Category: Favourite aeroplane in 200 words

Favourite aircraft No. 37: 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

 

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.

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Favourite aeroplane in 200 words #35: The Sukhoi Su-35 by Ian Jacobi


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The Su-35 display at the 2013 Paris Air Show was wild. I could compare its astonishing flying to Russian acrobats, gymnasts or big-booted dancers, but that would be too easy. I could draw parallels with the machismo and brute strength of Putin’s Russia, but this would be meaningless.

The Su-35 is likely to be the ultimate heavyweight fighter not designed for stealth. The only rivals to this claim will be China’s pirate ‘Flanker’s, and this only proves my point further.

The Polikarpov I-153 of 1938 was also the best of a dying breed, in its case the biplane fighter. The two aircraft have other parallels, the I-153 was ready to fight in decent numbers when the more modern Yak-1 and LaGG-3 were rare resources. The Su-35 will be a similarly useful machine, in this case proving a supplement to the ferociously capable, but unfinished, PAK FA. The PAK FA will share the common traits of the other fifth generation fighters: a design that is hard to see on radar, and a price that is hard to pay in reality. The hugely capable Su-35 is expected to have a unit price equivalent to the tiny Gripen, which if achieved will demonstrate incredible value for money.

Ian Jacobi does very clever things during the daytime, but has not applied the same intellectual rigours to this article, which he wrote drunk. 

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Favourite aeroplane in 200 words #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.

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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 #33 Cessna 172 by Jakob Whitfield

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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

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Who was Sweden’s flying farm girl?

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MY FAVOURITE AEROPLANE IN 200 WORDS #37 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 as 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

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Who was Sweden’s flying farm girl?

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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!

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 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

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Who was Sweden’s flying farm girl?

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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

“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 #30: Aero 45 by Kevan Vogler

Super+Aero+45+005_4_2_1The Aero 45 is as much art as it is aircraft. How can I explain this Czechoslovakian aeroplane? Here is an amorphous, yet beautiful, thing that confounds simple description. In profile the Art Deco fuselage, with its arching roof, and flat belly, appears dolphin-like. Yet from the front, the large cabin windows give it an almost arthropodic or insect-like appearance. When viewed from above or below, it takes on the form of yet another animal; the long, narrow wings give it the look of a graceful, soaring shorebird.

The elegant Aero 45 was Czechoslovakia’s first aircraft after the German occupation had ended. The aircraft was a clear and bold statement that the small country’s aviation sector was ready to reclaim its pre-war glories, that it had lost none of its ability to produce a world-class aircraft.

There is true harmony in the design of this aircraft and in all of its equally gorgeous descendents. Every airframe element fits smoothly with the next and there is not a sloppy line or compromise to be seen. The designer clearly intended for the air to embrace this design to the utmost, and it’s difficult to see a spot on it where the air would not do just that.

Kevan ‘Pickled Wings’ Vogler 

 You’d be a fool not to enjoy his wonderful blog ‘Pickled Wings

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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).

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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

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