This flying boat was built by Short Brothers at Rochester, England as the Seaford s45, under contract with the Royal Air Force. The Seaford, an up-graded version of the Sunderland long- range reconnaissance flying boat, was designed for use in the Pacific Areas.
With the surrender of Japan in 1945, the seafords were no longer needed for military service and this flying boat (NJ 203) on October 16, 1946, was flown to an RAF maintenance unit at Wig Bay in Scotland and prepared for storage.
In August 1947 this plane was transferred to the Short Brothers plant in Belfast, Ireland along with 5 other Seafords.All were converted to 34 passenger Solent Mark 3's, sold to the ministry of supply and in turn leased to British Overseas Airways Corporation. The Solents were scheduled to take over the route from London to South Africa then being flown by 18 passenger land planes. In March of 1949, NJ 203 was registered to BOAC and named "City of Cardiff', and on May 17th initiated service on the 4-1/2 day flight between Southampton, England and Johannesburg, South Africa.
The route was flown during daylight hours only, with stop-overs at night in Agusta, Sicily; Cairo, Egypt (anchoring on the Nile River); continuing south with a stop at Lake Victoria. This trip was 5600 miles and the cost per passenger was 295 pounds sterling or approximately $1,400 US. With the rapid development of long range land planes and associated airports, the graceful flying boats were soon made obsolete. The last flight on a Solent flying boat on that route left Southampton on the third of November 1950, bringing an end to a great flying boat era.
On April 1951, this aircraft was purchased by Trans Oceanic Airways of Australia, renamed "Star of Papua", and provided service to Tasmania and Lord Howe Island. Trans Oceanic went out of business in July 1952 after a series of unfortunate accidents.
This Solent and two others were then purchased in May of 1953 by South Pacific Air Lines, a division of the Dollar Steamship Lines, for service between Honolulu and Tahiti. This aircraft was renamed at that time "Isle of Tahiti". She and the other two were flown to Oakland for overhaul and modification in April 1955, but service to Tahiti was outmoded by the advent of Boeing 707 aircraft jet transports, and following her last flight off San Francisco Bay on July 25,1958, "Isle of Tahiti" was beached at San Francisco Airport. Bought by the Howard Hughes organization ,she was transferred to Oakland and maintained with her two sister ships under heavy guard . They have not flown since.
In Novmember 1967, all three were barged to Richmond and stored at a waterfront site, and eventually sold for a total of $1500 for the three, in Febuary 1973.Two of the boats were scraped; NJ 203 being in the best condition of the three, was advertised in "Trade a Plane" magazine, and in November of 1976 was purchased by two brothers, Rick and Randy Grant. In August 1987 she was barged back to Oakland and towed to North Field where she was put on display and opened to the public. In 1990 she was towed to her present location at the Oakland Aviation Museum.
This aircraft is on loan from Rick and Randy Grant.