Looking at this Wikipedia image of the Supermarine Southampton flying boat, I noticed what at first looked like a small wheel. But then I thought it couldn't be, as a wheel would be pointless in a flying boat (not to mention, it appears to be only under the right wing).

Any idea what it could be?

enter image description here

  • 1
    $\begingroup$ I found multiple images online showing that object, and all but one appear to be copies of or painted from this photo. And that other one is smaller than this one. I did, however, find many images of various models of the Southampton Flying Boat that don't show that object, so it may have been specific to one Mark production, or mission-specific. $\endgroup$
    – Zeiss Ikon
    Commented May 28, 2020 at 12:50
  • 2
    $\begingroup$ A light? Something to create more drag? Looks like it doesn't have nearly enough drag! $\endgroup$ Commented May 28, 2020 at 15:39
  • $\begingroup$ I wonder if it’s a Yehudi camoflague. $\endgroup$ Commented May 28, 2020 at 16:42
  • $\begingroup$ Mooring ring? Mooring bollard (even though that usually refers to something on the ground rather than on the airplane)? $\endgroup$ Commented May 28, 2020 at 17:04
  • $\begingroup$ While we're at it, what are those odd things on the top surface near the leading edge of the lower wing, just inboard of the tips? More Yehudi lights? But this aircraft appears to pre-date the time of experimentation with this form of camouflage-- see en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Yehudi_lights $\endgroup$ Commented May 28, 2020 at 20:14

1 Answer 1


enter image description here
Source: Supermarine Southampton Flying Boat - Nightime 'Landing' (YouTube)

It's a standard flare bracket – controlled from the cockpit,[1]:76 it holds a burning flare to illuminate the water surface at night when landing.[2]

This particular streamlined design is most likely based on the 1922 patent by Holt Harold Edward Sherwin.[3] It's a clamshell device; when open, the two halves help reduce the heat going up. Those flares are also re-ignitable. The earliest design, also by Holt, was filed in 1917.[4] They are also known as Holt flares.

enter image description here

See item 18 in the front and lower-wing views above.[1]

Provision is made on the rear spars of the bottom outer main planes for the attachment of the standard flare brackets. The flares are controlled by push buttons on the port side of the pilot's instrument board.[1]:76 [emphasis mine]

The Air Navigation Directions (...) require aircraft to be equipped with landing lights (lamps or wing-tip flares) for flights by night (...) The construction of the flare brackets and their position on the wing of the aircraft must be such as to prevent the flame from the flare overheating the wing or aileron fabric when the aircraft is in flight or standing on the ground.[2] [emphasis mine]

enter image description here
Source: twitter.com; cropped

In the crop above, the object at the leading edge is a navigation light, the one below at the trailing edge is the flare bracket.

(My guess, with the engines near idle for landing, there wasn't enough electrical power for bright lamps, or they were heavy and/or unreliable back then.)

1: Great Britain. Air Ministry. (1929). The Supermarine Southampton Boat Seaplane, Mark II. (Metal Hull) Two Lion Engines ... Air Ministry. Issued November, 1929. London: H. M. Stationery Off.. (hathitrust.org)
2: (1939), "A German Long‐Range Flying‐Boat: Some Particulars of the Latest Dornier Seaplane to be put into Service on the South Atlantic Route", Aircraft Engineering and Aerospace Technology, Vol. 11 No. 9, pp. 357-369. https://doi.org/10.1108/eb030544
3: Sherwin, Holt Harold Edward. "Landing light or flare for attaching to aircraft." U.S. Patent No. 1,423,326. 18 Jul. 1922.
4: Sherwin, Holt Harold Edward. "Flare for use on aircraft." U.S. Patent No. 1,360,527. 30 Nov. 1920.

  • 2
    $\begingroup$ Great find, but, the legend just says "wing tip flare", not "wing tip flare light". I would suggest that it is an electrically-ignited flare. It seems likely that the reason it projects so far below the wing, is to avoid catching the fabric of the wing on fire. Now, why you would want a flare attached near the wingtip, is another question. $\endgroup$ Commented Feb 28, 2021 at 18:35
  • $\begingroup$ Perhaps it is actually something that can be dropped w/ a small parachute, and the location is just for safety in case it fails to fall free after ignition? $\endgroup$ Commented Feb 28, 2021 at 18:37
  • $\begingroup$ @quietflyer: re first comment, good point, hang on, I'm onto something :) $\endgroup$
    – user14897
    Commented Feb 28, 2021 at 18:37
  • 3
    $\begingroup$ Great find, and it's amazing you even found some footage. If I could upvote and accept this answer twice, I would :) $\endgroup$
    – user12873
    Commented Mar 1, 2021 at 8:22
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ @DigitalDracula: thank you thank you :) $\endgroup$
    – user14897
    Commented May 17, 2021 at 16:43

You must log in to answer this question.