Category: Interview

F-14s, Victors & Spitfires: An interview with aviation artist Ian Bott

An artwork showing an Avro Vulcan taking part in the 1977 Red Flag exercises in Nevada, representing my collaboration with writer James Kightly on the ‘Aircrew’ series for ‘Aeroplane Monthly’. James and I have produced over 70 of these features over the past six years and I’m constantly amazed at his ability to come up with fascinating facts about obscure subjects plus am constantly grateful for his patience when dealing with a prima donna artist.

“An artwork showing an Avro Vulcan taking part in the 1977 Red Flag exercises in Nevada, representing my collaboration with writer James Kightly on the ‘Aircrew’ series for ‘Aeroplane Monthly’. James and I have produced over 70 of these features over the past six years and I’m constantly amazed at his ability to come up with fascinating facts about obscure subjects plus am constantly grateful for his patience when dealing with a prima donna artist.”

Many of your artworks are of aircraft, which is your favourite aircraft?

I’m a kid of the Cold War so anything loud, overpowered and short on subtlety floats my boat. The B-58, X-15, SR-71, F-14, Lightning, mighty Vulcan or any century-series fighter or Reno Unlimited Class racer would all be good examples. However, if I had to pick one aircraft above all others it would be a humble two-seater with a 110hp engine that could manage about 100kts on a good day with a tail wind: Cessna 152 N-606GS, the aircraft that I did the bulk of my PPL training in. I spent many blissful hours getting to know her most intimate details and the subtleties of her personality. It was love at first sight and, though we occasionally had our disagreements, she never let me down and always looked after me, even when I treated her inconsiderately.

 What’s the hardest aircraft to draw?

Anything with lots of the following: struts, wires, exposed cylinder heads, antennae, multiple panes of Perspex making up a canopy reminiscent of something at Kew Gardens or, worst of all, overly-elaborate markings with lots and lots of lettering (yes US Navy of the 60s and 70s, I’m talking about you).

Materials/techniques you use?

As a professional illustrator working in 2013, software and drawing tablets have replaced much of the traditional paints, brushes and other media of earlier years but I still find that there’s no digital substitute for sitting down with a pen, pencil and paper and just drawing. My single most important piece of equipment is the set of ellipse templates that I’ve had since art college in the 80s and have used almost every day since.

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What tips can you offer those trying to draw or paint a Spitfire?

If you’re going to draw a Spitfire my one piece of advice would be, without a shadow of a doubt, steer clear of clichés. I’m not saying that the aviation art world doesn’t need any more artworks of Spitfires silhouetted against pretty sunsets or shooting down Messerschmitts over the White Cliffs of Dover, all I’m suggesting is that the artist delve into the rich history of the aircraft and try and find a less well-known facet of the Spitfire story to depict.

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Which aircraft is the most attractive and why?

To me the most attractive aircraft are those that combine a mixture of Swiss-watch precision, curvaceous lines and brutish power. The SR-71 probably embodies all these characteristics most strikingly but the Hawker Sea Fury, F-14, and Blackburn Buccaneer are other good examples.

 In terms of aesthetics, what is your favourite:

Wing

The U-2’s . A high-aspect ratio glider-type wing attached to the fuselage of a Starfighter but it works. Genius bordering on insanity.

Or:

Jack Northrop’s YB-35 (which is pretty much all wing). One of the most beautiful things ever to take to the air

Fuselage

The B-17. Sleek, purposeful and bristling with armament. I flew in one in 1999 and the experience of sitting in that glazed nose with four Wright Cyclones roaring away around you was breath-taking

Canopy

The B-17’s successor, the B-29. Reducing drag by making the canopy the nose of the aircraft and doing it with style to boot

Engine

Has to be the Merlin, a work of art in its own right. The positioning and cowls on the Mosquito look particularly handsome and powerful

Tail

The beautiful sweep of the Victor’s tail. Never did the threat of nuclear devastation come in such an attractive package

Jet exhaust

The jet exhaust of the F-14. So powerful yet elegant that a close-up of the working of the exhaust mechanism is one of the opening shots of ‘Top Gun

Undercarriage

Anything built by Grumman for the Navy. If you’re going to have to design an undercarriage for carrier landings it’s going to end up looking like a brick outhouse. They know it, they don’t care and, in fact, I suspect they’re probably proud of it

If you’d like to see more of Ian’s work you can either like his Facebook page at www.facebook.com/IanBottIllustration

or check out his website at www.ianbottillustration.co.uk/

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All artworks copyright Ian Bott 2013

The Stealth Guru: Hush-Kit meets Bill Sweetman

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Tenacious journalist Bill Sweetman has always been one step ahead: the man described by Tom Clancy as “a genius” was writing about ‘stealth technology’ when it was sill buried in official secrecy; he broke the story of the Laden raid stealth helicopter; possibly unearthed proof of the Aurora hypersonic spy-plane and remains an outspoken critic of the F-35 programme.

How did you start in aviation journalism? I answered an ad in the back of Flight for a sub-editor. Mark Hewish, who was in that position, had taken a job at New Scientist (although he changed his mind and stayed on as a defence writer). The printers insisted on having an extra sub (so one could always be there on Friday) and IPC balked at the GBP 2,400 salary, which was the lowest NUJ rate. The solution was to hire two trainees at 60 per cent. I arrived thinking that I was on a gap year before Uni and never left.

 What are the biggest pitfalls facing aerospace writers? Making a living! Related to the fact that many outlets pay minimum rates and have little interest in quality. The other problem is that there are lots of people paid to manipulate the story, and most of them earn more than you do, and some of them are depressingly good at it.

Your informed guesswork and predictions regarding US black programme have frequently proved very accurate. Is there an article you are particularly proud of?

I still look back on the 1986 book Stealth Aircraft with affection. Some of my IDR and Interavia stories on stealth in the late 1990s and early 2000s hold up well in retrospect. There’s a lot in there that has never been published or talked about since. Breaking the bin Laden stealth helicopter story – now, that was quick-draw fun.

Some of your journalistic investigations appear to involve long, exhaustive studies of budget documents. If this is the case, what motivates you to persist- does it not seem tedious sometimes? Browning had a mathematician saying “While I triumph o’er a secret wrung from nature’s close reserve”. When it stops being interesting you’re probably not getting anywhere.

What have been the highest and lowest points of your career so far? I’m deeply enjoying the present day, the hunt for black programmess and the epic story of JSF – which started off as the most ambitious project since the ICBM and has been a grievous disappointment.

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Which black programmes are you currently most interested in? I could tell you, but then I’d have to use some hackneyed cliché from one of the worst aviation movies ever.

What is the biggest myth regarding stealth? Stealth doesn’t make you invisible, much less immortal.

Who are your writing heroes ? Bill Gunston, above all. Mark Hewish was my mentor in many ways – very efficient and a total professional. LJK Setright was an inspiration in terms of having fun with writing. C.G. Grey – great writer, lousy politics. Outside aviation, Wodehouse and Saki are influences.

Does the inclusion of industry advertisers in aviation magazines have an affect on the impartiality of reporting? Not if I have anything to do with it.

The Typhoon, F-22 and F-35 programmes have all received a great deal of criticism; can you give an example of a well-run military aircraft project? Almost anything from the land of blondes, aquavit and IKEA.

What are the future aerospace technologies to look out for? Additive manufacturing. The application of 3D aerodynamic modelling to blended shapes.

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Do you have a favourite aeroplane, and if so why? The ‘Flanker‘ in its many forms. It was a very difficult program and relied on a lot of aerodynamic and propulsion technology that even today is not appreciated. And it looks incomparably bad-ass, as if God designed a pterodactyl to go Mach 2.

Read about stealth in fact and fiction Here

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F-100 Super Sabre: a fighter pilot’s perspective

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Former fighter pilot Scotty Wilson gives you the low-down on flying the magnificent ‘Hun’.

1. What were you were first impressions of the F-100?

I transitioned to the Hun right out of UPT after flying the T-38. The T-38 was small, sleek, white and sexy. The Hun was, by comparison, huge, camouflaged, grimy and a workhorse. Best of all -it only had one engine and one seat. It was the most beautiful thing I had ever seen!

2.  When did you fly it? With which units?

I flew the Hun (C/D/F) from 1973 to 1979 for about 1500 hours, mostly with the 178 TFG (Ohio) and 131 TFW (Missouri) Air Guard units.

3. What was the best thing about it?

It was an “honest” airplane with excellent control harmony and good visibility. It was simple and reliable.

4. What was the worst thing about flying it?

Pilots like to say the Hun invented adverse yaw, and one did have to be careful with lateral stick input at high AOA. Final approach speeds were relatively high (166 KIAS + fuel in the D; higher in the C). It was underpowered – like a lot of the early Century-Series airplanes – and we had two power settings: “not enough” (military power); and “just okay” (afterburner). It was hard to fly really well.

5. Was it an effective weapon system?

I never flew the Hun in combat, so I’m not the best one to ask. I have several friends who flew as “Misty FACs” (Forward Air Controller, a very dangerous mission) in South East Asia; I never heard them say a bad thing about the plane. In training missions, it was a stable bomb and gun platform.

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6. Did you ever fly mock dogfights against any other types, what was this like and which types were the most challenging?

We were commonly called-upon to do duty as MiG-15/17/19 simulators and as training partners in DACT with more advanced fighters such as the F-4, F-14 and F-15. We often flew “canned” scenarios or profiles specific to another unit’s training requirements.

“Huge, camouflaged and grimy…the most beautiful thing I had ever seen!”

Occasionally, we’d get an opportunity to do anything we wanted. A “clean” Hun – even the heavier D model – could climb to above 45,000 and get up to Mach 1.3 in a shallow dive. No one looked for us up that high, and we could usually engage from above unseen – the first time. We could generally win a 1-vs-1 guns-only or rear-aspect missile fight against a hard-winged F-4 and break even against a slatted E, unless the Phantom pilot was very good (Ron Keys comes to mind) and didn’t fight our fight. Same with the F-14. Best tactic was to go single-circle, co-plane. We’d give up knots for angles and out-rate the other guy, who would honor your nose position and become defensive immediately. (I have 2000 hours in F-4C/D/E and know those airplanes pretty well.)

The F-15 was a superior airplane in every respect and it was rare you got the advantage on one unless the pilot was a doofus (and there were a few).

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7. What three words best describe the F-100?

Honest, reliable, predictable.

8. What was your most memorable flight in a F-100?

14 hours in the cockpit / 12 hours flight time during a winter-time redeployment from Ramstein AB Germany to Richards-Gebaur AFB, Missouri. We strapped in and started-up, then shut-down and waited in the cockpit while our tankers at RAF Mildenhall fixed a problem. After we got airborne and mid-way across the Atlantic both tankers lost their drogues (equipment, not pilot error). We found another tanker – this one scrambled out of Canada – using UHF-ADF and Air-to-Air TACAN while IMC in 1 NM visibility conditions. When we finally joined with two more tankers we flew…and flew…and continued flying westward because the weather at every AFB east of the Mississippi was below landing minimums. (The F-100D didn’t have ILS at the time.)

I don’t think we ever saw groundspeeds in excess of 360 knots the entire route. Only if you have worn the old-style poopy suit* can you appreciate how enjoyable the last four hours of that flight was like.

Scotty Wilson built a flyable Bugatti 100P. Tragically he died flying it in 2016.

Thank you for reading Hush-Kit. Our site is absolutely free and we have no advertisements. If you’ve enjoyed an article you can donate here. At the moment our contributors do not receive any payment but we’re hoping to reward them for their fascinating stories in the future.

Have a look at 10 worst British military aircraftSu-35 versus Typhoon10 Best fighters of World War II top WVR and BVR fighters of today, an interview with a Super Hornet pilot and a Pacifist’s Guide to Warplanes. Was the Spitfire overrated? Want something more bizarre? The Top Ten fictional aircraft is a fascinating read, as is The Strange Story and The Planet Satellite. The Fashion Versus Aircraft Camo is also a real cracker. Those interested in the Cold Way should read A pilot’s guide to flying and fighting in the Lightning. Those feeling less belligerent may enjoy A pilot’s farewell to the Airbus A340. Looking for something more humorous? Have a look at this F-35 satire and ‘Werner Herzog’s Guide to pusher bi-planes or the Ten most boring aircraft. In the mood for something more offensive? Try the NSFW 10 best looking American airplanes, or the same but for Canadians. 

HUSH-KIT EXCLUSIVE: THE ULTIMATE PISTON-ENGINED FIGHTER: FLYING THE HAWKER SEA FURY by TEST PILOT DAVE EAGLES

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Former BAe test pilot Dave Eagles has flown some of the greatest aircraft in history. Here he reveals what it was like to fly the ultimate piston-engined fighter, the Hawker Sea Fury.

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“I flew the Sea Fury in 1956 after having had 6 months or so on a Firefly Squadron and my impressions therefore were inevitably based on a comparison of the two.

..top marks for agility.”

The Sea Fury was much more lively than the clunky old Firefly. It was lighter in pitch and roll and more responsive to power changes. It had spring-tab ailerons so  as speed built up its roll stick forces remained reasonably light up to close to its limiting indicated air speed (400 – 450 kts IAS) .

The spring tab aileron was so designed that when stick forces built above a certain level, a torque tube was allowed to twist and further stick movement activated the aileron tab which gave help in moving the ailerons.

It had an automatic prop pitch control so that you could pull the pitch control lever into an auto position and thereafter the pitch angle would automatically reduce to the maximum permitted for the amount of boost (manifold pressure) that the throttle was demanding. This was really only useful in the cruise but was useful nevertheless. It meant that you could control the engine with just the throttle lever, like a jet, and when you got the RPM back to minimum the noise level with the Centaurus was very low.

So it got top marks for agility.

It was certainly not unforgiving. It was very spin resistant–you could throw it about at low speed as in one to one fighting without fear of departing. We had a formation aerobatic team and found it very well behaved in close formation. And unlike the Spitfire, which I flew several years later, it was very easy to control on the ground. You could use full throttle on take off and easily control the swing, due to its wide landing gear, lockable tail wheel and effective rudder.

ImageWe did vic take-offs on a normal width runway at close to full power with firm directional control. The Spitfire — much lighter of course– has a wopping tendency to swing and needs care with the rate of throttle opening, at least when getting familiar with it.

And no, the Fury didn’t remind me of any other aircraft. Apart from the sedate Firefly I didn’t fly any of the other big piston tailwheels.”

Dave Eagles flew the Sea Fury with the Royal Australian Navy

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

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Please donate so we can give you even more (donate buttons can be found on this page). 

You may also enjoy 11 Cancelled French aircraft or the 10 worst British military aircraftSu-35 versusTyphoon10 Best fighters of World War II , Su-35 versus Typhoontop WVR and BVR fighters of today, an interview with a Super Hornet pilot and a Pacifist’s Guide to Warplanes. Flying and fighting in the Tornado. Was the Spitfire overrated? Want something more bizarre? Try Sigmund Freud’s Guide to Spyplanes. The Top Ten fictional aircraft is a fascinating read, as is The Strange Story and The Planet Satellite. The Fashion Versus Aircraft Camo is also a real cracker. Those interested in the Cold Way should read A pilot’s guide to flying and fighting in the Lightning. Those feeling less belligerent may enjoy A pilot’s farewell to the Airbus A340. Looking for something more humorous? Have a look at this F-35 satire and ‘Werner Herzog’s Guide to pusher bi-planes or the Ten most boring aircraft. In the mood for something more offensive? Try the NSFW 10 best looking American airplanes, or the same but for Canadians. 10 great aircraft stymied by the US

You may also enjoy top WVR and BVR fighters of today, an interview with a Super Hornet pilot and a Pacifist’s Guide to Warplanes. Want something more bizarre? The Top Ten fictional aircraft is a fascinating read, as is The Strange Story of The Planet SatelliteFashion Versus Aircraft Camo is also a real cracker. 

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Before Typhoon: Flying the EAP, Britain’s last supersonic aircraft

In the early 1980s, air forces and manufacturers in Europe wanted a new fighter. Several studies, including the Agile Combat Aircraft, envisioned the aircraft as a canard delta design, specialising in air superiority. Collaboration between all the major nations seemed possible, but France split off on its own, to work on the ACX. France was now arch-rivals with its previous partners and leapt into the lead when its Rafale-A technology demonstrator flew on 4th July 1986, Britain soon fired back with the EAP.

The EAP first flew on 8th August 1986. The aircraft was built as a technology demonstrator for what would become the Eurofighter Typhoon. Though there was a small element of international collaboration in the EAP, it was essentially British, and as such was the last ever supersonic British aircraft. Its performance was very impressive, as one test pilot noted, “It goes like a ferret with a firework up its bum!”.

Hush-Kit interviewed EAP test pilot Dave Eagles to get the inside story.

What were you first impressions of flying EAP?

“First, delight at finally getting the aircraft into the air. We had had 3 days or so of delay due to gloomy weather. But then happiness with the control feel, — the response and harmonisation and the marked attitude stability — and the cockpit view.”

What was the best thing about flying EAP?

“The best thing was the realisation that, in spite of all the political odds, we had succeeded in producing this state of the art aircraft, in very short time from eventual order, and that it obviously had the makings of a superb fighter. See above on response and attitude stability.”

What was the worst thing about flying EAP?

“There was nothing about the aircraft that was disappointing. There were a couple of minor gripes involving nuisance warnings. When looking at individual engine handling – to confirm that there was no interference between engines due to that initially common intake – the system produced gear box drive warnings as one or other of the engines dropped away from driving the gear box. But this was explainable.  Another nuisance warning was a fuel pump warning that came on as attitude was increased during a slow down; and throttle friction was found to be too low. All of these minor points were quickly fixed.”

Typhoon has enjoyed an unprecedented safety record for a fighter, why do you think this is?

“I am not privy to current RAF ops, but I would add that reliability levels of components and systems on Typhoon was for the first time, part of the specification (this was also partly the case on Tornado ). As well, Typhoon design was subjected to much higher levels of system safety scrutiny than previous programmes.”

Do you have a favourite aircraft and if so, why?

“It would have to be Tornado, because I spent so much of my career being deeply involved with it. But for sheer joy I must say that flying the Sea Fury with the Royal Australian Navy comes close.” Do you have a least favourite aircraft and if so, why?

“No. All pilots are in love with the aircraft they are currently flying. Even the Buccaneer Mk.1, which relied on the curvature of the earth to get airborne, was, at the time I flew it, delightful.”

The most repeated quote about EAP is that ‘it went like a ferret with a firework up its bum’, which is attributed to an ‘EAP test pilot’. Do you know the origin of this quote and would you agree with it?

“I don’t know where the ferret quote came from; I hadn’t heard it before. But I certainly agree with it! The EAP of course was quite light (17,000kg), and 2 x Mk 104 RB 199s gave it an impressive push. I see that in my report of the first take-off I described the acceleration as “brisk”! The Typhoon of course has the more powerful EJ200 and basically isn’t that much heavier. So I guess that is ‘very brisk’ ”

Which modern aircraft would you most like to fly and why?

“I would very much like to fly the Typhoon, to see how it eventually turned out. I would love to fly a Tornado again, purely to feed nostalgia and one aircraft I have always longed to fly is the SR-71. An American friend of mine who flew them with NASA said, “You ain’t never been lost ’til you’ve been lost at Mach 3!”

How important was EAP for the development of EFA/Typhoon?

“The research work done on EAP was enormously important to Eurofighter in developing Typhoon, in spite of the change in wing planform, which I believe was made in the interests of productionising.”

Did the actual EAP aircraft have a nickname, what did people on the project refer to it as?

“Not that I’m aware of. But I was pleased that it’s first few flights were made with ‘FLY NAVY’ stickers just behind the cockpit!”

Typhoon’s handling characteristics and cockpit receive a lot of praise, do you feel a sense of pride knowing that you directly contributed to this?

“Yes- I feel a great sense of pride in knowing I was involved in the build up to Typhoon, but I have to say that a very great deal of the handling characteristic tuning was done by test pilots like Pete Orme and Chris Yeo after I left Warton. The cockpit, too, was of course much changed in layout as Typhoon’s complicated weapon system was added, but I will claim some involvement. I make a much stronger claim to the Tornado cockpit design “.

Hush-Kit would like to express its thanks to Dave Eagles.

EAP: A photo-journal

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The Agile Combat Aircraft (ACA) was a fighter concept from MBB, BAe and Aeritalia, displayed as mock-up in 1982-1983. It featured canted twin-tails and cranked delta. It is likely that the tail configuration would have offered a lower frontal radar cross section than the single fin adopted by Typhoon. It would, however, have been heavier.

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Clear in this artist’s impression of EAP is the differences it has from today’s Typhoon. The intake, missile carriage arrangement and tail would all change. Neither EAP or Typhoon actually had tip-mounted Sidewinders.

Want to see more stories like this: Follow my vapour trail on Twitter: @Hush_kit

Thank you for reading Hush-Kit. Our site is absolutely free and we have no advertisements. If you’ve enjoyed an article you can donate here. At the moment our contributors do not receive any payment but we’re hoping to reward them for their fascinating stories in the future.

Have a look at 10 worst British military aircraftSu-35 versus Typhoon10 Best fighters of World War II top WVR and BVR fighters of today, an interview with a Super Hornet pilot and a Pacifist’s Guide to Warplanes. Was the Spitfire overrated? Want something more bizarre? The Top Ten fictional aircraft is a fascinating read, as is The Strange Story and The Planet Satellite. The Fashion Versus Aircraft Camo is also a real cracker. Those interested in the Cold Way should read A pilot’s guide to flying and fighting in the Lightning. Those feeling less belligerent may enjoy A pilot’s farewell to the Airbus A340. Looking for something more humorous? Have a look at this F-35 satire and ‘Werner Herzog’s Guide to pusher bi-planes or the Ten most boring aircraft. In the mood for something more offensive? Try the NSFW 10 best looking American airplanes, or the same but for Canadians. 

The new European aircraft would choose the best features of the US teen fighters, improve them and add the canard delta arrangement. Both the ACA and the French ACX were originally schemed with compound-sweep wings. The advantages of a compound sweep were described by Ray Whitford:

“The high degree of inboard sweep promotes strong vortex formation at high AOA, and low wave drag at supersonic speed. The lower sweep of the outboard panels maximise manoeuvrability by lowering the span loading to reduce the induced drag which has been the drawback of simple deltas. Both projects (ACA and ACX) were designed with automatic leading-edge slats, those on the outboard panels being particularly powerful as a result of the lower sweep.”

EAP was built using carbon fibre composites and aluminium lithium alloy. The advanced construction techniques and materials kept the aircraft light and strong. The canopy is noticeably heavier in its use of framing, compared to the F-16 and F/A-18.

EAP enjoyed a shabazz public roll-out. BAe was keen to see show the aircraft off, partly as the rival Rafale-A was not only revealed earlier, but appeared to be closer to a production aircraft than the EAP.

EAP blasts off under the power of two Turbo-Union RB199 Mk 104D. As anyone who has ever flown a Tornado ADV above 30,000 ft will testify, the ‘199, with its high bypass ratio, is far from being a decent fighter engine.

EAP leads a formation of BAe’s 1980s aircraft. Behind it can be seen a Tornado ADV, then a Tornado GR.1, flanking it are the Hawk 100 and 200, and riding outboard are the Harrier GR.5 and Sea Harrier. Today only one of these types is in RAF service (the Tornado GR), though all of the others (barring EAP and the Tornado ADV) remain in service with other air forces (albeit in modified forms).

One of the technologies Europe the EAP inherited from the late teen fighters was the glass MFD (multi-functional displays) cockpit. The cockpit was clearly heavily influenced by the F/A-18 Hornet, which had entered service in 1983. Europe’s first ‘modern’ fighter cockpit came when the Rafale entered service in 2000. Prior to this both the British Sea Harrier FA.2 and French Mirage 2000-5 had received MFDs. The wide angle HUD had first been seen on the F-16, which entered service in 1978. One genuine innovation was voice control, known as DVI (Direct Voice Input) which came with the Eurofighter Typhoon, and was first used operationally in 2005. Though a similar system was tested on the US F-16AFTI, the F-35 will be the first US fighter with DVI to enter service. The Hands On Throttle-And-Stick (HOTAS) configuration was seen in proto form on the English Electric Lightning, but was first seen in its modern form on the F-16. Unlike the F-16 the stick was centre-mounted on EAP, the relative merits of side- versus central-stick remain a matter of opinion.

The EAP was fitted with a modified Tornado fin, for the sake of cost and risk reduction. The gun muzzle position is different to Typhoon’s, which is in the wing-root.

EAP was designed without considerations of RCS-reduction. In 1986, stealth was still a highly classified area. Germany had built a stealth demonstrator, the MBB Lampyridae in 1980, but this was quickly hushed up and canned, when the US, world leaders in stealth got wind of it.

Though advanced in aerodynamics and materials, EAP was clearly behind the technology curve of the Advanced Tactical Fighter concepts being explored by US fighter companies of the time. EAP emphasised agility at high speeds, good man-machine interface and high combat persistence to excel in beyond-visual range and close-in combat. It was intended to outfight the emerging threat of ‘Flanker’s and ‘Fulcrum’s. Despite Eurofighter’s claims that it was designed from the outset as a multi-role fighter, ground attack was very much a secondary consideration. Some early artworks of EFA showed it armed with BL775 cluster bombs, a weapon that was banned before Typhoon entered service. The Typhoon was first used in anger in the air-to-ground role, in Libya in 2011.

There is surprisingly little footage of EAP online, but some scouting around revealed this:

The boxy intake of EAP gave way to the ‘smiling’ curved intake of Typhoon. Dummy ASRAAMS are carried.

Thanks to Nick Stroud from The Aviation Historian.

HUSHKIT EXCLUSIVE! MCLAREN F1 SUPERCAR DESIGNER TALKS PLANES

The Lockheed SR-71 Blackbird- Impossible to describe in conventional terms.

Peter Stevens designed the beautiful curves of the Mclaren F1, which has been described as the finest car in history. The F1 was the fastest production car for an incredible twelve years (1993-2005) and clocked an insane 231 mph in 1993 (seventy years earlier, the Nieuport-Delage aircraft had surpassed the 230 mph barrier in the air). As visiting professor of car design for the Royal College of Art and a lover of aviation, Hush-kit decided to grill Stevens on planes, beauty… and flying-cars!

 
From where does your love of aviation stem?

Principally from my Godfather who was a Wing Commander in a Lancaster squadron, I built him an Airfix model of one when I was about 12 years old, and as a scientist he then built a scale wind tunnel at Birkbeck College so that he could demonstrate the principals of flight to me. He lived just at the back of Duxford air field and we would often sneak in there.

What was your most notable flying experience?

When I first discovered what ‘wake turbulence’ meant! Not long after qualifying for my PPL I was taking off from Leavesden air strip near Watford and was instructed by the tower to depart right after an HS 125, at about 250 feet the little Grumman Tiger that I was flying, just about fell out of the sky. I will be forever grateful to my instructor Keith who had drilled in to me ‘lower the nose, level the wings and then regain control’, it worked, hence these replies to your questions. Or maybe the idiot who flew in on finals at Elstree beneath me and never even saw me. He was excellently roasted by the tower after I had gone round again!

What is your favourite aircraft and why?

No question, the SR-71 Blackbird! When you consider that the project was underway back in 1955 and that part of the brief was to make an aircraft that would be almost impossible to describe in conventional terms at that time, in order to protect the secret nature of the project, it put all forward thinking into perspective. For any designer this is a crucial thing, the ability to think beyond contemporary norms is very difficult but it is what you have to do if you want to make progress.

Witness the fitness! Without doubt the most beautiful aircraft ever built, the Supermarine Spitfire.

What do you consider the most beautiful aircraft (if different from above)?

It sounds so easy to say the Spitfire but for me it’s true. Most summer weekends a couple of Spitfires fly low over our house, either on their way to or from air displays. They come from a strip just a bit North of where we live in Suffolk. And the reason they still look (and sound!) so beautiful is part of a personal theory that I have. The Hurricane is a fabulous aircraft but I suspect that the draughtsmen who would have drawn the full-size lines of the ‘plane would have been local to Hatfield and would most probably have had amongst their drawing kit ‘railway curves’. These are very large radius curves used during the laying out of railway tracks. If you then connect these very big radius lines, often almost straight lines, with regular corner radii you get a Hurricane. The Spitfire, on the other hand was drawn up in Southampton where the draughtsmen would have come from the boat building industry, and they would have amongst their drawing kit ‘ships curves’, these are transitional curves that slowly tighten or flatten over their lengths. Hence the more sensuous lines of the Spitfire. Despite the arrival of CAD I still use ships curves for the most important lines on a car. These curves are sometimes call ‘French curves’ and are some of my most valued studio possessions.

The architect Norman Foster has a model of the Northrop YB-49 flying wing in his studio, do you have a model aircraft in yours? 

Two little models, a Gee Bee (such outrageous proportions), a DC-3 (first plane I flew in with my Godfather), and a BIG model of a Bleriot Monoplane (those first days of flight were just so romantic).

The bananas Gee Bee racing plane

What effect has aviation had on car design, if any? For instance has the faceted, angular stealth shape of modern aircraft influenced any designs?

In aircraft term all cars can be described as being reliant on ‘low speed aerodynamics’ but the actual shapes are often taken from very high speed aircraft. This could be considered dishonest but designers are so often looking for the ‘next new thing’. When designing a fast road-car the whole aero thing is so different from that to be considered when designing a race car. On a road car you do not want lift but you also do not want much downforce at all, otherwise the springs will need to be so stiff to avoid scraping the ground at high speeds that the thing will ride like a truck at low speeds. I do think that designers are looking at things like the F-117 stealth fighter for inspiration, the Lamborghini Aventador is a good example of this trend.

Lamborghini meets the Lockheed F-117 Nighthawk. Painting by Upshaw.

What was the most beautiful era for aircraft design?

It’s easy to get carried away with the romantic notions of early aircraft and see Golden Eras in the past, or to use the daft old adage used in race car design that ‘if it works well and wins it’s automatically beautiful’, but that is just not true. There are aircraft from all eras that are beautiful and many that are not.

Do you have any thoughts about the crossover (if any) between the purely aesthetic design fields and that of applied design (like in aviation).

I suppose that in the past designer were more inclined to be just surface decorators, this was particularly true in the Victorian age. But as popular ideas of design focused on simpler forms the designer took charge of both the form and the surface decoration. Whether this time line followed or preceded that of painters and sculptors, I am not sure (subject by a PhD I think). What I have observed is that some pure engineers have a very real sensitivity towards the difference between a ‘good line’ and a ‘poor line’, Both Patrick Head and John Barnard, ex Formula One designers, were very aware of the importance of a ‘good line’ to them. This comes back to the Spitfire and Hurricane debate.

Like the Spitfire, the Bloodhound yacht was born in 1936; Did the boatyard influence the shape of the famous British fighter?

A related point – cars and aircraft that are designed apparently for purely aerodynamic concerns are often very beautiful, indeed often the most beautiful examples of their kind. Why should this be?

I think that a sensitivity for what airflow wants to do is an unusual trait, these days CFD (Computational fluid dynamics) can produce technically correct solutions that lack any degree of harmony in the resultant forms. You can push the airflow around but you cannot force it to do what it does not want to do, I see the air as being lazy and wanting to take the least stressful path and it is the same for your hand when passing over a form. Natural transitions as seen in nature almost always have something to tell us about the best aerodynamic shapes. A good example in car design is the Jaguar XJ 13 of 1966/67; Designer Malcolm Sayer was an aerodynamicist at Jaguar but also a superb designer and the car exudes style.

What will be the next technology to move from aviation to motoring or vice versa, for example have F1 drivers used helmet mounted displays or have any advanced materials recently passed into cars from the aerospace world?

I think that more specialised carbon composites, particularly penetration resistant ones could find their way into race cars. The head-up display thing (the HUD) or the much more complex Apache helmet mounted system is now not needed in F1 cars because (unfortunately) there is an army of guys monitoring all the systems in the car and making strategy calls from the back of the pit garage, or even in some cases monitoring stuff back at the factory.

Nice chassis! Auto-genius Peter Stevens in his studio.

What will aeroplanes look like in 100 or even 1000 years time?

In 100 years I suspect that military aircraft will be pilotless but I think that private flying will remain popular but the machines will be so much more efficient and ‘drama’ proof. The huge amount of progress made in automated systems for cars, like stability control etc will find their way into aircraft in the near future. In a 1000 years we will without doubt travel virtually or maybe in person, very rarely, using our rare and expensive carbon/energy credits that we will have to earn by our ultra low energy personal lifestyles. How grim is that!

A soviet vision of the future from 1966

Will flying cars ever become popular?

As popular as amphibious cars. Who would want a crap car that is also a very poor aircraft? Just like who wants a miserable car that is also a thoroughly poor boat?

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

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Crap cars that are also very poor aircraft