2019 aircraft design contest winners announced: Part 1: World War II fighter

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 We asked you to design a fighter aircraft. I was overwhelmed by the quality, ingenuity and imagination that went into the submissions. It was hard to narrow the entrants down, but we eventually decided on the following aircraft. The brief was extremely demanding and had to be solved using only technology available in 1938.

Requirement 760

Design a fighter aircraft using only technology available in 1938. The aircraft must be a capable dogfighter. Armament is to be four cannon. Aircraft must have a top speed higher than 380mph, be easy to repair and maintain and offer a high level of battle damage resistance.

The categories

(Note: judges may not assess their own designs


Award points for beauty, or an impressive or unusual appearance or features. Explain reasoning.

Points out of 100


Award points for clever, innovative or appropriate design features.

Explain reasoning.

Points out of 100

Historical accuracy

Could this have existed in the time of the requirement? Was the technology there? Would parts supply have been possible in the political/industrial situation? Explain reasoning.

Points out of 100


How well would this have have fulfilled the brief?

Points out of 100

Bespoke category 

Points out of 100


The judges

Steve McParlin first came to Farnborough as a snotty-nosed 13 year old… They let him back in as a vacation student at 19, and he started again as a full-timer the day before his 21st birthday. It took them another 22 years to get rid of him, during which he got to play with wind tunnels, supercomputers, real aircraft and plenty of unreal ones too. He’s still an RAE Aerodynamics Dept brat, despite having left most of his hair there.
Real aircraft included Typhoon, Watchkeeper, Harrier, Zephyr and a few more. They’re outnumbered by the unreal ones.
Since leaving Farnborough, Steve has worked on lots more aircraft as a consulting engineer, and teaches undergraduates how to design aeroplanes on his odd Fridays, in Guildford.
Ed Ward is an artist and regular Hush-Kit contributor. His hobbies include revering the Westland Wyvern and chaining himself to the Boeing headquarters fence demanding they make triplanes. His knowledge of aviation history from 1910-1950 is extensive.
Jim Smith had significant technical roles in the development of the UK’s leading military aviation programmes. From ASRAAM and Nimrod, to the JSF and Eurofighter Typhoon. He has a very beautiful VW camper van.
Two of the judges contributed designs to the contest, to avoid corrupt judgements Hush-Kit has stepped in to score these (as judges are banned from judging their own designs).
Hush-Kit has written and/or edited 1000s of articles on aviation subjects for Hush-Kit.net, magazines, books and been a bad-tempered consultant for television documentaries and adverts. He has been thrown out of several bars for his controversial belief that the Panther is better looking than the Cougar.
EJW Lammergeier by Edward Ward
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EJW Lammergeier 1938

In reality by 1938 the biplane was generally being chucked away in favour of the monoplane but I wondered, had the cantilever monoplane not been taken up so wholeheartedly, what would have been the developmental path of a new fighter biplane.

Thus, the Lammergeier, conceived by the Norfolk based EJW aircraft company for sale as an off-the-shelf fighter with world class performance, yet not too advanced for less industrialised and smaller nations to operate.

A cantilever biplane with a very short wingspan, the Lammergeier has plenty of wing area, good for rough field operations and general manoeuvrability. The short span means lower drag than a conventional biplane and therefore high speed and high rate of roll. No draggy struts or bracing wires either. The aircraft is very small to minimise weight and rate of climb should be excellent. The large tail surfaces and short moment arm of the fuselage confer very responsive characteristics in pitch and yaw. The armament of four 20-mm drum fed Hispanos (belt feed was not available for this weapon in 1938) being mounted one each at the knuckle of all four cranked wings – a good compromise of concentration of firepower without the unnecessary burden of synchronisation equipment.

The engine is the Gnome Rhone Mistral Major which was a known and tried unit by 1938, familiar to many international customers, it also had the advantage of being relatively available compared to other decent engines (in real life it powered a swathe of thirties and forties designs, notably Romania’s IAR 80 and the Italian Re 2000 and SM.79). A radial engine was chosen for its greater resistance to battle damage than liquid cooled types. Armour plate behind the seat protects the pilot and the windscreen is of bulletproof glass. Undercarriage is retractable outward, mounted just outboard of the lower cannons and provides a wide track for good ground handling. Two self-sealing fuel tanks are mounted in the centre fuselage, between the wings. Range would undoubtedly be modest but is not specified in the requirement.

Disadvantages: pilot view is poor in some directions but the designer envisages the extremely high manoeuvrability will compensate for this to some degree in the air at least. The aircraft is highly responsive but like Polikarpov’s I-15 and I-16 can be tricky for the novice.

The aircraft is depicted serving with the Royal Hellenic Air Force, where its high rate of climb and general ruggedness would be an advantage. It also features the same engine as the PZL P.24 fighter delivered to Greece during 1937-38.



EJW Lammergeier: Score
Stephen: “I don’t get the twin cantilever wing structure… the whole point of the biplane layout should be to minimise the wing structural weight. The aircraft is going to be heavier than something with a structural link between upper and lower planes, while the reduced span implies increased lift- dependent drag. So it’s going to be a low wing loader with low inertia in roll, but not quite as low as if they’d ditched the pure cantilever… and the interference drag will still be an issue.”


Stephen: “One for those who like *odd* biplane designs. It’s a mid-1930s aircraft, and reflects that with a mix of features more typical of something going obsolescent during the Spanish Civil War. 50%”

Jim Smith: “Looks a fabulous little aircraft: 85%”

Hush-Kit: “Bananas. I love it. Gloriously eccentric wings. 85.”

Aesthetics score: 220/300


Stephen: “A mixture of being underpowered, overweight and draggy means that it’s not going to have many customers post 1940. It might be a surprise package at low altitudes, if you make the mistake of getting low and slow with it. It could have been a *lot* better, had the structure been better thought out. The Fiat biplanes and Gloster Gladiator survived through handling characteristics, but this aircraft is going to be heavier by virtue of the structural design. 40%”

Jim: “A very interesting concept, with considerable thought given to packaging and meeting the main design drivers. Suspect the structure would be relatively heavy, with two cranked wings. I note four ailerons are shown, but no means of linking these together (although this might be handled in the control mechanism at the expense of some complexity. 70″

Hush-Kit: “The Italian CR.42 was the last viable biplane (sesquiplane) fighter, and it took its first flight in 1938. Despite being a great design, its age was over and it struggled against monoplane fighters. Why, with the benefit of hindsight would a biplane design be considered? My guess is aesthetics, which will earn this points, but not in this round. What will earn it points is the attention and understanding of mechanical detail displayed. 65.” 

Design score: 175/300
Historical accuracy

Stephen: “The choice of a Hispano cannon is the only thing that’s not archaic about the
core design. This is a mid-, rather than late-1930s design, and there might have been other 20mm cannon options kicking around in Europe. But by 1940, it’s not going to be fast enough to catch a bomber to make use of the lethality of the cannon. 80%”

Jim: “Sound reasoning on the choice of engine, which should have been available. Does look the part, but I suspect lots of landing accidents likely due to very poor view ahead and to forward 45 deg when the tail is down in the flare.” 70

Hush-Kit: “Seems totally possible. 85”


Stephen “It may have given someone a surprise in the Spanish Civil War, but the engine is inadequate for 1938, let alone 1940. The Bristol Pegasus would have been a better choice. Obsolescent at service entry. 20%”

Jim: “Not convinced 380 mph would be available with interference drag from the biplane arrangement. Manoeuvre performance likely to be superb. Armament requirement met. Very sceptical about repairability and battle damage resistance – largely due to complexity of wing planform and cranked spars. 55″ 

Hush-Kit: “This a trifle nose heavy and prone to tipping over and bending those long gun barrels. Multiple blindspots in the frontal hemisphere sounds like a liability in a fighter. Imagining this is extremely agile, if a little slow. Wondering if the gun arrangement on the upper wing would slow down re-arming. Guess it’s the kind of thing the Finns could use to great effect and everyone else would hate. 45”



Stephen: “This is one of those quirky designs that’s never quite going to be remarkable about anything except looks. Those that survive combat in 1939 will be melted down or in museums by 1940. 50% for museum novelty value.”

Jim: “Some extra points for the quality of the cutaway drawing. 40.” 

Hush-Kit: “Exceptional artwork and an enjoyably characterful design: 75.”


EJW Lammergeier Total score 915/1200


Smith Claymore by Jim Smith 

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Stephen: “Smith Claymore… This smacks of Jim and Ron, going down the route of the art of the possible. Despite pretensions to Martin Baker lineage, this is really what happens if you stick a Merlin into a Yak-3 or Dewoitine 520… a small fighter with a big engine and lots of firepower. This is close enough to ‘what happens if the UK builds a Yak’ that we can read across. No issues here with credibility of the technology, although the actual Yak-3 turns out slightly later, and has an engine that’s comparable with a Merlin 45.”



Ed: “Well, it’s hardly going to set the world on fire is it? That said it isn’t ugly. In contrast to the Veil, the other ‘normal’ aircraft in the line up, it is marginally less interesting looking so it gets a plodding 31”

Stephen: “Conventional enough that it looks like a shrunken MB5, or a Yak, or a MiG, or a Dewoitine… and maybe lacking distinctiveness as a consequence. 70%.”

Hush-Kit: “Bit of a snooze-fest. Neither as sleek as the Spitfire or as joyfully agricultural as the Hurricane. Sorry, 28.”



Ed: “Thoroughly sensible: Martin Baker’s approach to aircraft construction, had it been taken up by any of the major manufacturers, would have resulted in aircraft that were easier to build and maintain than those that actually appeared. Nothing earth-shatteringly radical here though so a respectable 73”

Stephen: “Design… very low risk. It would have been interesting to see what would have happened with an aircooled radial instead. A Hercules II power egg in this airframe would have made the radiator unnecessary and given as much power as in the eventual Yak-3. 75%”

Hush-Kit: “Great, well considered design. Would it have been upgradeable? Would its small size have limited it potential to be upengined and upgunned? 75”


Historical Accuracy

Ed: “In general the Claymore is a profoundly plausible aircraft for 1938 though I am concerned by that bubble canopy, given that no British aircraft had one until 1940 (and even then the somewhat obscure Miles M.20) though the Whirlwind nearly did. Likewise that wing, despite the designer‘s claim to the contrary, looks far too thin to fit a drum fed Hispano in it, even the Hurricane’s thick wing had to have bulges to accept the ammunition drum and belt feed wasn’t available until 1941, so a high but not perfect 90″

Stephen: “There’s nothing here to scare the horses. The engine and airframe are low risk, but represent good practice by mid-1941, rather than 1938. The design principles are those of the Yak, or even Fw 190. Note that the latter spawned the Bearcat. 90%”

Hush-Kit: “The bubble canopy raise question marks. bubble canopy is a canopy made with the minimum or no bracing, to provide the pilot with an unobstructed view. The majority of a bubble hood is one piece. Though some experimental bubble hoods were tried in the First World War, and some later ones came close (including the Me 209) the first truly effective modern one was a feature of the Miles M.20 fighter (1940), a type which failed to enter service. Later in the war many types including Fw 190, Tempests, P-38s and some P-51s had bubble hoods. Other than this – looks good. 85.” 



Ed: “Probably fine. The resistance to battle damage is definitely there with the Martin Baker construction. It looks pretty manoeuvrable. The bubble canopy would confer excellent pilot view so it is likely a good dogfighter. I wonder if it would attain 380 mph? The Spitfire Mk I was only good for 362 mph on the same engine and it had a thinner wing so one would have to assume the speed requirement would be a struggle for the Claymore. A solid 62.”

Stephen: “Effectiveness… yes, very, if there’s enough room to shoehorn the weaponry into. 90%”

Hush-Kit: “Arguably the most effective solution of all the entrants. 85.”


Bespoke category 

Stephen: “Jim and Ron *know* what works at low risk, and they’re ringers. Tell them that I said they need a handicap and ask if either of them has flown a Yak lately. -40%.”

Hush-Kit: “Ability to confound 12-year old boys trying to identify it: 65.”

Ed “Likelihood to be obsessed over by aircraft enthusiasts 80 years later: inasmuch as all WWII aircraft are obsessed over, the Smith Claymore would certainly have a following but due to its relative conventionality I don’t think it would be overly popular unless it saw particularly spectacular service somewhere. Probably equivalent with a Tomahawk or something of that ilk. 50.”

115 – 40 =



Arado Ar 313 Mikado by Maximilian Bührdel


“The engineers at the Arado Flugzeugwerke tried to develop a two engined fighter with as little drag as possible and utilising the new Argus As 410 piston engine. This engine was much sleeker in design than comparable engines of the time and future variants would be even sleeker with cooling and turbos installed behind or in front than around the engine. The resulting fighter wasn’t much of a looker with its thin twin booms and the two pusher screws.

Compared for instance with the P-38 Lightning the Ar-313 twin booms were wider apart and the outer wings much smaller. For best agility the forward swept outer wings could be swept as a whole, like modern tailerons or canards. High forces were required to manoeuvre the aircraft, but to the surprise of the engineers no structural stability problems occurred. Four 20mm guns found easily place in the wings.

Because of the pusher props the plane needed a tricycle landing gear. The front wheel was offset to the left, because the central room in the small cockpit was occupied by the pilot. The back wheels set just in the double rudder under the twin booms. The short landing gear left little place for shock absorbers so the ride at the ground was really bumpy.

Special care was taken to provide an escape option for the pilot that didn’t result in his being butchered by the pusher props. The solution was a kind of ejection seat: The canopy of the aircraft was fixed and the pilot entered the plane by sitting on the seat. The seat with the floor plate was then pulled upwards by some kind of pulley system. This system worked as a kind of spring and the pilot could be shot out at rails. Right through the floor. Sounds crazy but it worked somehow, when the pilot had enough time afterwards to get ride of the seat.

After a flight with the first prototype field marshal Erhard Milch said: “This fighter has a rubbish paintjob, but flies like a dragonfly. It looks like someone lost a game of Mikado (german for jackstraws).” And the name was earned.

Stephen: “I found this intriguing, and close to a halfway house between the Westland Whirlwind and the Lockheed P-38, although the pusher props point at either long prop shafts or a scarily aft c.g. It’s the most radical of the designs, yet there’s enough about individual features out there to make all of the disparate technologies available suitable for 1938. But… no real consideration of the ability to tolerate battle damage.” 

Arado Ar 313


Ed: “If pure insanity equates to aesthetic excellence then the Ar 414 should walk this section. It don’t think one could call it conventionally elegant but it does possess a certain spindly P-38-esque charm. Extra points for the natty blue and purple splinter paint job. Score: 87”

Jim: “Frankly ugly. 30.”

Stephen: “Surprisingly sleek and modernist in a 1930s style. This would have been early for a twinboom design. 90%”


Aesthetics score: 207/300


Ed: “The Mikado is certainly, ahem, ‘innovative’. The all-moving wing tips are intriguing and do have a historical precedent on the S.E.100 of 1939. Likewise the downward pilot entry/escape system did pop up on various later aircraft but I doubt it would inspire confidence in any test pilot despite the very stable undercarriage design. The twin fuselage booms look far too slender to handle any kind of aerodynamic load and structural integrity has got to be questionable at best. Tandem wing aircraft never seem to succeed despite occasionally promising prototypes and given the existence of the more conventional and probably more effective Messerschmitt 110 it would seem unlikely at best that the Arado would make it into production.

The twin fuselage booms look far too slender to handle any kind of aerodynamic load. So given that the design is simultaneously innovative yet also extremely questionable it gets a totally bet-hedging 50″

Jim: “I quite like the concept of a twin-boom fighter, but I think the realisation of the concept is poor. The tailplane is so large it’s virtually a tandem wing aircraft. I’d expect it to be stable over a wide cg range – not what you want in a fighter. The replacement of the outer wings by all moving ailerons is a novel concept, but I suspect a more conventional outer wing would give better sustained turn due to higher aspect ratio. Concerns too about engine cooling and propulsive efficiency. 40″

Stephen: “Good at hitting the speed targets, and German 20mm cannon were more mature than the Hispano by 1938. Some structural issues around flutter might be expected. Not much consideration for battle damage tolerance though. Pusher props and tricycle undercarriages imply novelty in ground handling, and maybe some issues around unprepared landing sites. 70%”

Aesthetics score: 160/300

Historical Accuracy

Ed: “It is very unlikely that the Ar 414 would have existed. The only even mildly comparable aircraft with a tandem wing and mid-engine layout was the Miles M.39 which apparently flew well but not until 1944. Thus a Low score of 17.”

Jim: “When you consider some of its contemporaries, e.g. the Fokker G1 of 1936, or the Bell Aircuda of 1937, then it is clear that twin-engine, twin boom, and twin-engine pusher propeller fighters were considered plausible. The clear blown canopy looks a little avant garde for the time, but not, I think, completely out of the question. 60″

Stephen: “There’s a lot of novelty and technical risk around this design that worry me a little. The wing span and area imply high landing speeds, and this would have been a *real* handful in the mid-40s, let alone the late 1930s. I’m tempted to say that this is an oddity. The Argus engine is a little less powerful than the RR Peregrine of the Whirlwind, but does have the virtue of being air cooled. 75%.”

HE Total 152/300


Ed “If one ignores the probable crash on takeoff that would have accompanied every attempt to fly the Mikado, it remains a resolutely mixed bag. On the one hand, the terrifying all-moving wingtips and massive tail surfaces would have proffered remarkable manoeuvrability (to the extent, one suspects, of causing structural failure), however the underwhelming power output of two Argus engines would make the required maximum speed an impossible prospect. The armament location offers a good concentration of firepower and the pilot is blessed with an excellent view. By contrast the aircraft is apparently large and offers a substantial target and the required resistance to battle damage seems unlikely given the dainty structure although the Argus engines are air-cooled so the vulnerability of a liquid cooling system is at least avoided. Thus a less-than-stellar 42”

Stephen: “There’s a question of CONOPS. This is an interceptor for defence against bombers. It doesn’t have a low enough wing loading to be much use in a turning fight. I can see it eventually becoming useful in home air defence, but it’s a real oddity in the Luftwaffe of 1938. The layout makes it amenable to mount radar in the nose eventually, but single-seat night ops in this aircraft would be challenging. 60%”

Jim: “Not convinced 380 mph achievable – much neater Fokker G1 only capable of 300 mph. Dogfighting capability in the ‘sitting duck’ class. No real evidence of design for ruggedness and battle damage resistance. 30″



Jim: “Concept drawing quality does not compare with many of the other submissions, but the back story is good. 30.” 

Stephen: “This is probably a decent airframe for use as a reconnaissance platform, or as a low altitude air racer. High speed, low level… and close to the Westland Whirlwind in performance (but Westland took landing characteristics more seriously). 75%

Ed: “Likelihood to be obsessed over by aircraft enthusiasts 80 years later: It’s German and mental. Given that crazy German aircraft don’t even need to have actually existed to be featured in manifold books, magazines and model kits (such as the Triebflugel, Lerche etc) the Ar 414 would undoubtedly be massively famous within aviation circles in the contemporary world. A resounding 100.”



Total 856/1200

Curtiss Model 78 Greyhawk by Aleksi Salonen

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Stephen: “Where to start? The engine installation is nonsensical (cooling?) the fin size implies a startling lack of directional stability, and the weapons installation appears to be inspired by Klunk. Cracking drawing skills though.”


Ed: “Where to begin? The Greyhawk is impressively weird. Despite its crazy layout it is identifiable at a glance as a Curtiss product, and, whilst not possessing a conventional beauty it has a purposefully aggressive air. It is undoubtedly unique and merits a high score of 87″

Jim: “Not a looker. In fact, somewhat terrifying for friend and foe alike, I suspect. 60.”

Stephen: “… Klunk would have been proud. An image that even a mother might be ambiguous about… 20%”




Ed: “The fuselage circling airscrew is a novel and elegant solution to the problem of concentrating firepower about the centreline on a single-engine aircraft. Whether it was possible is another question entirely and one that I am unable to answer. There was at least one precedent to this design in the shape of the Gallaudet D.4 of 1918 which utilised a Liberty V-12 powering a fuselage-encircling airscrew in the rear fuselage.  Why mount the engine on its side? I am unaware of any fixed wing aircraft that actually employed this arrangement nor any benefit arising from its usage but I can see a number of potential problems. Probably worst is that cooling would likely be problematic. In addition the engine in this arrangement offers a large area downwards which makes it more vulnerable to fire from the ground and the required gearing and shaft drive adds unnecessary complexity and likely reliability issues. A mixed bag, hence 43.”

Jim: “Extremely original layout, with embedded engine mounted horizontally in the fuselage, multi-blade propeller, tricycle landing gear. 75″

Stephen: “There’s so much about this that just isn’t feasible, starting with the propulsion layout. No cooling outlet and a transverse mount for an air-cooled engine just isn’t practical. I’m also unsure as to whether the wing spars actually connect somewhere near the engine or not. The directional stability characteristics are going to be interesting at least. Will the fin actually overcome the precession of the aircraft in yaw due to engine torque? 10%.”


Historical Accuracy

Ed: “The only actual aircraft that came close to replicating the Greyhawk’s layout is the P-39 which is roughly contemporary and similarly featured an engine mounted behind the cockpit to free up the nose for an impressive armament arrangement. By contrast with the Greyhawk it utilised a liquid cooled engine which seems more sensible if the engine is not in the nose of the aircraft and it had a simpler transmission arrangement. The rear fuselage and tail was a lot more conventional in position and proportion as well. The P-39 was not an unequivocal success and one can’t imagine the Greyhawk succeeding without a lot of work. I don’t think any particular technological aspect was beyond the state of the art in 1938, except perhaps that wonderful propellor, but combining them all in one airframe looks risky at best. 31.”

Jim: “Although a rather unlikely-looking design, it appears largely consistent with the technology brief. I would be worried about the gearing and shafting arrangements to drive the propeller. This is a much more complex arrangement than the prop-shaft extension used, for example, on the Aircobra. 75″

Stephen: “The choice of a Hispano cannon is the only thing that’s not archaic about the core design. This is a mid-, rather than late-1930s design, and there might have been other 20mm cannon options kicking around in Europe. But by 1940, it’s not going to be fast enough to catch a bomber to make use of the lethality of the cannon. 80%.”



Ed: “This is not likely to be a fast nor a manoeuvrable, or even controllable aeroplane. There is a hell of a lot of aircraft for what appears to be quite a modestly sized engine, it looks about as streamlined as a brick and the tail surfaces are tiny. Would it be easy to maintain? Doubtful given the engine location and the problematic engineering. If that wasn’t enough, the design does not include the specified armament of four 20-mm cannon. Therefore a rather disappointing 16″

Jim: “No chance of making the required 380 mph top speed. Good agility is likely due to the concentration of mass around the cg, and relatively short-span low-aspect-ratio wing. Six-blade propeller looks inefficient due to relatively short blades. I’d also be concerned about the cooling of the engine and gearboxes, noise and fire protection for the pilot. With the low pitch, yaw and roll inertia, and the small size and low moment arm of the tail control surfaces stability may be an issue. Not an aircraft one would wish to spin, as rudder would be largely blanked by tailplane. 40″

Stephen: “Not. Even if the vehicle was a practical aircraft, 4 0.5” Brownings are going to be inadequate within a short period. 10%.”



Likelihood to be obsessed over by aircraft enthusiasts 80 years later

Ed: “Pretty high I should think. It’s weird and amazing-looking and American.  80”

Jim: “Nice cutaway drawing, Side view did not reproduce well. 30″

Stephen: “Bespoke… I thought this was the best drawn of all the competitors, although it’s not anywhere near viable as an aircraft. Heath Robinson award winner for 2019. 75%.”


Total score: 732/1200



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Firewasp by Tom Ackerman

Looks like a dH take on the Westland Whirlwind… I’m not sure how wooden monocoque structures are going to stand up to the point loads imposed by the suggested weaponry, but this shares clean lines, and uses dH Gipsy King engines rather than the RR Peregrine. That implies a degree of being underpowered, although there is the suggestion that these can be upgraded to 610 hp. It’s also
similar in many ways to the proposed Arado design, although less radical in configuration.


Jim: “This is a neat, trim aircraft, but somehow lacks the DH magic when it comes to styling. 75.” 

Ed: “Although the oversized canopy looks a bit weird, the twin fuselage with offset cockpit is a stylish approach and the elegant de Havilland touches make the Firewasp a daintily attractive yet undoubtedly radical machine so it does well here. 86”

Stephen: “Ahh, de Havilland. Uncle Roger would have been proud, and all those hand-finished mouldings for the fairings would have made these fantastic private tourers once the Boche had been sent packing. 90%.”



Ed: “The craziest aspect is the gun. The Gast system was just going into production for Germany at the end of World War One but seems to have been ignored by everyone until resurrected by the Soviets in the fifties. The 30-mm Gryazev-Shipunov GSh-30-2 as fitted to the Su-25 is a Gast gun. Whether Martin Baker or some other manufacturer would have been able to alter the Hispano cannon to a functional Gast weapon is fanciful but not totally ridiculous. The use of Gipsy King engines is interesting. Not being powered by Merlins is a distinct advantage in 1938 but a combined power output of 1220 hp for a twin engine fighter is decidedly low. Also where is the exhaust? The canopy design appears to afford excellent visibility and the relative simplicity of the aircraft is a definite plus. The twin fuselage design, although nothing comparable was flying in 1938, was ultimately vindicated by the Twin Mustang so the Firewasp would have been ahead of the curve in this regard. An optimistic 54.”

Stephen: “Credible, except for the weaponry, which isn’t really going to fit where it’s supposed to. The engine availability in wartime is going to be tricky, as with the Peregrine (and I think the Whirlwind was a missed opportunity). 75%.”

Jim: “A ‘British’ Lightning. Surprised by the number of twin-engine entries. Very few twin engine fighters were all that good in 1938. But going for wooden construction, light weight and the very neat Albatross-style engine installations a good idea. 70″ 


Historical Accuracy

Ed: “The most difficult to assess aspect is the Gast gun. Because it was never developed in the UK it is difficult to be sure whether it was possible within a reasonable timeframe nor whether it offered a significant enough advantage over conventional weapons. The Hispano cannon was not exactly problem free in the early war years so a twin barrel outgrowth with a terrific rate of fire sounds like it might be a developmental nightmare. More prosaically the Gipsy King’s power output is pretty weedy and even the 610 hp per engine quoted here is entirely speculative on a developed model as according to de Havilland the Gipsy King produced 525 hp. According to one source only 95 engines were apparently ever built (which leads one to consider the ultimate production total of 47 and a half Firewasps ho ho) and it was described as ‘an extraordinarily complicated way to develop 500 hp’ which doesn’t bode too well for reliability. Awkward: 43”

Stephen: “I’ve no doubt that dH could have put together a twin-engined fighter in 1938 if asked… but the twin boom layout is a novelty for them at this point. The smaller engines go out of production very quickly during wartime. 75%.”

Jim: “Does look slightly ahead of its time – not unreasonable for DH perhaps, but can’t help feeling that Geoffrey de Havilland would have gone either straight towards the Mosquito (perhaps as a single-seat fighter version of the Comet), or to a pod and boom piston-engine Vampire, noting Vampire has a wooden fuselage pod and four cannon. 70″




Ed: “The streamlining of the engines, taken from the Don is excellent but one cannot help but suspect that the aircraft is underpowered and unlikely to make the speed requirement. The Firewasp’s elegant slender wings and fuselages do not imply a particularly manoeuvrable machine either. If the Gast gun worked it would likely have proved a fearsome weapon. As good as four Hispanos Possibly. Fighter aircraft designed to be low-cost and simple to produce, despite obvious merits, never seem to make it into production and it is unlikely the Firewasp would be any different. It would probably have made an excellent training or reconnaissance machine but for the original requirement it does not quite convince. Therefore 24.”

Stephen: “Suffers from the issues of the Hispano maturity more than most. I don’t think the gun is credible. Otherwise, in the same class as the Whirlwind, although termites and bacteria will make this aircraft liable to issues in the tropics. 60%.”

Jim: “A bit sceptical about the armament, but with a very clean and light design and 2 x 610hp engines, should be close to the speed requirement. Suspect out and out manoeuvre performance not quite as good as the single-engine solutions. Wooden structure likely to be OK – DH having plenty of experience in this area. 70″


Ed: “Likelihood to be obsessed over by aircraft enthusiasts 80 years later? There’s a special de Havilland magic that tends to stir the British enthusiast’s heart in a slightly inexplicable fashion. There is no doubt the exciting Firewasp would go down well with them and a totally accurate replica would probably have been built in New Zealand by now, to the relative bemusement of non-Commonwealth based aircraft enthusiasts who are still listening to portentous music and looking at an old man standing with a quiet, yet highly marketable, dignity next to the XP-3x Barn Owl. 83″

Stephen: “This really isn’t very different conceptually from the Whirlwind, with the exception of wooden construction. Structurally radical for 1938, but within a short space of time they were doing this with the Vampire. 60%.”

Jim: “Would have liked to see how undercarriage was done, and whether airscrews were variable pitch or not. 30″



Reconstituted Aviation XP-3X Barn Owl by Brad Clarkson

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Requirement 760.   The XP-3X BarnOwl from Reconstituted Aviation.  Dual radials give it speed, range and durability, the push-pull arrangement allows single-engine cruising.   Referred to as the “Barn-Door Owl”, it was originally conceived as a fighter-destroyer and morphed into a fighter-bomber and tank hunter in (obviously) Russia where its quad 20mm cannons were upped to dual 37’s and was nicknamed the ‘Big Shaver’.   Effective in the Far East where it was known by the Japanese as ‘Wandering Death’.  Good roll rate but otherwise a tough American bruiser that eventually got a cool bubble canopy prior to its retirement.

Barn Owl

“Stephen: Reconstituted Aviation XP-3X Another intriguing configuration. The tandem engine installation was subsequently proven by the Do-335 and Cessna 337, so this is an innovative layout for the period. It’s a good way of getting the frontal area of the air-cooled radial down too, although the fuselage boundary layer will make cooling the aft engine trickier than the forward item. Combined with the twin booms, I actually think this is a workable configuration, capable of doing 380 mph and carrying a decent payload.”


Ed: “Personally I love it but I have always had a penchant for fat aircraft such as the Brewster Buffalo and twin boom types. This combines the two in a shiny cuddly whole. I freely admit this wouldn’t be to everyone’s taste though so I suggest a respectable 82”

Jim: “A tough-looking aeroplane. Seversky meets SAAB J-21A.  Style looks credible for the period, if not exactly pretty. 75.”

Stephen: “Should never be a factor in aircraft design, but this has a gruff, workmanlike charm, in the way a Skyraider does. 75”



Ed: “The twin-engine/twin-boom arrangement employed by the Barn Owl was one of those studied by Lockheed when they were formulating the P-38 which first flew in January 1939, so the general arrangement was being considered by American designers at the time. Having both engines on the centre line mitigates some of the more undesirable features of more conventional twins and the massive wing area and tubby fuselage suggest plenty of room for fuel and stores. It would be easy to see this aircraft having considerable development potential. 90”

Jim: “Twin-engine ‘Push-me Pull-you’, which as noted above looks in keeping with the technology brief. Twin engine fighters – tried often, but would have to wait for P-38, Mosquito, Beaufighter to be convincingly effective. 70.”

Stephen: ” I like this. It’s a way of getting a twin-radial engined aircraft to have lower drag, and I think it works without excessive risk. The twin-boom layout means that they wind up with tricycle undercarriage, but I think the layout has potential, and plenty of fuel volume. 80%.”


Historical Accuracy

Ed: “Apart from its general arrangement, there is nothing particularly unlikely here. Although the engine type is not specified, the narrow cowl suggests the Wright Cyclone (I doubt a Twin Wasp would fit) which was a thoroughly dependable and available unit in 1938. Drop tanks in 1938 would seem to be pushing it. First US fighter able to utilise a drop tank was the P-40C of 1941 I suppose the aircraft pictured could be a developed model but still… Anyway this is a minor issue so 75″

Jim: “Does look the part.  Engines not specified, but no reason to suppose this would be technically unachievable in 1938. 75.” 

Stephen: ” Like the Arado, it’s a challenging concept for the 1930s, and obviously draws on hindsight unavailable at the time. But, all of the component technologies are there. Getting radials to work on faster aircraft in the late 1930s is a challenge, and this is a good way of meeting it. 75%.”



Ed: “It is likely that the Barn Owl would have been a thoroughly useful aircraft but with regard to the requirement in particular it is difficult to imagine such a large and heavy aircraft being a capable dog fighter.  The top speed specified might be problematic as this is not a particularly sleek aircraft, I guess it would depend on the engines fitted. I am also concerned about the ability to actually fit two 20-mm cannon into each of the tail booms as portrayed. There doesn’t appear to be room for such a large weapon, at least as shown in the three view. Judging by muzzle size I’d say those were .50 cals (but I may well be wrong) which, to be fair, the USAAF would have specified anyway. Resistance to battle damage should be high – this is a radial twin after all and US aircraft tended to be reliable and easy to maintain. Thus a not particularly mind blowing 50″

Stephen: “It has the potential for good range, due to the space for fuel volume. In the Beaufighter or Bf 110 class, but at higher speed and with solo crew. 75%.”

Jim: “Not much chance of making the required 380 mph top speed, it just looks too tubby, and likely to be carrying around too much weight. I’d also be concerned about the efficiency and cooling of the rear engine installation, and pilot escape in case of needing to bail out. As suggested, inertia distribution likely to be good for roll rate, less so for pitch manoeuvres. Engines likely to be rugged – tail booms do look a bit slender. 60.” 



Stephen: “This deserves plaudits for innovation, albeit inspired by hindsight. 75%.”

Ed: “Likelihood to be obsessed over by aircraft enthusiasts 80 years later: Massive. It would probably feature in tattoos on Hells Angels arms. But also on American museum promotional material with Colonel Sanders lookalikes standing next to a resolutely polished XP-3x and a Stars and Stripes whilst wistfully talking about the ‘Barn Owl of Freedom’. It would be awful. 100”

Jim: Very well presented, although a bit light on technical detail. Good back story suggesting operations in Russia and the Far East. 40.” 




Vickers Veil by Philip ‘Doc’ TibbittsVicker Veil.png

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Vickers Veil
Airframe-engine combination uses a philosophy of light-weight yet resilient construction and brute power to achieve speed & survivability requirements as well as strength to mount desired armament.
Geodesic airframe offers:
> Resistance to battle damage
> Light weight
> Strength to mount cannon in wings (saving adding further drag with an underslung pod or nose blisters) and cope with recoil
High-tune radial engine (intended to be Hercules or imported Double Wasp, likely high tune 900+hp Perseus for Mk1) offers:
> High power
> Good roll rate for dogfighting
> Resilience with no water cooling system (radiator) to damage
> Less constrained availability rate of units and spares for production & maintainability (being 1938 Merlin’s probably not a realistic power option)
Although radial engines do increase drag the reduced weight is intended to offset this. The 1936 Vickers Venom showed a stressed metal frame with only an Aquila engine could achieve 320mph and be considered manoeuvrable. The later P-47 achieves the speed requirement with a heavier but more powerful engine.

Stephen: “I liked this option. It seemed like an attempt to consider the requirement carefully, while bringing to the fore one of the leading “what ifs”, if the Bristol Hercules had been used for a single-engined, single-seater fighter. A Pegasus engine would have been outclassed by 1940, although used in both the Gladiator and Blackburn Skua. The use of geodesic construction offered robustness to battle damage, although fabric-covered construction would have been unsuitable for the nominal 380 mph design (something that would have plagued later geodesic designs like the Vickers Windsor). A fourHispano armament would have matched the Westland Whirlwind in 1940, and the Whirlwind is a useful comparator for all of these designs, although the 20mm Hispano is still immature when it mattered, in summer 1940. Geodesic, fabric-covered wings are a risk area though, and the local recoil forces, plus the wing thickness required for the internal Hispano imply that the speed might not be as desired.”


Jim: “Credible, but lacking in aesthetic appeal. 55.”

Ed: “A largely conventional looking aircraft the Veil is not going to win any beauty prizes but likewise it is modestly handsome in a workmanlike fashion. It would not be necessary to draw a ‘veil’* over it ha ha. Hence a totally underwhelming 38 out of 100.”

Stephen: “A slightly saggy-skinned equivalent to the Martlet, or maybe even Hellcat. Robust, but not pretty. 60%.”

(*Hush-Kit: Ed, this is an excusable joke.)



Jim: “Geodesic structure is a good idea. Likely to be strong and easy to repair. 65.” 

Ed: “It is curious that only three geodesic aircraft ever saw production and service as this method of construction did offer immense strength and damage resistance as dramatically proven by the insanely rugged Vickers Wellington. The major downside of geodetics is that even a minor design change such as lengthening the fuselage requires a total redesign of the entire unit which rather limits potential development of the aircraft. Engine choice is sensible and it is easy to see the Veil being a useful asset to fighter command in the early war period. On the other hand, apart from the novel construction method, the Veil is extremely conventional so scores a sensible but not earth shattering 74.”

Stephen: “An early Pegasus-engined design would have been underpowered, and resemble the Fokker XXI, effective against slower targets, but easy prey for the Luftwaffe in 1940. A Hercules-engined variant would probably outperform the Hurricane Mk II, although 380 mph might not be achievable with fabric skin. At some point a move to metal skinning would be necessary. 75%”



Historical accuracy 

Jim: “Very credible from the aircraft structure perspective. Double Wasp would not have been available – did not fly until 1940. I assume that the R-1830 Twin Wasp was intended. The other engines mentioned are possible. Complexity of using geodesic construction in a small airframe might be an issue. 70.”

Ed: “The Veil is a totally plausible aircraft for its era. The most unusual aspect of its design, geodetic airframe structure, was employed by two aircraft in production by the same manufacturer during 1938. The remainder of its design is thoroughly conventional so it warrants a convincing 100 for historical reasonableness.

Stephen: “For a period, the Hercules II was producing more power than the contemporary RR Merlin. By the Merlin 45, Rolls were ahead in the game, and the Merlin 60-series were further advanced. But from 1940-41, the Hercules II is a powerful, reliable and available option. The contemporary allied fighters are variants of the Mk II Hurricane and various Kittyhawks. The Veil would have been a competitive alternative to these, and maybe more effective in austere environments (no tropical filters!) while being better suited to navalisation. 80%.”



Jim: “Not convinced 380 mph available with fabric covered geodesic structure and 900 hp engine. But strength and battle damage requirements met. Dogfighting capability hard to judge. 60.” 

Ed: “Because it isn’t particularly wacky, the Veil may well have proven quite effective. It certainly answers the requirement on most counts, especially the resistance to battle damage one, my biggest concern being whether it would attain the 380mph specified as it looks pretty draggy. This is largely conjectural as we can’t see what the wing looks like, which also rather affects whether it would have been a capable dogfighter. Thus a slightly speculative 57.”

Stephen: “Probably more effective than a Mk II Spitfire or Hurricane, by virtue of greater installed power and 4-cannon armament. Key questions are the reliability of the Hispano in 1940. It’s also going to be more robust to ground fire, something that made offensive Ops by Fighter Command a lottery in 1941-42. 80%”



Jim: “Only a side view available so some factors hard to judge. 30.”

Stephen: “At some point the UK realised the benefits of air-cooled radial engines. Putting tropical filters on aircraft in North Africa, Asia and elsewhere crippled the supposed benefits of the liquid- cooled V12s otherwise used. The Fleet Air Arm also lacked effective fighters until well into the war, and this design would have been more effective than the Wildcat/Martlet against bombers. It potentially has the same kind of longevity in use that saw the Hurricane operate into late war in Burma. 80%.”

Ed: “Likelihood to be obsessed over by aircraft enthusiasts 80 years later: It’s not got a Merlin and, from the outside at least, it isn’t very unusual. However it is British and has a certain gruff appeal so will certainly float the boat of vast swathes of angry middle aged bearded men across the home counties. A red-blooded 62 points therefore.”


Pegasus Seahorse by Nicolas Bucher


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“Pegasus Aeroplanes proposes their latest in flying boat fighter designs. The Seahorse is a rugged, fast and nimble plane. While other aircraft require specially prepared runways, it has 38 billion acres of runway all over the world available already.
“Please note that I assumed the engine was chosen based on what was the top of the line at the time, the Sabre having its first run in 1938, not an engine that was potentially available in large quantities already. As in the aircraft was designed with an engine in mind that should be ready by the time production for the plane started too, not a great recipie I know but that is why it states “prototype” in the description.
As the design would move further along it would receive more final versions of the engine. The turbo supercharger was added to increase power to gain more thrust for the 380mph requirement, same for the CRP configuration.
I hope that reasoning makes sense.”

Stephen: “380mph, in a flying boat? With an inverse sesquiplane layout? With a Napier Sabre? In 1938? Who do they think they’re kidding?”


Ed: “This aircraft is sensational. 95”

Stephen: “Aesthetics… The bastard offspring of a Supermarine Walrus, a Tempest V and the Sydney Harbour Bridge. 20%”

Jim: “I really like the look. 80.” 



Ed: “Hmmm. Love the natty retracting floats. The vertical tail surfaces look a bit on the small side given the sheer amount of aircraft they’re expected to keep going in a straight line. My biggest worry though is the sheer amount of structure provided for the radiator and airscrew. That’s a lot of struts and a lot of drag. If you’re going to have all that, why not mount the engine up there and avoid all those iffy power-sapping and likely failure-prone driveshafts and gearboxes? Taking the drive past 90 degrees twice seems like a recipe for disaster. However, it is certainly a radical and daring approach. As is turbosupercharging a Sabre. Thus a credibility confounding 60”

Stephen: “Phenomenally overcomplex, doesn’t really take the requirements into consideration, and looks like an excuse to build an imperial barge. 10%”

Jim: “Pusher flying-boat biplane fighter – but not sure the concept could possibly meet the requirement. It looks like a Walrus on LSD. 50.” 


Historical Accuracy

Ed: “Starting with the nit-picky, Hispanos were drum fed in 1938 as previously mentioned so that’s a bit rum but this is ignoring the elephant in the room. A turbocharged Napier Sabre! The Sabre was first run in 1938 and wouldn’t equip an operational aircraft until mid 1941. Napier had enough problems even fitting a two stage supercharger on the Sabre and a turbocharged Sabre never appeared. Which isn’t to say it wasn’t possible but one would have to regard it as extremely unlikely. But is that more or less unlikely than driving a contra-rotating propellor through a shaft system? I am unsure. Contra-props weren’t really a thing in 1938, at least in a production-ready reliable form. This aircraft is believable as an extremely speculative unbuilt study from 1941 or so but not really in 1938. Thus a low 20.”

Stephen: “The Napier Sabre engine, although first bench-tested in 1938 (like the Centaurus) took a few years to mature into a practical powerplant. The power needed to get such a draggy vehicle to 380 mph is such that even with the fully-developed Sabre engine, it’s going to be an exercise in brute force and ignorance. Trying to get a not-quite biplane with strut bracing and a flying boat hull to these speeds will also be structurally challenging. Little or no credibility here. 10%”

Jim: “Very concerned about the turbo supercharging to deliver the stated power. I just don’t think this sort of power would be available at the time. Sweepback of the wings looks good, but not really a feature of 1938 aircraft unless the c.g. is in the wrong position. 35″ 




Ed: “The Seahorse would not, I think, have been a particularly great answer to the requirement. With its weedy tail-surfaces I doubt if it would be much use in air to air combat with fighters. Would it have been resistant to battle damage? A few bullet holes in the hull and it would sink. Easy to repair and maintain? It has an overly complex drive system mated to an unproven development of one of the least reliable aircraft engines of the Second World War. What could possibly go wrong? With all those struts and extra wings would it have been able to drag itself over 380 mph? Probably, to be fair, if the promised 2650 hp actually materialises. A problematic 34″

Stephen: “Turning aviation fuel into noise and making jaws drop in disbelief is a highlight, but I don’t know what else might be feasible here. 30%.”

Jim: “Not a chance of making the claimed 400 mph top speed. Plenty of wing area, but looks to have high inertia (due to separation of engine from fuselage axis) and high drag (due to biplane configuration, struts, wires and floats). For reasons noted above, do not believe powerplant would be available. Hence not meeting speed or manoeuvre performance. No real evidence of design for ruggedness and battle damage resistance. 35.” 


Bespoke category


Ed: “Likelihood to be obsessed over by aircraft enthusiasts 80 years later: Very high. It’s unusual, fantastic looking, crazily designed and a flying boat. 90″

Stephen: “Sheer bloody-mindedness. This aircraft probably has its own wardroom, complete with piano and bar. 70%”

Jim: “Drawing looks well executed but resolution provided poor and difficult to read, particularly the critical details on the engine.” 30. 


Final results & winners 

Each entrant had something wonderful about it, and it was a hard decision. But here are the final scores:

Seahorse: 669/1200

Curtiss Greyhawk: 732/1200

Arado 313: Total 856/1200

EJW Lammergeier 915/1200

Smith Claymore 929/1200

3rd place- Bronze dH Firewasp: 965/1200

2nd place Silver Vickers Veil: 986/1200

1st place – Gold – Reconstituted Aviation XP-3X Barn Owl 

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One comment

  1. Aleksi

    Thank you for the opportunity to participate and for the critique, some of which I anticipated due to deficiencies in the descriptiveness of my entry or (indeed) design methodology (if you can call it that) as well. Some truly instructive insights gained as well. A wonderfully varied field of entries, looking forward to seeing solutions to the other requirements as well. Originally I intended to participate in all of them but this (somewhat randomly) was all I could muster in this instance.

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