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ASN Wikibase Occurrence # 210802
Last updated: 7 March 2020
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Type:Short S.7 Mussel II
Owner/operator:Short Brothers Ltd
Registration: G-AAFZ
C/n / msn: S.750
Fatalities:Fatalities: 1 / Occupants: 1
Other fatalities:0
Aircraft damage: Minor
Location:Cuxton, River Medway, Rochester, Kent -   United Kingdom
Phase: Landing
Departure airport:River Medway, Rochester, Kent
Destination airport:River Medway, Rochester, Kent
Short S.7 Mussel seaplane G-AAFZ: first registered (C of R 1937) on 6/4/29 to Short Brothers (Rochester & Bedford Ltd), Seaplane Works, Rochester, Kent. May have also flown on occasions with the "Class B" registration "M-1"

Until its acquisition by Bombardier in 1989, Short Brothers PLC was probably the oldest aircraft manufacturing company in the world. But who were the Short brothers? The eldest was Horace Leonard Short (1872-1917), the youngest was Hugh Oswald Short (1883-1969) but it is the middle brother, Albert Eustace Short (1875-1932), to whom this tale relates.

The Short Mussel has been described as 'one of the most successful design exercises of its age'. In an age when most aeroplanes were constructed of wood and fabric, the original Mussel - G-EBMJ - was made principally from duralumin. Lady Heath took it to an altitude of 13,400 feet, establishing a new class record for sub 500 kg seaplanes (although this was subsequently denied as a record when it was discovered that the aeroplane had a take-off weight of 530 kg). The original Mussel switched regularly between wheel and float undercarriage. It was in the latter form that it met the end of its flying career on 24/8/1928 when, being piloted by Eustace Short, it struck the mast of a spritsail barge, whilst alighting on the Medway, and hit the water sans wings. Eustace Short survived the incident but the Mussel I was damaged beyond economic repair.

(However the noted aeronautical author A.J.Jackson says that it ended its days at RAF Halton, serving as an instructional airframe there until 1929).

In 1929 a second Mussel, G-AAFZ, was built, this time using duralumin for the wings as well as the fuselage.It started life as a seaplane with conventional twin floats. Then, like its predecessor, it gravitated to wheel undercarriage. In 1930 this was replaced with a single, central float, together with smaller braced floats mounted under the outboard wings, plus wheels which could be wound down so that they protruded below the central float making it an amphibian.

It was in this form that the Mussel II was being flown by Eustace Short on 8/4/1932. He was seen to alight perfectly on the River Medway. He was expected to turn towards the shore but, curiously, the Mussel continued to taxi in a straight line until it grounded on a mud bank on the Cuxton side of the River Medway.

George Wadhams went across at once, but Eustace was found to have died of a heart attack just after touching down, without time to cut the ignition. He evidently had some premonition of the event, for on his way out that day he had looked into Parker's office and said, 'One day I shan't switch off'; Parker called back, 'Are you all right?' but got no reply

Incidentally, Eustace Short never learned that ignition switches worked the opposite way to domestic ones and Dick Rowett, who usually started his engine for him, always had to call 'Switch on' before sucking in and 'Switch off' instead of 'Contact' before starting.

On investigation, the lifeless body of this Short brother was found slumped in the cockpit. He had suffered a fatal heart attack shortly after the Mussel touched down on the water. Eustance Short was 56 years old at the time of the incident.

Despite having been, effectively, the aeronautical equivalent of his 'company car', the Mussel II continued to fly after Eustace Short died in it. On 12/8/33, G-AAFZ was raced by Parker against a Chriscraft speed-boat driven by Arthur Bray in the Rochester Regatta, repeating this performance at Sheerness on 6/9/33.

The Short S.7 Mussel II was last flown on 15/9/33, the registration G-AAFZ was cancelled in December 1933, and the aircraft was scrapped in 1934




Revision history:

12-May-2018 16:23 Dr. John Smith Added
12-May-2018 16:25 Dr. John Smith Updated [Embed code, Narrative]

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