United Kingdom (1963)
Utility Aircraft – 153 Built
The Short SC.7 Skyvan, nicknamed the “Flying Shoebox” and “The Shed”, is a British-built general-purpose transport.
It features an odd, boxcar-like fuselage which FlightGlobal listed as “one of the twelve strangest-looking aircraft ever built”. Air Vice Marshal Ron Dick describes it in Air & Space Magazine as “Uncompromisingly chunky and angular, its freight container body hangs from wings which could have been shaped in a sawmill, and its twin fins were mere upright planks tacked on as if in afterthought.”
Despite this, the Skyvan did have its merits as a robust light transport aircraft. Originating from the Miles Aerovan and the failed Miles HDM-106 Caravan, it first took to the air in 1963, remaining in service to this day with militaries and civilian operators alike.
In 1958, Short (at the time Short Brothers & Harland Ltd) was approached by F.G. Miles Ltd., an offshoot of the bankrupt Miles Aircraft, looking for help to produce the H.D.M. 106 Caravan. The H.D.M. 106 was a development of the H.D.M. 105, a Hurel-Dubois extended-wing Miles Aerovan. Short, trying to diversify their line consisting of seaplanes, evaluated this offer, and refused it, finding it too advanced.
In June of 1959, Short formed a Light Aircraft Division. The first project of this newly formed department was a privately funded venture, a “general purpose transport with van-type loading”. Using data obtained from the failed Miles HDM.106 Caravan, they began the design of what is now known as the Short SC.7 Skyvan.
By August of 1960, Short had released further detail on the aircraft, and named it the “Skyvan”. Construction of the prototype began in 1960 at Queens Island, Belfast. Manufacturing was slow, as production was focused on the SC.5 Belfast heavy freighter. Initially, two aircraft were built, and the first made its maiden flight on January 17, 1963. As of the time of writing in September 2018, the Skyvan is still in service with many nations around the globe.
There are two extended versions of the Skyvan, the Short 330 and 360.
The Skyvan is a high-winged, twin-engine, fixed tricycle landing gear utility aircraft with twin rudders and a box-like fuselage. The box fuselage allows for a large rear door for loading and unloading freight. This also gives it a good efficiency, as it is capable of carrying over 1 ½ tons of payload. Although not a true STOL aircraft, it can take off from a half mile (804.67 m) field or strip. Simplicity and ruggedness are the primary features of the Short SC.7 Skyvan. It can be used for many purposes, including short-haul freight, passenger transport, skydiving, and much more.
With the prototypes being powered by 390 hp Continental piston engines and Turboméca Astazou 2 turboprops, and the initial production run being powered by the Turboméca Astazou XII turboprops, the Skyvan needed an upgrade. The Skyvan 3 was re-engined with Garrett AiResearch TPE331 in order to improve airfield performance in hot and high-altitude conditions. This was done as the previous engines were shown to be inadequate for Ansett-MALs New Guinea routes, as they only delivered 630 shp of the promised 690 shp. Ansett-MAL was a primary factor for this decision, being a key customer, but the upgrade also provided vastly improved engine handling for both the pilot and the aircraft mechanic.
Apart from the re-engining, various other improvements were made to the Skyvan. The increased power required larger trim tabs and a new out-of-trim compensator in the elevator. Larger fuel tanks for the increased fuel consumption (and the fact that installed consumption provided 5% better) resulted in an increased range. The increased weight of the engine resulted in a reappraisal of the airframe, a simplified design, and surprisingly, a lower empty weight. The cockpit layout was also cleaned up and a central warning system was added. All these upgrades were very well received by Short’s pilots, engineers, and customers alike.
The Skyvan has had a long history, serving around the world with various militaries. Of particular interest is the Skyvan’s service with the Prefectura Naval Argentina, the Argentine Coast Guard.
The Argentine Coast Guard operated 5 Skyvans out of Port Stanley and Pebble Island, where two were lost. The Coast Guard utilized their STOL capabilities for communication and light transport between the mainland and the occupied Falkland Islands.
A raid was mounted by SAS’s D Squadron to destroy the ground attack Pucaras planes based in the Falklands. On the night of the 10th, men of the Squadron’s Boat Troop were put ashore to provide reconnaissance. On Friday the 14th, HMS Hermes, her escort HMS Broadsword, and HMS Glamorgan separated from the carrier battle group, approaching Pebble Island by night. As Glamorgan approached to provide fire support, the 48 men of the SAS task force took off in Sea Kings. They landed, moving by foot to the airstrip, and by morning, all the aircraft there were disabled or destroyed with explosive charges. In the meantime, Glamorgan provided fire support, and the SAS withdrew. A brief Argentine counter-attack stopped when the officer in charge was shot and, with two men slightly wounded, the SAS escaped. The raid was successful, resulting in the loss of six Pucaras, four T-34C Mentors, and a single Coast Guard Skyvan (serial number PA-50), and halted the use of the airstrip. The remains of the Skyvan are still visible to this day.
The other destroyed Skyvan, PA-54, crashed in Stanley, Falkland Islands (then Puerto Argentino) on June 5th, from a failure of the nose landing gear during the landing at the racecourse of Puerto Argentino. Afterwards, sometime between the 12th and 13th of June, it was destroyed by 105mm British artillery fire and was written off.
- Skyvan 1 – 2 built. Skyvan prototype powered by a pair of Continental GTSIO-520 piston engines.
- Skyvan 1A – Single re-engined Skyvan 1 powered by a pair of Turboméca Astazou 2 turboprops.
- Skyvan 2 – Initial production run Skyvan powered by a pair of Turboméca Astazou XII turboprops. 8 built for British European Airways until 1968.
- Skyvan 3 – Improved Skyvan powered by Garrett AiResearch TPE331 turboprops.
- Skyvan 3A – Skyvan 3 with increased Maximum Take-Off Weight (MTOW).
- Skyvan 3M – Military transport variant.
- Skyvan 3M-200 – Skyvan 3M with increased MTOW of 15,000 lbs / 6800 kg.
- Skyvan 3M-400 – Modernized militarized Skyvan. There are many subvariants of the 3M-400, but it is unclear how they differ.
- Skyvan 3 C1 – 10 built. British Army designation.
- Skyliner – Luxury passenger transport variant.
- Seavan – Maritime patrol Skyvan.
- Civilian – Commercial use of the Skyvan includes: Questor Surveys, Olympic Airways, Pink Aviation Services, NASA, Aeralpi, StoLine Systems, Wein Consolidated Airlines, Summit Air, Northern Consolidated Aviation, GB AirLink, Air Forum, Gulf Air, Nomad Air, British European Airways Scottish Division, Laboratory of Space Technology, Invicta Aviation, Skylift, Bravo Partners Inc., North Star Air Cargo, Forrester Stephen Aviation, Skydive DeLand, British Air Services, Bougair, Skyhawk, Ansett-MAL, and more. As well, some are privately operated.
- Argentina – The Argentine Coast Guard purchased 5 Skyvan 3M-400-7s, which saw service in the Falklands War. Two were lost, with one being damaged by naval gunfire at Stanley, Falkland Islands on the night of May 3rd, 1982, and not repaired. The other was destroyed during the Pebble Island raid, by D Squadron SAS on the morning of May 15th.
- United States of America – 2 copies of the Skyvan 3, serial numbers 90-00042 and N430NA.
- Austria – 2 copies of the Skyvan 3-400-1, serial numbers 5H-TA and 5H-TB delivered to the Austrian Air Force.
- Oman – 16 copies for the Royal Air Force of Oman. These include the Skyvan 3M-400-23, 3M-400-22, 3M-400-II, 3M-400-4, and 3M.
- Ecuador – Two Skyvan 3M-400-6 produced for the Aviacion del Ejercito Ecuatoriano (Air Force of the Ecuadorian Army).
- Indonesia – 4 copies of Skyvan 3M-400-5s sold to the Indonesian Air Force
- Nepal – 7 copies purchased for the Nepalese Air Force, consisting of 3 SC.7 3-100s and 4 3M-400-9s.
- Thailand – 4 copies for the Thai Army and Police. Variants include the 3M-400-II and the 3M-400-17.
- Mexico – The Mexican Air Force purchased 6 copies made up of 4 Skyvan 3M-400-IIs and 2 Skyvan 3Ms.
- Singapore – 6 copies made for the Singapore Air Force, half of which are Skyvan 3M-400-16s, and the other half being 3M-400-15s.
- Yemen – The Yemen Air Force operated 2 copies of the Skyvan 3M.
- Ghana – 6 copies for the Ghana Air Force of Skyvan 3M-400s
- Japan – 2 copies of Skyvan 3M-400-IIs are operated by the Japanese government.
- Mauritania – 2 Skyavan 3Ms made for the Mauritania Islamic Air Force.
- Venezuela – The Venezuelan government operated 6 Skyvan 3Ms.
- Saudi Arabia – Purchased 4 Skyvan 3Ms.
- Lesotho – Purchased 2 Skyvan 3s for the Lesotho Defence Force – Air Squadron
- Panama – Bought a single Skyvan 3M for the National Air and Naval Service of Panama.
- Botswana – The Botswana Defense Force – Air Wing purchased 2 Skyvan 3s.
- Ciskei – Purchased two Skyvans, serial numbers ZS-LFG and ZS-KMX, relegated to civil use.
- Guyana – Purchased 4 Skyvan 3s.
- Malawi – Malawi purchased a single Skyvan 3M, serial number 7Q-YAY.
- Maldives – The Maldives National Defense Force purchased one Skyvan 3.
- United Arab Emirates – 3 Skyvan 3s were purchased by the United Arab Emirates Air Force.
|Wingspan||64 ft 11 in / 19.79 m|
|Length||40 ft 1 in / 12.22 m|
|Height||15 ft 1 in / 4.6 m|
|Wing Area||373 ft² / 34.65 m²|
|Engine||2x 690 hp ( 514.53 kW ) Garrett AiResearch TPE331-201 fixed-shaft turboprops|
|Propeller||2x 3-blade Hartzell HC-B3TN-5 feathering and reversing propellers|
|Fuel Capacity||1109.13 L|
|Maximum Speed||207.14 mph / 333.36 kmh|
|Maximum Service Ceiling||21,000 ft / 6,400.8 m (two engines)
9,000 ft / 2,743.2 m (one engine)
1 co-pilot (optional)
llustrations by Haryo Panji https://www.deviantart.com/haryopanji
llustrations by Haryo Panji https://www.deviantart.com/haryopanji
- Morrison, M. (1970, September 12). QUIRKY DOZEN: The 12 strangest-looking aircraft ever built.
- The staff of Air & Space. (1997, July 01). Plug-Ugly.
- The New Skyvan. (1968, August 1). FLIGHT International, 164, 165, 167-169.
- Commercial Aircraft of the World. (1962, November 29). FLIGHT International, 880-880.
- Harrison, N. (1968, August 1). In the Air: Short Skyvan. FLIGHT International, 166-166.
- Manufacturer: Short. (2016, November 24).
- Hezsely, C. B. (n.d.). Research Report: Argentine Air Power in the Falklands War [Scholarly project].
- Argentine Aircraft Lost – Falklands War 1982. (2013).
- Pebble Island Raid – Falklands War 1982. (2013, May 31).
- PA-54, Shorts SC-7 Skyvan 3M-400 c/n SH. 1891. (2011).
- Illustrations by Haryo Panji https://www.deviantart.com/haryopanji