Throughout the history of aviation the subject of “ugliest airplane” sometimes comes up and is joined with the ferocity that one might otherwise reserve for discussions pertaining to in-laws or the way the government is being run. And while there are many ugly airplanes out there, the Short Skyvan series of aircraft is definitely a contender for the title. The Skyvan was made by Short Brothers of Belfast, Ireland and it was the same Short Brothers as the famous British flying boats of World War Two. Short Brothers was also the oldest true aviation company in the world, being founded in 1908. It was, at one point, licensed to build Wright fliers in the United Kingdom.
Unlike most other ugly aircraft, the Short Skyvan Series was actually quite a useful and economical airplane during its heyday. The prototype SC-7 flew in 1963 with two Continental piston engines but these were soon replaced with the French Turbomeca Astazou turboprops. The Turbomeca engines in turn were placed with Garrett TPE-331 turboprops. Both the Turbomeca and Garrett engines were dependable engines, but as switch was made to the Pratt & Whitney PT-6 when Shorts introduced the stretched 330 Skyvan. During its production, and the subsequent models we’ll soon discuss, the Skyvan series performed much the same role as the deHavilland Twin Otter, but the Short aircraft was favored by freight operators because it featured a large rear door that facilitated the loading and unloading of freight.
Because of the Skyvan's large rear cargo door, it has gained popularity as the favorite plane for parachute jumps. Here is a fun video of several skydivers jumping from a Skyvan.
The 330 was a stretched model of the original SC-7 and although all the Skyvan series were unpressurized, it found use as a regional airliner, just as the Twin Otter did too. While not the short field performer that the Twin Otter is, the 330 Skyvan was quite a decent STOL performer is its own right, and it could carry up to 30 passengers.
The United States military used the 330 as a small cargo aircraft and it received the designation C-23 Sherpa (not to be confused with the Sherpa kit plane). These planes are in the process of being phased out of the military in favor of Alenia C-27J.
The final version of the Skyvan series was the 360 model which featured a single vertical fin and rudder as opposed to the “H” tail arrangement on the 330. The model also saw military use as the C-23B and C-23C. In civilian form the 360 could seat 36. Production of the Skyvan series of aircraft ended in 1991 and Short Brothers of Belfast became absorbed by the aerospace giant Bombardier.
This video shows a Skyvan (SC-7) take-off from an ice strip on a lake in the Northwest Territories.
Watch this skyvan land in Northern Canada.
Watch this interesting video that shows the Skyvan take off with closeups of the cockpit in addition to the planes cargo, in this case, skyjumpers, as well as some nice scenery.
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