The Short SC.7 Skyvan (nicknamed the "Flying Shoebox") is a British 19-seat twin-turboprop aircraft manufactured by Short Brothers of Belfast, Northern Ireland. It is used mainly for short-haul freight and skydiving.
|Skyvan at RAF Fairford, England, 2018|
|National origin||United Kingdom|
|First flight||17 January 1963|
|Status||In limited service|
|Developed into||Short 330 |
In 1958, Short was approached by F.G. Miles Ltd (successor company to Miles Aircraft) which was seeking backing to produce a development of the H.D.M.106 Caravan design with a high aspect ratio wing similar to that of the Hurel-Dubois HD.31. Short acquired the design and data gathered from trials of the Miles Aerovan based H.D.M.105 prototype. After evaluating the Miles proposal, Short rejected the Caravan. They developed their own design for a utility all-metal aircraft which was called the Short SC.7 Skyvan. The Skyvan is a twin-engined all-metal, high-wing monoplane, with a braced, high aspect ratio wing, and an unpressurised, square-section fuselage with twin fins and rudders. It was popular with freight operators compared to other small aircraft because of its large rear door for loading and unloading freight. Its fuselage resembles the shape of a railroad boxcar for simplicity and efficiency.
Construction started at Sydenham Airport in 1960, and the first prototype first flew on 17 January 1963, powered by two Continental piston engines. Later in 1963, the prototype was re-engined with the intended Turbomeca Astazou II turboprop engines of 520 shp (390 kW); the second prototype (the first Series 2 Skyvan) was initially fitted with Turbomeca Astazou X turboprop engines of 666 shp (497 kW) but subsequently the initial production version was powered by Turbomeca Astazou XII turboprop engines of 690 shp (510 kW). In 1967, it was found that the Astazou XII was temperature limited at high altitudes. Consequently, in 1968, production switched to the Skyvan Series 3 aircraft, which replaced the Astazou engines with Garrett AiResearch TPE331 turboprops of 715 shp (533 kW). A total of 149 Skyvans (including the two prototypes) were produced before production ended in 1986. The United States Air Force operated Sherpa Skyvans in Europe for spare parts and cargo delivery. The larger Sherpas were developed from the earlier models.
Skyvans served widely in both military and civilian operations, and the type remained in service in 2009 with a number of civilian operators, and in military service in Guyana and Oman.
Skyvans continue to be used in limited numbers for air-to-air photography and for skydiving operations. In 1970, Questor Surveys of Toronto Canada converted the first of two Skyvan 3s for aerial geological survey work. The Collier Mosquito Control District uses Skyvans for aerial spraying.
The Argentine Naval Prefecture purchased five Skyvans in 1971, which they gave the call signs PA-50 to PA-54.
During the 1982 Falklands War the aircraft were assigned to conduct search and reconnaissance, rescue and transport duties. PA-50 arrived at BAN Río Grande on 15 April 1982 and was joined by PA-54 arrived on 17 April 1982. PA-54 was subsequently deployed to Stanley/EAN Malvinas on 20 April 1982 and was joined on the Falklands by PA-50 on 30 April 1982, which was based at Pebble Island/EAN Calderón. Meanwhile PA-51 was deployed to EAN Río Gallegos on 24 April 1982 and PA-52 to BAN Río Grande on 11 May 1982. While waiting to be put into service PA-54 was damaged while sitting on the Stanley racecourse by British naval gunfire during on the evening of 3 May 1982. It did not fly again and was finally destroyed by shellfire during British bombardments on 12/13 June 1982. PA-50 saw some action at Pebble Island, but it ended up becoming bogged down in the soft ground, and on 15 May 1982 it was destroyed by a British raiding party. At the conclusion of the war PA-51 and PA-52 returned to Aeroparque Jorge Newbery/Buenos Aires on 26 June 1982. The three remaining aircraft were eventually sold off by Argentine Naval Prefecture and by the early 2020’s, only PA-51 still existed.
During the depths of Argentina's Dirty War in 1977, around 4,400 detainees were taken on death flights and thrown to their deaths into the Río de la Plata. By 2003, Italian photographer Giancarlo Ceraudo had become intrigued by the death flights and, with the assistance of the investigative journalist Miriam Lewin , began looking for the aircraft that had been used. Lewin was a survivor of the Navy School of Mechanics (ESMA), which was one of the dictatorship’s most notorious detention, torture and extermination centres. They believed that Skyvans were among the aircraft that had participated in the death flights. In 2010 Ceraudo and Lewin eventually tracked down PA-51 to Fort Lauderdale, Florida, where it was owned by GB Airlink, whose then owner allowed a Miami based Argentinian sports journalist acting on their behalf to visit the aircraft and also provided all its flight logs, among which was one covering the period of the death flights. A three-hour flight entry on 14 December 1977 led to the identification and 2017 conviction of pilots, Mario Daniel Arrú and Alejando Domingo D’Agostino for the murder of eight women and four men. A third crew member Enrique José de Saint Georges, was charged but died of natural causes while awaiting trial. The victims had been tortured, sedated prior to being loaded on the aircraft and their clothing was removed by members of the crew. In the air the Skyvan’s ramp door was opened and the captives were pushed out to fall thousands of feet to their death in the South Atlantic.
Meanwhile GB Airlink had sold PA-51 to Win Aviation, headquartered in DeKalb, Illinois. In early 2023 it was announced that the company’s owner, Andri Wiese, had agreed to allow it to be purchased by the Argentinean Economy Ministry. The plane was flown back to Argentina and plans are in being made for its display at the Espacio Memoria y Derechos Humanos in Buenos Aires.
As of July 2009, a total of 39 Skyvan aircraft remained in airline or skydiving service, with Pink Aviation Services (4), Sonair (1), Swala Aviation (2), Transway Air Services (1), Deraya Air Taxi (3), Layang Layang Aerospace (1), Macair Airlines (1), Malaysia Air Charter (1), Olympic Airways (1), Pan Malaysian Air Transport (1), Wirakris Udara (1), CAE Aviation (1), Deltacraft (1), Invicta Aviation (2), Advanced Air (1), Allwest Freight (2), Era Alaska (3), GB Airlink (1), North Star Air Cargo (5), Skylift Taxi Aereo (1), Skydive Arizona (13), Skydive DeLand (1), Skydive Perris (5), Sydney Skydivers (2), SkyForce Piotrków Trybunalski (1), Skydive Pennsylvania and Summit Air (2), Eagle Air (2), Sustut Air (1), Ryan Air Services, Nomad Air (2), Aalto University (Helsinki, Finland), Skykef (Israel)
As of January 2019 Era Alaska, Ryan Air Services and All West Freight no longer operate Skyvans.
Sydney skydivers no longer own Skyvans.
As of May 2019, Olympic Air (successor to Olympic Airways) no longer operates Skyvans.
In 2019, Invicta Aviation sold their 2 Skyvans (G-PIGY, G-BEOL) to the Guyana Defence Force.
Data from Jane's Civil and Military Upgrades 1994-95
Aircraft of comparable role, configuration, and era