Our Top 45 aircraft

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We asked 45 people to describe their favourite aircraft in only 200 words. Here are the results. 

MY FAVOURITE AEROPLANE IN 200 WORDS #1: THE A-26 (B-26) INVADER BY BRUNO BAYLEY

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“The Vietnam War; perhaps summed up most commonly by exciting new aircraft like Phantoms, Skyhawks, Super Sabres, or the terrifying giant B-52, was also the last outing for a slew of World War II-era designs that suddenly found themselves thrown back into the rainy, humid, mud-spattered fray. Models like the A-1 Skyraider, a late war design intended to be both a dive-bomber and strike aircraft was a perfect fit for the ‘Sandy’ (SAR) missions, that became a harrowing and regular part of the Vietnam air war. But the best example of this however, was the re-duxing of the A-26 (which some call a B-26 due to utterly confusing US Military penickityness). A late World War II light-bomber, the A/B-26 was initially stripped of its gun turrets and pressed into attack roles in the murky early 60s era of ‘not quite admitting we are fighting in Vietnam’, having already flown in Korea. In time the chunky, but somehow rather graceful, machine was upgraded to specialise in attacking the Ho Chi Minh trail. Wing tip tanks upped loiter time, eight 50.cal guns clustered in the nose, and the ability to carry large amounts of external arms ranging from napalm, to rockets, to conventional and cluster bombs, made the Invader to top scoring traffic destroyer in Vietnam. Sometimes it’s good to be slow and old.”

By Bruno Bayley, Managing editor of Vice Magazine

My favourite aeroplane in 200 words #2: Blackburn Buccaneer by Dr. Raymond N. Wolejko, MD

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Blackburn Aircraft Limited produced some of the worst aeroplanes ever made. From the TB of 1915 (an engine start set the float on fire), the Sidecar of 1919 (sold at Harrods, but couldn’t fly), the Roc (a fighter of 1938, that was slower than any bomber), and the pathetic Botha (underpowered, impossible to see out of in rain), through to the shameful Firebrand (late, extremely dangerous to pilots- but scandalously pushed into service with a hush-up that resulted in many deaths)- their track record was pretty appalling, so it is all the more impressive that they went on to make the wonderful ‘Bucc’, a masterpiece from 1958.

The Buccaneer was designed to counter the threat of Sverdlov-class cruisers. It was prepared in great secrecy, as a fast, low-level maritime attack aircraft capable of using nuclear weapons. The S. Mk.1 was underpowered, as test pilot Dave Eagles quipped in his recent Hush-Kit interview it “relied on the curvature of the earth to get airborne ”. This was solved when the S.Mk 2 was introduced in 1962, powered by the Spey. The result was a superb low-level aircraft with a long-range (longer even than the Tornado), a virtually indestructible construction and a rock-steady low-level ride. The type proved its worth in Desert Storm, and remained to the end of its life a potent weapon.

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MY FAVOURITE AEROPLANE IN 200 WORDS #3 English Electric Lightning by Consolata García Ramírez

English Electric Lightning. Three words which sit so beautifully together (ignoring the tautology of ‘electric’ lightning). The charged air of English skies ripped apart by riveted lunacy.

The Lightning was quite mad- a greedy machine set on eating fuel and turning it into speed. It was so greedy its great gaping mouth was half-full, trying to eats its own nose. Its hunger saw it eating up sky to reach altitudes where few could reach it. Unlike anything else, its engines were stacked one on top of each other, making it stand monstrously tall on the ground.

The Lightning would scorn today’s tedious drones controlled by gamers in porta-cabins. The Lightning was the anti-thesis of the UAV- it was a manned missile, tricksy and twitchy – and it killed more of its own pilots than it did enemies.

It could outfly and outfight any of its peers, but like an English genius, they neglected it and tried to kill it. The English Electric P.1A flew two months after Alan Turing died, another English product killed by a nation that loves to punish its greatest children.

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MY FAVOURITE AEROPLANE IN 200 WORDS #4: Supermarine S6
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The Supermarine S6 earned itself the position of the ultimate racer built for the Schneider Trophy by securing the 2nd and 3rd consecutive wins for Great Britain. Every inch the thoroughbred, she boasted a Rolls Royce R Type engine so closely cowled that the cam covers were a part of the streamlined outer surfaces. No ounce of excess weight was allowed, nor any square inch of unnecessary cross sectional area. I used to think that, as the fastest machine of her day, she was hugely sophisticated but having seen one stripped down at Southampton I realised the opposite is true – and that she is the better expression of the ultimate for it. There is no crudity to the design but rather a simplicity that speaks of clarity of purpose. High speed aerodynamics, minimal packaging and maximum cooling are the only considerations. All this and achingly beautiful too.

Her legacy is also impeccable, though with no direct lineage lessons learned here greatly influenced the Merlin and Spitfire.   So – successful, pivotal and displaying the pure aesthetics born from the focused pursuit of speed. By default a shining example of the Bauhaus ideals of Walter Gropius.

There can be no finer aircraft.

Stephen Mosley is an artist and aeronautical engineer

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MY FAVOURITE AEROPLANE IN 200 WORDS #6 de Havilland DH.89 Dragon Rapide by David Piper

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Peter Pendragon and Louise Laleham, the heroes of Aleister Crowley’s searing novel Diary of a Drug Fiend, hurtle headlong into the pitchblack night and intense love, in the freezing cockpit of Peter’s plane, fantastically high on beautifully pure cocaine. They first met a few hours ago, and neither of them have ever taken drugs before.

Jack Parsons was a very handsome man; a wayward father of modern rocketry, explosives expert, explosion addict, practising sex magician, OTO lodge leader, and mentor to L. Ron Hubbard. A week after he performed the Babalon Working ritual in the Mojave desert (against Crowley’s wishes), the remarkable Marjorie Cameron, a flame-haired visionary artist exactly matching the depiction of the goddess he’d invoked, knocked on his door and became his lover.

In my head there is a brilliant Hollywood biopic of Parsons. One sequence, amidst all the flame and fire and red desert smoke, shows Jack and Marjorie becoming Peter and Louise, flying through the night, lit by pale cold terrifying brilliance, howling wind, and mad passion, from the California desert to Thelema, Crowley’s judgement, and rebirth. The only aeroplane beautiful enough to carry them is the de Havilland Dragon Rapide.

David Piper is Commander of Special Operations for Hendrick’s Gin

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My favourite plane in 200 words #5: BAe 146 by Caroline Kiernan

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Keep your modern fighter planes, they’re just a noisy way to burn money. All they do nowadays is bomb – where’s the romance in that?

If I loved pewter and ale (and dressing up in my grandmother’s clothes) I might love old warbirds, but I don’t and I don’t.

Big airliners? You might as well be on a ferry. If I wanted to watch Jennifer Aniston movies while developing deep-vein thrombosis, I would have stayed in Eastbourne.

The ‘whisper-jet’ slips quietly from chic-city to city. A petite, elegant jet for those who know that understated is the only cool worth having.

She first flew the day that the Convention on the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women came into effect. In the same month the sensuous TGV train service began in France. She was born of a month of intelligence and quiet speed.

She colonised the skies above Dalston long before the shouting jumble-sale of fashionistas had set (ridiculous and self-aware) foot down below. She remains the aviation world’s quietly spoken traveller, not boasting of her hour in Geneva or evening in Berlin. And I love her (even if she took her first flight on the day Fearne Cotton was born).

Caroline Kiernan is a Casting Director and stunt-kite flyer

MY FAVOURITE AEROPLANE IN 200 WORDS #7 Lockheed Martin F-35 Lightning II by Jack Luttrell

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The Producers tells the story of a theatrical producer and an accountant who want to produce a Broadway flop. They borrow outrageous amounts from investors, knowing that nobody ‘follows the money’ after a failure. Following this, they planned to abscond to Brazil as millionaires.

The plan went badly wrong when the show turned out to be a surprise hit. Despite a pro-nazi theme and a terrible cast, it succeeded. How did they get wrong so wrong? Lockheed Martin and the Pentagon would take no such risks …

It must be made to fail, mustn’t it? Here are the golden rules of making a fighter, they have been proven repeatedly over the last 90 years (with few exceptions):

  1. Fighters must be fast and agile
  2. Never plan any aircraft as ‘multi-role’
  3. You can’t make a fighter out of a bomber
  4. Never rely on one unproven technology as a lynchpin

Space limits me from listing the others…the F-35 has broken ALL of them.

Has the F-35 been schemed by a joker seeking to high-light the insanity of military procurement? Or maybe somewhere there are two men in Hawaiian shirts packing suitcases? Either way the F-35 is my favourite comedy.

Hush-kit is reminding the world of the beauty of flight.

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MY FAVOURITE AEROPLANE IN 200 WORDS #8 Westland Wyvern by Ed Ward

ImageLike all the most interesting aircraft, the Wyvern was slightly obscure, not particularly successful, and quite dangerous. Weighing 650 pounds shy of a loaded Dakota it was nonetheless expected to operate off dinky 1950s RN carriers. Tellingly, its main claim to aviation immortality derives not from any superlative quality of the aeroplane itself but a desperate desire to escape it: the world’s first underwater ejection was from a Wyvern. Suffering from the standard post-war British aircraft ailments of lengthy development and unrealised potential but unlike such ‘world-beaters’ as the perennially overrated TSR.2, it did make it into service. Wyverns even flew strike missions over Suez.
But this is by the by, for the Wyvern remains the most fantastic looking airscrew driven aircraft ever to fly, a nose that goes on forever surmounted by contra-props, an elliptical Spitfire-esque wing, slightly cranked a la Corsair, a massive, elegantly curved fin and rudder that is impossible to draw properly (try it) combined with pretty elliptical tailplanes topped off with finlets. (Finlets!) Also it is a post-war FAA aircraft and therefore blessed with the most attractive camouflage scheme ever to grace a military aircraft.
Like its namesake, the Wyvern is unlikely, brutish and wonderful.
Ed Ward is an illustrator, writer, historian and regular Hush-Kit contributor (like the Wyvern, he is unlikely, brutish and wonderful)
See his fantastic artwork 
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MY FAVOURITE AEROPLANE IN 200 WORDS #9 Lockheed SR-71 Blackbird by Tim Robinson

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Sleek, supersonic and superbly sinister the Lockheed  SR-71 reconnaissance aircraft is in a class of its own in aviation terms.

Incredibly, its Mach 3+ performance at the edge of space (85,000ft) came nearly 20 years after 400mph propeller fighters were state-of-the-art in WW2 (its predecessor, the even faster A-12 , first flew in 1962). No wonder people thought we’d be living on Mars by 1980.

Even more astoundingly, this record-beating aircraft was designed using slide-rules, pencils and notepads. CFD computer analysis was unknown and that goes for all the aerodynamics, thermodynamics and one-off systems that the Blackbird incorporated. Pure engineering genius.

Today the US struggles to get a hypersonic scramjet to ignite and run for more than a few seconds at a time. But in the 1970s – Mach 3+ flight was routine for the Blackbird’s highflying spy missions, taunting Cold War enemies with its swiftness. Plus, just LOOK at it – from all angles it looks like an alien spaceship, not of this planet.

Other aircraft may be national icons, or perhaps have greater historical significance, but the SR-71 still looks like it belongs in the future. One day we’ll catch up with it.

By Tim Robinson, Aviation Journalist

 http://media.aerosociety.com/aerospace-insight/

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MY FAVOURITE AEROPLANE IN 200 WORDS #10 de Havilland Vampire by Luke Holt


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Fighter jets should inspire fear; their vicious appearance should carry some of the beastliness of their task. The Messerschmitt Me 262- a shallow-water killer, looked every inch the flying shark. The F-4 Phantom II was a flying ironclad, billowing satanic black smoke behind it. The de Havilland Vampire..well, it was cute. It didn’t look like it was going to kill anything, if anything it looked like it needed looking after.

Stand next to one and it will cower in your shadow: it is tiny. The happy dog-like nose, jelly bean of a fuselage and fragile twin-boom, give it a very friendly appearance. Over 3,000 were built and today over 20 remain displayed in public places. The eccentric little Vampire seems to enjoy these retirement shows, and even in these conditions it retains its perkiness. Some aircraft become sad lonely hulks when consigned to a life on a display pole, but the plucky Vampire has enough personality to remain positively zingy. I was delighted to stumble upon one in a small park in Switzerland in 1988.

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The Vampire was more agile, cheaper and longer-ranged than the Meteor. More importantly, the Vampire was the cheekiest little jet fighter ever made.

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11. Bristol 188

The 188 was built to fulfil requirement ER.134. This was intended to support a very high-speed bomber, the Avro 730. When the 730 was cancelled in 1957, work on the 188 continued.

The 188 was built to fulfil requirement ER.134. This was intended to support a very high-speed bomber, the Avro 730. When the 730 was cancelled in 1957, work on the 188 continued.I love the incapable and that’s why I love the Bristol 188. Britain’s ‘SR-71’, was a ‘double-barrelled’ monster made to explore prolonged flight at over Mach 2.6. Aluminium cannot tolerate the heats experienced at such high speeds, so what material should be used? Faced with the same problem, the US chose titanium for the triumphant SR-71 Blackbird.Britain had better ideas, and built the 188 from far heavier stainless steel. Instead of adapting the powerful Olympus engine, the rather weedy Gyron was selected.

The Bristol 188 was slower than the RAF’s top fighter of the time the EE Lightning (lined up on the ground). If the 188 had been built from titanium and powered by the Olympus or Avon it may have achieved its goals. The US’ SR-71was built to spy on the Soviet Union, ironically the titanium it was built from was secretly-sourced from the very country it was made to spy on! It didn’t fly until 14 April 1962 (twelve days before the Lockheed A-12, precursor to the SR-71). The 188 proved barely able to get to Mach 2, let alone flying for extended periods at 2.6. Since its commission in 1954 the project had become the most expensive British research aircraft ever made. It failed to carry out its only job. 

Two years after the 188’s first flight, the USSR succeeded in producing a high-speed aircraft from steel; the MiG-25 was capable of flight at speeds exceeding Mach 2.8. 

Alexander Shchemelev is an engineering historian

12. McDonnell Douglas/Boeing F-15C Eagle by Scott Bachmeier

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What is wrong with you Europeans? Half of the airplanes written about here as favorites are ‘quirky’ or ‘flawed’? I like things because they’re the best, not because they’re crap.

The F-15 Eagle has been the world’s best fighter since it entered frontline USAF service in 1976… I hear you spitting out your martinis as you read that. You leap to your feet. “RAPTOR!” you scream, the buttons on your cardigan exploding off in fury.

I disagree.

The F-22 is the flash, top-of-the-range guitar hanging on a $900 rack on the wall of a wannabe rockstar. It’s too pricey to be played, what if it was scratched?

The F-15 on the other hand is the battered old Fender that has proved time and time again its power to rock the joint. The F-15 is longer-ranged than the F-22, it has better short-range air-to-air missiles (X-Rays)..more vitally, it has a helmet system that can target designate- an entry-level technology that even F-16s have. It has an unprecedented kill-to-loss ratio of 104/0. Nothing else has anything approaching that.

Viva La Eagle!

PS my wife is European.

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13. Kalinin K-7 By Oleksandra Bondarenka

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The Kalinin K-7 was a cathedral, a battleship- all of the brutality and ambition and darkness and hope of the Soviet Union wrought into a vast bomber. Engines were fitted and it was time to test them. The machine began to vibrate wildly, as if each part longed to leave this monster and become autonomous once again. The machine’s wishes were ignored and the mechanical surgeons brought in. At night welders sparked. Crude steel bracing encased the siamese bodies of the booms.

The 11th August 1933 and the population of Kharkov looked up in mutual awe. An uncanny eclipse powered by seven droning engines. Had Kharkov fortress scorned its comrades and become an angel? No, this was man-made.

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The uncanny bird flew on. Each flight it moaned and moaned. On the ninth flight it got its wish and its back broke. It shook itself to pieces.

Semerenko survived. “I counted 15-20 major shudders. Suddenly, to the noise of running engines was added the sound of the left tail boom braking apart.. I was waiting for the end. Controls were still locked still dead. Smash…”  He was one of 5 survivors. 15 onboard were killed. The designer, Kalakin was later executed.

Then silence. Only the sound of the sea, chewing away at the edge of the rocky beach, where the bits and pieces of the Iron Man lay scattered far and wide.”

Ted Hughes, The Iron Man

14. Dassault Mirage III by HP Morvan

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Marcel Bloch was imprisoned in Buchenwald concentration camp for eight months. The aircraft industrialist had refused to collaborate with the nazis, even when threatened with hanging. He survived and was reborn as Marcel Dassault, a surname derived from the French for ‘battle-tank’. Following her liberation, France would never again undervalue the fighter plane. Accordingly the air force released a fighter specification in 1953, demanding unprecedented levels of performance. Dassault responded with the futuristic Mirage I. A modestly updated ‘II’ was considered, before Dassault leapt to the bigger, faster and better-armed Mirage III.

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The delta-wing is a symbol of this era of speed- an arrow pointing to the future. By 1958 the Mirage III had comfortably exceeded Mach 2, the first European aeroplane to do so.

Dassault stated that for an airplane to fly well, first it must look good. The Mirage is certainly gorgeous, but it is far more and proved itself innumerable times in combat.

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Its polished aluminium body and red-painted air intakes are the epitome of an era of excess, daring technology and (popular) achievements in aerospace. Elegance is key. It is a glorious symbol of France’s renewed independence.

For me it conjures up memories of watching my uncle’s childhood TV series, The Aeronauts, and reading the Adventures of Tanguy & Laverdure. A la chasse…

by HP Morvan, reader in applied fluid mechanics, research engineer & aero-fan.

MY FAVOURITE AEROPLANE IN 200 WORDS #15 Boeing 777

by Sotirios Bahtsetzis
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She accused me of being unromantic and I knew sooner or later, my boring ways would leave her cold.

Not on my watch.

After checking in depth to find the best price, I planned an irresistible display of the piratically exciting nature of my love for her. She was curating a show in New York (I live in London) and would not be expecting a visit. I would cruise unbidden to Newark, and in the snow of Central Park present her with the ring. Engraved with our favourite line from our favourite song. We would be engaged and take the city in before we flew back together.

In theory.

Two hours after we met in New York, I was single. I sat stunned at Newark, trying to summon up the will to eat what was optimistically described as a sandwich. Flight delayed. Singled out at security. Board. Sleep. I woke up high above the Atlantic. Felt calm. Knowing no-one knew where I was, high above the Atlantic at night. Above the bottomless dark of the water. Cradled in the belly of a 777. I didn’t want to feel anything, just the perfection of the 777 carrying me away from the pain.

Sotirios Bahtsetzis is heartbroken

MY FAVOURITE AEROPLANE in 200 WORDS #16 C-130 HERCULES by Eamon Hamilton

The mother of the last C-130 Hercules pilot hasn’t been born yet.

Dwell on that thought. The prototype C-130 flew in 1954, the same year that Monroe married DiMaggio, and Murrow unravelled McCarthy. Competitors have come and gone, and yet the Hercules will fly on its centenary.

More startling is how little it has changed since Lockheed’s Willis Hawkins drafted it in 1951 – and it was hardly a revolution then.

Germany coined the modern airlifter layout with the Ar-232 in 1941. America followed with the C-123 in 1949, and Britain with the Beverley in 1950.

The famous Kelly Johnson warned Lockheed that the C-130 would ruin the company. Instead, its had the longest running military aircraft production in history.

That history is filled with stunning highs and lows.  The thrilling success of Entebbe.  The bitter disappointment of Desert One. Saving Batman in The Dark Knight.

Ignore anyone who tells you the insides are a failure of 1954 ergonomics. The thrum of turboprops has either lullabied me to sleep when I needed it, or been the soundtrack to some of the best flights of my life.

So be nice to the pregnant lady on the street. Her future grandkids might be Herky drivers.

Eamon Hamilton, Public Affairs, Royal Australian Air Force. Follow on Twitter @eamonhamilton

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MY FAVOURITE AEROPLANE IN 200 WORDS #17 Panavia Tornado ADV by Gary Burton

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It’s normal to go for someone who is the opposite of your last lover. The RAF certainly did when they put the Tornado ADV into service. It was very much an anti-Lightning. The Lightning was fast-climbing, agile (for its time) and happy up high. It was also poorly armed (a mere two, completely geriatric, missiles), had a radar little better than the naked eye and had enough range to scare the birds away, so the Phantoms could be scrambled. The Tornado ADV was the complete opposite, a tough bomber crammed inelegantly into the high-heels of a fighter.

It was a swiz from the start. The British had to deliberately mislead the other partners (West Germany and Italy), telling them it would involve tiny alterations to the baseline IDS, to get it accepted. It was very different, but suffered for its bomber lineage. The engines were optimised for low-level fight and were terrible for the interception mission. We were told its lack of agility was not an issue as it would be picking off bombers at beyond-visual ranges (tell that to the ‘Flanker’ escorts).

But, just look at it, a very British Tomcat: a noble, towering fighter- what a beauty!

Gary Burton is a musician and a lover of loud things

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MY FAVOURITE AEROPLANE IN 200 WORDS #18 Fairey Barracuda by Matt Willis

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The Fairey Barracuda. Unloved – derided even. Unattractive, certainly. Subject of more derogatory songs than any other aircraft. “You must remember this… A Barra’s poor as piss…

But the Barracuda doesn’t need your sympathy. It may have looked like an accident that had just happened… early on, too many accidents did happen… but the Barracuda hit the enemy like few other types.

Historian Norman Polmar called the Barracuda ‘almost useless as an attack aircraft’. Yet this ‘almost useless’ aircraft sunk 40,000 tons of shipping in 10 months, crippled Germany’s most powerful battleship, and equipped 26 front-line squadrons over a 10-year career.

The Albacore and Swordfish were obsolete as strike aircraft by 1943, so the Barracuda became available none too soon. The Mediterranean war ended as the Barra arrived, but in Northern latitudes it was just the aircraft needed. Barracudas carried out devastating attacks on German convoys and put the Tirpitz out of the war for months by pinpoint dive bombing. In the Far East it was almost the right aircraft… asthmatic in the hot climate, it still achieved success against targets in the East Indies. It then served quietly, but well into the 1950s. The Barracuda deserves your respect.

Matt Willis, @navalairhistory

MY FAVOURITE AEROPLANE IN 200 WORDS #19 McDonnell Douglas RF-4C Phantom II by Gareth Stringer

I grew up in Hertfordshire, an area that sees very little active military traffic, which meant that
family holidays to the likes of East Anglia, and of course the airshow season, were the main means
by which my desire to see fast jets in the flesh, were satisfied.

Sometimes however, my Dad could be persuaded to take me on a day trip so we could hang out by
a perimeter fence somewhere and see what came our way, camera at the ready. By far the easiest
place for such a visit was RAF Alconbury, near Huntingdon, home to USAFE RF-4Cs, as well as
TR-1s and F-5Es.

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The first time we visited, the resident ‘Rhinos’ had some friends visiting, more RF-4Cs, from Shaw
AFB in the USA, an incredible piece of good fortune. Those smoky, reconnaissance Phantoms were
in the circuit all day and we got the lot – run and breaks, burner overshoots, singletons, pairs and
four-ships. I’ll never forget it.

I love the Phantom, full-stop, but the RF-4C will always occupy a special place in my heart.

The Alconbury-based jets, along with their colleagues from the 26TRW at Zweibrücken AFB in
Germany were regular sights in the UK – how I miss them!

Gareth Stringer, Editor of www.globalaviationresource.com

MY FAVOURITE AEROPLANE IN 200 WORDS #20 SEPECAT Jaguar by Bryce Gillam

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Until that day I hated low-flying aircraft. Like many I saw them as a reminder of how daft the English are.

I was not the best-looking boy in my village (or even in my house as my dad kindly reminds me). I was a straggly half-hearted Mod.

Lowri  lived two streets down from me and was so good-looking I wasn’t sure if I had the right to speak to her.

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When I did, it felt a little naughty, like drawing a knob on the Wailing Wall or making a lion wear a bobble-hat. How dare I waste her time? So it came as an unbelievably wonderful surprise when on the 30th June 1986, me and Lowri had sex.

Afterwards we had a post-coital beer and gazed down the hills that led to Dolgellau. As the first sip met my lips, a Jaguar gambolled through the valleys. It was as joyful as I was and surfed from side-to-side like a marble on a helter-skelter.

Since then, I love the Jaguar jet (so much so, that I even travelled to London in 2010, to see Fiona Banner’s show, which featured one offering its belly to be tickled).

Bryce Gillam is an illustrator who has yet to finish his website. His other failures include being a stand-up comedian without a booking agent.
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21. Boeing 737

Let’s forget Boeing’s dark side– that its aircraft have killed more people than those of any other manufacturer: in the 1940s B-17 Flying Fortresses battered Germany; the B-29 Superfortress incinerated Japanese cities and made Hiroshima and Nagasaki place names we’re all aware of; the crumple-skinned B-52 was the dreadnought of the 1960s, nicknamed the BUFF (standing for Big Ugly Fat Fucker) it battered seven shades of crap out of North Vietnam

But as I said, forget this.

I don’t know if you’re white. I don’t know if you’ve had a homosexual experience, or whether you’re a Capricorn with a dirt-bike. What I do know is that you’ve flown on a 737. Everybody has.

Seven weeks before Sgt. Pepper was released, the Boeing 737 first flew. Since then, production of the airliner has never ceased. Think about that.

There are 1,700 737s flying right now. One takes off or lands every two seconds. They have carried more than 15.6 billion passengers. 737s brought in truly affordable flying, they have reunited families and taken millions of couples on their honeymoons. It is the most important aeroplane in the world and you should know about it. Google it.

Clementine Norton is currently single.

22. Aérospatiale-BAC Concorde by Mark Broadbent

Coming soon

23. Mikoyan MiG-31 by Alex Eybozhenko

Any nation with the suicidal urge to invade the Russia Federation would have to answer to the Mikoyan MiG-31. At maximum speed the MiG-31 is uncatchable, travelling an incredible fifty kilometres a minute. Not only is it the fastest fighter in the world, but it is armed with the longest range air to-air missiles, the Phoenix-like R-33.

With the TKS-2 secure data-link a wolf-pack of four MiG-31s can share targeting data and cut a 800 km wide swathe of airspace. The centre of the weapon system is the powerful Zaslon radar, which was the world’s first electronically scanning fighter radar. The weapon system is highly automated; a test pilot charged with destroying four widely spaced target drones, commented that “It was too easy, almost disgustingly so.”

Weeks after an announcement by a US spokesman that the USSR was incapable of destroying cruise missiles in flight, a MiG-31 proved him wrong with an impressive live fire demonstration. For close-in engagements it is armed with the GSh-6-23 cannon, capable of spitting out 8,500 rounds per minute (the highest rate of any aircraft gun).

..and the Mikoyan MiG-31 is big. Very big. In fact a fully-loaded MiG-31 weighs around the same as six fully-loaded MiG-21s!

Alex Eybozhenko, painter & decorator

MY FAVOURITE AEROPLANE IN 200 WORDS #24 Saab 37 Viggen by Alice Dryden

Your friend is running an aviation role-playing game. You need a character and an aircraft, and you don’t want to be British or American because everyone else is.

You remember an airshow, early 1990s, you and your dad gazing at a silver fighter with unusual wings. You say: OK, my pilot is Swedish, his name’s Lars, and he flies a Saab Viggen.

The more you research your chosen plane, the more you’re smitten. It can take off and land on motorways! It’s technically a biplane! You build the 1:144 Revell kit; find the Matchbox model at a boot sale. You visit the Gothenburg Aeroseum and sit in that huge, high cockpit, in a Cold War hangar hacked from solid rock.

In 2012, the Swedish Air Force Historic Flight restore their Viggen to flying condition and announce a display at Sanicole Airshow in Belgium. On your birthday.

So on a sunny September Sunday you watch that silver fighter rise on the lift from its delta wing and canard foreplane, showing off its unique silhouette for you just like twenty years ago, and you learn that this particular Viggen was actually made in the year of your birth.

It’s your birthday Viggen.

MY FAVOURITE AEROPLANE IN 200 WORDS #25 de Havilland DH 106 Comet by Margaret Coogan

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The Douglas DC-3 was the dominant airliner in the late 1940s, and it had a top speed of 180 miles per hour. Britain’s de Havilland company, in an act of incredible audacity, were working on an airliner more than two and half times as fast (480 mph).  This enormous leap was thanks to a hot new technology- the jet engine. However, the vast majority of airlines were not interested. The jet technology of the time offered superior speeds, but at a massive price, in both development, procurement and running costs. The new jet aircraft would be very expensive, so the air carriers looked instead to the DC-7, a super efficient piston-engined aircraft.

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In 1949 the world fell in love. The Comet flew on 27 July 1949 and astonished onlookers with both its performance and its angelic, futuristic beauty. It entered commercial service, with BOAC, on 2 May 1952 and proved a triumph. Passengers were enamoured by its quietness and smoothness. Vitally, it was also turning a profit. Fortune magazine declared that “1953 is the year of the Coronation and the Comet”.

In 1954, Comets began crashing. An investigation determined the causes and an improved Comet was built. But, by this time, Britain had lost her lead.

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Margaret Coogan is an historian specialising in post-war Britain

MY FAVOURITE AEROPLANE IN 200 WORDS #26 Sud-Est Baroudeur by Michael Fleet

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The Fiat G.91 is the Kevin Bacon of European aviation: every military aircraft that followed can be linked to it very easily, normally in one or two degrees of separation. The Sud-Est Baroudeur is no exception to this rule.

Aeroplane designers hate wheels. Wheels are for cars. The weight and complexity of a retractable undercarriage is a huge nuisance. Why not do away with them altogether? The Nazi Germans were very keen on this idea and built a series of aeroplanes that took off from trolleys. The aircraft would uncouple itself from the trolley as it took-off, the trolley remaining behind on the runway. The aeroplane would land on simple skids.

SE.5000 Baroudeur

A trolley take-off would free an aeroplane from the need for vast, vulnerable runways. It was far easier to achieve than vertical take-off and landing. And so it was that the Sud-Est SE.5000 Baroudeur (‘adventurer’) took its first flight on 1 August 1953.

It was superb. Trolley take-offs proved effortless, skid landings a delight (even in crosswinds). It could be rapidly rearmed and refuelled, and would have made a superb tactical fighter. A souped-up version was offered for a NATO competition, but lost out to the Fiat G.91.

Michael Fleet is currently researching spatial disorientation

Follow my vapour trail on Twitter@Hush_kit

Alice Dryden [http://www.alice.dryden.co.uk] appreciates well-built Scandinavians.

MY FAVOURITE AEROPLANE IN 200 WORDS #27 by Oscar Rickett

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Aeroplanes are indecipherable to most of us. They loom, like giant birds above us, ploughing through the sky like a tank through a garden fence. Unlike most of the people who read this site (I imagine), I don’t know how planes work. I even visited an exhibition about the Wright Brothers (in Rockford, Illinois) and came away none the wiser, despite there being an exact replica of the Wright Flyer II there, accompanied by a detailed diagram that let the visitor know exactly how the thing worked. “Whatever”, I thought, “it’s witchcraft”. I still feel like Conan O’Brien in his 1860s baseball re-enactment sketch, shouting “What ho! What is that demonry?” at a passing plane.

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That’s why the simple, uncomplicated paper plane is my favourite form of flying vehicle [not usually used as vehicle- Ed]. They make sense to me, though I can barely fashion one myself. I know what they are made of and they travel at a speed I can understand. They are aerodynamic, a word I do not properly understand. Perhaps it is a memory of lost innocence although, to be honest, my school days weren’t full of carefree paper plane flying. That kind of thing seems to only exist in the pages of Just William but maybe we have a collective consciousness that, when faced with something like a paper plane, evokes happy schoolyard days. I can’t tell you too much about that but I can tell you that if I saw a paper plane now, well, I just might smile. Smile, and then cry for a childhood I never had.

Oscar Rickett writes regularly for Vice and has written for The Observer, The Sunday Times and Time Out, among others. You can read some of his articles here http://www.vice.com/en_uk/author/oscar-rickett and follow him on Twitter here https://twitter.com/oscarrickettnow

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MY FAVOURITE AEROPLANE IN 200 WORDS #28: Yakovlev Yak-1 by Anna Morózova

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There have only ever been two female fighter aces: ‘Katya’ Budanova and Lydia Litvyak. These two Soviet air force pilots fought in World War II, battling Germany’s Luftwaffe over Stalingrad.

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Litvyak was a lover of flowers, and she painted a white lily on the side of her Yakovlev Yak-1 fighter, leading to her popular title- the ‘White Lily of Stalingrad’.  Her good friend and comrade, Budanova, was a cheerful, energetic woman. For a time they fought in an all-female fighter unit, an elite force equipped with the Yak-1. Another operator of the formidable Yak was the Normandie-Niemen, a Free French fighter squadron (later three), that fought on the Eastern Front with Soviet forces. An official statement from this ferocious unit to the female Soviet pilots read:  “If we could pick all the flowers of the earth and lay them at your feet, they would not suffice as recognition of your valour.”

The Yak-1 spawned the Yak-3, -7 and -9, and if they are counted together as one aircraft type (there is more similarity between a Yak-1 and 9, than there is between a Spitfire Mk. I and F Mk. 24), it is the most produced fighter in history (as noted by Bill Gunston), with over 37,000 built.

Anna Morózova is studying history in Russia

MY FAVOURITE AEROPLANE IN 200 WORDS #29: BAC Jet Provost

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Like me, I’m sure that many youngsters with an aviation interest grew up dreaming of flying the fast jets.  Also like me, I’ll wager that many never stopped long to think about the learning involved in flying those fast jets. I didn’t give it much thought until I spent time at RAF Linton-on-Ouse, where I met, and fell in love with, the Jet Provost, or ‘Jay Pee’ as she is forever to be known. Pleasing to the eye and a joy to fly, the JP was a product of the heyday of British aviation. It was a development of the piston-engined Provost, and one of the final designs from Hunting Percival Aircraft, before the company became part of the powerful British Aircraft Corporation (BAC).

Sadly, this site will pause operations in June if it does not hit its funding targets. If you’ve enjoyed an article you can donate here.

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First flown in 1954 she trained thousands of future front line pilots and I have yet to meet a JP pilot, either past or present, who doesn’t enjoy flying with her. She was so popular with pilots that a weapons capable version was developed, called the Strikemaster. Sadly the type was retired in 1993 but many found their way into the hands of civilian pilots. Most are privately owned and sometimes are displayed at airshows. If you ever get an offer to fly in one, take it!

Lorne ‘Moth’ Murphy, pilot and photographer 
See Moth’s blog here

Pre-order your copy of The Hush-Kit Book of Warplanes here

The Hush-Kit Book of Warplanes is a beautifully designed, highly visual, collection of the best articles from the fascinating world of military aviation –hand-picked from the highly acclaimed Hush-kit online magazine (and mixed with a heavy punch of new exclusive material). It is packed with a feast of material, ranging from interviews with fighter pilots (including the English Electric Lightning, stealthy F-35B and Mach 3 MiG-25 ‘Foxbat’), to wicked satire, expert historical analysis, top 10s and all manner of things aeronautical, from the site described as

HUSHKITPLANES_SPREADS4_4.jpg“the thinking-man’s Top Gear… but for planes”.

The solid well-researched information about aeroplanes is brilliantly combined with an irreverent attitude and real insight into the dangerous romantic world of combat aircraft.

HUSHKITPLANES_SPREADS4_6.jpg

FEATURING

  • Interviews with pilots of the F-14 Tomcat, Mirage, Typhoon, MiG-25, MiG-27, English Electric Lighting, Harrier, F-15, B-52 and many more.
  • Engaging Top (and bottom) 10s including: Greatest fighter aircraft of World War II, Worst British aircraft, Worst Soviet aircraft and many more insanely specific ones.
  • Expert analysis of weapons, tactics and technology.
  • ssdd.jpg
  • A look into art and culture’s love affair with the aeroplane.
  • Bizarre moments in aviation history.
  • Fascinating insights into exceptionally obscure warplanes.
  •  Pre-order your copy here. 

MY FAVOURITE AEROPLANE IN 200 WORDS #31 Saab JAS 39 Gripen by Joanna Sjölander

“My flying experience in Gripen pushed me over the edge forever” Joanna Sjölander

I’ve always appreciated machines with plentiful horsepower.

I’ve sighed longingly upon seeing power measured in numbers. Power displayed in courageous designs. I have dreamt about Lamborghinis and Koenigseggs…

…though I usually get more excited about things I can actually get my hands on. So a whole new playground of the mind opened up, when I realised that these objects of desire did not have to be on four wheels: nothing embodied all of these traits better than Gripen.

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The more I learned about how it, the more I fell in love. And the more I got involved in its story and shaping its future, the more devoted I was.

My flying experience in Gripen pushed me over the edge forever.

You have no idea how smart and how efficient the design teams at Saab are in their very creative work. As a part of an engineering body, they are constantly calculating and testing the boundaries. In a humble workshop, they sweat away, because they have to. Because there is always limited time, limited resources and limited leverage. But working with limitations is something the Swedes excel at. The result is a handsome beast, with an efficiency that is envied by all. But only a lucky few get to truly enjoy it.

Joanna Sjölander, a dedicated Gripen fan and once in a lifetime Gripen pilot

Coming soon to Hush-Kit, Joanna describes her fantastic Gripen flight in detail.

If you enjoyed this, you may get a thrill from this love letter to Swedish aeroplanes or this Viggen tribute.

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MY FAVOURITE AEROPLANE IN 200 WORDS #32 Pitts Special by Lauren Richardson

Lauren Richardson enjoying the world upside-down.

Lauren Richardson enjoying the world upside-down.

I love the Pitts Special – she has taught me more about my own nature and abilities than anything else in life ever has. Demanding and capable, this little beast will talk to you, guide you and help you through – she is almost viceless in the way she handles.

No single aircraft has so easily defined the nature of true fun flying and aerial acrobatics over the years as the iconic Pitts Special. Designed way back in the early 1940s by the American legend, Curtiss Pitts, this little biplane is still competitive in the world of aerobatics, even today!

Donate to the Hush-Kit blog if you love aircraft- buttons above and below.

 Betty Skelton rocking the Pitts!

Betty Skelton rocking the Pitts!

The Pitts is also something special to all women in aerobatics – look back at the early days with Betty Skelton and Caro Bailey being the very best in what was also the very best aeroplane.

Beautiful and purposeful, carrying a great deal of joyful performance, whatever this aircraft may lack it more than makes up for in character.

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With symmetrical wings, the S1S is just as happy to view the world turned upside-down as ‘the right way up’. The world looks very different and perhaps more beautiful when you have to look up to see it.

 

Lauren Richardson, is Britain’s top female aerobatic pilot. She would love to display for you, offering you an unforgettable glimpse of the powerful and dynamic world in which she operates . Lauren is also the founder of the founder of The Aerobatic Project
 

Find out about the latest Hush-Kit articles on Twitter: @Hush_kit

Who was Sweden’s flying farm girl?

MY FAVOURITE AEROPLANE IN 200 WORDS #33 Cessna 172 by Jakob Whitfield

I couldn’t tell you my favourite aircraft type – how to choose? But I could immediately tell you my favourite individual aircraft: on the 14th of September 2002 a Cessna 172, N9017H, won my heart. I’m probably not alone; with over 48,000 built, the 172 is the most produced aircraft in history (I just asked Cessna so I know this figure is right).

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I encountered my Skyhawk on a summer internship in the US as a local flying school was offering a half-hour taster lesson for $49. The control panel seemed somehow familiar (as a teenager I’d clocked up countless hours flying Cessnas in Microsoft Flight Simulator on my ancient PC).

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As we taxied out I realised that real flight offered an excitement that simulations could not even hint at. Everything was pure sensation- every bump and movement through the seat. Pedestrian though the Skyhawk might seem to some, for the duration of two circuits and bumps I was transformed. I was Blake, the pagan bird-man from JG Ballard’s story ‘The Unlimited Dream Company’. I was a godling at one with the aircraft.

Landing was as much an emotional as a physical come-down.

I never had a second lesson; Lack of funds and my return home meant a return to silicon-bound flying. But I still smile whenever I see a 172.

Jakob Whitfield has been obsessed with aeroplanes from a very early age. He keeps an occasional blog about the history of technology at http://thrustvector.wordpress.com

34. Avro Canada C.102 Jetliner by Stephen Caulfield

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In the turbulent 1970s there was a saying about Canada: we could have had French food, British government and American technology but instead we wound up with American food, French government and British technology.  Well, this over-populated, over-heated world has pretty much gone to shit and now everybody everywhere is up to their neck in cheap plastic crap made in China.  Yes, times change and the potential greatness just swirls off like some beautiful chemtrail in a carbon-laced sky.  Take the Avro Canada C.102 Jetliner, a four-Derwent airliner prototype from 1949. Ahead of the Boeing 707, the Jetliner was Canada’s first jet design and North America’s first jet airliner.  It was the premier regional jet, beating the Sud Aviation Caravelle by a decade and Bombardier by a lifetime.  The C.102 carried the first ever jet air mail: Toronto to New York City in an hour.  Howard Hughes took it for a spin, loved it so much he leased it for six months.  Damn English carpet-baggers running Avro Canada dropped this handsome, commercially promising bird to soak the RCAF budget with the CF-100 instead.  Good work federal government, Trans Canada Airlines and Avro Canada.  It was the perfect prelude to the capable, expensive and cruelly quashed CF-105 Arrow.

So where is the C.102 now? Well, the nose is in a museum in Ottawa. Oh, and the landing gear ended up on a farm wagon some place.
Stephen Caulfield cleans limousines around the corner from what was once the Avro Canada plant.  He appreciates writing, art, aeroplanes and the tragic nature of modernity in pretty much equal parts these days.  His blog is www.suburban-poverty.com

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MY FAVOURITE AEROPLANE IN 200 WORDS #36: Lockheed F-117 Nighthawk by David Vanderhoof

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Alone, unafraid, the glow of CRTs and a prayer you won’t be seen.

A fighter that wasn’t a fighter.  A black project that was in fact black.  The F-117A was all of this.

The arrowhead shaped aircraft was the tip of the spear.  One man alone in the darkest hours before dawn only armed with two 2000 pound laser guided bombs and the technology not to be seen by RADAR.   The ‘117 made Stealth from black to light.  It became the face of the first Gulf War.

59 F-117As were built entirely by hand. Each a living, breathing machine, had its own personality. No one would call the stinkbug pretty.  But everyone is beautiful when you turn out the lights.

It took a lot to fly the aircraft physically, mentally, and emotionally. Three men died trying to learn the aircraft: spatial disorientation at night the cause.  Your first flight was your first solo, and at night. And when you got your Bandit call sign you couldn’t tell anyone.

Stealth now is a commonplace word. November 8, 1988 warfare changed, a new shape had appeared. That shape has returned home to Tonopah Range where it all began, retired.  Or is it?

By David M. Vanderhoof, The Airplane Geeks Podcast Co-Host & Plane Crazy Down Under’s Historian in Residence.

Hush-kit is reminding the world of the beauty of flight.

follow my vapour trail on Twitter@Hush_kit

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38. Capelis XC-12 by Nick Pardo

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It seems unsporting to mock anything Greek at the moment. But, this is about a Greek-American ‘achievement’.. and I’m half-Greek, so I guess it’s OK.

The Capelis XC-12 of 1933 was described in a 1973 letter to Air Enthusiast from John H.Murphy thus “The airplane was designed by Greeks, built by Greeks, and the venture was promoted by a Greek- and every Greek restaurateur on the West Coast stuck a few bucks in.. it succeeded in breaking just about every law of common sense, the Aeronautics Bureau of the Department of Commerce, and those of nature, including gravity” self-tapping screws were used, which shook themselves loose during flight “And its performance? Lousy- depending on how many screws were loose”.

But it had unexpected glory.. as a film star! It featured in the following films: Five Came Back (1939) Flying Tigers (1942), flown by John Wayne, Invisible Agent (1942), Night Plane from Chungking (1943), Action in Arabia (1944) and Dick Tracy’s Dilemma 1947 (models of it featured in even more films).

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If the Capelis XC-12 teaches us anything- it’s that success sometimes come in unexpected ways. Alternatively, it may teach us that when designing an aeroplane, it’s probably best to use an experienced team of aeronautical engineers.

 

Nick Pardo

Film aficionado and reluctant Capricorn, he strongly recommend you check out this blog

38. Antonov An-225 ‘Mriya’

Antonov_An-225_front_viewCredit: Paul Smit

There is only one An-225. Not even enough to breed.

I recently watched an American documentary on the Antonov An-225 and was drowned in hyperbole relating to the aircraft’s size. It’s the biggest, but I don’t want to bore you by telling you how many blue whale tits would fit inside it or how many buses stacked up would equal it or any of that; it is the appearance of the machine that I love – SIX ENGINES, the best-looking tail of any aircraft since the P-61 and a comically multi-wheeled main gear all add up to make a very special aircraft.

As a brattish child prodigy once pointed out to Alan Partridge,’You can’t have gradations of uniqueness.’, something is either unique or isn’t, and the sole An-225 is indeed unique. There is an incomplete second An-225 in Kiev that Russia was eyeing up as a potential mothership for its next generation spaceplane. But considering the relationship between Russia and Ukraine, the An-225 – like other freakishly oversized birds before it-  may one day (in the next twenty years or so) become extinct.

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Find out about the latest Hush-Kit articles on Twitter: @Hush_kit

My favourite aeroplane in 200 words #39: Vought Vindicator

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The Vought Vindicator isn’t a superstar. It didn’t set any records, it didn’t win any major battles and it wasn’t famous in its own time. It was the first monoplane to equip a US Navy squadron, but by the time World War II rolled around it had largely been superseded by more advanced planes. It wasn’t particularly well-liked by its pilots; they called it names like the “wind indicator” and the “vibrator”. So why, then, does the Vindicator hold such a special place in my mind? Partly for for that very reason. Flying for the US Marine Corps and the French Navy, Vindicators played their part in the early stages of World War II despite insurmountable odds. At the battle of Midway, Captain Richard Fleming won a posthumous Medal of Honor flying a Vindicator, and French Navy Vindicators flew perilous raids against the advancing Germans. We tend to gloss over the support players in history, the ones who for whatever reason never become truly famous despite contributing their share to its outcome. But as the Vindicator shows, even the most seemingly insignificant figures have their stories to tell. So here’s to the Vindicator—and the underdog in all of us.

— Gray Stanback, college student and aviation enthusiast 

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My favourite aeroplane in 200 words #40: North American 0-47

101st_Observation_Squadron_O-47.jpg“Favourites?  Mustang, Spitfire, yeah…boring.  Mythologies rather than experiences. The closest any of us have gotten to the royalty of the air are plastic models or a glimpse at an airshow.

Not me.  As a kid, I spent hours surrounded by the scent of aluminium, old oil, and rubber… in my own plane.

It was an 0-47.

The 0-47 was so anonymous that the Army didn’t even give it a name.

No Storch, no Lystander, just a number.  Starting with a Zed.

North American built 250, a tiny number… [for America]   

No guns, it was designed to observe with a mile long greenhouse on top and a fat belly underneath with camera ports.

It was my airplane.

On a sleepy country airport one sat derelict axle deep in weeds.  Just a mile of walking, carrying a camp stool for the missing pilot seat, my sister and my best friend could fly to Europe destroy the Axis.

The pilot’s stick still waggled the bare ailerons who, like rudder, it’s yaw buddy, had lost their fabric years ago.

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No cowling, prop, nor glass in the canopy, but deep inside it’s green cavernous interior, sitting at the observer’s station, the two camera port doors could be cranked open pushing the weeds aside to reveal the Japanese fleet..

The 90 degree Oklahoma Summer, the sound of cicadas, and this thing that once flew, were a 10 year old’s perfect day.

There is a flying example in California.  Now, for me as a pilot, the need is great…”

– Jack Murphy

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

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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.

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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.)

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42. Martin-Baker MB3

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Despite never entering service, the MB3 has been indirectly responsible for saving 7553 lives (and counting). Friends and partners, James Martin and Valentine Baker had been designing unconventional monoplanes since the early 1930s. From the start they believed that aircraft should be as simple as possible. The MB3 was their response to a wartime RAF requirement for a fast, heavily armed, fighter. Formidably furnished with six 20-mm cannon, it was also designed for ease of maintenance and manufacture (unlike the Spitfire). Tests flights, which started on 31st August 1942, proved it was both highly manoeuvrable and easy to fly. Its top speed of 415 mph was a touch faster than the contemporary Spitfire Mk VIII. The main load-bearing structures were constructed of heavy tubing (or built-up spars) so it would have been able to survive greater battle damage than an equivalent stressed skin aircraft. It was not to be however: on a test flight on 12th September 1942, the engine failed soon after take-off, and the MB3 crashed in a field and killed its pilot, Capt. V Baker. Though the team had been investigating the idea of escape seats since 1934, it was Baker’s death that motivated Martin to focus exclusively on ejection seats.

–– Lucy Bentham 

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

My favourite aeroplane in 200 words #43: Mikoyan-Gurevich MiG-105

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In 1965 the Soviet Union started a top secret project lead by the engineer Gleb Lozino-Lozinskiy. Known as ‘Spiral’, its aim was to build a spaceplane that could have been used for a variety of purposes including aerial reconnaissance, space rescue, satellite maintenance, and as a space interceptor to sabotage enemy satellites. Yes, I did say ‘space interceptor’, but let’s add another element of excitement: it was to be launched from the back of a Mach 6 mothership (to be built by Tupolev). Once thrown into the air by the mothership, its own detachable rocket would boost it into space. The  MiG-105 was built as a research aircraft in support of the Spiral, to demonstrate landings (made on skids) and low speed handling. It made its first subsonic free-flight in 1976, taking off under its own power from an old airstrip near Moscow. It made only eight flights before the project was cancelled in favour of the Buran, a knock-off of the US Shuttle. Though the MiG-105 never made it into space, its sister, the unmanned БОР (‘BOR’) did. Now exhibited at the Monino museum, The MiG-105 is (like me) a Muscovite — which is clearly another reason to love this little flying shoe.

— Ria Timkin, Musician (you can support her music here. She currently has no songs about spaceplanes)

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44. Supermarine Walrus by Jane Morton

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The Walrus doesn’t look like air is its natural element. It’s an amphibian, but even the wheels look like an afterthought. No, it’s all about water; its star sign is Aquarius.

Is that surprising? It has a bilge pump, it carries an anchor. From its looks, you’d say Reginald Mitchell spent his holidays on the Norfolk Broads and was inspired to graft bi-plane wings and a pusher engine onto a cabin cruiser. It was intended for catapult launch from battleships, so he built it like one. You can loop a Walrus, but first check there’s no seawater in the bilges.

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The small bomb load proved enough to sink a U-boat. But just as the Walrus was not quite an airplane, it was not quite a warrior. When the better, faster and meaner came along, it was given over to air-sea rescue. It found its true calling in saving, not killing.

For the half-drowned, who know hypothermia isn’t far off, a Shagbat was a blanket, a thermos of hot tea laced with rum, it was life. And when the weight of ten Americans from a ditched B-17 couldn’t be lifted, the pilot just pointed the bow towards England, and taxied home.

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Jane Morton is a coder involved in an East-Anglian start-up technology company, and a sometime snowboard instructor. She likes flying boats and airships, especially British ones

Favourite aircraft No. 45: Airbus A320

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Kick-started by vast military orders, the US company Boeing wisely invested a great deal into developing very fine airliners. With great products, a big home market and governmental support it wasn’t surprising that Boeing soon dominated the civil marketplace. It was sheer madness to take this titan on, but that’s exactly what Airbus did. This upstart from the Old Continent smashed the door open with the A300 in 1974, but it was the A320 (entering service in 1988) that established Airbus as the ‘other’ big plane-maker. The A320 was the F-16 of the airliner world, introducing both the side-stick controller and fly-by-wire to the commercial world. The A320 scared the bejesus out of Boeing: at last the 737 had a worthy adversary. The A320 family grew, and soon Airbus was selling as many airliners as Boeing. By late May 2014 Airbus had produced 6,092 members of the A320 family. This year the lean and green A320neo will join the series. The future looks bright for the neo: In 2011 Malaysia’s AirAsia ordered 200 for 12.7 billion. By late 2013 Airbus was happily holding an order book for 2,523 neos. By becoming the Pepsi to Boeing’s Coca-Cola, Airbus powered an efficiency ‘arms race’ that benefited the holiday-maker and airlines alike. We salute the A320!

Marie Boustani

Pre-order your copy of The Hush-Kit Book of Warplanes here

The Hush-Kit Book of Warplanes is a beautifully designed, highly visual, collection of the best articles from the fascinating world of military aviation –hand-picked from the highly acclaimed Hush-kit online magazine (and mixed with a heavy punch of new exclusive material). It is packed with a feast of material, ranging from interviews with fighter pilots (including the English Electric Lightning, stealthy F-35B and Mach 3 MiG-25 ‘Foxbat’), to wicked satire, expert historical analysis, top 10s and all manner of things aeronautical, from the site described as

HUSHKITPLANES_SPREADS4_4.jpg“the thinking-man’s Top Gear… but for planes”.

The solid well-researched information about aeroplanes is brilliantly combined with an irreverent attitude and real insight into the dangerous romantic world of combat aircraft.

HUSHKITPLANES_SPREADS4_6.jpg

FEATURING

  • Interviews with pilots of the F-14 Tomcat, Mirage, Typhoon, MiG-25, MiG-27, English Electric Lighting, Harrier, F-15, B-52 and many more.
  • Engaging Top (and bottom) 10s including: Greatest fighter aircraft of World War II, Worst British aircraft, Worst Soviet aircraft and many more insanely specific ones.
  • Expert analysis of weapons, tactics and technology.
  • ssdd.jpg
  • A look into art and culture’s love affair with the aeroplane.
  • Bizarre moments in aviation history.
  • Fascinating insights into exceptionally obscure warplanes.
  •  Pre-order your copy here.

  • 335828main_EC97-43902-1_full

 

One comment

  1. acetone_kitten

    one of my favorite class of hushkit posts. what a pleasure to read these again. thanks HK!

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