Tatra T.101.2 replica at Prague, Czech Republic in 2014.
Tatra Aircraft, Skywards So Briefly
The name Tatra belongs to one of the oldest still active automotive manufacturers in the world, it’s a name that conjures up images of land vehicles ranging from horse carriages, locomotives, heavy trucks and luxury cars. What few people familiar with the Tatra company and its products are aware of is the firm’s brief foray into aviation during the mid to late 1930s.
Beginning in 1934, Tatra took on some very talented aviation designers and opened an aviation division in 1935. The first aircraft Tatra produced were a small number of Bucker Bu-131 Jungmann trainers; following that, they produced at least one Avro 626 Avian trainer.
The company’s first original aircraft design appeared in 1937 and was designated T.001; with some refinements, the T.001 became the T.101.
While only a single T.101 was ever built, its accomplishments during a brief flying career were far from insignificant and its place in aviation history much more important than one might at first imagine. Indeed, it was a critical developmental step in the creation of the post war Zlín Tréner series of training and aerobatic aircraft.
T.101.2 displaying at Prague in 2014.
Revolutionary Record Setter
From a design and performance standpoint, the T.101 was a remarkable achievement for single engine, two place touring aircraft of its era.
The T.101’s wing was a complex, single unit which the fuselage could be attached to the top of rather than two separate wings attaching to either side of the fuselage. At a span of 13 metres, the T.101’s was the largest wooden wing built in Europe prior to the Second World War.
The T.101 had a fuel capacity of 500 litres. With a full fuel load, it could maintain 30 hours of flight time and travel a distance of almost 5000 Kilometres in ideal flying conditions. The maximum operating altitude for the T.101 was 8,000 metres.
Tatra used the T.101 to set a number of altitude and distance records which included a non stop flight from Prague, Czechoslovakia to Khartoum, Sudan in 1938 that covered a distance of 4,340 Kilometres.
Also in 1938, the aircraft was used to set altitude records for single and two seat aircraft possessing engine capacities between 2 and 4 litres. On the morning of March 16 of that year, with two people aboard, the T.101 set a new height record for two seat aircraft of the class when it reached 7,113 metres. On the afternoon of the same day, with only one person aboard, the T.101 went aloft to set a new height record for single seat aircraft of the class. It reached an altitude of 7,470 metres, breaking the existing record by around 1,000 metres.
The last flight of the original T.101 is acknowledged to have taken place in October of 1938.
T.101.2 taxiing at Prague in 2014.
T.101.2 Replica, To Rise Again
In 2008, a pair of Czech brothers finished construction of a full scale replica of the T.101. To avoid confusion between the original and the replica, the original is referred to as the T.101.1 and the replica T.101.2.
It was something of a miracle that this replica could come into being at all. After the fall of Socialism, it was discovered that the original T.101 plans had survived not only the German occupation of World War Two but also the following decades under the Socialist regime. The plans had been found intact in archives in the north eastern city of Opava.
With original plans in hand and a great deal of help from many companies and other organizations, the replica would become a reality.
The T.101.2 received certification of airworthiness in 2009 and it has put in appearances at Czech airshows a number of times since then.
While the replica is as faithful as possible, certain concessions in materials and construction methods had to be made to satisfy contemporary standards.
To see the replica fly its spirited routine is a treat and whatever concessions its constructors had to make to see it finally fly will be the furthest thing from your mind when you watch it.
The Zlín Tréner series, represented here by a Z-126, are the grandchildren of the Tatra T.101.
The T.101 Legacy Today
A sport optimized offshoot of the T.101, the T.201, was developed in 1937. It had smaller wings and tail surfaces than the T.101 and clearly had speed as a priority.
Karel Tomas, who had been head of Tatra’s aircraft division, found himself employed by the Zlín aircraft company in the early post war period and heading the design team which created that company’s prodigious and legendary Tréner family of aircraft using the T.201 concept as a starting point.
From certain angles it is not at all difficult to see the family resemblance between Zlín Tréners and the T.101.
To learn more about the T.101.1, the T.101.2 and Tatra aircraft in general; you’ll do no better than the website of the brothers who are responsible for the T.101.2:
September 6, 2014 was the annual open day of Prague’s historic Letňany airport. In its 90 year history, this airport has been the site of many historic events in Czech aviation and served as an early home for legendary Czech aviation firms Avia and Letov.
The event was a small, laid back and primarily civilian affair with a strong focus on vintage and replica aircraft. Here’s just a sampling of what was there:
Mráz M.1C Sokol; one of Czechoslovakia’s first post WWII domestically produced aircraft.
M.1 Sokol in flight. Only two or three remain airworthy today.
Full scale Avia Bh.1 replica.
Boxy but highly entertaining.
Orličan L-60 Brigadýr with radial engine.
L-60 Brigadýr with inline engine.
Tatra T.101 replica
T.101 reflecting in the sun.
Přikryl-Blecha PB-6 Racek replica.
Praga E.114 Air Baby
Polikarpov Po-2 in from Slovenia.
Beech 18 visiting from the UK.
A great write up on a lesser known Cold War jet.
Originally posted on Defence of the Realm:
Given the success of the Spitfire in World War II many people had high hopes for Supermarine in the post war years that they could follow up this success but with a jet powered design. The Swift can trace its origins to the Type 510 which first flew in 1948 and after a series of redesigns the first true Swift F.1 was ordered in to production in 1951 at the height of the Korean War. Experience in Korea against the MiG-15 had shown the Swift would struggle with its unreliable engine and it’s troublesome handling. In fact it would not have even entered production in its F.1 guise had it not been for the government’s insistence that a British swept wing jet fighter be put in to service as soon as possible.
Efforts were made to address these problems in the succeeding versions. The F.2 featured an additional pair…
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A Mil Mi-171 of the Czech air force in 2014.
The Eastern All Rounder
This long lived family of transport helicopters created by the Mil design bureau comprised of the Mi-8, 17 and 171 and collectively known as “Hip” in NATO’s code naming system is still going strong and showing no signs of slowing down with age.
More than five decades after the first flight of its prototype and over 12,000 units built; this legendary family of aircraft has been used by civil and military operators in over 60 countries and built in a myriad of variants and sub variants that would make the most learned of experts break into sweats to sort out.
At the heart of this longevity and world wide popularity is a level of adaptability to a wide assortment of missions and environments as well as to new systems and technologies that few other helicopters in its class can match.
Mil “Hip” Milestones
1958: Single engine prototype designed using Mil Mi-4 “Hound” as a basis.
1960: Approval for development of a twin engine prototype granted.
1961: First flight of single engine prototype.
1962: First flight of twin engine prototype.
1963: Main rotor design changed from four blades to five.
1964: Mass production commences.
1967: Mil Mi-8 introduced to Soviet military service.
1969: First flight of Mil Mi-14 “Haze” amphibious helicopter development of Mi-8.
1975: Mi-14 “Haze” enters military service.
1977: Mi-8MT variant enters Soviet military service.
1981: Mi-8MT introduced to the export market as Mi-17.
1991: Production of Mi-8AMT begins, Mi-8AMT designated Mi-171 for export purposes.
2008: License production of “Hip” helicopters begins in China.
2011: 50th anniversary of prototype’s first flight.
Czech Mi-17 marked as a trainer in 2013.
A Product of One-upmanship
As popular as the aircraft family has become over the years, its beginnings were not smooth. Before the 1950s were out, Mikhail Mil proposed the idea of a two engine, turbine powered helicopter to replace his piston powered Mi-4. The Soviet military, being satisfied with the Mi-4, were luke-warm to the idea at first; however, Mil tried presenting it to them a second time as a development of the Mi-4 rather than an outright replacement and in doing so got approval to design and build a prototype which was designated V-8.
While the V-8 had a single turbine engine as opposed to its modern descendants’ twin turbine arrangement, the addition of the second engine is often attributed to a 1959 diplomatic trip taken by Nikita Khrushchev to America. Khrushchev was said to be very impressed with the Sikorsky S-58 helicopters he was shuttled around in during his visit and wanted to be certain he had something superior to transport the American president when the reciprocal visit was made to the Soviet Union.
After returning home, Khrushchev took a test flight in an Mi-4 modified for VIP transport. Mil took the opportunity to convince Khrushchev that the V-8 would be a more appropriate machine but required two engines to be completely up to the job. Khrushchev gave Mil the approval to develop a twin engine prototype before the V-8 had flown for the first time.
While the Soviet government took the first production Mi-8s as passenger and VIP aircraft in the mid 1960s, it was not until the later 1960s that the Soviet military started seeing value in the machine and eventually took it into service.
Slovak air force Mi-17 in 2013.
Trading the Dog for a Hippo
The Mi-4 “Hound” had proven itself a success internationally and Mikhail Mil kept certain aspects of the aircraft when setting about designing what would become the Mi-8. Most notably, he kept the earlier design’s clam shell cargo doors which made up the rear of the fuselage and allowed vehicles and larger items to be carried internally. As the doors were completely removable, they also allowed the rapid boarding and deployment of foot soldiers or paratroopers. Ahead of the tail and clam shell doors, the aircraft was redesigned completely.
The Mi-8 not only had the advantage of turbine power, it also had double the lifting ability of the Mi-4. In common with its forerunner, the Mi-8 adapted well to the armed helicopter role as well as being robust and serviceable in spartan operating conditions.
What really set the “Hip” apart was its unprecedented adaptability not only to a wide variety of missions, but also to a wide variety of climactic conditions. Equally at home in the Antarctic, jungles or deserts; there is almost nowhere the “Hip” family can’t be operated.
This flexibility has seen the helicopter serve both civil and military users well in the high mountains of Afghanistan and Pakistan, the rain forests or Asia and South America, the deserts of the Middle East, the grasslands of Africa among many other environments. In fact, the current standard of the aircraft is approved for operations in temperatures ranging from -50 to 50 degrees Celsius.
The NATO code name was not unknown to operators of the type in former Warsaw Pact nations and there have been more than a few crew patches, pieces of nose art and other such things featuring comical depictions of the hippopotamus playing on the code name created in association with the aircraft.
Looking at the aircraft, with its blunt nose and sausage like fuselage, it’s not at all difficult to see its resemblance to a hippo.
Croatian Mi-171 in 2008.
Acting Newer and Newer
Through it’s life, the “Hip” family has seen almost non-stop development and modification, much more than many other aircraft. This has created an aircraft with a very convoluted family tree that features many overlaps and multiple designations given to the same model.
The first major development of the Mi-8 after it first entered service was the Mi-8MT; it is through the Mi-8MT that the Mi-17 was born. These two aircraft are an excellent example of the overlaps which exist in the “Hip” lineage as they are the same machine. Mi-8 simply denotes machines made for the domestic Soviet/Russian market while Mi-17 denotes export market models.
The Mi-8MT came about after the Mi-14 “Haze” amphibious naval helicopter was developed from earlier Mi-8 models. While the Mi-14 was ultimately different enough from the “Hip” line to deserve its own separate terminology; what the Mi-8MT inherited from the Mi-14 was more powerful engines and transmission along with a redesigned main rotor.
Another major change came to the “Hip” line in 1991 with the introduction of the Mi-8AMT and its export counterpart, the Mi-171.
Of the many external changes made, the most noticeable is certainly the replacement of the rear clam shell cargo doors with a single piece retracting cargo ramp. Other notable changes include the re-positioning of the cabin air conditioning unit to a spot higher on the right side of the fuselage near the engine compartment.
Internally, the newest versions have very modern cockpits with many of the old analog instruments replaced by multi-function digital displays and western avionics.
As testament to the adaptability of these aircraft, many older members of the family have been overhauled and retrofitted with avionic systems which came in with later family members.
A Czech Mi-171 in 2012 with a variety of modernization items attached.
Staying on Top of the Game
While the fall of Socialism saw many militaries and civil organisations discard their former Soviet made equipment for western produced machines, the change in politics only served to find new customers for the “Hip” when western buyers expressed interest in it.
At the time of writing, the “Hip” family is still very much in production and taking pride of place in the catalog of Russian Helicopters, the descendant company of Mil.
Beyond newly build airframes, the “Hip” has also traditionally done quite well for itself on second hand markets.
Beyond the continued production in Russia and China, a worldwide network of service centres has been established to support the aircraft wherever they might be and a licensed overhaul and modernization facility exists for the type in the Czech Republic.
As it stands, there really seems to be no end in sight for this family of helicopters. Five decades haven’t slowed it down in the least bit and it looks quite fit to do another five decades easily.
Here are links directly to the Mi-8/17 and Mi-171 pages on the Russian Helicopters company site:
This link will take you to the website of LOM Praha, the Czech company licensed to overhaul and modernize the “Hip” and an overview of their work with the aircraft:
Not all aircraft get to be preserved or restored; sometimes there’s only enough left of them to qualify as archaeology subjects. Continental Europe has several sites where military aircraft crashed during the Second World War; in more contemporary times, many of these sites have been properly excavated and their contents cataloged and preserved.
This week’s A Word A Week Challenge has its focus on the word “Rust”. To that, I present a few photos of aviation archaeology from Czech and Austrian air museums:
Bristol Hercules engine from a RAF Vickers Wellington bomber. Museum of Air and Land Technology, Vyškov, Czech Republic
Second World War era concrete practice bombs. Museum of Air and Land Technology, Vyškov, Czech Republic
Remains of a Messerschmidt Bf-109 fighter. Zeltweg Air Museum, Zeltweg, Austria
Follow this link to Sue’s blog to see what other bloggers have offered up in her latest challenge:
Mirage F.1CT at Brno, Czech Republic in 2007.
Non-conformist of the Mirage Clan
A sleek and elegant triangular shape cutting its way through the sky at supersonic speeds is the usual image that comes to mind at the mention of Dassault’s long lived Mirage family of aircraft. An extensive family of delta winged aircraft that can trace its history to the early 1950s and is exemplified today by the Mirage 2000. However, not all members of this illustrious and legendary line of jets marched to the same drummer.
The Mirage F.1, the prototype of which first flew in late 1966, was initiated as a private venture by Dassault with a primary focus on creating a relatively low cost flexible fighter which could be operated in less than optimum airfield conditions. However, the origins of the F.1 can be traced back to the Mirage F2; a failed all weather strike fighter prototype which had flown in June of 1966. It was from the F2 that the F.1 inherited its distinctively non-delta wing shape.
The Mirage F2 was Dassault’s response to a 1963 requirement issued by the French air force for a strike fighter to replace the Mirage III in that role. While the delta wing design gave the Mirage III much in the way of streamlining and speed, it had the drawback of requiring the aircraft to have a high landing speed; this translated into the Mirage III needing a long, well prepared runway.
The French air force specified that the new aircraft would need a lower landing speed so that it could be operated from shorter runways in potentially spartan and rudimentary conditions away from larger more permanent bases. To achieve this aspect of the specification, Dassault dispensed with the delta wing and instead opted for a swept wing mounted high on the fuselage and a separate tail unit of conventional design. The separate swept wing allowed a variety of high lift devices to be incorporated into it that were not adaptable to delta wing designs of the period; these devices permitted the aircraft to remain aloft at the lower landing speeds stipulated for the new strike aircraft.
The Mirage F2 was cancelled when France withdrew from the integrated command structure of NATO in 1966. The withdrawal created a change in France’s own military requirements and it was determined that, without NATO commitments to consider, France itself no longer had need of a large, expensive strike aircraft such as the F2 was.
What France did see a pressing need for at the time was an all weather interceptor capable of Mach 2 speeds that would also possess some ability in the strike mission. To meet this new requirement, Dassault put forth the Mirage F3 and the Mirage F.1 designs. the F3, like the F2, was a much larger, more complex and more expensive aircraft than the F.1; these factors would work against it. The F.1 was able to meet all the specified parameters in a smaller and more cost effective package and was ultimately chosen as France’s new fighter in 1967.
The first Mirage F.1 entered French air force service in spring of 1974.
Mirage F.1B at Brno in 2007
A Mirage with More
In all aspects, the Mirage F.1 was superior to the Mirage III and its Mirage 5 offshoot. The F.1 had roughly 40% greater internal fuel capacity, significantly shorter take of and landing lengths, greater range and a more rugged construction which allowed operations from remote and austere conditions.
From an export standpoint, the F.1 did not see the tremendous levels of success that the Mirage III and 5 did; however, it did respectably well for itself and served in the air forces of 14 countries.
The core of the Mirage F.1 family consists of five variants, though there are several sub variants to each. The sub variants typically represented the equipment desires of the purchasing nation:
A ground attack optimized variation which used the F.1C as a base. It was developed jointly between France and South Africa.
Two seat training variation based on the F.1C
Standard all weather multi role fighter version. This was the first production version of the aircraft family.
In the late 1970s and early 1980s, approximately 80 Mirage F.1C aircraft were built as F.1C-200 variants. The F.1C-200 incorporated an in flight refueling capability and served as the basis for the F.1CT ground attack and F.1CR reconnaissance versions.
Two seat trainer version of the F.1E
An export version with full mission capabilities of the F.1C as well as enhanced air to ground abilities.
Mirage F.1B in Brno in 2007
The Hired Gun
The Mirage F.1 has had a particularly active life as far as combat operations are concerned. Many of these have been quite small and localized border skirmishes between neighboring nations.
What also stands out is that, in some cases, the aircraft seems to have something of a mercenary tone to its duties. France was not always picky about who they sold military equipment to and were not above selling to nations that had arms embargoes against them; such was the case of the South African F.1 fleet after an embargo was placed on that nation in 1977.
Through a large section of the 1980s, South Africa used the F.1 extensively against Angolan forces during the South African Border War.
Iraq flew many F.1 missions to intercept Iranian aircraft during the Iran-Iraq War of the 1980s.
The Chadian-Libyan conflict, a series of skirmishes between Chad and Libya which lasted from 1978 to 1987, saw the Mirage F.1 flown by both sides. Libya used their F.1 fleet to make attacks on Chad while, through a defensive agreement with France, French F.1 aircraft were used to fly air cover for Sepecat Jaguar aircraft making counter-strikes into Libya.
In 2011, during the Libyan Civil War, a pair of Libyan Mirage F.1 aircraft made international headlines when the pilots decided to divert their aircraft to Malta rather than follow their orders to open fire on protesters in the city of Benghazi.
Through the 1990s and early 2000s, the Mirage F.1 has seen action in French service over the Persian Gulf, Afghanistan, Balkan Peninsula, Libya and Mali.
In combat operations, the Mirage F.1 showed great flexibility and adaptability to using a range of different weapons from a variety of sources. Beyond French made weapons, the aircraft was known to carry munitions of American, Israeli and South African origins.
Mirage F.1CR cockpit as it appeared in 2006.
Mirage F.1 operations in Europe were brought to an end when France disbanded their last unit of Mirage F.1CR aircraft in June of 2014. The type’s other European users, Greece and Spain, retired their fleets in 2003 and 2013 respectively.
At the time of writing, the Mirage F.1 soldiers on in Gabon, Iran, Libya and Morocco.
In spite of clearly being in its twilight years, the F.1 does still have some life in it. The Moroccan fleet was subject to an extensive engine and avionics upgrade which make it comparable to the Mirage 2000.
With the Libyan Civil War bringing an end to the Gaddafi regime and improving relations between Libya and the world; a deal was struck in which France would refurbish and upgrade Libya’s F.1 fleet.
As an interesting footnote to the F.1 story, shortly after Spain retired their remaining inventory of the type, Argentina entered negotiations to acquire some of the former Spanish aircraft. Negotiations between the two countries progressed to the point of a formal deal; however, Spain pulled out due to pressure from the UK against the sale fearing Argentina would use the aircraft to escalate tensions over the contested Falkland Islands.
Despite the failure of that deal, it does show that the Mirage F.1 is still viewed to have some value in spite of its age.
This is a general overview of the F.1 at Dassault’s own web site:
This link will take you to a good article about the Mirage F.1 in South African service.
Klemm Kl-35D at Pardubice, Czech Republic in 2013
From Insider to Outsider
As German aircraft manufacturers go, the Klemm company is most closely associated with a series of light sport, training and touring aircraft which were popular in the 1930s. The founder of the company, Hanns Klemm, had the civil market in mind first and foremost; as such, most aircraft which his company produced had little to any connection to the military.
An architect and industrial designer by training, Klemm entered the aviation industry towards the end of the First World War. He started work for the Zeppelin company; however, his personal connections to Claude Dornier and Ernst Heinkel saw Klemm move into the design of conventional aircraft and eventually working for the coach building and aircraft sections of the Daimler company.
Klemm’s own aircraft company was born in late 1926 when he bought Daimler’s aircraft works. Klemm was something of a purist when it came to designing aircraft and set his goal on creating light monoplane aircraft which could fly well on lower powered engines and be attractive to flying clubs as trainers and general touring aircraft. Through the 1930s, he built an international reputation for producing quality aircraft of just this sort.
All was going well for Klemm until the Nazi party came to power in Germany and the country’s flying clubs and training facilities were taken under state control. Hermann Goring was particularly dismissive of Klemm’s aircraft and declared that they would not be used to train the pilots who would serve in the newly formed Luftwaffe.
It would be the beginning of a tenuous relationship between Klemm and the Air ministry. Klemm’s company would be relegated to servicing and constructing aircraft of more prominent companies; of course, this did not sit well with Klemm himself and he set about work on a solution.
Klemm Kl-35D at Pardubice in 2013
Keeping a Hand in the Game
With no personal interest in designing military aircraft or having his company used as a servicing and construction point for other manufacturers’ designs, Klemm was in a bind. If his company was to survive, he had to design something the Air Ministry could see a use for and accept that it would have to possess military potential.
Playing to his strengths in designing trainers and sports types, Klemm began to design the Kl-35. It was a design for an aerobatic trainer that could be built with the Air Ministry’s preferred construction methods and materials of the time.
Flying for the first time in February of 1935, the Kl-35a prototype was a clean and elegant aircraft with wings of wood construction and a fuselage of steel tube with a fabric cover and had excellent handling qualities. Despite the Kl-35a being lost in a crash due to over-stressing of the airframe; Klemm created a second prototype, the Kl-35b, with a some refinements and modifications. It was the second prototype which caught the attention of the Air Ministry and led to an order of nearly 1,400 of the type for use as a standard trainer for the Luftwaffe.
Klemm had secured a contract and was once again producing aircraft of his own design. An additional assembly line was set up at the Fieseler company until 1939 when production was shifted to the Zlín company in occupied Czechoslovakia. Production of the Kl-35 for the Luftwaffe concluded in 1943. Significant other customers for the aircraft during the war period included: Hungary, Slovakia and Sweden.
The Kl-35 was produced in two variations; the initial production version was known as the Kl-35B while the definitive and much more numerous Kl-35D followed. Both versions could be adapted to float landing gear for operations from water and the Kl-35D was offered with a completely enclosed cockpit as an option.
Kl-35D at Pardubice in 2013.
A Step Out of the Line
By virtue of its entirely conventional construction, the Kl-35 stood out in the line of aircraft designed and built by Klemm. Hanns Klemm was highly critical of the prescribed way the Air Ministry wished aircraft to be made for the Luftwaffe and considered many of the methods to be obsolete and crude.
Where the Air Ministry was dictating fuselage construction of fabric on metal tube or full metal construction, Klemm wished to build fuselages using molded plywood shells. Plywood shell construction would not only result in lighter weight with equal strength to metal fuselage aircraft, it would also ease the fitment of internal components as the two fuselage shell halves could simply be closed around a finished interior as opposed to trying to fit an interior to an already completed metal fuselage.
Despite the fact that the concept of plywood fuselage aircraft had been experimented with since the first world war, Germany’s own LFG Roland C.II reconnaissance aircraft was an early example of such construction, and both Lockheed in America and DeHavilland in Great Britain had further developed and validated the concept by the early 1930s; Klemm could not get approval from the Air Ministry to design aircraft for Luftwaffe using plywood fuselages.
Klemm did experiment with the concept at the civilian level prior to and during World War Two. A good example of what the Kl.35 might have looked like if he had got his way can be seen in the Kl.106 which very strongly resembled the Kl-35D though it had a fully wooden fuselage in place of the fabric on steel tube.
Kl.35D with Focke-Wulf Fw-44 at Pardubice in 2013.
What Remains Today
Of the roughly 2,000 Kl-35s built, no Luftwaffe examples are known to remain intact. However, several former Swedish air force Kl-35 aircraft are known to survive in preserved states, including some airworthy examples on civil registers across Europe.
Following this link will take you to a website with a wealth of information about Hanns Klemm, his company and many of the aircraft he designed and built:
this link will take you to a page focusing on the Kl-35 in Swedish service: