Aircraft History

Vickers Varuna

The Canadian Vickers Varuna was a twin engine flying boat designed to a RCAF specification for an aircraft capable of transporting men and equipment to forest fire locations. The front cockpit was also to be capable of photographic missions.

The resulting unequal-span biplane was essentially an enlarged Vedette flying boat. The hull structure was the same as was the tail, the cockpit forward of the wing held two pilots side by side while the one in the nose was a single occupancy equipped for photography. There was also a center-section cockpit holding two men and another aft of the wing. The wing structure was constructed of steel tubing, as were various support structures along with the tail surfaces. The remainder of the aircraft was of wood construction.

In 1926, Canadian Vickers built only one prototype of the Varuna Mk. I with serial number G-CYGV. Initial tests on the sole Varuna I proved the suitability of the design and resulted in the RCAF specifying some modest improvements for the production of the Varuna II. The Varuna Mk. I, G-CYGV, served at Rockcliffe, Ontario until the end of 1930 when it was put into storage and subsequently struck off strength in 1932. Interestingly, it served longer (2 June, 1926 to 16 November, 1932) than any of the Varuna Mk. II's.

The seven Canadian Vickers Varuna Mk. II's held serials in the series from CYZP - ZV. Trials of the Varuna II showed that the forward hull lines had been improved and the hull now ran very cleanly and left the water easily. Unfortunately, in all other respects the Varuna II's performance had deteriorated. T he selection of lower powered engines for the Varuna II resulted in decreased performance and almost all of the changes requested by the RCAF had increased the drag or reduced the lift or both. Their poor performance restricted them to flying only from large bodies of water and continued to plague their crews until the end of their careers.

In RCAF service, most of the seven Varuna II aircraft spent their working lives in the province of Manitoba filling their intended purpose. Typically, the Varuna Mk.II's served in the RCAF from May 1927 to October 1930 with the last Mk. II being struck off RCAF strength in December 1930. However, the sole Varuna I lasted until 1932 .

The one Varuna II that did not operate in Manitoba, G-CYZV, flew from RCAF Station Dartmouth flying preventative (anti-smuggling and illegal immigrant) patrols on the East Coast until it crashed at Fredericton, New Brunswick on 9 November 1927.

Specifications: Varuna II

Type : General reconnaissance and patrol aircraft

Upper Wing Span : 16.84 m (55 ft 3 in)

Length : 11.66 m (38 ft 3 in)

Height : 4.2m (13 ft 9.5 in)

Max. Speed: 130 kph (81 mph)

Max. Weight : 2,867 kg (6,315 lb)

Empty Weight : 1963 kg (4,325 lb)

Power Plant : Two 180 hp, Armstrong-Siddely Lynx IV engines

Armament: None

Service Ceiling : 2,377 m (7,800 ft)

Crew: Two pilots, one photographer and four crew or passengers

Lower Span: 14.44 m (47 ft 4.5 in.)