Jet-engined amphibious heavy flying-boats are not the sort of thing you see every day, so the appearance of the USSR’s Beriev Be-42 Mermaid at this year’s Paris Air Show in June 1991 kept many heads turning. Although Paris, where the photographs on these pages were taken, marked the Mermaid’s international debut, the aircraft had already been displayed in Russia - as the Beriev A-40 Albatross - at Moscow’s Tushino airshow in 1989.
Designed for anti-submarine warfare, the Be-42 has a span and length of 138ft - very roughly half as big again as a Short Sunderland - and stands 36ft high. It can operate from water in waves up to 6ft high, or from land with its wheeled undercarriage (on runways at least 1,976yd long).
The Mermaid’s twin turbofan engines, understood to be 26,300lb-thrust Soloviev D-30s, are mounted on top of the fuselage just aft of the wing, a position which gives them good protection from water ingestion during takeoff and landing.
Beriev brought the Be-42 to Paris in order to help drum up interest in planned civilian derivatives - including a cargo transport, a 100-seat airliner and a water-bomber for tackling forest fires. In the firefighting configuration, says the company, the aircraft’s 25-ton capacity water tanks could be refilled via a scoop as the aircraft skims over a lake - a method to which the shape of the Mermaid’s bottom is eminently suited.