Amiot 351 – WW2’s most graceful aircraft?

Amiot 351 light bomber aircraft

The French-built Amiot 351 (and its multiple variants) was one of the few aircraft in the second world war to serve with both the allies and the axis powers. The little-known Amiot 351 was one of the most graceful looking planes of the era. It was also one of France’s most advanced aircraft, being leap years ahead of all previous models.

The 351 light bomber was a development of the Amiot 341 prototype, of which only one was built in 1937. The first aircraft was constructed before war broke out, and it was in part used to try and convince the Nazis that France was in fact capable of building modern aircraft. In fact a prototype was flown to Berlin in the summer of 1938 in an unsuccessful attempt to convince the Germans that the French had some dangerous aircraft at their disposal.

The same year the French government ordered 130 production aircraft, later upping the order significantly to 830. However development problems meant that it wasn’t until 1940 that the first aircraft were delivered. Even then many of them lacked the full range of armament which had initially been promised. In addition a simpler single-tailed version, the Amiot 354, was also developed.
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Blackburn Beverley B-101 heavy transport aircraft

Blackburn B-101 Beverley

The Blackburn Beverley was a heavy transport aircraft operated by squadrons of the Royal Air Force Transport Command from 1957 to 1967. It was a spectacularly ugly aircraft, often described as “a block of flats with wings”. But despite its awkward proportions, it did its job very well. It was rugged, practical, and could operate from short runways of questionable quality.

The origins of the Beverley came from the manufacturer General Aircraft. They designed and built the original two prototypes, the GAL.60 Universal Freighter and the updated GAL.65. However after General Aircraft merged with Blackburn Aircraft in the early 1950s the name of the aircraft changed to the B-101 Beverley. At the same time the Bristol Hercules engines were replaced with more powerful Bristol Centaurus engines equipped with reverse-pitch propellers. These propellers gave the Beverley a very unique advantage over almost every other aircraft. When on the ground it could reverse under its own power, making it ideal for operating in confined areas and makeshift runways. The reverse-pitch propellers could also be used to slow down the aircraft once it had touched down, meaning it could land on comparatively short runways. At full load the takeoff run required 2,370 ft (722 metres) while the landing run needed was 930 ft (283 metres).
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MVP model 3 Aircraft / Camper combo

MVP model 3 aircraft

Combining a light aircraft and a RV camper is probably something not many people have considered before. But the folks at MVP AERO have not only considered it, they’re also in the process of building it.

The MVP model 3 aircraft / camper combo consists of a single engined light aircraft, which can be reconfigured on the ground to provide  a place to sleep, fish, explore inaccessible waterways or just relax and enjoy some peace and quiet. In designing the MVP model 3 the company had to start with a fresh sheet of paper, as there aren’t really any comparative aircraft on the market. One of the main obstacles of the design were the contradicting requirements of a lightweight aircraft, and a vehicle which could carry all the essentials for a weekend’s camping trip.

The MVP model 3 features a pusher-prop configuration with the engine mounted behind the cockpit. The fuselage / hull of the aircraft has a small walkway all around allowing the pilot to easily perform pre-flight checks of the engine and control surfaces, while also allowing access to the rear of the aircraft to string up a custom-designed hammock between the tail and the engine pylon.
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Strange Aircraft: PZL Mielec M-15 Belphegor

PZL Mielec M-15 Belphegor

The PZL Milec M-15 was a strange agricultural aircraft developed in the USSR. The aircraft was designed and built in Poland for Soviet agricultural use. Mainly crop spraying and dusting over the vast expansive farms of the USSR.

The aircraft was designed in the early 1970s as a replacement for the Antonov An-2 – a large single-engine biplane which first took to the air in 1947. The M-15 brief called for a modern and efficient aircraft which must be jet-powered. The two chief designers of the aircraft at PZL were Kazimierz Gocyła and Riamir Izmailov.

They came up with a biplane configuration for the M-15, and in doing so inadvertently designed the only jet-powered biplane ever built. In 1972 the first prototype took to the skies. It was built using many components from the AN-2, including the forward section and the wings. It was powered by a single Ivchenko-Progress AI-25 turbofan engine mounted above the fuselage.
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AeroGallo – a real flying cock

Aerogallo rooster airplane from Italy

The AeroGallo is a one-of-a-kind, two-person light aircraft which was built in Italy. Translated from Italian, its name means quite literally ‘Flying Cock’. It was designed and built by self-taught aircraft builder Ottone Baggio in his workshop shed. The inspiration for the aircraft had come from many years before when Ottone visited a farm machinery fair and saw a simple hang glider there called the Rogallo – from there he formed the idea into the AeroGallo.

The amazing paintwork of the AeroGallo, which is almost as impressive as the aircraft itself, done by Ottone’s friend Giuliano Basso. He was inspired by the 20th century artist Antonio Ligabue, and in particular his painting entitled “Lotta dei galli” (The Cock Fight). Ligabue’s works used strong bold colors with thick defining lines. Giuliano spent weeks playing with different colors and techniques to get the right ‘look’ for the aircraft. One of his biggest problems was getting the texture of the feathers to match, as he had to paint the aircraft while it was still in pieces.

Once the aircraft was finally finished and painted, it was taken to Cassola airfield for taxing tests and high-speed ground runs. Unfortunately things didn’t go very well. Test pilots reported that the unusual engine position meant the center of gravity was hard to find, and it felt unbalanced. In addition, during a high-speed taxi run, a misaligned tailwheel caused the aircraft to suddenly turn 180 degrees causing it to tip up and dig one of its wings into the earth damaging the tip.
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Textron AirLand Scorpion – “Affordable” Military Jet

Textron AirLand Scorpion Jet

“Affordable” and “military jet” are not two phrases which are usually used in conjunction. But Textron AirLand Enterprises have just rewritten the rule book when it comes to military jets.

Firstly, as you may or may not know, the US military is still waiting for the Lockheed-Martin F-35  joint strike fighter to be delivered. It has been in development since the early 1990s, and to date is the most expensive military jet program the world has ever seen – currently estimated at $1.0165 trillion overall, and with a unit cost of between $124 million and $156 million depending on specification. The F-35 has been plagued with delays, engineering problems and disgraceful budget increases over the years. And just before it was due to make its international debut this week at the Farborough Airshow in the UK, the entire fleet was grounded while engineers try and figure out what caused one to set alight while sat on the runway.

The other US fighter jet which made its world debut at the Farnborough Show was this, the Textron AirLand Enterprises Scorpion Jet. It has taken less than two years to go from paper to prototype, and has a unit cost of just $20 million. The two aircraft offer very different things, the F-35 is the most advanced jet the world has ever seen is yet to see, and it employs the very latest and most expensive technology available. On the other hand, the Scorpion Jet uses already existing, tried and tested off-the-shelf components from a number of manufacturers.
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Starting your own Air Force? Two fighter jets headed to Auction

military jets for sale

Later this month, Silverstone Auctions will play host to the sale of not one, but two, fighter jets. Both of them are ex-Royal Air Force aircraft, and both of them are becoming increasingly rare. For anyone contemplating staring their own mini air force, now’s your chance to snap up a couple of potentially rather dangerous flying machines.

Even better, both aircraft are being sold with no reserve!
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PZL-230F Skorpion – Prototype Polish Jet Fighter

PZL-230F Skorpion prototype aircraft

The PZL-230F Skorpion was a prototype jet aircraft which very nearly saw production. The project was started in the late 1980s by PZL. PZL was the Polish State Aviation Works and was controlled by the Polish communist government of the time. However in 1989, after the fall of communism in the country, it became a separate corporation with the same name. Throughout this transition the Skorpion project continued.

The PZL-230F Skorpion was a compact aircraft – just 32 feet (10 m) long. It had a single pilot, twin jet engines, and was designed to accept both Warsaw Pact and NATO munitions. It was an advanced aircraft which was to use lightweight composite materials and fly-by-wire electronics. Yet at the same time the  Skorpion was designed to be affordable, easy to build, well armoured for good survivability, and easy to adapt to a variety of roles. It was also designed to be able to take-off and land on comparably short runways.
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Chyeranovskii BICh-21 – Soviet tail-less racing plane

Chyeranovskii BICh-21 tail-less racing airplane

The vast majority of unusual and prototype aircraft arise because of bizarre requests by military strategists who want something which will completely out-class their enemy and give them the edge. However another great fermenter of technology is the far less destructive arena of sporting competition. The Chyeranovskii BICh-21 is one such aircraft.

Designed and built by the celebrated Soviet aircraft designer Boris Cheranovsky, the BICh-21 was an extremely compact racing plane which used an innovative tail-less layout. Cheranovsky was famous for his radical designs, and is credited with creating the first airworthy flying wing aircraft – as well as several other tail-less designs.

The initial plans for the BICh-21 were drawn up in 1938, it was a development of his earlier prototype design, the BICh-20 Pionyer. The aircraft was completed by 1940, however it wasn’t until 1941 that the aircraft was first flown.
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SNECMA Coleoptere VTOL aircraft prototype

SNECMA Coleoptere VTOL aircraft

In the 1950s, military aircraft designers were becoming increasingly interested in developing VTOL (vertical take-off and landing) aircraft. In these early stages there were many unusual designs – perhaps most notable were the “tail-sitter” aircraft like the Convair XFY-1 “Pogo” and the Lockheed XFV-1 “Salmon”. In the mid ’50s the first jet-powered tail-sitter arrived in the form of the Ryan X-13 Vertijet. Then in the late ’50s the French unveiled the mother of all weird tail-sitters, the SNECMA C.450-01 Coleoptere.

SNECMA, or the Societe nationale d’etudes et de construction de moteurs d’aviation – which in English translates as the “National Company for the Design and Construction of Aviation Engines” – developed the aircraft based on experiences learnt from a previous VTOL aircraft, the SNECMA Atar Volant.

The SNECMA Coleoptere was a completley unorthodox aircraft from top to bottom. Whereas the Convair and Lockheed prototypes had more or less conventional wings and enlarged vertical stabilizers, the Coleoptere had an annular wing which wrapped around the aircraft’s fuselage like a giant barrel. Four small stabilizers at the rear of the wing provided directional control.
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