Before the war Porte had worked with American aircraft designer Glenn Curtiss on a flying boat in which they intended to cross the Atlantic. When he became commander of the naval air base at Felixstowe he acquired Curtiss flying boats of the H-4 type, a military version of their earlier "America" flying boat design.
Porte modified an H4 with a new hull with improved hydrodynamic qualities, as the Felixstowe F.1, of which four were built. Porte then designed a similar hull for the larger Curtiss H12 flying boat, the Felixstowe F.2a, which was greatly superior to the original Curtiss boat. This entered production and service as a patrol aircraft, with about 100 being completed by the end of World War I. Another seventy were built and these were followed by two F.2c which were built at Felixstowe
In February 1917, the first prototype of the Felixstowe F.3 was flown. This was larger and heavier then the F.2, giving it greater range and heavier bomb load, but poorer agility. Approximately 100 Felixstowe F.3s were produced before the end of the war.
The Felixstowe F.5 was intended to combine the good qualities of the F.2 and F.3, with the prototype first flying in May 1918. The prototype showed superior qualities to its predecessors but the production version was modified to make extensive use of components from the F.3, in order to ease production, giving lower performance than either the F.2A or F.5.
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.
Data from British Naval Aircraft since 1912
Published - July 2009
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