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"Everyone knows that Neil Armstrong, who died on 25 August 2012 aged 82, was the first man to step on the moon. What is probably less well known is that in 1971 he visited the Royal Aircraft Establishment at Bedford, at that time the UK’s premier flight testing and wind tunnel research centre, while on a goodwill visit to Britain.

The Establishment at Thurleigh was conducting experimental flying and other research as part of the Concorde development programme. As an experienced test pilot, Armstrong readily accepted the invitation to fly something unusual, one of RAE’s unique research aircraft, the Handley Page HP115. This was used to investigate the low-speed flying qualities of highly-swept “slender delta” wings suitable for Concorde…

The HP115’s first flight took place at Thurleigh on 17 Aug 1961..8 years before Concorde, which had its first flight in the same year, 1969, as Armstrong landed on the moon.

As his introduction to flying the single-seat HP115 aircraft at Bedford on 24 June 1971, Armstrong was briefed by RAE test pilot Ron Ledwidge (who died in 2003) and then, in effect, was handed the keys and
told to go. That’s what test pilots do. He came back safely, all smiles after a brief flight. The HP115 is now at the Fleet Air Arm Museum, Yeovilton” (via)

the year has escaped me. I’ll be back in 2014. goodwill to all of you.

(photo via The Aviation Historian’s page on Facebook)

the year has escaped me. I’ll be back in 2014. goodwill to all of you.

(photo via The Aviation Historian’s page on Facebook)

in the quest to find a photograph - taken after the Second World War - that contains over  forty aircraft in flight, this is the highest quality photograph so far: via this forum thread. I count 49 Sea King, Wessex, Gazelle, and Sea Prince (?) in this formation - which I believe is from the 1975 Royal Naval Air Station Culdrose Air Day.

in the quest to find a photograph - taken after the Second World War - that contains over forty aircraft in flight, this is the highest quality photograph so far: via this forum thread. I count 49 Sea King, Wessex, Gazelle, and Sea Prince (?) in this formation - which I believe is from the 1975 Royal Naval Air Station Culdrose Air Day.

the Martin-Baker “swing arm” concept, circa 1944, designed to assist pilots to vacate their aircraft at high speeds. the concept did not pass beyond the model stage - which still exists to this day in the Martin Baker factory in Denham.

(art from “Unknown #2”, by Justo Miranda and P. Mercado. available for download via Scott Lowther’s Up-Ship.com. Photo courtesy of Martin Baker - and e-mailed to me absolutely aaaages ago..)

""Buss" Mascot with an R.A.F. Squadron stationed in Libya, on February 15, 1942, takes a few personal liberties with the pilot of an American-Built Tomahawk plane somewhere in the Western Desert. (AP Photo)” (via)

""Buss" Mascot with an R.A.F. Squadron stationed in Libya, on February 15, 1942, takes a few personal liberties with the pilot of an American-Built Tomahawk plane somewhere in the Western Desert. (AP Photo)” (via)

On November 4th 1909, John Moore-Brabazon proved to the world that pigs really are capable of flight.

The French journal La Revue de l’Aviation reported on the historic flight:
“The English aviator..had the rather extravagant idea to fly with a little pig which was perched in a wicker basket with this inscription..:”I am the first pig to fly”. The little pig did not fly for very long, but during the voyage it emitted, it is said, some grunts of satisfaction…or fear..”

(via)

The Big Book of Flight


It’s a good thing to have a long-standing interest and passion in a subject. It’s an even better thing if you can include aspects of that interest and passion into your day job. It is, however, another thing entirely if you can crystallize that interest and passion into a single all-encompassing, lavishly produced, confidently written 320-page book.

Rowland White had a number of trump cards up his sleeve in order to accomplish this. Firstly: a self-confessed life-long interest in aviation, and writing about it - always keeping his boyhood giddiness near the surface. Secondly: A career in book publishing. Lastly: His own career as an author of three published aviation books, most famously the exhilarating Vulcan 607.

Mix these all up, and The Big Book of Flight is the result. The simplest way to describe it would be as an aviation equivalent of The Dangerous Book for Boys - a big, chunky guide/reference book - but it is an immense creation, a “celebration” - as the publisher puts it. As with The Aviation Historian, this is what can be produced when passion and industry skills combine. The general design, matte printing, and paintings by Philip E West also make the book a tribute to the vintage British books and “boy’s own” comics of old.


It starts with a poem, and an article on the early “birdmen” - and ends with a history of drones, and a final poem. In-between is an explosion of info-graphics, stories, paintings, tributes, and lists. There are dozens of 2-6 page summaries on a huge spectra of topics - such as the history of ballooning, aerial warfare in WW2, airline food, and UFOs.

The content is passionate and fearless - as such a huge amount of topics and data is surely going to be a big magnet for the critics and pedants out there. Those that take their aviation more seriously will have possible coronary issues with various sections on aviation references in movies, music, and popular culture - but any book that references the likes of Warren Ellis, Gruff Rhys, and The Final Countdown is alllllllright by me.


In Summary: AN ESSENTIAL OBJECT

TBBOF website (including preview) | Rowland White on Twitter

The Aviation Historian is a relatively new quarterly publication - the first issue being released in October last year.

The journal is the creation of Nick Stroud and Mick Oakey - the former Editor and Deputy Editor of the much respected Aeroplane magazine. Between them, they have come up with a National Geograpic sized, perfect-bounded gem, with digital editions also available. The 130-page size makes it only slightly bigger than a “standard” magazine, but there are only two pages of adverts inside each issue.

Their guiding principles seem to be this: a “standard” message from the editor, letters section, reviews section, a couple of short regular features - but then complete freedom to publish over a dozen articles across a wide variety of subjects, using their combined skills, experiences, and general passion for aviation.

It is the variety of the articles that make TAH a stand-out for me. Where other publications would be concerned about devoting pages to current news, concentrating on a particular era for it’s articles (including adverts aimed at that era), and keeping a certain status-quo in order to not offend an established readership, TAH - as the new and versatile kid on the block - just “goes for it”.

With a staff of only four - Mick, Nick, and their spouses - and the only contact number being a mobile phone, it feels part guerrilla publication, part fanzine, and part labor of love - but don’t be misled, as the print quality, design, and art (including illustrations by Ian Bott and Juanita Franzi) is of an extremely high standard. TAH’s editorial board includes the likes of Philip Jarrett - who will be familiar to British readers - and Dr Richard Hallion.

TAH can be considered a very British publication, but should appeal to an international audience - some of the featured articles so far including the death of Carole Lombard, NASA’s Mercury programme spacesuits, the B-35 flying wing, the history of the CIA’s "Air America", the Canadian CF-105 Arrow, and post WW2 Soviet jet technology.


In summary: RECOMMENDED

TAH Website | TAH Twitter | TAH Facebook

“In 1964 the British Aircraft Corporation (BAC) designed a hypersonic aircraft capable of flight at five times the speed of sound, nicknamed MUSTARD (Multi-Unit Space Transport And Recovery Device).

The project would have created the world’s first reusable ‘space plane’, with the cost of development having been estimated as ‘20 to 30 times cheaper’ than that incurred by the expendable rocket systems in use that eventually put man on the moon in 1969.

The aircraft was formed of three separate crewed, delta-winged sections that are launched as a single unit. Two of those would act as boosters and launch the third into space, and then separate before returning to earth like normal aircraft — followed by the third, once its intended mission was complete.” (via)

“The Fighter Jet Take-Off Platform was a concept platform that would rise vertically from the ground, and allow an aircraft to take-off from its back — allowing planes to operate from small airstrips or narrow forest clearings.

English Electric developed the P17A jet to fulfill the purpose of a tactical strike and reconnaissance jet, and rather than attaching a heavy vertical take-off and landing system to the aircraft, they collaborated with Shorts, who created the P17D — a platform that would stay steady above the ground and allow the P17A to take-off from its surface.

With no less than 56 jet engines, the P17D gave the P17A the desired effect of being able to take off from tight spaces. On its own, the P17D would also have been able to fill the role of a VTOL freight transport, able to deliver equipment and supplies to less-accessible locations…” (via)

“The ‘Jumping Jeep’ was a concept reconnaissance vehicle capable of leaping over obstacles - a 4x4 transporter flanked by 12 vertical lift fans, whose angle could be adjusted dependant on the situation - allowing the jeep to overcome enemy barriers.

Developed by BAC Warton at the request of the British army in the 1960s, the design was an attempt to adapt vertical take-off and landing technology to vehicles and was developed with the Ministry of Defence’s Fighting Vehicle Research and Development Establishment.

The project was cancelled in the mid-1960s, due to assessments that production of the design would be too expensive” (via)

"The Intercity Vertical-Lift Aircraft design from the Hawker Siddeley company was an attempt to bring vertical take-off and landing (VTOL) to commercial aircraft, to allow airlines to put airports amongst densely-populated cities, open up more direct travel for passengers and to cut down on the amount of space required for airport runways.

A number of designs were drawn up over the 1960s, looking very similar to our passenger planes today; however featuring rows of lift fans on either side of the body of the plane.

The project was eventually dropped after it was decided that together with the cost of fuel required to fly the aircraft and the extra load from the frames housing the lift fans, combined with the weight of passengers, could lead to instability in flight…” (via)

“You want to get on a plane to feel alive. You want to get on a place to see just the hint of a woman’s thigh because her skirt is just this much too short.”
(photo via)

You want to get on a plane to feel alive. You want to get on a place to see just the hint of a woman’s thigh because her skirt is just this much too short.”
(photo via)

Typhoon and the Moon 
(Copyright © 2013 BAE Systems)

Typhoon and the Moon
(Copyright © 2013 BAE Systems)

Jun 6
“Squadron Leader J A F MacLachlan, the one-armed Commanding Officer of No 1 Squadron RAF, standing beside his all-black Hawker Hurricane Mark IIC night fighter, ‘JX-Q’, at Tangmere, Sussex. MacLachlan flew bombers in France in 1940, but transferred to fighters in June 1940 and shot down 6 enemy aircraft during the Battle of Britain. 

He joined No. 261 Squadron RAF in Malta, as a flight commander, and was shot down in February 1941, as a result of which his left arm was amputated. He quickly returned to operations after being fitted with an artificial limb, flying with No. 73 Squadron in North Africa, but in July 1941 returned to the United Kingdom to take command of No. 1 Squadron. 

The Hurricane is sporting his personal emblem showing his amputated arm waving a ‘V’ sign. He was again shot down in 1943 and became a prisoner-of-war, by which time his score had risen to 16.5 victories [Critically injured, he died on 31 July 1943].” (via)

Squadron Leader J A F MacLachlan, the one-armed Commanding Officer of No 1 Squadron RAF, standing beside his all-black Hawker Hurricane Mark IIC night fighter, ‘JX-Q’, at Tangmere, Sussex. MacLachlan flew bombers in France in 1940, but transferred to fighters in June 1940 and shot down 6 enemy aircraft during the Battle of Britain.

He joined No. 261 Squadron RAF in Malta, as a flight commander, and was shot down in February 1941, as a result of which his left arm was amputated. He quickly returned to operations after being fitted with an artificial limb, flying with No. 73 Squadron in North Africa, but in July 1941 returned to the United Kingdom to take command of No. 1 Squadron.

The Hurricane is sporting his personal emblem showing his amputated arm waving a ‘V’ sign. He was again shot down in 1943 and became a prisoner-of-war, by which time his score had risen to 16.5 victories [Critically injured, he died on 31 July 1943].” (via)