
On May 10th, 1918, an F.2A from Killingholme; flown by Captains T. C. Pattinson and A. H. Munday, engaged the Zeppelin L.62 at 8,000 feet over the Heligoland minefields. Captain Munday opened fire from the bow cockpit and Sergeant H. R. Stubbington, the engineer, also brought his Lewis gun to bear on the target. Many hits appeared to be scored, but the flying boat broke an oil line and had to land on the sea. The Zeppelin made off due east, losing height and emitting smoke, and soon afterwards blew up and fell in flames.
Felixstowe F.1 and F.2
Powerplant: two 257-kW (345 hp) Rolls-Royce Eagle VIII 12-cylinder Vee piston engines
Performance: maximum speed 153 km/h (95mph) at 610m (2,000 ft); service ceiling 2925m (9,600 ft); endurance 6 hours
Weights: empty 3424kg (7,549lb); maximum take-off 4980 (10,978 lb)
Dimensions: span 29.15m (95 ft 7½ in); length 14.10m (46 lf 3 in); height 5.33m (17 ft 6 in ); wing area 105.26 sq. m (1,133.0 sq ft)
Armament: from four to seven free-mounted 7.7mm (0.303 in) Lewis machine-guns, plus two 104-kg (230 lb) bombs on underwing racks.
Powerplant: two 257 kW (345hp) Rolls-Royce Eagle VIII 12-cylinder Vee piston engines
Performance: maximum speed 146 km/h (91mph) at 610m (2,000 ft); service ceiling 2440m (8,000 ft); endurance 6 hours
Weights: empty 3610 kg (7,958 lb); maximum take-off 6024 kg (13,281 lb)
Dimensions: span 31.09m (102 ft 0 in); length 14.99m (49 ft 2 in); height 5.69m (18 ft 8 in); wing area 133.03 sq m (1,432.0 sq ft)
Armament: four 7.7mm (0.303 in) Lewis Machine-guns on free mountings, plus four 104 kg (230 lb) bombs on underwing racks
Powerplant: two 261 kW (350hp) Rolls-Royce Eagle VIII 12-cylinder Vee piston engines
Performance: maximum speed 142km/h (88mph); service ceiling 2075m (6,800 ft); endurance 7 hours
Weights: empty 4128 kg (9,100 lb); maximum take-off 5752 kg (12,682 lb)
Dimensions: span 31.60m (103 ft 8 in); length 15.01m (49 ft 3 in); height 5.72m (18 ft 9 in); wing area 130.90 sq m (1,409.0 sq ft)
Armament: four 7.7mm (0.303 in) Lewis Machine-guns, one in bow and three in midship positions, plus up to 417kg (920 lb) of bombs on underwing racks