A cad’s guide to aeroplanes

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“Patriarchy you say? Bloody silly name for a yacht if you ask me.”

According to the dreadfully weighty Oxford English Dictionary a ‘cad’ is ‘a man who behaves dishonourably, especially towards a woman’ (though according to Gimlet’s Book of Cliches, ‘an introduction that starts with the dictionary definition of the subject is unacceptably lazy‘). Most cads in popular culture tend also to be upper class or at least feigning such a station. Of all the social types one might run into in polite society, the cad seems to be the most suited to personal aircraft ownership as he is the most likely to wish for a form of transport with the panache to impress a filly, require a speedy getaway from an enraged suitor, and to be personally unaware of the ludicrous vulgarity of such a conveyance. Here are some aeroplanes that are perfect for the kind of man that would leave a woman feeling like jumping in front of the King’s horse.

 

de Havilland DH.88 Comet
“Black Magic”
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“Champagne?” Check “Fifteen silk scarves and a strong cologne” Check. “Pregnancy testing kit?” Check.

If any aircraft were ever designed to sidle up to a lady and spirit her away to potentially dubious climes it would be the original de Havilland Comet. It is undeniably attractive in a flash kind of way, English, very fast for its time (it was a racer after all) and boasts that dreadfully important second seat. In real life of course it was quite successful, winning the 1934 MacRobertson England to Australia air race (no true cad would ever have had the fortitude or strength of character to undertake such a journey). One of the three Comets entered was flown by Amy Johnson and her husband Jim Mollison. Painted black with a gold cheat line and christened ‘Black Magic’, it looked fantastic – in a sleazily aristocratic kind of way. The arrogance of starting a company name with a lowercase letter is pretty caddish too, and has forced many an aviation writer into adopting a weird sentence construction.

 

 

Roe IV Triplane

 

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Ivor the engine puffed and panted to try and catch up with the man who had snatched his iPhone.

“Blast!”
Terry-Thomas portrayed the definitive screen cad on many occasions, most appropriately for our purposes in the form of Sir Percy Ware-Armitage in the bizarre 1963 film ‘Those Magnificent Men in their Flying Machines’. His aircraft is a largely authentic replica (the engine is a 1930s Cirrus of considerably greater power) of the Roe IV triplane of 1910 and flies to this very day with the Shuttleworth collection. As the vehicle of a cad it is somewhat lacking in potential as it doesn’t even have a seat for a paramour and the somewhat exposed position for the pilot requires him to discard his Savile Row suit for rather more robust clothing. In the film it is outrun by a train, and with a quoted 45 mph top speed this is hardly surprising.

Hold on- an advert is about to interrupt your enjoyment: If you wish to read more humorous articles purporting to be about aviation you should waste time reading: Top Ten Most Boring Aircraft in History! Werner Herzog’s guide to pusher aircraft,
A thoroughly disrespectful guide to the 10 most attractive Canadian aircraft , A thoroughly disrespectful guide to the 10 most attractive US aircraft A thoroughly disrespectful guide to the 10 most attractive US aircraft , Review of the Eurofighter magazine , F-35 overexposure , Review of the Eurofighter promo filmReview of the F-35 website

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Heinkel He 111H-1 AW177
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I’m not sure this paintjob is really ‘me’

Who would pay a million dollars to have me killed?
Jealous husbands! Outraged chefs! Humiliated tailors! The list is endless!
Though James Bond has the demeanour of a murderer in a hotel bar, he is beloved by boring men around the world as the ultimate cad. He certainly behaves dishonourably towards women (and everyone else to be fair). His creator, Ian Fleming, was decidedly caddish. His career at Eton came to an abrupt end when his housemaster, who disapproved of his ‘attitude’ as well as his ‘hair oil, his ownership of a car and his relations with women’ (sounds like jealousy to me) persuaded his mother to send him to Sandhurst. The attitude and relations, not to mention the hair oil, must have been pretty serious stuff as Fleming had been crowned Victor Ludorum two years in a row and he edited a school magazine ‘The Wyvern’. His subsequent career at Sandhurst also came to an abrupt end for he left in 1927 after contracting gonorrhea.  What a cad.
Between then and his subsequent fame as a writer he worked in Naval Intelligence during the war and came up with an underhand scheme named, with some accuracy, ‘Operation Ruthless’. The plan was to use this aircraft, a captured Heinkel 111 in a daring attempt to obtain an enigma code machine for the British. The idea was that the captured Heinkel would trail behind a genuine Luftwaffe bombing raid returning to France and ditch in the channel after sending out an SOS. The Germans would send a rescue E or R boat, whereupon the bomber’s crew would kill them and take the boat, with its invaluable enigma coding machine, back to Britain. Fleming was desperate to be one of the crew but because of his knowledge of code-breaking activities at Bletchley Park (where publishers cracked the code of creating best-selling books about the World War II intelligence effort) it was deemed too dangerous to let him go. Ultimately Operation Ruthless was never to happen and Fleming was never to know whether his plan would have worked. Luckily he had a ludicrously successful writing career and several affairs with married women to look forward to.
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Myasishchev M-50 ‘Bounder’
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“Hurry up damn you! Lord Walmington found me with Lady Walmington and he’s spitting tacks.”

“You sir, are a cad and a bounder!”
“No sir, I am a cad and I own a Bounder”
With its 1200 mph top speed, the most caddishly codenamed aircraft ever to fly would serve admirably to whisk any rake away from a sticky situation such as a furious husband or a prohibitively large bar tab. However the catastrophically huge number of roubles required to purchase an experimental supersonic nuclear bomber, let alone fill it with petrol, would seem to limit its potential suitability to all the but the wealthiest cad. Or, one supposes, a Soviet test-pilot cad.
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AVE Mizar
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Images photocopied from a magazine found in a binbag outside a jumble sale.

There’s a useful four letter word, and you’re full of it
The Bond villain Scaramanga not only takes advantage of women but then shoots them if they displease him like the terrible cad he is. Scaramanga was gleefully played by Christopher Lee (who, oddly, was Ian Fleming’s cousin) in ‘The Man with the Golden Gun’ and at one point in the film gives Roger Moore’s Bond the slip in a car that converts into an aircraft. The car is an AMC Matador X which is notable for its appalling looks but, sadly, does not actually turn into an aeroplane – it was a model, flown at Bovington Camp in Dorset (home of the excellent Tank Museum) rather than Thailand where it’s supposed to be.
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“Arghhhhhhhhhhhh!” The reality of the situation sinks in.

However this is not what was originally intended. Shortly before the film’s production began a man named Henry Smolinski had, perhaps misguidedly, wrenched the back engine and tail booms off a Cessna O-2, bolted them to a Ford Pinto and named the resulting vehicle the AVE Mizar. This car/plane hybrid had flown successfully a number of times and had piqued the interest of the film’s producers. Sadly for everyone, faulty welding of one of the wing struts resulted in the destruction of the Mizar in a crash, the death of Smolinski and his passenger, and the denial of its chance for cinematic fame as the getaway vehicle for one of cinema’s most deadly cads.
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Unknown German (?) aircraft
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Centre of gravity issues were remedied by the inclusion of a gruff laughing dog.

“Drat! Double drat and triple drat!”
As his attitude to both automobile racing regulations and the person of Penelope Pitstop made plain, Richard Milhous (‘Dick’) Dastardly was one of the worst cads imaginable. In the prequel(?) series to the Wacky Races, his remarkable obsession with a pigeon saw him take to the sky in a wide variety of unlikely aircraft, yet this is his standard machine and the one with which he will always be associated. It may have a manufacturer and model name but this appears to have been lost in the mists of time or maybe Hanna and Barbera couldn’t be bothered to make one up. This is hardly surprising given how little work they appear to have been bothered to undertake on animating and scripting their productions. Curiously, despite the herculean levels of effort he puts in, Dastardly never once manages to catch a pigeon nor win a Wacky race: not the greatest advert for those considering a career in caddishness.
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McDonnell Mercury capsule
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The McDonnell Mercury capsule was guarded by the middleweight boxing champion Helen Dumont.

I’m talking about keeping our pants zipped and our wicks dry around here!
Actually leaving the Earth’s atmosphere would seem to be taking escape from the consequences of one’s caddish behaviour to an extreme level. Yet it may have been a strong motivational factor for at least half of the six Mercury astronauts to actually fly into space. Whilst the pillar of morality John Glenn exhorted the others to keep their pants zipped it appears now that it did little good. Required in the name of propaganda to outwardly maintain Stepford-wife-levels of apparent marital bliss, in later years the wives of some of the original Mercury astronauts have revealed just what a collection of terrible bastards they were.
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“When you done putting them Nicorettes on, I’d like a happy ending.”

Alan Shepard, the first American in space, attended swingers parties and picked up a Mexican prostitute on a NASA trip to California just before the mission. Glenn had to persuade the press not to print pictures of this impressive indiscretion. Virgil ‘Gus’ Grissom, the second American in space had, according to his wife, ‘other girlfriends’. Gordon Cooper, the sixth American in space, had been dumped by his wife Trudy just before he was selected for astronaut training because he ‘was screwing another man’s wife‘. Realising that NASA required, for publicity’s sake, an apparently perfect marriage, he managed to persuade her to reunite with him for a few years.
They may have had the ‘right stuff’ for spaceflight but it seems they were the stuff of nightmares for NASA’s public relations department.
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Vickers Viastra X
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“Cutaway as much as you like, you will never see into my private thoughts.”

“You dress like a cad. You act like a cad. You are a cad!”
So said George V to his dreadful son Edward Albert Christian George Andrew Patrick David Windsor, Prince of Wales, which showed considerable prescience given that this was well before the appearance of such famously uber-caddish behaviour as Nazi-sympathising, American-divorcee-wedding, and outright racism. In his youth, Edward defines the very essence of the Royal cad – he was notorious throughout the 1920s as a womaniser, most spectacularly after one of his conquests, Freda Ward, shot her husband dead. He was (unsurprisingly) cleared of involvement in the subsequent murder trial.  Before abdicating the throne Edward VIII was the first member of the British royal family to learn to fly (with the RAF) though, as heir to the throne, he was never permitted to fly solo, which seems a trifle odd seeing how much his father despised him. Later he would own several aircraft which served as a forerunner to the ‘Kings Flight’ which continues to this day, allowing more modern cads such as Prince Andrew, to potter about at great public expense and do whatever it is that they do, wherever they wish to do it. Edward’s most appropriately caddish aircraft was the Vickers Viastra X, a triple-finned and spatted factory-modified 12-seat airliner fit for a King.
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“And that, gentlemen, is the aircraft’s fanny.”                                                                                    “You sure you’re really from the Air Ministry?”

 

In true louche fashion he didn’t use it very much and it made but one public appearance at the RAF display in 1934. As befits the poshest of cads Edward employed a professional pilot, with the unlikely name of Edward ‘Mouse’ Fielden, to fly his ‘Royal Barge’ around, presumably so he could ‘entertain’ in the passenger compartment. There was certainly plenty of room to do so and the aircraft interior was sumptuously decorated in red and gold by the Scottish painter and designer Anna Zinkeisen.
By Sir Henry Bawling-Vasdeferens

Have a look at 10 Best fighters of World War II top WVR and BVR fighters of today, an interview with a Super Hornet pilot and a Pacifist’s Guide to Warplanes. Was the Spitfire overrated? Want something more bizarre? The Top Ten fictional aircraft is a fascinating read, as is The Strange Story and The Planet Satellite. The Fashion Versus Aircraft Camo is also a real cracker. Those interested in the Cold Way should read A pilot’s guide to flying and fighting in the Lightning. Those feeling less belligerent may enjoy A pilot’s farewell to the Airbus A340. Looking for something more humourous? Have a look at this F-35 satire and ‘Werner Herzog’s Guide to pusher bi-planes. In the mood for something more offensive? Try the NSFW 10 best looking American airplanes, or the same but for Canadians. 

Follow my vapour trail on Twitter: @Hush_kit 

International air tattoos

Abstract-airplane-tattooWhen the Wright Brothers first flew in 1903, little did they know that the descendants of their invention would be portrayed on arses, backs and calves around the world.

Have a look at 10 Best fighters of World War II top WVR and BVR fighters of today, an interview with a Super Hornet pilot and a Pacifist’s Guide to Warplanes. Was the Spitfire overrated? Want something more bizarre? The Top Ten fictional aircraft is a fascinating read, as is The Strange Story and The Planet Satellite. The Fashion Versus Aircraft Camo is also a real cracker. Those interested in the Cold Way should read A pilot’s guide to flying and fighting in the Lightning. Those feeling less belligerent may enjoy A pilot’s farewell to the Airbus A340. Looking for something more humourous? Have a look at this F-35 satire and ‘Werner Herzog’s Guide to pusher bi-planes. In the mood for something more offensive? Try the NSFW 10 best looking American airplanes, or the same but for Canadians. 

Follow my vapour trail on Twitter: @Hush_kit

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Top Ten Most Boring Aircraft in History!

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Boredom is in the eye, or perhaps gall bladder, of the beholder. When I was growing up in Norfolk (my origin proving my credentials for this task) I thought that the pairs of A-10s that flew over every day were extremely dull. They were commonplace, quiet, and neither a super-exciting fast jet like a Jaguar nor something lovely and old like a Tiger Moth. Now I realise the A-10 is one of the most interesting military aircraft ever built and if one were to hove into view now I would run outside and stare at it until it went away. However, some aircraft are just so dull that no human anywhere could ever truly find the energy to run outside and look at them. Could they? Well, probably. But here’s some likely contenders for that accolade, if it were truly attainable. Ironically I have tried to make this list a bit more, well, interesting by selecting the most boring aircraft from various aspects of aviation history, otherwise the whole list would be Airbuses. And that would be boring. Now I’m boring myself.

 

10. Curtiss P-40: Borehawk

 

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Any aircraft looks exciting firing guns at night, even the yawnsome P-40.

 

Inherently military aircraft can’t help but be generally more interesting than civil ones and of military aircraft the fighter is obviously the most glamorous. The most intense period in the history of fighter aircraft is the Second World War, so selecting the most boring example from the most thrilling group of aircraft at the most exciting time for aircraft seems like a pointlessly difficult task but I believe I have achieved the definitive answer:
The Curtiss P-40 was neither particularly fast nor particularly manoeuvrable and it was not effective at high altitude. Its design was not unusual, unlike its fascinating contemporaries the P-38 and P-39, and it was itself a derivative of an earlier, rarer and more historically interesting aircraft, the Hawk 75. Subsequently, halfway through its production life it was heavily redesigned to become, seemingly, even more mediocre.
Some aircraft are interesting due to the nation that produced them (ie Italy) but no such luck for the Warhawk. It cannot be considered unusual due to rarity, the P-40 was produced in great numbers but on the other hand, not so great as many other fighters. In no theatre to which it was committed could it definitively be said to have been the best fighter available on one side or the other but generally comes out sort-of second or third best. Never totally outclassed though – that would have made it notable. Its long career (it was only retired by Brazil in the mid-fifties, which is edging into dangerously potentially interesting territory) was not so long as the Corsair or the Mustang, and was generally competent. The P-40 can claim no superlative nor was it found spectacularly wanting in any regard. It represents the greatest triumph of mediocrity during the war years. Perhaps not coincidentally it is one of my favourite aircraft.

9. Beriev Be-30/32: Soviet Yawnion

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The hills are alive, with the dull sound of the Beriev Be-32.

Has any other nation so consistently produced more interesting aircraft than the Soviet Union? Either because they were absolutely brilliant or because they were just so awful. Anyway, just to prove that aerial ennui is not the sole preserve of the Imperialist West here is the Beriev Be-30, an aircraft whose sole claim to fame is its limited production run (of eight, which makes it pretty successful by modern British standards ho ho). Looking a little like a genetically modified Twin Otter (how often have you heard that tired old line?) the Be-30 chugged around for a while competing unsuccessfully with the Let-410 and flirting with being mass-produced in Romania until it quietly died without anyone really noticing.

 

8. Schweizer X-26 Frigate: I feel the need, the need for a safe yaw/roll-coupling training platform

 

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My prick friend is flying rocket planes, well at least it’s quiet here.

 

Research aircraft are usually spectacular and dangerous, sometimes awe-inspiring like the X-15 or less so like the Bristol 188, but invariably exciting right? Picture the scene: you are a hotshot US Naval aviator and you’ve just been assigned to the Naval Test Pilot’s School. Perhaps you’ll fly the new Super Crusader and mock dogfight with F-4s, or maybe you’ll get on the D-558 programme and fly several times the speed of sound at the edge of space, or maybe it’ll be something absurd and memorable like the Ryan Vertijet. Imagine your reaction therefore on being presented with the X-26A, a Schweizer Frigate glider which differs from the standard Schweizer SGS 2-32 glider mostly by having the word ‘Navy’ painted on the side. “It doesn’t even have an engine!” you manage to wail before being told to get out there and push the yaw/roll coupling envelope (slowly).

7. Vickers Varsity: It existed

 

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Can’t wait to get home and have sex with Jimbo.

Training aircraft are usually pretty dull and so are most airliners. The Varsity combined these two groups to singularly uninteresting effect whilst also managing to be an uninspiring development of a fairly boring military derivative of a not particularly interesting airliner. Try to think of something interesting about it. Go on.
Exactly.

How dare you consider clicking off this list of boring planes- if however you do, have a look at 10 Best fighters of World War II top WVR and BVR fighters of today, an interview with a Super Hornet pilot and a Pacifist’s Guide to Warplanes. Was the Spitfire overrated? Want something more bizarre? The Top Ten fictional aircraft is a fascinating read, as is The Strange Story and The Planet Satellite. The Fashion Versus Aircraft Camo is also a real cracker. Those interested in the Cold Way should read A pilot’s guide to flying and fighting in the Lightning. Those feeling less belligerent may enjoy A pilot’s farewell to the Airbus A340. Looking for something more humourous? Have a look at this F-35 satire and ‘Werner Herzog’s Guide to pusher bi-planes. In the mood for something more offensive? Try the NSFW 10 best looking American airplanes, or the same but for Canadians. 

6. McDonnell Douglas F-15 Eagle : Filthy shades of Grey

(Note from Editor: Are we still using fifty shades jokes? Jesus)

…oh ok, how about ‘Bored of Prey‘?

 

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We were unable to finding a boring picture of an actual F-15.

I bet people will disagree with this one but the F-15 is by far the world’s most boring fast jet. For starters it comes from the world’s least interesting nation in terms of military aircraft production. It’s not old enough to be interesting like the F-4, nor is it new enough like the Typhoon. Its undeniable success is dull. A 100-0 ‘kill’ ratio isn’t interesting, it just reflects the fact that the USAF and Israel haven’t engaged anyone with a genuinely competitive air force since the F-15 entered service (or indeed for several years beforehand). For a brief moment in 2007, it looked like the F-15 might suddenly get interesting after one broke up in mid-air for no apparent reason (a la de Havilland Comet) leading to a worldwide grounding. As it turned out the fleet was fine and the ultimate reason for the midair failure was the most tepid one can possibly imagine: ‘a longeron did not meet specifications’. Gee. And it looks boring. The F-15 pioneered the oh-so-tedious ‘you can have any colour you like so long as it’s grey’ trend for air-superiority fighters that seems to be totally obligatory these days. Even so the F-15’s dullness remains, to me at least, inexplicable, it should be thrilling but it isn’t. F-14 and F-16: exciting.
F-15: capable. Yawn.

5. TSR.2: Tedious Speculative Rants (2)

 

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I hope bombing never happens at medium level as my wing loading is atrocious.

See also Avro Arrow, Mirage 4000 and countless other ‘potential world beaters’.
The TSR2 was, in itself, an interesting aircraft, big, fast, advanced, and ultimately doomed. However no other aircraft (in the UK at least) has provoked such a tireless and seemingly infinite stream of invective and speculation. All that can be said with impunity was that the development of a promising British aircraft was cancelled. This act (which is, let’s face it, hardly unprecedented in the annals of British aviation) has resulted in literally millions of words in books and magazines and on forums and websites and blogs that go on and on and on and on and on. All of it saying basically the same thing over and over again. Thus an aircraft that should be a fascinating footnote of postwar British aviation has been damned by tedious angry bores (such as myself) and their tedious angry opinions (such as my own) to annoying tiresome ubiquity.

 

4. Robinson R66: Whirlybored

Robinson R66 Turbine

Is it a fridge? Is it a bathtub for the elderly? No, it’s the R66.

Robinson helicopters are cheap, commonplace and easy to identify, lumbered as they are with a big stick on top holding up the rotors like a rubbish flying unicorn. The only thing that makes them interesting is their reliance on piston engines in what is now an almost universally turboshaft driven field. Their relatively new R66 removes even that mildly non-soporific element by being a turboshaft powered update of the R44 and thus can justly lay claim to the title of dullest rotorcraft to date.

R66 pilots note: Happy to recant this in exchange for rides in your helicopter.

3. Piper PA-28: Private Plain

 

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I have brought the joy of flight to millions, why are you picking on me?

 

Familiarity breeds contempt. There’s thousands of these things flying around but if one went past would you be able to identify it? Of course not – mainly because you don’t care but also because it looks incredibly similar to a whole bunch of other small private aircraft. To add insult to injury and to encourage you to care even less, the basic PA-28 sometimes has retractable undercarriage fitted and occasionally a T-tail. If a small high-wing aircraft that looks like a Cessna 172 flies past, chances are it actually is one, what with the 172 being the most produced aircraft of all time (which is pretty spectacular). With the PA-28, well yes, it could indeed be a PA-28 but there’s at least a dozen other aircraft that look basically identical. The Piper gets the nod in the boring stakes by being the most commonplace of these. Also I’ve flown one and it made me feel ill.

2. Boeing 737: Malaisen Airlines

 

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I hope they wake me up with announcements about perfume.

Any lingering glamour that airline flying can still command is daily being eroded by the Boeing 737. What is worse is that the ubiquity of the 737 and its concomitant dullness has started to spill over into other areas of life. Southwest Airlines of Dallas operate ‘no-frills’ services using solely Boeing 737s and is spectacularly successful. The so-called ‘Southwest model’ is currently rather popular in the business world and espouses making any given service as simple and uninteresting as possible so that it may be delivered at the lowest possible price for maximum return. The 737 is at the heart of this policy and key to its success. The Boeing 737 is, therefore, making all things in the world simpler and duller and more profitable and worse.

 

1. Airbus A320 (family): Born Toulouse

 

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A pilot I spoke to recently compared flying a modern airliner to watching an electricity meter in a cupboard.

It’s a tight contest for the top spot but claiming the Beige medal is the fantastically mundane Airbus which just nudges the 737 into second place by dint of the fact that the 737 is the world’s most produced jet airliner (which could be considered interesting), and on account of the name ‘Airbus’ which was specifically chosen to remove any semblance of residual excitement that might be inherently retained by a flying machine. It is neither the most successful nor the largest nor the smallest nor the least successful nor the safest nor the most unsafe nor the fastest nor the loudest nor the quietest nor the longest-ranged twin jet airliner flying today.
The A320 pioneered the civil application of such dull technologies as fly-by-wire and the side stick controller, both of which serve to make piloting the aircraft less interesting and which have subsequently been adopted by other seemingly more exciting aircraft.
As thrilling as the European Economic Area that it so competently represents and serves, the A320 is a reassuring triumph of modern dullness in an increasingly interesting world and for that it should, perhaps, be discreetly celebrated.

 

Ed ‘Ennui’ Ward is currently lying on the kitchen floor looking at out of the patio window at a rain-sodden suburban lawn.

Follow my vapour trail on Twitter: @Hush_kit

If you enjoyed this I slapped a load of links about twenty centimetres above this. Alright I repeat them below too as I’m in a good mood:  10 Best fighters of World War II top WVR and BVR fighters of today, an interview with a Super Hornet pilot and a Pacifist’s Guide to Warplanes. Was the Spitfire overrated? Want something more bizarre? The Top Ten fictional aircraft is a fascinating read, as is The Strange Story and The Planet Satellite. The Fashion Versus Aircraft Camo is also a real cracker. Those interested in the Cold Way should read A pilot’s guide to flying and fighting in the Lightning. Those feeling less belligerent may enjoy A pilot’s farewell to the Airbus A340. Looking for something more humourous? Have a look at this F-35 satire and ‘Werner Herzog’s Guide to pusher bi-planes. In the mood for something more offensive? Try the NSFW 10 best looking American airplanes, or the same but for Canadians. 

Is Antonov really dead?

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Today the Ukrainian cabinet declared the final liquidation of the State aircraft manufacturer Antonov.  All of its assets have been transferred to the defence giant Ukroboronrpom. 

Since 1946, the aircraft manufacturer Antonov has produced over 22,000 aircraft. It began in the 1930s as a minor enterprise designing small gliders and entered the military realm in the 1940s with its bizarre concept for a flying tank. Since then it has become famous for producing large transport aircraft. For 27 years its An-225 has been the largest heavier-than-air aircraft ever built. Antonov’s core customers were (from the 1940s-80s) the Soviet Union and its allied nations. Following the collapse of the Soviet Union, and Ukraine’s independence, Antonov endured the 1990s which were extremely tough for former Soviet aircraft companies. Until recently, Russia was Antonov’s primary customer, with Antonov working closely with the United Aircraft Corporation. But as the two nations’ relationship has deteriorated, largely thanks to Russia’s aggressive reactions to Ukraine’s attempt to increase links to the West, it was clear that Antonov could not keep Russia as its primary customer. Antonov’s relationship with Russia was complicated, with the majority of its suppliers still based in the Federation.

Since then, despite last year’s decent profit, Antonov has had to work hard to adapt to a new world. It had also become the centre of fiercely politicised debate. Some have speculated that this final step in Antonov’s liquidation is part of a long-running power struggle between Antonov’s pro-Russian management and the Government. Antonov’s management has long been distrusted for its actual or perceived allegiances; following the 2014 Ukrainian Revolution there was an attempt to dispose of them, a move only halted by fierce defence from the plant workers themselves.

Some Russian observers consider the move may be sleight of hand, with Antonov a key cog in a corrupt enterprise. As with Russia, corruption is endemic in Ukraine.

According to a Ukrainian Ministry press release, “The Government has adopted a resolution on the liquidation of the State Aircraft Manufacturing Concern Antonov due to lack of members, as the three companies which comprised the concern exited it and were transferred to Ukroboronprom State Concern.

Time will tell if this is a badge change or the end of the line for Antonov. The latter seems unlikely, as dispute a downfall in sales of new airframes, the global market for support of Antonov aircraft remains. Antonov Airlines (an outfit specialising in moving oversize cargo) remains highly profitable and was a lifeline for the company- what becomes of this operation could prove extremely revealing. Antonov’s assets have been moving to Ukroboronrpom in a controlled manner for some time, and this final step is largely symbolic. It is hard not to see the eagerness with which Russian media has shown in reporting ‘the death of Antonov’ has having some political motivation.

Today Antonov decided to clarify the matter:

“Official statement of ANTONOV Company press service

Hereby we are drawing your attention to the fact that information about liquidation of ANTONOV State Company is not true.
The Government of Ukraine took decision on liquidation of the ANTONOV State CONCERN. The CONCERN consisted of three enterprises: ANTONOV State COMPANY, Kharkiv State Aircraft Manufacturing Company (KSAMC) and State enterprise Plant 410 of Civil Aviation. In 2015, aiming to increase efficiency of the aircraft industry, the Government of Ukraine took decision to pass ANTONOV State COMPANY, KSAMC and State enterprise Plant 410 of Civil Aviation (i.e. all three enterprises of ANTONOV CONCERN) under management of UKROBORONPROM State Concern.
At that, ANTONOV State COMPANY continues to work. It performs full cycle of the aircraft creation – from pre-project scientific researches to construction, tests, certification, serial production and after-sale maintenance. As before, the COMPANY’s production is represented under ANTONOV brand.
The official information is published on the site of Ministry of Economic Development and Trade of Ukraine on the NEWS page”

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You should also enjoy some more of our articles: There’s a whole feast of features, including the 10 Best fighters of World War II top WVR and BVR fighters of today, an interview with a Super Hornet pilot and a Pacifist’s Guide to Warplanes. Was the Spitfire overrated? Want something more bizarre? The Top Ten fictional aircraft is a fascinating read, as is The Strange Story and The Planet Satellite. The Fashion Versus Aircraft Camo is also a real cracker. Those interested in the Cold Way should read A pilot’s guide to flying and fighting in the Lightning. Those feeling less belligerent may enjoy A pilot’s farewell to the Airbus A340. Looking for something more humourous? Have a look at this F-35 satire and ‘Werner Herzog’s Guide to pusher bi-planes. In the mood for something more offensive? Try the NSFW 10 best looking American airplanes, or the same but for Canadians. 

 

Follow my vapour trail on Twitter: @Hush_kit

Air Combat Memoirs Of The Iranian Air Force Pilots: Iranian Air Force Pilots In Combat

Review:  Air Combat Memoirs Of The Iranian Air Force Pilots: Iranian Air Force Pilots In Combat (1980-88) Translated and edited by Kash Ryan

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The last great air war was the Iran-Iraq War (1980-1988). Two titanic air forces armed with advanced fighters took part in aerial battles on a scale that will hopefully never be repeated. The Iranian air force was equipped with the F-4 and F-5E, but the undisputed master of the skies was the F-14 Tomcat which destroyed over 150 Iraqi aircraft.

Before the Shah’s overthrow in 1979 the USA had provided Iran with advanced weaponry, including the formidable F-14 Tomcat and F-4 Phantom II. Such complex systems required specialized training and support, an arrangement which would not last long. Iran’s new regime and the US began a sour relationship. Following the ’79 hostage crisis, a weapons embargo was in place. The F-14 was particularly potent, but also particularly hard to maintain- how long it could remain combat ready cut-off from technical support and new spares was a pressing question. When the massed forces of Saddam Hussein invaded in 1980, the issue of keeping Iran’s fighters in the sky gained existential import.

Against this onslaught from a numerically superior enemy, the Islamic Republic of Iran Air Force found itself with a rapidly-declining stockpile of weaponry and spare parts. The IRIAF’s force of Amercian-built F-4s, F-5Es and F-14s was pitted against Iraq’s Soviet MiG-21, ’23 and ’25s and French Mirage F1s. The MiG-25 was the fastest fighter in the world, and was manned by Iraq’s elite fighter pilots- and was a daunting opponent. In the attack role, Iraq had the Super Etendard (armed with a weapon two years away from becoming a household word in Britain, the Exocet) and the tough Sukhoi Su-20 and ’22.

Kash Ryan has assembled and translated a fascinating selection of pilot’s accounts from the air war that followed. Mr Ryan’s motivation for this collection of miscellaneous combat stories from IRIAF pilots is interesting:
“In an era, when the ‘Islamic Revolutionary Guards’ get the glory and money (even though they did very little fighting during the important stages of the war), it is of utmost importance to tell the stories of the real heroes who fought for their country with one hand tied behind their back.

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Although some of the stories are somewhat humdrum, the life-threatening constraints caused by the lack of materiel give a nervous edge to many of the stories. Because of the lack of precious Phoenix air-to-air missiles, for example, pilots were instructed to use the inferior Sidewinders instead. There is an exciting account from an F-14 pilot about chasing Iraqi Mirage F-1s near to the border, and (being armed only with heat-seeking Sidewinders) having to get closer and closer to the Mirages for the missiles to be able to successfully home in on the enemy’s engines and exhaust.
Several of the stories involve tankers and refuelling dramas. One of the pleasures of this book is seeing tanker aircrew getting their due recognition, instead of as in many such accounts being dismissed as “flying gas station attendants.”

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“F-14 instructor, MiG-25 killer and all round gentleman”
There’s a gripping account of a sortie where F-14s were flying escort duty, protecting the ship tankers that Iran relied on for its economy. The F-14s are already low on fuel when they’re alerted that thirteen Iraqi bogies are incoming. The grim decision is made to protect the ships at all cost, and to fly ti the fuel runs out. Once the fuel is gone the procedure is for the radio/weapons operator to eject first followed by the pilot. While searching for the Iraqis they’re told twenty air-to-air missiles have been fired, so they use up precious fuel jinking to avoid them. Fortunately for them, the Iraqi tactics at that time were for aeroplanes to fire their missiles only when advised by ground control, so none of the 20 missiles hit. Luckily a KC-707 tanker appears in the nick of time to refuel the F-14s.

Click here for ‘Werner Herzog’s guide to pusher aircraft
On another occasion, a flight of F-14s are low on fuel but are warned of approaching Iraqi jets. The KC-707 radio operator deals with the problem cunningly, by faking radio calls to non-existent approaching armed F-4s. The Iraqis take the bait and turn back. Another tanker story concerns a reconnaissance F-4 being hit by anti-aircraft artillery, then unable to hold fuel so flying home still sucking on the KC-707’s teat.

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Like many pilots, the IRIAF pilots had their superstitions, and dreams and premonitions were taken seriously. One story has a pilot being telephoned by someone ordering him not to fly as a KC-707 tanker pilot has had a bad dream about his being shot down. The F-14 pilot thinks it’s another pilot playing silly buggers, so ignores the call, and is then told off when he returns, unscathed, from his mission.
The book is the stronger for being an account of the everyday stresses and emergencies. For instance, one story concerns a bombing raid that, for a few awful hours, is believed to have gone wrong and become a friendly fire incident.
The quiet bravery of the airmen comes across strongly as in this anecdote that ends:
“A dozen miles or so closer to our home base, we began to lose hydraulic pressure, causing the plane to roll on its side. At that point, we knew it was time to punch out. Though I was glad we’d gained altitude, it certainly wasn’t a smooth ride. In the end, I had to endure two months of hospitalization before I could return to the flight line. Though I suffered great pain by being ejected at 15,000 feet while inverted, I survived and served for another 20 years or so.”

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Although the patriotism of the air force personnel comes across strongly, this is not true for all since there is a footnote to one story:
Note: 1Lt Rahman Ghana’at Peesheh, the WSO on this very mission, later defected to Iraq as a newly minted Major with his armed F-4E. His own WSO suffered years of captivity and torture in Iraq for refusing to cooperate with the enemy.
There are several vignettes that stand out, and bring immediacy to the accounts. One pilot recalls seeing, during a surprise bombing raid, Iraqi AAA crew running from their volleyball court to the guns. One pilot describes another as “an F-14 instructor, MiG-25 killer and all around a gentleman.

Click here for Superb aircraft the US stymied 

I’m not sure if this says more about how Farsi translates into English, or Iranian air force culture, or the nature of the situation- but the pilots have something distinctly unmodern about their way of talking. They frequently come across as impressively understated- with the kind of nonchalance and black humour reminiscent of accounts from the Royal Flying Corps.

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Another story recounts a member of the ground crew offering to sacrifice a lamb before a raid, to bring them luck, probably something that doesn’t happen in the RAF.
My main criticism of this book is that several of the stories are simply non-anecdotes that leave the reader scratching their heads wondering what the point of the story was. Although it includes a useful glossary, the book would also benefit from a potted history of the conflict and/or a timeline. It would also benefit from a more thorough proofread (judge not…) and a little finessing.
On the whole, this is an enjoyable book, and one that throws light on a section of a conflict now almost forgotten outside the Middle East. Perhaps the last word should go to one of the Iranian pilots: “Those were the good old days. Tough but memorable.”

Reviewed by Torquil Arbuthnot, Literary Editor for The Chap magazine.

Review:  Air Combat Memoirs Of The Iranian Air Force Pilots: Iranian Air Force Pilots In Combat (1980-88) can be bought here

Kash Ryan can be followed on Twitter: @Kash2538

Follow my vapour trail on Twitter: @Hush_kit

Guide to surviving aviation forums here

You should also enjoy some more of our articles: There’s a whole feast of features, including the top WVR and BVR fighters of today, an interview with a Super Hornet pilot and a Pacifist’s Guide to Warplanes. Was the Spitfire overrated? Want something more bizarre? The Top Ten fictional aircraft is a fascinating read, as is The Strange Story and The Planet Satellite. The Fashion Versus Aircraft Camo is also a real cracker. 

Werner Herzog’s guide to pusher aircraft

 

“While a tractor aeroplane is hungry for a future it can never reach to consume, the pusher is forever pushing the present into the past to escape the horror of the now”

Legendary German film maker Werner Herzog took time out of his busy schedule to choose his favourite ‘pusher’ aircraft and to ponder on what went wrong enough in your life to lead you to spend time on aviation blogs.

Guten tag. Ich bin Werner. The ‘pusher’ aircrafts below demonstrate, better than any art or literature, all that is futile and Fremdschämen in the human experience and I will explain them to you so that you will know. The photograph of an aeroplane is the cruelest thing: as we look at this symbol of free flight we are head down und locked in our cyclic unthinking.”

 
 
 
9. De Schelde Scheldemusch
5433LLook at the happy man in his little biplane. He is Dutch. He does not comprehend the limitless pain and suffering that lies at the heart of the universe. His biplane will soon show it to him though, look:
 
 
And what does he get for his trouble?
Nothing but bruises and the condescending pity of the citizens of Gravesend.”
 
 
 
8. Seabird Seeker
JY-SE1_Seabird_Seeker_(7690053920)
 
“This pitiful creature is a part of the air force of Jordan. The Jordanians use it for ‘reconnaissance’, for looking at the ground. They fly their bulbous craft over the endless sandy wastes at the border of their country, looking for incursions by Israelis. The Jordans have camouflaged their aeroplane as a gangster rapper, foolishly believing that nothing else strikes greater terror into the Israeli heart. They are deluded of course, but is their obsession with visually representing the power of ‘urban’ musical expression on their little pusher monoplane any more delusional than the desire of the USAF or the Luftwaffe to visually represent the power of the sky itself on their fighter jets? This is a big question but we must not be afraid of the enormity of our interrogations when looking at the world of pusher aircrafts.”
 
Click here if you’ve lost interest in me and would turn your back on my words to read about the ten best-looking Canadian aeroplanes. 
 
7. Fane F.1/40
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“‘What have you done today Fane my friend?’ 
‘I have designed for you an unpleasant aircraft to fly in your mac and with your trilby on your head’
Where is the man in the trilby and the mac going? Where did he come from? Ultimately he is hurtling only towards death, where he came from we are not told though this ‘Fane’ tried to make the journey more agreeable for him for reasons that are not clear. As we try to alter our surroundings to make our lives and the lives of those we love more comfortable we succeed only in divorcing ourselves from the greater truths and mysteries of the vast uncaring universe. That Fane used many of the windows from the house in which the man liked to live with his mac and his trilby in the construction of his unpleasant machine made for a difficult situation between them when it was discovered by the man when he returned home in his trilby and his mac.”
 
 
 
6. Saab J 21
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“I know a little about these in the wild, Saab J 21s, both parents incubate the egg in stints that last between one day and three weeks. Incubation lasts around 150 to 175 days, the longest incubation period of any aircraft. It can be an energetically demanding process, with the adult losing as much as 83 kg of body weight a day. After hatching, the chick is brooded and guarded for three weeks until it is large enough to defend and thermoregulate itself. During this period the parents feed the chick small meals when they relieve each other from duty. After the brooding period is over, the chick is fed in regular intervals by both parents. The parents adopt alternative patterns of short and long foraging trips, providing meals that weigh sometimes 12% of their body weight. The meals are composed of squid, fish and krill I think.”
 
 
 
5. Piaggio Avanti
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“I am gripped by Weltschmerz when I see it, why cannot all aircrafts be so beautiful?”
 
4. Beechcraft Starship
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“I met the actor Tom Cruise once. He was descending the airstairs of the Beechcraft Starship in which he had been flown into Pisa airport in 1997. A ‘Ship’ for a ‘Star’: a Starship. “Hey Walter!” he yelled at me “Hey, I want to be in one of your clever films! Can you put me in one please Walt?” or something like this. ‘Das ist Walter’? Was this a reference to Zabranjeno Pušenje? More likely my mystic American was recalling the source itself, Hajrudin Krvavac. 
 
I was not unaware of his fame and I confess that the idea of his presence in one of my films was attractive if only for the attention that would naturally follow if he performed for me. I approached him. When I was at a distance of five metres, maybe four and a half metres, I don’t know, I became suddenly aware of this overbearing smell, a filthy smell, like, like an abattoir or a sewage treatment plant or something of this kind, something awful and terrible and it was all I could do to prevent myself from retching.
 
Click here if you’ve lost interest in me and would turn your back on my words to read my article on the frustrated sexuality of the Eurofighter promotional film. 
I then noticed that Tom Cruise’s head and body was covered in a disgusting mixture of vomit and human shit and bits of rotting, raw meat, it was as I imagine a demon from the depths of some hideous ring of hell such as Danté might devise if he were in a particularly bad head place. I became aware that Tom Cruise was speaking but of course, well I am not, I don’t know… Superman, all I could do was prevent myself from being absolutely sick right onto Tom Cruise, though I don’t suppose this would actually have made a difference to the infernal mess all over his expensive suit. Anyway, I have no idea what he said through this time as I stood there, trying not to be sick on the world’s most famous actor who was already covered in sick and worse than this. It seemed an eternity to me but I estimate now that maybe a minute and twenty seconds had gone past and Tom Cruise was looking a little strangely at me, I muttered some confused platitude about how it was wonderful that he thought of me and that we must try and meet again when it was more… convenient for him. The next thing I remember is running, sprinting like Jesse Owens, away from the hideous stench surrounding Tom Cruise and then vomiting and vomiting and vomiting for what felt like hours. I have no idea what happened. I am assured by other individuals who were present that Tom Cruise was not, in fact, covered in any substance apart from his own skin and clothes. All I can guess is that at that moment the metaphorical become the physical for me personally at this time and revealed itself on the person of Tom Cruise but what this horrific vision could truly represent I do not know. And this is my memory of the Beechcraft Starship.”
3. Brditschka HB-3 (family)
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The Austrians are a strange and lovely people although they never smile nor laugh. They have a mountain-filled countryside so pleasing to the eyes and the soul that they have developed a small aeroplane just to look at it. They believe that each sense should be as little distracted by the others as possible to fully maximise the experience of the sense they are trying to specifically enjoy at any given time. Thus the Brditschk’s motor may be stopped from operating and the pusher motor-aeroplane becomes a gliding aeroplane, as near silent as any air vehicle can be, that they may truly experience the beauty of their homeland from the aerial viewpoint to the maximal extent. The Austrians worship the god Ba’al and drink only rainwater. They do not tolerate mess.”
 
2. Kyushu J7W Shinden
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An aircraft points its nose at the sky, it cannot help it, it must fly. The Shinden was gripped by Torschlusspanik- running madly fast as it knew the world it was made for would soon be over, and it would not have time to prove itself. It is not a choice nor a commonplace whim, it is an absolute requirement and if it is not fulfilled it is a tragedy. It is beautiful in its unequivocality. Like an untouched ink-filled fountain pen of great quality or an incandescent lightbulb. It did fly but only thrice. The pain of the pseudo-memory of the countless other soaring adventures it would never have in the clouds sometimes makes me physically weep but only when I am alone and usually when I am in the bath for some reason.”
1. Vultee XP-54 ‘Swoose Goose’
Vultee-XP-54-4“In 1940, we are told, the US army air force submitted a request for designs for a new kind of ‘pursuit airplane’ in which one of the main specifications was that ‘the pursuit ship should resemble a phallus or possess a phallic aesthetic of some kind’. It is not known if this line was included as some kind of inexplicable joke or if it was a genuine request. Perhaps the generals simply believed that the sexual masculinity of the pursuit machine would cause their enemies to run in fear and confusion. Or that they would be embarrassed from the heavens by this physical manifestation of cheap erotical power; these men after all thought that painting an angry face on their aeroplanes literally made them scarier, like a totem or a terrifying icon. Or perhaps they realised that sex and death are inherently linked and were simply reflecting the eroticism at the heart of the collective murder and pain and death of modern warfare. Ultimately the obscure failure of the phallus-aircraft became a metaphor for the impotence of the Generals and by association mankind as a whole.  It is surely not an accident that the phallus-aircraft was designed and built by a company whose name (‘Vultee’) means ‘vulva’ in the language of the Sami people of the northern snowlands.” 
Werner Herzog was channelled by Edward Ward and to a far lesser extent, Joe Coles
I’m sure Ed will provide a link tomorrow to better explain his existence to you.

Follow my vapour trail on Twitter: @Hush_kit

Guide to surviving aviation forums here

You should also enjoy some more of our articles: There’s a whole feast of features, including the top WVR and BVR fighters of today, an interview with a Super Hornet pilot and a Pacifist’s Guide to Warplanes. Was the Spitfire overrated? Want something more bizarre? The Top Ten fictional aircraft is a fascinating read, as is The Strange Story and The Planet Satellite. The Fashion Versus Aircraft Camo is also a real cracker, as is Superb aircraft that the US stymied. Oh, and there’s also Flying and Fighting in the Lightning: a pilot’s guide.

Clipped wings: Superb aircraft that the US stymied 

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In the urea- and ale-scented company of British aviation enthusiasts you’re seldom far from an anti-American sentiment. Many an aircraft nerd has aggressively swung his fully extended Canon Telephoto lens around and almost ruptured his Goretex, as he aggrievedly described the Evil Empire’s various successful attempts to crush our aircraft industry; the same feelings can also be found in France, Canada and Germany (where it is literally true). Here are ten superb aircraft that may have been stymied by US interests. Address all angry emails to the writer, Harry Westhuizen. 

10. MBB Lampyridae

Federal Nighthawk

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The MBB Lampyridae was a West German project of the early eighties to produce a low-observable missile fighter. US stealth efforts were deeply classified at the time but the German company MBB arrived at a similar solution to the F-117 independently. The design relied on a simple faceted shape to control radar returns. It is rumoured that following a trip to the MBB black projects section in 1987 by USAF officers, the US demanded that the project be cancelled.

9. Dassault Mirage 4000 

Aigle morts

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The Mirage 4000 was the big brother of the Mirage 2000, with two engines, instead of one, and three times the internal fuel capacity. The type would have been similar in role and capabilities to the F-15E, with an emphasis on long-range attack missions. The type was developed concurrently with the ‘2000 and shared many key technologies. Like the F-20, it was developed with private company money, rather than relying on a firm state order. Iran and Saudi Arabia were both interested in the type, but the former nation turned anti-West after the 1979 revolution and the latter chose the F-15E instead under intense pressure from the US.

8. IAI Lavi 

Fertummelt F-16

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The Lavi was an indigenous Israeli fighter design based on the F-16 but with a canard delta configuration. It was developed with a great deal of assistance from the US, something which drove Northrop crazy as it would be a (more advanced) rival to the F-20 Tigershark. A photo exists of the J-10 designer standing by the aircraft as part of a Chinese trade delegation fuelling rumours that the Lavi may have influenced, directly or indirectly, the J-10’s design. While some in the US actively supported the project, others saw it as creating a sales rival to the F-16 and F/A-18 and were against it. Even in Israel, many in the military were critical of the programme as it was swallowing huge chunks of the military budget. Though in all likelihood it would have been a formidable aircraft and the spearhead of an Israeli manned aircraft industry, it was cancelled in 1987 under US pressure.

A-Z of aviation here

7. Northrop F-20 Tigershark

The $1.2 billion extinct Tiger

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Ok, so this was a US design killed by the US, but the case still stands (and it’s always a good time to look at F-20 photos). The export embargo of the standard F-16 meant the US had no light fighter to flog to friendly dictators and allies on a budget. The desire for a ‘non-provocative’ (i.e. not too capable) had started in 1970, but without even a domestic order was left on a back-burner. Northrop stepped in with the F-20, which was essentially a hot-rod single-engined F-5E. The F-20 had superb performance; it was exceptionally fast (its climb rate was phenomenal), agile and easy to maintain. Unlike the contemporary F-16, the F-20 had a beyond visual range missile capability (in the form of the Sparrow). It was also expected, perhaps somewhat optimistically, to consume 53% less fuel, require 52% less maintenance manpower, have 63% lower operating and maintenance costs and have four times the reliability of average front-line designs of the era (now wondering if the baseline fighter considered for this comparison was the F-4). Despite endorsements from Chuck Yeager and a slick marketing campaign (that was slowed down considerably by the need to run the marketing via the State Department) the aircraft failed to achieve an actual order – its lack of even a domestic order made it unattractive to potential clients. Once the Lavi was in development and the F-16 was cleared for export, the F-20 was finished.

6. Saab 37 Viggen

Kissinger’s Thunderclap 

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The Saab 37 Viggen was an extremely capable, and lavishly well-equipped, fighter-bomber. It was also a very expensive project to remain purely in the domestic market, export customers were wanted to spread the financial burden. Its failure to achieve export success was largely down to its Swedish origin, a country with an inconvenient regard for ethics when exporting military hardware. It was not just the good principles of the Swedish government that got in its way: it was also a mite too specialised towards Swedish needs. The Viggen did in fact achieve an export order, from India in 1978. But the US didn’t like it, and refused an export licence for the licence-built Volvo RM8 engines (which were modified afterburning versions of the Pratt & Whitney JT8D). The US were worried by the potential for the Swedes to include secret US technology in the export version, despite Saab’s claim to the contrary. In a telegram about the matter, Kissinger noted:

“RECENT SWEDISH TRANSFER OF US-ORIGIN LASER RANGEFINDER EQUIPMENT TO YUGOSLAVIA, WHICH LATER REPORTEDLY TURNED UP IN EGYPT, RAISES QUESTION AS TO SWEDISH ABILITY TO CONTROL THIRD-COUNTRY TRANSFER OF US TECHNOLOGY.” The US scuppered the deal, and the Indians chose the Jaguar instead. The superb Viggen lived a life of domestic bliss, never having to drop a bomb in anger.

5. British Aircraft Corporation TSR.2

To Hell with BAC

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The TSR. 2 was seemingly designed to power British aviation forums, and generates a colossal 500kW an hour of bile and venom. The TSR.2 was actually an exceptionally capable bomber that never went beyond the prototype stage. Though its staggering costs were a key contributor to its demise, there are many that point the finger at a jealous US presence that killed the project.

The book ‘CONCORDE, THE INSIDE STORY’ was written by the British Aircraft Corporation vice-chairman Geoffrey Knight. In this book he quotes Julian Amery, the Conservative Aviation Minister of the time, as saying the cancellation of the TSR.2 (and HS P.1154) was enacted by the US President in frustration at his failure to kill the Concorde project.

4. Avro CF-105 Arrow

You Canuck be serious 

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Ok, so it wasn’t just US pressure that killed the insanely ambitious Arrow, it was also the sobering budgetary requirements of this Canadian super-fighter, but don’t dare suggest that in the dark masses of Canadian aviation enthusiasts that huddle around bonfires at night burning effigies of Eisenhower. The Arrow was very much the F-22 of its time, it had exceptionally advanced avionics, and promised unparalleled performance. Its cancellation is still bitterly remembered by many in Canada.

3. Miles M.52 

Bell end supersonic dream of Winkle

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Eric ‘Winkle’ Brown is the most experienced test pilot in the world, with no other rivalling the amount of types on his log book. He almost became the first man to go supersonic in level-flight, in the Miles M.52. The type was well designed (in wind tunnels it comfortably punched through to Mach 1.38), and pioneered the ‘flying tail’ which has since become a must-have item for most tailed supersonic aircraft. The type could have become the first supersonic aircraft but official support was withdrawn for odd reasons that have never been adequately explained. The flying tail, so important for supersonic flight, was copied by Bell designers (following a visit to the UK) and the excellent M.52 became an historical footnote. See you later stabilator.

2. Saunders-Roe SR.177

Rocket to the Crypt

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Good old Lockheed, always avoiding any dodgy activity… apart from the alleged corruption in the Italian deal C-130, oh and the Japanese F-104 and L-1011 affair, and various alleged shenanigans in Saudi Arabia. The F-104 Starfighter  ‘Deal of the Century’ to various European nations was allegedly particularly squalid, with individuals involved in procurement, including Prince Bernhard of the Netherlands, receiving handsome ‘sales incentives’. Before the F-104 was selected by the West Germans, they had a great deal of interest in Britain’s SR.177 hybrid jet-rocket fighter. A fighter which would have had a climb rate unsurpassed until the Typhoon and Raptor. With West Germany’s deselection, Britain lost interest in the type and it was cancelled, though advances in jet engines and ground defences were also contributing factors.

1. Aérospatiale-BAC Concorde

Droop Snoot given Boot

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That the fabulous Concorde failed to sell to any export customers is at least partly due to US interference. You can listen here to President Kennedy getting very angry about Pan Am’s 1963 Concorde order.  Many in US Government and industry were terrified that the European effort would steal the US dominance of the 1970s airline world. The consortium secured non-binding options for over 100 Concordes from the major airlines of the day, but in the end not a single aircraft was exported. Initially the threat of Concorde was used to bolster America’s own supersonic passenger programme, though when the Boeing 2707 was cancelled the tone changed in many quarters of the US aerospace industry which publicly poured scorn on the idea of supersonic air travel. The British anti-Concorde effort, led by Richard Wiggs, were noble in intentions, largely concerned as they were with environmental issues – but there is some evidence that many of the concerns in the US regarding noise concerns were stoked to ensure Concorde would not succeed. The US anti-Concorde effort combined with noise fears and regulations and rising oil prices to kill Concorde’s chances.

Follow my vapour trail on Twitter: @Hush_kit

Guide to surviving aviation forums here

You should also enjoy some more of our articles: There’s a whole feast of features, including the top WVR and BVR fighters of today, an interview with a Super Hornet pilot and a Pacifist’s Guide to Warplanes. Was the Spitfire overrated? Want something more bizarre? The Top Ten fictional aircraft is a fascinating read, as is The Strange Story and The Planet Satellite. The Fashion Versus Aircraft Camo is also a real cracker. 

Au Revoir A340: Ian Black bids a fond farewell to a European giant

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Last week, former RAF Lightning pilot Ian Black took his final flight at the controls of the Airbus A340. Here he explains how he fell in love with a European classic that is all too often overlooked. 

So, the A340, that’s the long skinny one isn’t it?

Yes and no – The A340 is basically a four-engined A330 – The 340- 300 looks like a normal airliner, almost a “classic”. If someone said ‘here’s a pencil draw an airliner’- that’s what you’d get. The A340-600 which I flew most is a breed apart – with a fuselage plug that makes it look a bit out of proportion, for a while it held the crown as the world’s longest airliner and pioneered the idea of onboard cameras.

Didn’t it have a reputation for being underpowered?

The 340-300 was known as a “finely tuned quad”, the 340-600 with Rolls-Royce Trents was more than powerful. You have to remember that this was an aeroplane that had the capacity to carry 300 + passengers, 100+ tons of fuel and stacks of cargo, yet fully loaded it was still powerful; empty it was gloriously overpowered!

What were the three best things about flying it?

It was an Airbus so it was state-of-the-art and very ergonomic.

It had a side-stick, so felt like a 368-ton fighter.
The flight control protection system was supremely safe.

 …And the three worst things?

The 340-600 was a bit thirsty – eights tons per hour

The 340-300 was never spoilt for power.
I can only think of two things which says a lot for the Airbus !

Can you tell me something most people don’t know about the A340?

No … You can actually pull 2.5+ G in an A340 which is within the design limit – but not nice for the passengers!

Did it have a nickname, or particular reputation?

Strangely it doesn’t have a nickname – It’s quite tricky to do a smooth landing in it consistently.

Click here to read Ian Black’s guide to flying and fighting in the Lightning.

What was your most memorable A340 flight and why?

Quite a few – I’ve been very lucky in Virgin Atlantic to have clocked a few firsts: I collected G-VGOA from the Airbus factory on its delivery flight for Virgin Atlantic; I flew an A340-600 at the Goodwood Revival meeting and at the Bird Man of Bognor show; I flew the first A40-600 into Los Angeles and recently into Barbados. Some of my memorable flights have been flying an empty aircraft non-stop to Manilla – fifteen hours for Major servicing.

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 What advice would you give a pilot about to fly an A340 for the first time?

If you take the ‘automatics’ out it’s just another aeroplane and needs to be flown as such.

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Is it true that the A340 performs badly in turbulence (compared to its rivals)?

Not at all. The Boeing 747 is particularly  stable, but the A340 is like any other aircraft in turbulence.

What are the A340’s rivals?

The world has changed in the time the A340 has been on the scene. Initially, oil was $30 a barrel and four engines for long haul seemed a catchy phrase. When oil hit $150 a barrel it didn’t seem so clever. Now oil has plummeted again, four-engined aircraft are no longer frowned upon. The Boeing 777 is a worthy rival. 

What is the future for the A340?

If oil prices stay low I think the A340 will be around for many years. It’s very reliable and has the benefit (340-600) of an exceptional cargo load. This has the benefit of an airframe that still makes money when passenger loads are light

What is your personal relationship with the aircraft type?

Like any French female…one of love!

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Will you miss it?

Definitely,  I think after flying with a side-stick it’s going to be hard flying with a yolk. In thirty years of flying, I’ve never had to fly with a yolk. Times change and the Boeing 787 is proving to be a great aircraft for Virgin Atlantic. The passengers love it and it’s having a big impact on the future of long haul flying – The future is definitely bright.

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Images: Ian Black 

Check out Ian’s books at www.firestreakbooks.com

Follow my vapour trail on Twitter: @Hush_kit

 

You should also enjoy some more of our articles: There’s a whole feast of features, including the top WVR and BVR fighters of today, an alternate history of the TSR.2, an interview with a Super Hornet pilot and a Pacifist’s Guide to Warplanes. Was the Spitfire overrated? Want something more bizarre? The Top Ten fictional aircraft is a fascinating read, as is The Strange Story of The Planet Satellite. The Fashion Versus Aircraft Camo is also a real cracker.