Monday, June 30, 2014

Bi(polar)planes

Maybe the prettiest airliner ever. I watched the whole Ian McKellen production of Richard III just because there was a Dragon Rapide on the posters. True Fact.
British aerospace design runs hot or cold for some reason; their planes are rarely average-looking. The same nation that produced the glorious de Havilland Dragon Rapide also produced the Blackburn Blackburn:
It's not actually flying; the earth is shunning it.


If the Hunter's not the best-looking jet fighter ever, it's close enough that it's not worth arguing over. I think it's because it look like a sort of ur-plane. If you handed a toddler a crayon and asked them to draw a jet, it would have lines very much like this. It's sort of the platonic ideal of "jet fighter".
The same runways hosted the Hawker Hunter, a jet fighter with lines so pure that even the side-by-side cockpit of the trainer version can't ruin them, and the Fairey Gannett, a mutant turboprop sub-hunter of almost aggressive ugliness.

It's almost as though they only remembered it had to be aerodynamic at the very end of the design stage. "Someone sweep the vertical stabiliser back a little bit, will you please?" It does, however, look better than the Short Seamew.

45 comments:

Sport Pilot said...

You've made my day with this wonderful aviation post pertaining to British aircraft.

Woodman said...

Looks like they slide past "Cor, that's bloody beautiful" to "just make the engine bigger till it flies" too easily.

Brian said...

I can watch youtube videos of the beautiful Hawker Hunter all day.

Boat Guy said...

DeHaviland Mosquito

Earl said...

Yep, thanks for nailing it.

mikee said...

So is the American A-10 "Warthog" beautiful or ugly?

Apparently the Air Force thinks it is ugly, and the Marines think it is beautiful.

Karl Gross said...

It's almost as though they only remembered it had to be aerodynamic at the very end of the design stage. "Someone sweep the vertical stabiliser back a little bit, will you please?"

Them's fighting words to us Mooney drivers - N2683W

Woodman said...

The army loves the Hog too. It's only people that don't need ground support that hate it.

It is by far the plane out there that is closest to perfect for its purpose, at least from what I've seen and read (expert I am not), and it seems they are reducing them and scrapping them every time you turn around.

Even though there is no real replacement.

Woodman said...

The army loves the Hog too. It's only people that don't need ground support that hate it.

It is by far the plane out there that is closest to perfect for its purpose, at least from what I've seen and read (expert I am not), and it seems they are reducing them and scrapping them every time you turn around.

Even though there is no real replacement.

Unknown said...

I'm sorry, but the F16 to me is still the most beautiful fighter aircraft ever designed.

global village idiot said...

I watched McKelland's Richard III because I loved the idea (which was ingenious in execution IMHO) and so help me, I thought the Dragon Rapide was a made-up stage-prop. No way something that cool-looking could fly, I thought.

gvi

Jake (formerly Riposte3) said...

@ Woodsman: And then every time we get into a fight with real ground battles, somebody realizes "Oh, $#!t! We need those! Quick, stop scrapping them!"

The USAF leadership wants to kill it, because it's not fast enough or super-high-tech enough for them, but it flies, so they won't take the Marine Corps up on their offer to take it over. It's pure institutional jealousy and bureaucratic BS.

Unfortunately, that's going to end up leaving ground troops without adequate CAS when/if the F-35 boondoggle is used to phase out the A-10's.

Bubblehead Les. said...

Next up, British Car Design, PLEASE!

Kristophr said...

I'm kinda partial to the Beechcraft staggerwing ...

https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/0/08/Beech_UC-43_USAF.jpg

Kristophr said...

Oh, and did like the british proposal for a nuclear powered aircraft: An oversized Short flying boat, with auxiliary electric propellers added to the the backs of the wings, with a small nuclear pile to run them.

"Well, if you absolutely insist on using nuclear power, this would be the cheapest way to do it ... now, can we get Lucas to design the motors and wiring?"

Robin said...

There is something about
Fairey that about all of their airframes are ugly.

Everything you say about the Hunter is true.

For another oddball, see Boulton Paul Defiant (which you can see in the flesh as it were at RAF Hendon on the outskirts of London).

Imagine that someone had a Hawker Hurricane and said "Damn, you know what? What this needs is a turret ..."

http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/Boulton_Paul_Defiant#mediaviewer/File:Boulton_Paul_Defiant_Mk_I_in_flight.jpg

Anonymous said...

Geoffreyc DeHavvilland was to aircraft design what John M Browning was to the design of cartridge firearms.

If you really want to see ungainly, look at interwar French amphibian airliners. They are positively Gothic, especially the products of Leore Et Orient.

Lex Luthier

Anonymous said...

The prettiest airplane on the ramp is the one you're flying that day although the British school of aero design seems to dictate building the airplane and then realizing that the damn cockpit was omitted. regards, Alemaster

JohninMd.(HELP?!??) said...

My vote for the classic fighter jet has to be the F-86 Sabrejet. Mig slayer of the 50's....

JonB said...

I'm tempted to theorise that the good looking British aircraft can be attributed to relatively few designers.

If Sydney Camm did it, it probably isn't bad, and may be something as beautiful as the Hunter or the Sea Fury. Geoffrey de Havilland was variable, but some great hits. Oh, and there was some bloke called Reg Mitchell...

Of the later Cold War beasts, the English Electric Lightning looks like that bloke in a pub with half an ear missing, no teeth, and a many-times-broken nose. You're still fairly sure the people who did it to him came off worse.

I've always liked the Handley Page Victor, which looks like it came off a cheap sci-fi novel cover, but was actually quite successful at what it was supposed to do.

Anonymous said...

I vote for the F-8 Crusader as the most beautiful jet ever, mostly because it saved my personal bacon....

Merle

Anonymous said...

The Gannett was the product of a committee alright. The Royal Navy wanted contra-rotating props to prevent torque-steer and it all had to fit on the existing carriers with their small elevators and hangars. It had so much power that one engine could be shutdown in cruise flight and the corresponding prop feathered.

I think Dehavilland's prettiest airplane is the DH.88 Comet (the air racer not the jetliner).

Al_in_Ottawa

mariner said...

The Hunter is almost as pretty as the F-86 Sabre.

NotClauswitz said...

My grade-school friend Peter's dad had been a mosquito pilot during The Battle. He smoked Camel non-filters like a chimney one after the other.
But the Seamew - like a damselfly - makes me think, "I'm a little Seamew, and my guns go Pew! pew! pew!"...

global village idiot said...

The Seamew is a PROFOUNDLY unintimidating airplane. I don't care if it's got rockets, depth charges and torpedoes - it's impossible to take the ungainly thing seriously.

gvi

No Mas said...

Sheesh - you didn't touch on the V-Series British bombers. Anything that ugly should be a helicopter.

og said...

Short has a history, lord knows. I suspect the design center of Short is in Hogwarts basement, how else could they strap a wing on a Winnebago and make it actually fly without magic? it explains a good deal about Brigid's magical personality as well.

docjim505 said...

British aircraft, British women. When they're good, they're very good. Otherwise, you get something that would make a plastic surgeon or Kelly Johnson walk away in tears.

Ken said...

I'll just leave this here: Westland Lysander.

Stretch said...

The three most beautiful things to come from the British Isles:
1) the Spitfire aircraft
2) the E-type Jaguar
3) Dianna Rigg

Geodkyt said...

The Hawker Hunter is pretty, but it doesn't look like a fighter.

The prettiest fighter ever made was the F-4 Phantom -- so ugly it was drop dead gorgeous. And it looked like Speeding Death, sitting on the tarmac with all teh access panels open, much less contaminating the atmosphere with about a ton of unburned kerosene and soot every hour. . .

JonB @ 1:46 PM, June 30, 2014

I agree with you on teh Electric Lightning -- a butt-ugly plane, but it looked vicious.

Bob in Houston said...

Wow, what can one say about the Fairey Gannett?, its like an F-85 Goblin and an X-87 Flapjack got drunk at a party and made an even uglier plane baby.

Windy Wilson said...

The Fairey Gannett looks like something designed for one of the Mad Max films. Or what Bob in Houston said; So much for the legend of love children (what an antiquated phrase) always being beautiful.

Don M said...

I was assigned to a new aircraft program, and one of the standard security questions is 'what do you think it looks like?' to see how much has already leaked out.

I like my ideas better than the planes I have worked on, and I have worked on some odd birds.

D.W. Drang said...

When it comes to warplanes,sometimes ugly has a unique beauty of it's own, i.e., the A10, the F4.
OTOH, the beautiful designs are classic: P51D, F86.

Kinda surprised the McKellan Richard III didn't show up in various tank geek posts....

Anonymous said...

That's actually the AEW version of the Gannet btw. That lump on the belly is the radar. The antisubmarine version looked rather nice (imo).

Tam said...

1)I know, and 2) I don't agree. ;)

Don M said...

E-2D Hawkeye. Its predecessor. and the predecessor to that.

Bulging excrescences.

Windy Wilson said...

The only E-type Jaguar that looks good is the convertible model. The hatchback looks like Gelsey Kirkland with an expedition-sized backpack on.

global village idiot said...

The award for "Mad Max Aviation" has to go to the Bennett PL-11 Airtruck - I mean c'mon, it was designed out of spare parts from the get-go!

The Germans made some rather bizarre-looking airplanes (BV141) but the one thing they all seemed to have in common was the design aesthetic that it should look like it's about to @$%# you up.

They were good at that part.

gvi

Angus McThag said...

I've noticed that it's the Fleet Air Arm that seems to make with the grotesque.

rocinante2 said...

+3 on the F-86. *That's* the archetypal image that pops into my head when someone says "jet fighter".

Also, I'm pretty sure the BV-141 inspired several of the weirder fighter spacecraft in Star Wars...

Dan F said...

For all interested, there will be a Gannet flying at EAA Airventure this year.

Maxwell said...

Wot, no A-4 Skyhawk?

Joe Bar said...

I love the Gannet. And the Wyvern. Ugly Brit planes rule!