My favourite aeroplane in 200 words #41: Rockwell XFV-12


Argue with me, if you will, about whether the XFV-12 was an “airplane”, on the pedantic grounds that airplanes can leave the ground under their own power. Point out to me, kindly or with malice, that its 70s Kustom Van paint job, reminiscent of some early arcade cabinet or Sandy Frank sci-fi epic, is a gleaming disguise for the Frankensteinian joining of Phantom and Skyhawk parts, intended to save time and money during the US defence establishment’s post-Vietnam doldrums.

Don’t care. The love of warplanes is a vice, and the XFV-12, with its inability to carry its own weight let alone a bombload, is the aviation equivalent of a very tasty lite beer. Relieved of considering any moral dimensions, we can focus on the aesthetics of this hopeful monster, and fully appreciate its melding of the beautifully sleek with the slightly clumsy and the subtly alien. The rakish, confident twin tails, framing the slick landing gear enclosures! The huge yet somehow elegant diamondesque canards! The faintly toylike proportions and ever so slightly silly nose. I want to put on a PVC flight suit marked with Rockwell’s corporate-slick logo, climb into this plane, and blast off towards a future painted by Syd Mead, rising on a white-hot column of pure techno-fantasy.

(Rik Haines lives in Cascadia, uses unusual pronouns, and plays too much Kerbal Space Program.)

It also also makes an appearance on the 10 worst US aircraft here


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