The XA2J “Super Savage” was a prototype carrier-based attack aircraft which the North American Aviation company developed for the US Navy shortly after the Second World War.
The aircraft was a derivative of the smaller AJ Savage, it also featured turboprop engines instead of the earlier aircraft’s radial engines, and the turbojet engine fitted in the tail of the AJ Savage was removed entirely. Initially it was proposed that the Super Savage could be constructed from the base AJ Savage with just a few alterations. However it soon became clear that to achieve the desired performance, more drastic modifications would be needed.
Like the AJ, it was a high-winged monoplane with unswept wings. The wings were fitted with leading edge slats and large trailing edge flaps, and folded outside of the engine nacelles to ease storage aboard ship. It had a crew of three: pilot, co-pilot/bombardier and gunner who sat in a pressurised cabin in the nose of the aircraft.
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It’s safe to say that Colonel Lars Hoffman, Commander of the US Air Force Test Pilot School at Edwards Air Force Base, is probably one of the most experienced and skilled pilots in the world. He’s flown many of the world’s most advanced aircraft, but one of them, the Lockheed U-2 is among his personal favorites.
And that’s strange, because in an interview with Richard Hollingham of the BBC, his accounts of flying the U-2 make it sound like a complete pig.
For starters, its nickname is “Dragon Lady” – because it’s a dragon at low altitude, and a lady at high altitude. I’m guessing dragon is polite Air Force slang for “doesn’t fly very well”. It requires chase cars to help with the landing because getting it down on the ground safely is so difficult. Even when it’s at its 70,000 ft (13 miles) cruising altitude it’s not all plain sailing. Amazingly Hoffman reveals there’s just a 10 knot window between the maximum speed that the aircraft can fly before it breaks up, and the stall speed! Because of this ludicrously small margin for error, at altitude the U-2 always flies on autopilot.
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Spike Aerospace, a Boston-based company currently developing the world’s first supersonic private jet, have just announced that in the interests of performance and safety, their S-512 jet won’t have any windows in the passenger cabin. Instead the passengers will view the world outside on massive ultra-high definition displays that run the length of the cabin.
Spike Aerospace say there are several reasons for removing the windows from the cabin. Firstly, windows cause significant challenges in designing and constructing a strong, safe, aerodynamic aircraft fuselage. They require addition structural support, which in turn adds to the overall weight of the aircraft, reducing performance and efficiency.
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Ettore Bugatti became famous in the early part of the 20th century for producing some of the world’s most exquisite automobiles. What most people, myself included, didn’t know, was that he also had a go at aircraft design.
Originally designed in collaboration with Ettore Bugatti and Belgian engineer Louis de Monge, the original 1937 Bugatti 100P is considered by many to be one of the most technologically advanced airplanes of the era. The 100P featured cutting-edge aerodynamics with forward swept wings, a zero-drag cooling system, and computer-directed flight controls, all predating the development of the best Allied fighters of World War II. It was powered by two 450-hp engines squeezed into the narrow fuselage, and it was designed to reach speeds approaching 500mph. A feat previously only achieved by aircraft with twice the horsepower.
The 100P was also much more compact than most aircraft of the era, with a wingspan of nearly 27-feet and an overall length of approximately 25.25-feet. In June 1940, Bugatti stopped work on the 100P and concealed the plane to prevent its discovery by the German military. Though the plane survived the war, it was left in a condition unfit for flight. Amazingly the original aircraft still survives, currently residing at the AirVenture Museum in Oshkosh, Wisconsin.
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The Boeing YC-14 was a chunky-looking prototype aircraft developed in the 1970s. It was Boeing’s entry into the USAF Advanced Medium STOL Transport (AMST) competition. The competition was seeking to replace the Lockeed C-130 Hercules with an aircraft which required an airstrip of just 2,000 ft (610 m) when carrying a payload of 27,000 (12,000 kgs). In comparison, C-130s of the time, equally loaded, required 4,000 ft (1,200 m) of runway.
Of the initial proposals from several aircraft manufacturers, two were green lighted for further development, and both Boeing and McDonnell Douglas received contracts for two prototypes each. The Boeing aircraft was called the YC-14, while the McDonnell Douglas aircraft was designated the YC-15.
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The Republic XF-84H – nicknamed Thunderscreech – was a tremendously flawed prototype aircraft based on a Republic F-84F Thunderstreak. The aircraft was originally designed to fulfil a US Navy brief which called for a carrier fighter which was able to take off from the deck without the assistance of a catapult. However the Navy lost interest in the aircraft early on in the project and left Republic with the two finished prototypes. After the Navy dropped out of the aircraft’s development, Republic took the prototypes to Edwards Air Force Base to be used as pure research aircraft where they were used to test supersonic propellers and study propeller responsiveness at jet speeds.
Unlike the jet-powered Thunderstreak on which it was based, the Thunderscreech was powered by a massive three-bladed propeller. The powerplant was a 5,850 hp Allison XT40-A-1 turboprop engine which was centrally located behind the cockpit. A long extension shaft connected it to the nose-mounted propeller. The turbine engine also provided thrust through its exhaust, and an afterburner which could further increase power to 7,230 hp was installed but never used. Thrust was adjusted by changing the blade pitch of the 12 ft (3.7 m)-diameter propeller, consisting of three steel, square-tipped blades turning at a constant speed, with the tips traveling at approximately Mach 1.18.
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While the thought of a flying submarine might seem completely ridiculous to most people, it has been done. Way back in 1962 nonetheless. Donald Reid, a US defense contractor and also an early R/C submarine enthusiast built the RFS-1 using parts from salvaged aircraft and other assorted components.
It wasn’t a high-tech machine, despite its abilities. In the air it was powered by a 65 horsepower four-cylinder Lycoming engine. While underwater a 1-horsepower electric motor provided propulsion. Conversion from aircraft to submarine was a clumsy affair. The pilot first had to remove the propeller, and then cover the engine pylon with a rubber diving bell to keep the engine dry. The pilot used an aqualung to breathe. Maximum depth was roughly 10 to 12 ft (3.5 metres).
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The Payen Pa 49 Katy was a pocket-sized prototype aircraft developed in France during the 1950s. It was remarkable for a number of reasons. Firstly it was small, very small. In fact it was the smallest jet-powered aircraft of its day. Secondly it had a delta-wing configuration – which wasn’t ground-breaking by the mid-fifties, but it was still unusual. And thirdly it was a truly tailless aircraft, having no separate horizontal stabilizer.
The aircraft was designed by Roland Payen, who was a pioneer of delta wing and tailess aircraft. Before the second world war he had built two previous aircraft, but the Payen Pa 49 Katy was his first post-war design.
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Feast your eyes on this! The AeroMobil flying car from Slovakia. The vehicle has been in development for no less than 20 years, but it’s only just recently got off the ground… So to speak. The AeroMobil’s designer, Stefan Klein, is currently working on version 3.0 of the vehicle. But the previous version, 2.5, has already been tested, both on the road and in the air.
The latest version is almost identical in configuration, but it has a much sleeker and more futuristic appearance. Its creators say the AeroMobil is perfectly suited to its dual role, making use of existing infrastructure created for automobiles and planes, and makes true door-to-door travel possible.
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The Antonov A-40 Krylya Tanka – which in Russian means “Tank Wings” – was a prototype aircraft/light tank combination developed by the Soviets during the dark days of the Second World War.
The Antonov A-40 was a glider, not a powered aircraft. The idea was that a large, powerful transport aircraft would tow the A-40 into the air and to the battlefield where it would glide down to the ground with the crew already aboard. Once on the ground, the wooden wings and tail booms would be quickly unbolted and the tank would operate like any other.
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