Short Belfast C.1 (XR731)

Short Belfast C.1 (XR731)  [@ RAF Cosford]

The Belfast was designed by Short Brothers as a long-range strategic transport aircraft, specifically to carry the later cancelled Blue Streak IRBM.   Shorts design was based on studies they had worked on in late 1950s and the project started as the SC.5/10 in February 1959.   Powered by four Rolls Royce Tyne turboprops [photographs - below] the cargo deck was 64 ft long in a fuselage over 18 ft in diameter.  With a wing span of 158 ft, an overall length of 136 ft and it weighed 56 tons empty (more than twice that when fully loaded) all of which was supported upon a main undercarriage consisting of two 8 wheel bogies and a 2 wheel nose.  It could carry 150 troops with full equipment, or a Chieftain tank or two Westland Wessex helicopters which could be loaded through a "beaver tail" rear loading doors and ramp.  The Belfast was only the second aircraft type to be built equipped with auto-land blind landing equipment.  Unfortunately, the Belfast C.1 suffered from an inadequate altitude performance.

Tyne engine   Tyne engine

XR371 was called ‘Enceladus’ and it worked all over the world on special flights for the armed forces until 1976.  Enceladus was first flown on the 11th July 1967 and was delivered to the RAF on the 30th July 1967.  The last flight of XR371 was to RAF Cosford in the autumn of 1978.

Short Belfast C.1 (XR731)

Short Belfast C.1 (XR731)  [@ RAF Cosford]

The prototype first flew on the 5th January 1964 with only ten being built, all for the RAF, and each aircraft was named after a giant.  The variant entered service with 53 Squadron of Air Support Command on the 10th January 1966 and all ten were retired in 1976.  With a crew of four on the flight deck, plus an air quartermaster, it was the largest aircraft to be operated by that service.

Heavylift (then TAC Heavylift) purchased 5 of them for commercial use in 1977 and operated three of them from 1980 after they had received work so they could be certificated to civil standards.  Some of them were charted during the Falklands war, with some sources suggesting that this cost more than keeping all the aircraft in RAF service until the 1990s.  One aircraft is still flying in Australia for HeavyLift Cargo Airlines and flies from Cairns International Airport in Queensland, in company with one or two 727s.


Samson, XR362 (used registration G-ASKE for overseas test flight), was the prototype and first flew on the 5th January 1964.  Delivered to the RAF on 21st December 1967 it was sold as G-BEPE on the 30th March 1977 and scrapped in February 1994.

Goliath, XR363, was first flown on 1st May 1964 and delivered to the RAF on 6th September 1968.  Sold as G-OHCA and scrapped in February 1994.

Pallas, XR364, was first flown on 19th August 1964, delivered on 3rd November 1971 and sold as scrap to Rolls-Royce, at Hucknell, on 11th June 1979 who recovered the Tyne engines.

Hector, XR365, was first flown on 31st December 1964 and delivered on 14th January 1969.  Sold as G-HLFT on the 11th September 1981 before operating as 9L-LDQ with HeavyLift Cargo Ailines, Brisbane, Queensland, Australia.

Atlas, XR366, was first flown on 31st May 1965, delivered on 26th June 1968 and sold as scrap to Rolls-Royce, at Hucknell, on 8th August 1979 who recovered the Tyne engines.

Heracles, XR367, was first flown on 2nd November 1965 and was the first to be delivered to the RAF on the 10th January 1966.  It was sold as G-BFYU and scrapped in 2001.

Theseus, XR368, was first flown on 21st February 1966 and delivered to the RAF on 29th March 1966.  Sold as G-BEPS on 6th April 1977 and, as far as I know, is under restoration to fly with HeavyLift Cargo Airlines.

Spartacus, XR369, was first flown on 3rd June 1966 and delivered on 6th July 1966.  Sold as G-BEPL but then to Rolls-Royce, at Hucknell, for scrap on 10th July 1979 who recovered the Tyne engines.

Ajax, XR370, was first flown on 4th November 1966, delivered on 13th December 1966 and sold as scrap to Rolls-Royce, at Hucknell, on 4th July 1979 who recovered the Tyne engines.