Military Wiki
A17 Cutty Sark
Role Amphibian
Manufacturer Saunders-Roe
First flight 1929-07-04
Introduction 1930
Number built 12

The Saro A17 Cutty Sark was a British amphibious aircraft from the period between World War I and World War II, built by the British firm Saunders-Roe (also known as SARO). The aircraft was named after the ship Cutty Sark, rather than the garment.


In 1928, Sir Alliot Verdon Roe sold Avro. He bought an interest in S. E. Saunders, flying boat manufacturers based at Cowes, Isle of Wight, southern England; the company was renamed Saunders-Roe. The A17 Cutty Sark was the new company's first design. It was a shoulder-winged twin-engined four-seat amphibian monoplane with an all-metal hull and plywood covered wings. The above-wing pylon-mounted engines could easily be changed, and a variety of different engines were used to power Cutty Sarks, including 104 hp Cirrus Hermes Mk 1s and 120 hp de Havilland Gipsy IIs. The Saro A19 Cloud was developed from this design.

Only 12 Cutty Sarks were built, and none lasted long in service, but the type nevertheless saw service with many users in the United Kingdom, Australia, Canada, New Zealand, China, Japan and the Dominican Republic.

Production aircraft

  • A17/1 : The prototype G-AAIP was first flown 4 July 1929. Bought by Captain Campbell Shaw and Flight Lieutenant Tommy Rose for Isle of Man Air Services. Returned to Cowes in 1933 after being damaged by floating timber.
  • A17/2 : VH-UNV was exported to Australia by Matthews Aviation flying the Bass Strait between Melbourne and Tasmania from May 1930. On 8 November 1931 the aircraft was driven by wind into a pier at St. Kilda, and Mr E. Lloyd, a passenger who attempted to assist, was killed by a propeller. In 1935 it was sold to Pioneer Air Services. In 1937 it was sold to [[Keith Caldwell a young barnstorming pilot from Lindfield NSW (not to be confused with the NZ WWII fighter ace of the same name)<Recorded conversation with Keith 8/92>]]; on 15 October 1937, at the same time as he joined Qantas as a pilot, Caldwell sold VH-UNV for £700 to the airline as a trainer. It was written off after landing on water with the undercarriage extended on 5 April 1938.
  • A17/3 : aka "L3". Sold to the RNZAF. It was first flown on 3 March 1930, then shipped to New Zealand aboard the SS Mataroa where it was reassembled by 28 May 1930. It operated from Hobsonville, Auckland for the next six years. After 221 hours and 5 minutes flying time it was judged worn out beyond economic repair. L3 made its last flight on 23 November 1936, after which it served as an instructional airframe. It was scrapped in 1939.
  • A17/4 : G-AAVX before being sold to Canada as VR-SAA in 1930.
  • A17/5 : G-ABBC named "Progress I" operated out of Blackpool to the Isle of Man by British Amphibious Airlines. Attempts to replace it with an A.19 Cloud after 1933 were blocked due to SARO's decision to operate an airline from the Isle of Man.
  • A17/6 : Acquired by the Royal Air Force as S1575.
  • A17/7 : Sold to Canada as VR-HAY
  • A17/8 : Served in the Kwangsi Air Force in China, but was returned to Britain as G-AETI.
  • A17/9 : Initially registered G-ABVF then exported to Japan.
  • A17/10 : Registered G-ACDP to Air Service Training Ltd., used by No 3 E & RFTS until 1942.
  • A17/11 : Registered G-ACDR to Air Service Training Ltd., used by No 3 E & RFTS until 1942.
  • A17/12 : Registered G-ADAF. This may be the machine exported to the Dominican Republic in 1935, and written off in 1942.


Military operators

 Republic of China (1912–1949)
  • Kwangsi Air Force
 Dominican Republic
 New Zealand
 United Kingdom

Specifications (Genet Major engine)

Data from British Civil Aircraft 1919-1972:Volume III [1]

General characteristics

  • Crew: two pilots
  • Capacity: 2 passengers
  • Length: 34 ft 4 in (10.46 m)
  • Wingspan: 45 ft 0 in (13.72 m)
  • Height: 11 ft 2 in (3.40 m)
  • Wing area: 320 ft² (29.7 m²)
  • Empty weight: 2,725 lb (1,239 kg)
  • Loaded weight: 3,900 lb (1,770 kg)
  • Powerplant: 2 × Armstrong-Siddeley Genet Major, 140 hp (104 kW) each


  • Maximum speed: 107 mph (93 knots, 172 km/h)
  • Cruise speed: 90 mph (78 knots, 145 km/h)
  • Range: 315 miles (274 nmi, 507 km)
  • Service ceiling: 9,000 ft (2,740 m)
  • Rate of climb: 500 ft/min (2.5 m/s)

See also


  1. Jackson 1988, p.123.
  • Jackson, A.J. British Civil Aircraft 1919-1972: Volume III. London:Putnam, 1988. ISBN 0-8517-7818-6.
  • London, Peter. Saunders and Saro Aircraft since 1917. London: Putnam, 1988. ISBN 0-85177-814-3

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