Turning Into Wind - Blackburn Skua


Blackburn Skua & HMS Ark Royal Art Print


Similar to the RAF’s Vickers Wellesley and Fairey Battle the Skua was a quantum leap in terms of capability but was to be found seriously wanting by the time war came in 1939. First flown from Brough in 1937, the aircraft became the first British carrier-borne aircraft to be equipped with retractable undercarriage, flaps and a variable pitch propeller.


Orders for 190 were forthcoming with the first squadrons to be equipped with the aircraft, 800 and 803 receiving their full complement of aircraft late in 1938. In comparison to the Hawker Nimrod and Osprey they replaced, the Skua gave the Fleet Air Arm a much more potent aircraft but even by 1939 it was understood by the admiralty that the airraft was obsolete as a fighter. Equipping two more squadrons before the outbreak of war, the Skua would become famous during the Norwegian campaign when 16 aircraft of 800 and 803 squadrons attacked and sank the German cruiser Königsberg.


It was not to remain in service for long after the Norway campaign as better aircraft in the Fairey Fulmar and Hawker Sea Hurricane were on their way. The remains of one aircraft are preserved at the Fleet Air Arm Museum, Yeovil.

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