Simanaitis Says

On cars, old, new and future; science & technology; vintage airplanes, computer flight simulation of them; Sherlockiana; our English language; travel; and other stuff


NOEL PEMBERTON-BILLING, pioneer aviator, aeroplane manufacturer, outspoken adventurer, succeeded and failed a goodly number of times in his early years. Founder of Supermarine, Pemberton-Billing built no aeroplanes as renowned as the firm’s Spitfire. However, here in Part 2 of 3, we’ll see he had a flair for design. We leave the juicy stuff for tomorrow in Part 3.

The P.B.7 Flying Boat. Pemberton-Billing envisioned marine aircraft as “not aeroplanes which float, but boats which fly.” The P.B.7 was exemplary of this, in a stunningly innovative way.

According to Supermarine literature, “Under stress of weather, at the will of the pilot, the aeronautical implementa is instantly detachable, leaving an ordinary High-Speed motor craft….Applications for licenses to build under the French, German, Russian, Italian, Belgian, Norwegian, Australian, American, Japanese, and other Foreign and Colonial patents, are invited.”

Image from British Flying Boats and Amphibians 1909–1952.

As noted in British Flying Boats and Amphibians 1909–1952, “The P.B.7 layout was intended to eliminate the problem of docking a large flying-boat by loading the motor boat at a pier, then [improbably enough] connecting up with the flight structure at a convenient off-shore mooring…. A batch of P.B.7s were on order for the Germany Navy, and at the outbreak of war several motor boats of this type were complete and ready to have the flight structure fitted.”

World War I intervened, and no P.B.7s ever flew. Until now, in Microsoft Flight Simulator by way of GMax.

Above, the motor cruiser. Below, its “aeronautical implementa.”

The GMax/Flight Sim P.B.7. The cabin cruiser had a 225-hp Sunbeam V-8, photos of which are found on the Internet. The shaft drive to the single water screw is conventional; the twin aero propellers are driven by belts.

It’s easy for me to add or delete the flight hardware on the computer. I cannot imagine the complications of accomplishing this in a harbor or, even more so, at sea.

The P.B.7 was designed to carry as many as six passengers, their access to the cabin through a forward hatch. Contemporary photos of similar craft show the passengers climbing aboard from a tender. The pilot sat high, well into the airstream, all the better to sense flying conditions.

The lady in violet jumpsuit (also known for piloting the Valkyrie) waves to approaching passengers. Her animation is GMax-keyed to the hatch opening and closing.

The P.B.7’s span was 57 ft. 6 in. It weighed perhaps 3950 lb. Its maximum speed was an estimated 70 mph. My P.B.7 lifts off the water with ease and cruises at around 60 mph.

Buzzing Cowes. A sharp-eyed pilot can catch a glimpse of the young lady’s violet jumpsuit.

Cowes, on the Isle of Wight just south of Southamption, was a center of British flying boat activities.

All in good GMax/Flight Sim fun.

An Audio Whiz. In 1922, Pemberton-Billing patented his World Record Controller, a gizmo that fitted to a standard wind-up gramophone of the era. It used complex progressive gearing to initiate playback at 33 rpm and gradually increase to 78 rpm, engineered so that the needle traveled at a constant linear speed.

His specially manufactured 12-in. discs had 10 minutes of playing time versus the usual 3-4 minutes or so for records revolving at a constant 78 rpm. (Edison’s cylinders ran for about two minutes.) Cost of the Pemberton-Billing discs, the equivalent of almost $29 today, and complexity of the gearing made the World Record Controller a commercial non-player.

Pemberton-Billing followed up in 1925 with what he called Duophone unbreakable records. They were so durable that they rapidly wore out needles.

A Camera Buff. In 1938, he devise a miniature camera using 35-mm film and contracted with LeCoutre & Cie to produce it. Some 4000 were made.

A Jaeger-LeCoutre Compass Camera. Image from

According to Wikipedia, “In 1948, he devised the ‘Phantom’ camera to be used by spies. It never entered production, but its rarity led one to sell for £120,000, a record price for any camera, in 2001.”

Many of Pemberton-Billing’s designs were characterized by ingenuity, not practicality.

Tomorrow, in a concluding Part 3, we’ll continue with other Pemberton-Billing activities, not to say hijinks. ds

© Dennis Simanaitis,, 2020


  1. Bob DuBois
    February 28, 2020

    Early in the article, you referenced Supermarine literature that mentioned “aeronautical implementa”.However, in your photo of the boat without the wings you called it “aeronautical impedimenta”. I suspect there’s quite a difference in definition between implementa and impedimenta, don’t you?

    • simanaitissays
      February 28, 2020

      Agg! And ha! The peril of using unfamiliar words…. It’s corrected tout suite. (And I checked to make sure it’s not “toute.”) Thanks

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