This time, the theme is anything to do with jets and airplanes. I decided to make my submission dedicated to airliners. This is not only because we haven’t seen too many of them flying in 2020, but also because I’m sure many of us would love to hop on an airliner right now and just get away from the frustrations of lockdown.
Here’s some airliners I’ve snapped at various times and places:
If you’ve followed Pickled Wings for any length of time, you know that I’m a big supporter of the Kunovice Air Museum and try to do annual updates on what’s going on out there.
It’s a fascinating and dynamic museum that has come through a great deal of adversity to be the very respectable museum it is today that is well worth the trip to the south east of the Czech Republic to visit.
I first visited the museum in 2008 and can say with no hesitation that it’s difficult to believe the languishing and depressing museum I first visited just a little over a decade ago is now the dynamic and optimistic place it is today.
In truth, in some ways it’s not the same place. In 2008, it was under different ownership and that ownership did not invest much if anything into it. With a change of ownership, the fortunes of the museum changed very much for the better.
2020 marks the 50th anniversary of the museum’s founding.
Then and Now
When deciding how to put the 2020 update of the museum together, I looked at pictures I’ve taken of the museum between my first visit and 2020 and decided a bit of “Then and Now” retrospective would go a long way to showing what the museum has accomplished in the last decade or so.
Some of their aircraft got full makeovers, others got cleaned up and stand rather more straight and proud on the concrete pads under their wheels.
In the military exhibits, the museum has a pair of former Czechoslovak air force Sukhoi Su-7 strike aircraft displayed with a collection of bombs and other weapons the type carried in service.
When I first saw them in 2008, they were a sad sight. The aircraft were a bit sunken into the soil and the weapons were quite rusted.
Between then and now, the weapons were all given a fresh coat of paint and laid out in much more organized way on a dedicated concrete pad or on carrying devices that would have been used to move them around in service.
The aircraft themselves are still in need of a fresh coat of paint, but they are certainly kept clean and are standing much more straight and repectably on their concrete pads.
Closer to the museum’s primary mission of preserving the aviation history of Kunovice itself, was the 2019 restoration of “Matylda”.
“Matylda” is an XL-410 and the first prototype of the Let L-410 Turbolet commuter aircraft, one of the most successful Czech designed aircraft in history.
As 2019 was the 50th anniversary of the first flight of the L-410, it was certainly a good time to give “Matylda” a facelift to bring her back to the look she had at the time of that first flight.
Another good reason was her place as the first of such a successful line of aircraft to fly.
Last, but not least, is that Let is a Kunovice based company and so “Matylda” is certainly very local product that fits the museum’s core mission to preserve.
It was certainly a relief for me to see “Matylda” in fresh, shiny paint and sitting quite upright with her propellors on when I visited recently. The previous faded, incomplete and leaning posture she had was very unbefitting an aircraft of her historic significance
The museum has a few examples of the Aero L-29 Delfín jet training aircraft in their collection. Like the L-410 Turbolet, the L-29 Delfín is among the most famous and successful of Czech aircraft designs.
While the L-29 was not designed in Kunovice, many were built in Kunovice by the Let company, so the local connection is certainly there. In 2018, the museum removed one of the L-29s from public display and began the process of restoring it.
The specific aircraft, “0113” represents a very early production variant of the L-29 and it is planned to restore it to a paint scheme it wore during its service in the Czechoslovak air force in the early 1980s.
These are only a few examples of the work the museum has done on some of its longer standing exhibits over the last decade or so.
There are many more examples to take in if you visit the museum or its website or Facebook page.
More Recent Accomplishments
The museum has been doing much in more recent years to generate attention to itself and its activities.
In the 2015 -2016 timeframe, the museum embarked on the very ambitious goal to move a former Czech air force Tupolev Tu-154 airliner by road from Prague to Kunovice. It was a logistical feat nothing short of Herculean that involved many trips to Prague by museum volunteers in order to prepare the aircraft for the move.
If you were following Pickled Wings in that timeframe, you may remember that I wrote about the crowdfunding project the museum established to raise funds to not only move the aircraft, but also restore it and make it a true centrepiece of the museum as far as exhibits were concerned.
In the end, the crowdfunding project was not only wildly more successful than the museum expected, it also set the record for the must successful crowdfunding project in the Czech Republic.
The move of the aircraft was well covered by Czech news outlets and made the national news.
The museum has also fostered good relations with the town of Kunovice and, as a result, the municipality has granted them more land. This, in turn, has allowed them to put more space between their exhibits and give more walking room to visitors.
Another goal the museum has had, and gone some distance in accomplishing, is to create some indoor exhibition space for some of its aircraft and artefacts that are more sensitive to the elements.
In 2017, they added a small extension to their entry building that holds a dedicated exhibition to the locally designed and produced Let L-200 Morava aircraft.
In 2019, they added a small exhibition hall at the opposite end of the museum property that holds two or three aircraft.
Both indoor displays have placards on the outside indicating that they were built with money from entry fees and souvenir sales. The placards also have the flags of nations that the museum has received visits or other assistance from citizens of.
The Road from Here
In early 2020, the museum announced a partnership with the Brno Technical Museum that will work to the benefit of the aviation collections of both organizations.
Given what this museum has accomplished since I first visited, I’m very optimistic for where it could go from here.
I’ve had an article about the Kunovice Air Museum on the website for a number of years now. I’ve recently freshened the photos and some of the information on it following my recent visit there. Have a look:
At a very early point in the jet age it became clear that the modern jet combat aircraft was going to be a very different beast from its forbears of previous eras.
Modern jet fighters were more expensive not only in materials, but also in related infrastucture and the level of training required to prepare air and ground crews to work with them than previous generations of fighter aircraft had been.
With the Cold War becoming a reality on the heels of the of the Second World War and the Korean War highlighting as many shortcomings of early jet fighters as advantages, the idea of inexpensive, lightweight and simple combat jets to supplement the more advanced types being developed started to become attractive in many places.
In many cases, creating such aircraft had been a simple matter of retrofitting an existing jet trainer design to be combat capable or designing a new jet trainer with the potential to carry armament from the start.
In some cases, an entirely new aircraft is designed specific to the purpose. The internationally created AMX, which first flew in 1984, is one such aircraft.
Developed jointly by Brazil and Italy, the AMX was intended to satisfy more than just the military requirements set for it.
The AMX is a hard working aircraft that doesn’t get a lot of attention. Let’s spend some time with it:
The Italian Job
Italy is a nation that has a history of building aircraft that stretches back to the dawn of flight. They are no stranger to making lightweight and simple combat jets and have created some notable examples in the category.
The Aermacchi MB-326 trainer, which first flew in 1957, was one of the most successful training jets of its era and proved easily adaptable to carrying weapons. It was used by at least 16 countries and was well liked and respected as both a trainer and light combat type.
Flying for the first time in 1958, the Fiat G.91 was an attempt to design a dedicated light combat type from the ground up. While the G.91 did not see the export success of the MB-326, it had a respectably long service life with the nations that used it and was an effective aircraft when used in the role it was intended for.
In 1976, Aermacchi’s MB-339 flew for the first time. Derived from the MB-326, the MB-339 shared much in common with its forbear, but was designed to have combat capabilities as a standard feature. Created with lessons learned from the success of the MB-326, the MB-339 is a successful, respected and worthy heir to its ancestral design.
The genesis of the AMX can be found in the late 1960s and early 1970s when the Italian air force determined a new aircraft was required to replace the Fiat G.91 and other older aircraft in their inventory.
In response to air force concerns, both Aermacchi and Aeritalia began studies of a new light attack aircraft that would be inexpensive and complementary to the much more advanced and expensive Panavia Tornado strike aircraft that was under development at the same time.
Aeritalia, which had been formed in a 1969 merger of Fiat Aviazione and Aerfer, had inherited the G.91 and based their studies on developing and improving the aircraft. Ultimately, the limitations of upgrading the G.91 design became apparent and the studies were stopped.
Aermacchi approached their studies with a clean sheet design, the MB-340. While the MB-340 never progressed past drawings and models, the final form of the AMX was heavily influenced by the MB-340 design.
In 1977, the Italian air force issued a formal requirement for a fighter-bomber and reconnaissance aircraft and called it AMX. The name was an abreviation created by taking the A from Aeritalia and the M from Aermacchi; the X represented the experimental nature of the aircraft program.
Beyond having the intent to replace the remaining G.91 fleet, the AMX would be expected to take over the close air support and reconnaissance roles being carried out by Italy’s aging fleet of Lockheed F-104G Starfighters at the time.
In 1978, Aeritalia and Aermacchi agreed to develop the AMX jointly. Brazilian aircraft manufacturer, Embraer, had joined the project in 1980 and by 1981 a common set of requirements were established between the countries for what the new aircraft should be able to do. The Brazilian interest was rooted in a need to replace their air force’s aging fleet of MB-326 aircraft in the close support role. Embraer had license built the Brazilian MB-326 fleet and had a good working relationship with Aermacchi.
The development of the aircraft was administered through a joint venture company called AMX International. The headquarters of the company were set up in Rome, Italy.
Into Shape and Into Production
Beyond satisfying the military needs of the countries creating it, there were other goals in mind for the AMX. Primarily, the aircraft was intended to bring back some vitality to the Italian aircraft industry by creating jobs. There was the additional goal of reasserting Italian relevance in the larger scope of European industry through the country’s central role in the AMX project. Italy had a smaller workshare in the Panavia Tornado, but certainly had the lion’s share where the AMX was concerned. Aeritalia and Aermacchi carried 70% of the AMX workshare while Embraer had the remaining 30%.
Although each company had their own final assembly line, there was no redundancy in the production of components for the aircraft. Aeritalia was responsible for the central fuselage, tail fin, rudder, radome and carbon fibre components in the wings and tail. Aermacchi tended to the front and rear fuselage sections while Embraer was tasked with construction of the wings, elevators, air intakes, weapons pylons, landing gear, fuel tanks, reconnaissance pallets and the fitting of components specific to the Brazilian version.
It was also planned that the AMX would have export potential. As such, American made components were avoided where possible to reduce America’s ability to blockade sales of the aircraft to certain customers.
Beyond the basic airframe and the British designed Rolls Royce Spey engine that powered the aircraft, there were many differences between the Brazilian and Italian versions of the aircraft under the skin as far as instrumentation and other avionics related systems were concerned.
The primary differences were dictated by Italy’s membership in NATO and the need for Italian air force aircraft to have systems that were compliant with NATO standards of interoperability between member nations of the group. As there was no such requirement for the Brazilian aircraft, the Brazilians were free to fit their AMX fleet to their own requirements and with some domestically developed systems, such as the MAA-1 Piranha air-to-air missile.
The main external difference between the Brazilian and Italian AMX versions is the type of cannon they carry. The Italian aircraft are equiped with the American designed M61 20 millimetre rotary cannon with six barrels while the Brazilian aircraft carry a pair of French designed 30 Millimetre DEFA cannons with single barrels. Brazil was forced to choose a different cannon when America would not give approval for the export of the M61 cannon to the country.
The first Italian prototype flew in Spring of 1984 while the first Brazilian prototype flew in Autumn of 1985. The first full production standard AMX flew in 1988. The AMX entered Italian air force service in 1988 and Brazilian service in 1989. By the time production ended in 1999, approximately 200 examples of the type had been built.
Due in large part to the collapse of Socialism across Europe at the time the aircraft was entering service, the AMX never saw export success. The fall of Socialist regimes in Europe led to a reduction in military spending in many western European nations and most saw no need for an aircraft like the AMX in light of old Cold War tensions rapidly easing.
The aircraft was briefly considered for purchase by both the Philippines and Venezuela. The Philippines had been considering buying second hand Italian aircraft, but opted for the South Korean designed Kai FA-50 light attack aircraft instead. Venezuela tried to purchase a small fleet of two seat AMX aircraft from Brazil. However, America blocked the purchase due to the degree of American made systems in the aircraft.
In the mid 2000s, both Brazil and Italy instituted extensive upgrade programs for their respective AMX fleets. The upgrades included many of the analog instruments in the cockpit being replaced with digital multi-function displays as well as night vision goggles for the pilots and improvements to the radar.
Perhaps due to a lack of global visibility brought on by a lack of export success, or living in the shadow of a prominent companion piece like the Panavia Tornado, the AMX has never really captured a substantial following among aviation enthusiasts. Not much is written about it relative to other aircraft and its appearances at airshows are relatively rare.
This should not be taken to mean the AMX is unworthy of attention. It’s been a busy and hard working aircraft through the bulk of its service life and has certainly filled any requirement its creators set for it.
While it has never exceeded the expectations of its creators, it most certainly has been the largely self-sufficient and robust light combat aircraft they set out to make. Capable of high subsonic speeds and of being operated and maintained from improvised airfields away from the infrastructure of larger air bases, the AMX has worked as advertized while playing its part in a number of international military operations.
Through the late 1990s, the AMX was part of Italy’s contribution to the NATO led Operation Deny Flight and subsequent IFOR peace keeping activities in Bosnia. They were also involved in the Kosovo War which lasted from February of 1998 to June of 1999.
From 2009 to 2014, a group of Italian AMX aircraft were deployed to Afghanistan to carry out reconnaissance and close support missions as part of the American led Operation Enduring Freedom and the NATO led International Security Assistance Force (ISAF).
The Italian air force also involved their AMX aircraft in the 2011 NATO led military intervention in Libya to overthrow the Gaddafi regime. Working alongside Italian air force Tornado strike aircraft and Italian navy Harrier attack jets, the AMX proved quite capable of not only carrying out attacks on its own, but also using a targeting pod to guide the weapons of other aircraft to their targets.
Beyond the combat role, Both Brazil and Italy have used their AMX fleets to aid civilian organizations at home.
The reconnaissance abilities of the AMX came to the fore following the 2019 eruption of the Stromboli volcano on Sicily and the 2016 earthquake in central Italy. The extremely high image quality the reconnaissance pods the aircraft were equiped with could deliver was immensely helpful in accurately assessing the damage of both disasters and helping rescue crews find survivors quickly and efficiently.
For many years, the Brazilian armed forces have worked in conjunction with civilian law enforcement agencies to combat a variety of illegal activities in the Amazon rain forest and national border regions. Part of this has been against the narcotics trade, the Brazilian air force has included their AMX fleet in carrying out reconnaissance and attack missions against illegal airfields serving the drug trade within the country’s borders.
The AMX Today and Learning More
As mentioned earlier in this article, the AMX was never used by anyone outside of Brazil or Italy and has never been a common sight at airshows. As such, it may come as no surprize that your chances of seeing one may be quite slim unless you travel to one of its countries of origin.
While the Brazilian AMX fleet is set to serve until the late 2020s or early 2030s, the curtain is quickly falling on AMX operations in Italy. As of 2020, only a single squadron of the type remains active in Italian service. The AMX will be replaced by the Lockheed Martin F-35 fighter in Italy.
While some examples of the AMX have found their way into museums in Brazil and Italy, it will not be much longer before a trip to Brazil might be your only chance to see an active example of the type.
The following links will take you to further reading about the AMX in both Brazilian and Italian air forces:
Of all nations that have ventured into the field of designing and building their own aircraft, France was one of the earliest to do so. Of French aviation companies, few are as legendary as Morane-Saulnier.
A partnership of aviation pioneers, Raymond Saulnier and the Morane brothers, the Morane-Saulnier company was founded in 1911 and was active for around half a century before being bought out by the Potez aircraft company in 1962.
Raymond Saulnier (1881-1964) was an aeronautical engineer and alumnus of the prestigious and demanding École Centrale in Paris. Saulnier had colaborated with Louis Blériot on the Blériot XI aircraft and the famous 1909 flight over the English Channel that was performed with the aircraft. He also was responsible for designing the aircraft Roland Garros made the first flight across the Mediterranean with in 1913.
Saulnier stayed with the company he helped found from its establishment in 1911 to its dissolution in 1962. He was a prolific designer of aircraft and holder of many patents.
Léon Morane (1885-1918) was a well established pilot who had the distinction of being the first man to fly at 100 kilometres per hour and the first to fly at an altitude of over 2,500 metres, he set both records in 1910.
Léon’s life was unfortunately cut short by the Spanish flu epidemic of 1918.
Robert Morane (1886-1968) was a passionate automotive racer who earned his pilot’s license and entered the world of aviation in the footsteps of his older brother. In the wake of his brother’s death, Robert immersed himself deeply in the activities of Morane-Saulnier.
Robert had a hand in establishing Air Union in 1923. Air Union was an airline that would be merged with two other airlines in 1933 to create Air France.
A number of further reorganizations among French aircraft companies took place after Morane-Saulnier was bought out by Potez in 1962. Since 2008, the Morane-Saulnier legacy has been in the hands of the Daher company; it became theirs when they bought a controlling share of the SOCATA company.
Modern For the Military and the Masses
In France, as in many other countries, the revelation that the First World War brought of aviation being able to serve practical purposes was not lost on the nation’s military or public at large.
The 1920s saw the birth of flying clubs and schools across Europe as well as the birth of the commercial, corporate, general and sport aviation sectors.
In 1925, the British designed and built De Havilland DH.60 Moth took to the air for the first time and swiftly became the workhorse of flying schools in Britain and abroad.
In 1928, the French Air Ministry issued an order for a new two seat training aircraft for use by the French army and naval aviation arms. Of the several companies that presented designs in response to the order, only the design by Morane-Saulnier represented contemporary design philosophies and it easily won the competition.
The aircraft, designated the MS.230, first flew in 1929 and quickly found favour not only in the military but also with civilian flying schools in France. While it was doing much the same job in France that the Moth was doing in Great Britain, to call the two aircraft equals would be substantially selling the French aircraft short.
Compared to most other training aircraft of the period, the MS.230 was a leap forward aeronautically speaking in several ways.
While most trainers of the time were biplanes, the MS.230 was a parasol wing monoplane design. The monoplane design used less materials by virtue of not having a second set of wings. The parasol wing arrangement meant that the wing had no direct connection to the fuselage, but was held above the fuselage by a system of support struts. The parasol wing had a period of popularity in the interwar years and Morane-Saulnier were strong proponents of it. One of the advantages that came with the parasol wing included better downward visibility for the pilot and observer; without a lower set of wings, there was a much less obstructed view to the ground and this was very beneficial to observation and reconnaissance duties.
Additionally, the parsol wing simplified design and construction of the aircraft as designers did not have to concern themselves with creating wing root junctions on the fuselage and ensuring that the wings connected to the fuselage securely without compromising the strength of either.
The MS.230 was driven by a 230 horsepower nine cylinder radial engine made by the Salmson company. At the time the MS.230 first flew, radial engines had some distinct advantages over in-line engines of the period. One of the biggest advantages was that radial engines were air cooled while in-line engines required bulky radiators and coolants; as such, there was a weight savings to radial engines. Radial engines also tended to be more robust and serviceable than in-line engines of the day.
From a materials standpoint, the MS.230 was constructed primarily of metal and fabric. The wings and rear fuselage were fabric on a metal framework while the forward fuselage was sheet metal construction. Many of its contemporaries still had significant amounts of wood in their construction, the lack of wood in the MS.230 definitely made it modern for the time.
A Tutor and an Acrobat
The MS.230 was well liked as a training aircraft. It was stable enough in flight to be useful as a basic trainer and was aerobatic enough to be used for more advanced training as well.
Just as most Royal Air Force pilots at the outbreak of the Second World War had received their first taste of flight in the DH.82 Tiger Moth that was developed from the DH.60 Moth, the bulk of French military pilots at the outbreak of the conflict had gone up into the air for the first time in an MS.230.
The MS.230’s aerobatic abilities were noted quite early on in its service life and led to the aircraft becoming the mount of the Patrouille d’ Etampes military demonstration team, a forerunner of today’s Patrouille de France team, from 1931 until the late 1930s.
Those same aerobatic qualities also made the aircraft popular among sport pilots of the day.
The MS.230 was used by the air arms of around a dozen countries and was licence built in Belgium, Greece, Portugal and Romania. Aside of its training duties, the aircraft also found use in liaison, observation and glider tug duties.
During the Spanish Civil War, the Republican side had some MS.230s in their air force.
When Germany occupied France during the Second World War, the Luftwaffe evaluated the MS.230 favourably, noting its robust construction and that it was easy and pleasant to fly. By that time, however, the aircraft was showing its age and the Luftwaffe had little practical use for it as they had more modern aircraft of German design in service for training purposes and other roles the MS.230 might be fit for.
Very few MS.230s were left intact after the Second World War. However, the few that did survive enjoyed some success in sport flying circles and in film.
Probably the most notable use of the MS.230 in film was as the fictitious new German monoplane fighter prototype seen in the First World War drama “The Blue Max” which was released in 1966.
What Remains and Learning More
Of the more than 1,000 examples of the MS.230 that were built, it seems that perhaps less than ten remain intact worldwide today.
Preserved examples exist in museums in Belgium, Czech Republic, France, Spain and USA.
Of the remaining examples, it appears that there may be one or two in France that are ground runnable. However, they seem not to have flown since the 2015 timeframe from what I can find online.
There doesn’t seem to be a lot of dedicated information about the MS.230 in any language online. However, there are a couple sites you can go to for more details.
This link will take you to a short article about the MS.230 preserved at the Kbely museum in Prague, Czech Republic. It’s in Czech, but works respectably with online translators: Link to MS.230 article at vhu.cz
Where print media is concerned, the defunct Air Enthusiast magazine published an article in their August 1972 issue that gives one a good impression of what the MS.230 is like as a flying machine. It may be worth the effort of trying to track down a back issue if you want a pilot’s perspective on the aircraft.
As we all know, the current COVID-19 quarantine has led to a massive slowdown in aircraft movement in the real world. Pictures of rows of airliners sitting idle at airports around the world attest to this.
Sadly, from the aircraft enthusiast point of view, the quarantine has already seen the cancelation of a number of airshows around the world for 2020 and the delayed opening of a number of museums for the season.
On the upside, the quarantine has given me time and opportunity to review a good number of articles on the website much sooner than I would have under normal circumstances. While I have not reviewed absolutely every article on the website, I have reviewed the aircraft articles in the main menu.
All of the articles have had their links revised and updated where possible and some articles have received updated images. While work continues behind the scenes in other areas of the wesbite, this seems like a good time to tell you about some of the more note worthy changes to the aircraft articles:
The Albatros B Series article received an update in the text regarding the current status of a B.II replica in New Zealand. Much thanks goes to the people at the Omaka Aviation Heritage Centre for clarifying the aircraft’s current whereabouts for me.
I have temporarily removed the article on the Fokker Dr.I for more indepth revisions.
The Noorduyn Norseman article was given a text expansion to better cover the type’s military service and roles.
The Stearman Model 75 article was temporarily removed for more indepth revision.
The Fouga Magister article was given a text expansion to better cover the type’s combat action.
The article on the F-101 Voodoo has been temporarily removed.
So, where from here?
The next section for revisions will be the Museums & Organisations area.
During the aircraft article revisions, I also decided to make an effort this year to create articles for sections with less content than others. So, this year you may be seeing more articles focusing on aircraft form the 1900 to 1929 and 1980 to 2000 time windows.
Stay Strong, Stay in the Pattern
I do hope that everyone in the Pickled Wings readership is managing alright under the lockdown and that it will soon be over and we can all start getting back to something resembling normal.
As the clouds of the First World War cleared, the newly born and independent Czechoslovakia quickly showed itself to be an ambitious nation with well established talent pools in aviation as well as many other fields.
Founded in 1919, the year following the establishment of Czechoslovakia, Aero is one of the oldest of Czech aircraft manufacturers. The Aero name is branded upon many legendary Czechoslovak aircraft designs from the interwar period up to the present day. Surviving the Second World War as well as the rise and fall of Socialism, Aero is still very much in the aircraft manufacturing business today and is busy making components for foreign aircraft as well as still making full aircraft of their own design.
Along with the Avia and Letov companies, Aero formed the foundation of the young nation’s aviation industry and was a key name in the nation’s interwar aviation developments both civilian and military.
The Aero A.11 was a popular and particularly important aircraft as it served as the basis for no fewer than seven later aircraft types that served the Czechoslovak air force, and a few foreign ones, quite well up to the outbreak of the Second World War.
From Good Stock
The A.11 was a two seat light bomber and reconnaissance aircraft by design that, in spite of numerical order, was developed from Aero’s earlier A.12 design.
The A.12 first flew in 1923 and proved itself to be a popular and reliable aircraft that, with the exception of some engine vibration issues, was not a difficult aircraft to maintain or operate. When the time came to give the Czechoslovak military a new light bomber and reconnaissance aircraft, Aero had a good starting point with the A.12.
Aero co-founder and chief designer, Antonín Husník (1894-1948), was responsible for creating the A.11 from the A.12 and succeeded in improving on the older design. The A.11 first flew in 1925 and versions of it would give dependable front line service to the Czechoslovak air force until the mid 1930s.
The main area of improvement between the A.12 and the A.11 was a change of engine; the German made Maybach engine of 240 horsepower that drove the A.12 was replaced with better engines. Many A.11s built were equiped with versions of the domestically produced Breitfeld-Daněk Perun six cylinder inline engine. Some were also powered by the Walter W-IV, another domestically developed six cylinder inline engine.
With a maximum speed of around 215 kilometres per hour and a range of 750 kilometres, the A.11 had very respectable flight performance for the time and set at least one national speed record during the 1920s.
Perhaps the best testament to the aircraft’s performance and reliability can be taken from an extensive promotional tour in 1926 that saw an A.11 and its crew fly a total 15,070 kilometres across Europe, North Africa and the Anatolian peninsula. The aircraft overflew 26 nations on the tour and spent almost 92 hours airborne with no major issues.
Outside of the Czechoslovak military, the A.11 also served in the Finnish military. The Finns ordered eight examples of the A.11 as an interim aircraft when the Dutch designed and built N.V.I. F.K. 31 failed as a replacement for their aging fleet of French designed Breguét 14 aircraft. As it did in Czechoslovak service, the A.11 proved itself to be popular and reliable in Finn hands. Finland used their A.11 fleet until 1939.
A.11 variants were produced for approximately six years and production totals seem to vary quite a bit depending on the reference source. Aside of the baseline A.11, the aircraft existed in a few variations:
This was the designation for the version exported to Finland. The HS version differed from the Czechoslovak versions by having a 300 horsepower Hispano-Suiza eight cylinder engine.
This was the light bomber version. In the bomber version, the A.11 could carry 200 kilograms of bombs.
Night bomber version.
This designation was used for baseline A.11s that were converted to the trainer role after the A.11 was replaced in frontline service with the Czechoslovak military by the Letov Š-328.
The Aero A.11 Today and Learning More
As the interwar period was a time of rapid development in aviation technology and the A.11 came from a small nation, it perhaps should come as no surprize that not only do we not a have a flying example in either restored or replica form; we also don’t have much opportunity to see the type in museum collections.
A very well made replica of an Ab.11 can be viewed at the excellent Kbely museum in Prague, Czech Republic.
If you want to see a real A.11, you will need to make a trip to Finland. A genuine A.11HS is on view in the collection of the aviation museum in Hallinportti in the central part of the country.
There’s not much in the way of English language information out there about the A.11, but the following Czech language links respond well to online translators and will give you more information about the aircraft: A.11 article at vinar.cz A.11 article at vhu.cz
Boeing’s legendary 737 airliner series is so common worldwide that most of us barely take notice when one flies overhead, the truth is that we really should take more notice of it and respect its unique place in aviation.
The 737 is, after all, the world’s most produced and used airliner of any category. By some estimates there are more than 1,000 of the type airborne at any given time and the 737 series represents roughly 25% of all airliners currently in operation.
First flown in 1967, The 737 has been in production for over 50 years with over 10,500 built across four distinct generations as of early 2020. Chances are, if you’ve traveled on shorter airline routes, you’ve likely traveled on a 737.
It is a design that has proven highly adaptable in both civilian and military applications. Beyond its intended commercial airliner role, the 737 has been adapted to cargo, corporate transport, electronic warfare, firefighting, maritime patrol, test flying and training duties
Let’s spend some time with the “Baby Boeing”:
Playing Catch Up and Hitting Full Stride
It’s perhaps difficult to believe that with as prolific and successful as the 737 has been in its life, Boeing really was a bit late to the party with it.
The market for short haul, narrow body airliners was becoming increasingly lucrative in the early to mid 1960s and by the time Boeing began planning the 737 in 1964 the aircraft’s initial rivals for the market; the British Aircraft Corporation 1-11 and the Douglas DC-9 were well underway. The BAC 1-11 had its maiden flight prior to 1964 and the DC-9 flew for the first time in 1965.
To make up lost time, Boeing used the same fuselage and many systems for the 737 as they had for the 727 before it. As this common fuselage cross section was somewhat wider than those of its counterparts, the 737 could carry more passengers than either the BAC 1-11 or DC-9. Boeing further increased the aircraft’s passenger capacity by placing the engines under the wings rather than on either side of the rear fuselage as was done with the BAC and Douglas designs.
The 737 quickly proved popular as a rugged and reliable machine that could be easily supported and operated from airfields with rudimentary facilities and austere conditions.
When fitted with a system known as a gravel kit, the 737 could operate from semi prepared runways in Canada’s north as well as other spartan regions around the world. The gravel kit consisted primarily of a deflector device fitted around the nose landing gear and a metal pipe attached to the lower lip of each engine intake, air was blown downwards towards the runway through these pipes and prevented debris from being ingested by the engines while the aircraft was taxiing and taking off. This adaptation allowed the 737 to operate in areas that its competitors often could not.
Some 737 variants can be fitted with an Enhanced Short Runway Package that allows them to operate from shorter runways without adversely affecting their flight performance or lifting capability.
As the years have passed, the versatility of the 737 has ensured that later generations of the design are still competive against contemporary descendants of the DC-9 as well as younger short haul designs from Airbus, Bombardier and Embraer.
The 737 in Popular Culture
In its lifetime, the 737 has been operated by more than 500 airlines around the world and served in the air arms of around 25 countries. Such wide distribution has given members of the aircraft family a near omnipresence and visibility that has ensured it a place in popular culture.
Aircraft of the 737 family have made numerous appearances in both minor and major roles in films and television serials from around the world.
In musical circles, the 737 was mentioned the Creedence Clearwater Revival hit from 1970: Travelin’ Band.
American folk band, The Low Anthem, released the song Boeing 737 in 2011. The song is about the September 11, 2001 attacks on the World Trade Centre and the use of 737 aircraft in that infamous event.
An image of a 737 graces the cover of Mark Knopfler’s Sailing to Philadelphia album from 2000.
The 737 is also a very popular aircraft that features prominently in a number of flight simulator programs for computers.
The Family Album
The 737 family is divided into four variant series that each have their own subvariants within them:
The Originals: 737-100 and -200
Distinctive in appearance by their stubby fuselage and long, narrow engine pods that housed the noisy Pratt and Whitney JT8D engines; the initial series of the 737 family very quickly established the aircraft’s reputation for ease of service, versatility, self-sufficiency and ability to operate from remote locations with rudimentary facilities.
Both the -100 and -200 versions first flew in 1967. In that same year, Germany’s Lufthansa became the first commercial operator of the 737 when they took delivery of their first -100 version. In 1968, United Airlines became the first commercial operator of the -200 version.
While the -100 saw only modest production, the -200 was the first major variant of the family with over 1,000 built in total. While production of the -200 is long since finished, modifications to the remaining airworthy examples are still being produced and made available. Many of these modifications concern noise reduction and fuel efficiency issues.
The United States Air Force used the -200 version as the T-43 navigation trainer and as the CT-43 transport. The Indonesian air force used three -200s modified for maritime patrol.
The Classics: 737-300, -400 and -500
Before the 1970s were out, Boeing was already examining ways to improve upon the great success of the 737-200 and keep demand high for the 737 family of aircraft.
The driving forces which led to the new generation of the aircraft were increased fuel efficiency, passenger carrying capacity and engine noise reduction. In the face of addressing these issues, Boeing also aimed for a significant degree of parts commonality between the 737-200 and the Classic variants.
To tackle the matters of fuel efficiency and noise reduction, a new engine was required. The internationally developed CFM-56 turbofan was selected as the new engine, though incorporating it into the 737 required an adjustment in the position of the engines’ accessory devices to compensate for the 737’s low ground clearance.
The re-positioning of the engine accessory packages from directly under the engines to a spot on the side of them gave the required clearance between the engines and the ground; however, it also created distinctively shaped engine pods which were wider at the bottom and gave raise to the term “Hamster pouch” as a nickname for them when viewed directly from the front.
Fuel efficiency and general flight performance were also improved by refinements in the aerodynamics at various locations around the fuselage, wings and tail. Some aircraft of this generation were retrofitted with winglets on their wingtips to further increase fuel efficiency by reducing drag.
The -300 served as the basis for a firefighting variation of the 737 that debuted in 2018 and is known as the FireLiner. It’s seen use in fighting fires in both Australia and Canada.
The Next Generation: 737-600, -700, -800 and -900
The same forces which inspired the creation of the “Classic” series of the 737 family through the 1980s were again at play to inspire the development of the “Next Generation” or 737 NG series in the 1990s. This series of the aircraft family was announced in 1993 and the first of them took to the air in 1997.
An additional catalyst for the new developments was the Airbus A319 and A320 series of airliners from Europe. The A319 and A320 brought a great deal of new technology to the short haul sector which the 737 had become the dominant force in and Boeing would need to modernize it in order to stay competitive.
The 737 NG received redesigned engine pods which further increased fuel efficiency and reduced noise. Several drag reducing refinements were also applied to the wings for fuel savings and performance increases.
With the 737-800, a significant increase in size was instituted in order for the aircraft to not only compete more directly with the A320 in passenger capacity, but also to replace Boeing’s own 727 narrow body liner in many airline fleets.
Outside of commercial interests, the 737 NG has found users in the corporate and military sectors as well.
All NG versions can be fitted out as a Boeing Business Jet, or BBJ. The BBJ concept reduces the passenger capacity in favour of a more luxurious cabin for corporate flying.
The 737-700 serves as the basis for the C-40 Clipper transport which first flew in 2001 and serves with the U.S. Air Force and U.S. Navy.
The -700 is also the basis for the E-7 Wedgetail airborne early warning aircraft which first flew in 2004 and entered service in 2009 with the Royal Australian Air Force. The Wedgetail has since been taken on charge by the Turkish and South Korean air forces as well. The Royal Air Force announced in 2019 that they would be taking the Wedgetail into service and would have a fleet totalling five aircraft that would be delivered through the 2020s.
Developed from the 737-800, the P-8 Poseidon maritime patrol aircraft entered service with the US and Indian navies in late 2013. It entered service with the Royal Australian Air Force in 2016 and the Royal Air Force in 2019.
The 737 Max: Max 7, Max 8, Max 200, Max 9, Max 10 and Max BBJ
In 2011, Boeing announced the fourth generation of the 737, the 737 Max. The main impetus for creating this fourth generation of the aircraft was to keep Boeing competitive on the short haul market against the Airbus A320neo, which had been launched in 2010. Boeing had been planning to replace the 737 with a clean sheet design, but a combination of staying competitive and the 737 NG variants still performing very well in sales took precedence and the 737 was modified once more instead.
The 737 Max first flew in 2016 and had Malaysian based Malindo Air, a subsidiary of Indonesian based Lion Air, as its launch customer in 2017.
The Max 7, 8 and 9 are follow ons to the -700, -800 and -900. Like their 737 NG forbears, these Max versions can be refitted as BBJ versions.
The Max 200 is a variation on the Max 8 that takes that variant’s single class passenger capacity up from 189 to 200.
The Max 10 is a stretched version with a 230 passenger capacity in single class configuration designed to compete with the Airbus A321neo.
One of the most noticeable external changes to create the 737 Max was the engine change to the CFM LEAP engines to increase fuel efficiency and reduce noise emmisions. The Airbus A321neo also uses this same engine. The Max series has a number of other aerodynamic refinements nose to tail that include a new design of winglet at the wingtips.
Unfortunately, following a pair of fatal crashes, a worldwide grounding of the 737 Max fleet was imposed in March of 2019. The findings of the investigations placed the blame on Boeing for omitting critical information about an aspect of the 737 Max flight control system known as the Maneuvering Characteristics Augmentation System (MCAS) from the 737 Max training manual. The investigations also found that not only had Boeing omitted information about the system from the training manuals, they had also made modifications to the system, such as disabling the manual override, that made it an unacceptable flight safety risk.
Not only were pilots not being adequately familliarised with the system’s workings, they had no means of taking over for it if it malfunctioned. In both crashes, the system malfunctioned and the aircraft were sent into fatal dives that the crews could not recover the aircraft from.
The crashes and findings of the investigations shook confidence in both Boeing and the 737 Max. Many airline orders for the 737 Max were cancelled or suspended, Boeing dismissed their CEO and the repurcussions of the grounding were felt throughout the aircraft industry as many of the subcontractors Boeing had doing work on the 737 Max were also affected.
In January 2020, Boeing temporarily suspended further production of the 737 Max series in order to not only address the flight control issues, but also to sell the existing complete aircraft that are currently in storage.
The Future of the 737 and Learning More
The 737 celebrated the 50th anniversary of its first flight in 2017 and, as it stands, the 737 family would certainly seem to have another 50 years of practical service guaranteed to it across commercial, corporate and military sectors.
In spite of the woes of the Max series, the previous NG series still enjoys widespread popularity and serves as a reminder that the 737 is indeed a solid and proven design that has withstood the tests of time very well indeed.
Boeing has talked about replacing the 737 with a clean sheet design for a number of years. However, there seems to be no concrete date set for when the world might see that aircraft come into being.
With the sheer number of 737s built and the number of them still in active service around the world, your chances of seeing one earning their keep at an airport terminal or flying overhead are virtually guaranteed for the forseeable future no matter where you are in the world.
When Boeing’s 747 took to the air for the first time in 1969, it was instantly iconic of not only how far airliner technology had progressed, but also how much air travel had come within reach of the public at large. The 747 brought the term “Jumbo Jet” into our vocabulary and showed that true mass transportation by air between continents was a reality and could be done at a level of comfort and luxury once provided by the ocean liners of eras past in a fraction of the time. The 747 did this not only with passengers, but also with freight.
The curtain is slowly but surely falling on the 747 these days, and a good retrospective book or two on the machine is certainly justified. Happily, Owen Zupp has given us this book as a retrospective of the 747. As Mr. Zupp is from Australia, it’s only fitting that this book have it’s focus on 747 service with his homeland’s national airline: QANTAS.
The first thing that may catch the reader’s eye about this book is the image on the front cover: a QANTAS 747 taking off with an extra engine under one of the wings. While this ability to carry an extra engine was not unique to the 747, it certainly caused many observers to shake their heads and look twice when they saw a 747 in that configuration.
Mr. Zupp details in a very clear manner how and why a 747 would have the extra engine attached to it as well as the process of attaching and detaching that engine from the aircraft. In one chapter, he describes a QANTAS flight from Australia to South Africa where the outbound 747 carried an extra engine to be fitted to another QANTAS 747 that had been stranded in South Africa and needed a new engine in order to be able to fly home.
Each chapter of the book focuses on a different aspect of working around the 747, be it as aircrew or groundcrew, and every chapter makes clear the engineering marvel the 747 is. Also brought across very well is how friendly the aircraft was for those working with it at any level, testament to the consideration and forethought the Boeing designers put into the machine while creating it.
As for the book itself, it’s a very accessible read that provides a satisfying account of the 747 from an Australian angle. It’s technical enough that you’re left with no doubts of the author’s knowledge of the subject and qualification to speak on it, yet plainspoken enough to be quite suitable for the general interest audience.
With a flying career spanning around 50 years, many of those in airline service, Mr. Zupp is certainly a qualified and authoritative voice on a subject such as this.
In 1914, the air arm of the Austro-Hungarian military was in a less than optimal state of readiness and in desperate need of modern aircraft to effectively fight in the aerial battlefields of the First World War.
The Austro-Hungarian military faced a perplexing procurement issue at the time as the entire aviation industry of the empire was under a monopoly held by two men: Ludwig Lohner (1858 – 1925) and Camilio Castiglioni (1879 – 1957). Theirs was a monopoly that was well in place before the outbreak of the war.
Not wishing to be subject to the limitations and compromises that dealing with a monopoly could bring, the military encouraged other aircraft companies to establish themselves in the Austro-Hungarian Empire. While that did work to create a great deal more choice in who the military could deal with, it created the opposite problem to a monopoly: too much choice and too many companies creating too many machines and using too many resources in the process.
To counter this issue, the Knoller Program was created in 1915. Named for Professor Richard Knoller (1869 – 1926), a highly regarded engineer at the Vienna University of Technology who the military already had a good working relationship with, the progam was intended to entrust the design of a new aircraft to Knoller and then have the aircraft built under contract by different companies.
Haste Makes Waste
The Knoller Program lasted from 1915 to 1917 and had the primary purpose of creating powerful two seat aircraft that could fill a number of purposes. To this end, the program resulted in three aircraft types, the C.II being the final of them, all of which were failures and seen as unfit for military service.
The failure of the aircraft was not due to any incompetence on the part of Richard Knoller himself, but to the ridiculously short deadlines he was given to work within. He simply was not given the time to bring any of the designs in the program to maturation in the timeframes he was provided with.
The first aircraft of the Knoller Program was the B.I. Designed in January of 1915, but not completed until November of that year, the B.I suffered a number of delays and was found to be a very dangerous aircraft to fly due to structural weaknesses and poor handling qualities.
The B.I was followed by the C.I. Like the B.I before it, the C.I was beset with a variety of developmental delays before it took to the air for the first time. Also like the B.I, the C.I had a number of structural and handling shortcomings that made it unfit for service.
The third and final aircraft of the Knoller Program was the C.II, which first flew in 1916. Like the two designs before it, the C.II was structurally unsound, poorly built and unpleasant to fly.
The Knoller Program was brought to an end by parliamentary decision in 1917. Parliament had reconvened for the first time since 1915 and once it had been brought to their attention how much money and resources the military had put into the program with so little to show for it, all funding for the program was ordered to be stopped and the program terminated.
That order, however, did not come before the military had ordered a total of 185 Knoller aircraft and a C.II was involved in a fatal crash after its wings collapsed in flight. The military ended up with nearly 200 useless aircraft from the program, most of those aircraft were put into storage in incomplete states of construction and never flew at all. According to some sources, some of those aircraft did see service as ground maintenance trainers.
The Knoller Program was ultimately a tremendous waste of money that got in the way of the Austro-Hungarian military’s goal of modernizing its air arm rather than serving it. Companies that could have been building superior aircraft designs were often stuck wasting their time building Knoller designs.
The Knoller C.II Itself
The C.II was a fairly typical biplane design for its time. The wings were fabric covered and the upper wings slightly swept. The fuselage was fully wood construction.
The aircraft was designed primarily for observation work and had a crew of two. The observer station had a mount for a defensive machine gun and there was also a bomb rack on the fuselage with space for three bombs.
Around 75 examples of the C.II were built between three companies: Aviatik, Lohner and WKF.
All versions of the C.II were powered by Daimler six cylinder liquid cooled engines of either 160 or 185 horsepower.
What Remains and Learning More
Given the abject failure and wastage all three Knoller aircraft types from the progam represented, and the unpopularity they experienced by those unfortunate enough to be tasked with flying them, it’s rather surprizing that a single example of any of them still exists today.
While there certainly isn’t any nostalgia behind the C.II that might lead someone to make a full scale flying replica of one any time soon, there is one genuine C.II left in the world to see. The National Technical Museum in Prague, Czech Republic has a Lohner built example of the C.II on display in their transport hall display.
The following links will take you to articles about aviation in Austria-Hungary, the Knoller Program and the C.II in general:
2020 looks like a year where a good number of historically important aircraft have milestone anniversaries of their first flights. I’ve put together this list based on half decade increments using 1920 as the starting point and 1970 as the cut off.
It’s by no means meant to be exhaustive. Let’s have a look:
95 Years Old
Flying for the first time on February 22 of 1925, the DeHavilland DH.60 Moth was a true pioneer of General and sport aviation. It quickly became a staple aircraft of flying clubs in its native Great Britain and many places beyond. It also served as the progenitor of the DH.82 Tiger Moth training aircraft which many Commonwealth flyers of the Second World War got their first taste of flying in.
90 Years Old
Distinctive with its corrugated skin and three engine arrangement, the Junkers Ju 52 flew for the first time on October 13 of 1930. Used widely by both civil and military operators; the Ju 52 was the aircraft that German airline, Lufthansa, built their early reputation on. Like many aircraft Germany’s Luftwaffe used early on in World War II, the Ju-52 was a veteran of the Spanish Civil War. After WWII, variations of the aircraft were built in France and Spain.
85 Years Old
Heinkel He 111: First flown on February 25 of 1935, the Heinkel He 111 was Germany’s primary bomber aircraft through much of the Second World War. It was first used in combat during the Spanish Civl War. The CASA 2.111 was a post war Spanish built variation of it.
Avro Anson: First flown on March 25 of 1935, the Anson played a major role in the British Commonwealth Air Training Plan (BCATP) in WWII. The type was used extensively for multi engine and navigation training.
Conslidated PBY Catalina: This most legendary and recognizable of flying boats first flew on March 28 of 1935. It flew in all theatres of WWII and continued with both civilian and military operators for several years after the war.
North American T-6 Texan/Harvard: As legendary and storied as many of the front line combat types it was used to train Allied pilots for, the Texan (Harvard in Commonwealth service) first flew on April 1 of 1935.
Bristol Blenheim: Though obsolete and outclassed by the outbreak of WWII, the Blenheim was critical in giving the Royal Air Force a light/medium bomber capability in the early stages of the conflict. It first flew on April 12 of 1935.
Messerschmitt Bf-109: The prototype of the aircraft that would become the backbone fighter of the Luftwaffe throughout WWII first flew on May 29 of 1935. Early versions of the Bf-109 saw action in the Spanish Civil War and post war variations were built in Czechoslovakia and Spain.
Hawker Hurricane: The primary fighter of the RAF at the outbreak of World War II and through the Battle of Britain, the Hurricane held the line admirably against the Luftwaffe until the Spitfire was available in sufficient numbers. Even after it was removed from day fighter duties, the Hurricane continued to serve the RAF in a variety of roles through the duration of the war. The Huricane first flew on November 6 of 1935.
Douglas DC-3: This most storied, legendary and influential of airliners needs no introduction. The DC-3 was a revolution in both airliner construction and the airline business. A much beloved aircraft design and subject of much nostalgia; the DC-3 served numerous operators, both civil and military, around the world for decades. It proved itself durable and very adaptable beyond its intended airliner role. It first flew on December 17 of 1935.
80 Years Old
Hawker Typhoon: Distinctive with its large “chin” radiator on the underside of its nose and the four 20 millimetre cannons in its wings, the RAF’s hard hitting dedicated ground attack fighter first flew on February 24 of 1940.
Saab B-17: Though unremarkable in design or performance, the B-17 light bomber was the first aircraft Saab designed and produced themselves. It stood as testament not only to Saab’s competence as a designer and producer of aircraft, but also of Sweden’s willingness to strive for self-sufficiency in matters of national defense. It first flew on May 18 of 1940.
North American P-51 Mustang: The Mustang is about as legendary as it gets as far as American made fighter aircraft of WWII are concerned. Through its size and higher fuel capacity, the Mustang was a game changer that allowed the Allied forces to take their fighters deeper in German held territory and stay longer. The Mustang had a distinguished career in the hands of many air arms after the war and remains very popular on the vintage aircraft circuit. It first flew on October 26 of 1940.
DeHavilland Mosquito: Designed to meet a medium bomber requirement, the Mosquito first flew on November 25 of 1940. Famous for it’s extensive plywood construction, the Mosquito was designed to be built with as little metal as possible so as not to spread resources thin or take metal workers away from projects they were already commited to. The wood construction made the Mosquito light and nimble enough that it didn’t need defensive gun armament, it could outrun most fighters at the time it was introduced to service.
75 Years Old
Hawker Sea Fury: A descendant of the Hawker Typhoon, the Sea Fury came along too late to affect the outcome of WWII, but it played a significant role in the Korean War and served the air arms of a total of ten nations. It has the distincion of being one of the fastest single engine piston driven fighters ever put into service. It also has the very rare distinction of being one of the few piston driven aircraft to achieve an air to air victory against a jet fighter. The Sea Fury first flew on February 21 of 1945.
Douglas Skyraider: A similar story to the Sea Fury, the Skyraider came along too late for WWII. However it played significant roles in the Korean War as well as the Vietnam War. It served in the air arms of ten nations and saw significant use in Africa as well as Asia. It first flew on March 18, 1945.
Lockheed P-2 Neptune: A shore based maritime patrol and anti-submarine aircraft, the Neptune served the air arms of 11 nations and had a significant post military career as a fire fighting aircraft. It first flew on May 17 of 1945.
Yakovlev Yak-11: A training aircraft developed from Yakovlev WWII fighter aircraft, the Yak-11 became an important training aircraft for Warsaw Pact air forces for many years and for many nations that were on friendly terms with the former Soviet Union. They were built under license in the former Czechoslovakia as the Let C.11 and enjoy popularity on the vintage aircraft circuit. It first flew on November 10 of 1945.
Bell 47: Instantly recognizable by the bubble shaped canopy over its cockpit and the exposed welded tube steel tail section, the Bell 47 was a workhorse helicopter of the Korean War and has been indelibly etched in the minds of many generations through the “M*A*S*H” television series. Even if a person does not know the Bell 47 by its actual name, it’s most certainly the first image that will come to their mind if you say “The M*A*S*H helicopter”. It first flew on December 8 of 1945.
Beechcraft Bonanza: Recognisable by the “V” tail that early members of the aircraft family had, the Bonanza family holds the distiction of having the longest continuous production run of any aircraft type in history. The aircraft first flew on December 22 of 1945 and over 17,000 have been built since production started in 1947. It’s a robust and very popular general aviation design that shows no signs of slowing down.
70 Years Old
Mikoyan-Gurevich MiG-17: A development of the MiG-15 fighter, the MiG-17 had a number of refinements over its forebear and became a formidable opponent to American military aircraft during the Vietnam War. Over 10,000 were built between the former Soviet Union, China, Czechoslovakia and Poland. It first flew on January 13 of 1950 and went on to serve in the air forces of no fewer than 40 countries.
Avro Canada CF-100 Canuck: The only Canadian designed fighter to ever see mass production, the CF-100 first flew on January 19 of 1950. Serving primarily as an interceptor, the CF-100 was also tasked with the electronic warfare role later in its life. Through its commitment to NATO, Canada also flew the CF-100 from its bases in Europe. The CF-100 was also operated by the Belgian air force.
65 Years Old
Dassault Super Mystere: While not a widely used aircraft, this French design was the first supersonic aircraft of western European origins to go into mass production. It first flew on March 2 of 1955.
Aérospatiale Alouette II: The world’s first turbine powered helicopter to go into production, the Alouette II first flew on March 12 of 1955 and has served civilian and military operators in over 30 countries.
Sud Aviation SE-210 Caravelle: First flown on May 27 of 1955, the Caravelle was the world’s first jet airliner designed specifically for short and medium length routes. A very refined and clean design for the time, the Caravelle was a great success and was operated by civilian and military users in 60 countries.
Cessna 172: A living legend in general aviation. The Cassna 172 is, at 44,000 and counting, the most produced aircraft in history. It’s a fair bet that more general aviation pilots in the post WWII era earned their private pilot’s license in a Cessna 172 than any other type. The Cessna 172 first flew on June 12 of 1955 and is still going strong.
Tupolev Tu-104: The world’s second jet airliner to be put into regular service after the DeHavilland Comet from Great Britain. After the Comet was temporarily grounded following a series of accidents, the Tu-104 was the only jet airliner operating in the world between 1956 and 1958, thereby putting the west in a spot behind the former Soviet Union in the jet airliner stakes. The Tu-104 first flew on June 17 of 1955.
Lockheed U-2: America’s high flying and secretive Cold War spyplane took to the air for the first time on August 1 of 1955. Six and half decades later, members of this aircraft family are still just as high flying and secretive as they ever were.
Republic F-105 Thunderchief: First flown on October 22 of 1955 and designed to be a single seat nuclear strike aircraft, the F-105 instead went on to become a core component of American tactical air power in the Vietnam War. The aircraft was hard hitting, but quite vulnerable to ground based anti-aircraft weapons. Approximately 830 were built and almost half of them were lost in the Vietnam conflict. The F-105 was only used by the U.S. Air Force and the last of them were retired in 1984.
Saab 35 Draken: Distinctive with its double delta wing planform, the Saab Draken first flew on October 25 of 1955. Streamlined in design and capable of going twice the speed of sound, the Draken reinforced Sweden’s drive for self sufficiency in its military needs and its ability to defend its airspace in a credible manner. The Draken was easily on par with its contemporaries.
60 Years Old
Canadair CT-114 Tutor: First flown on January 13 of of 1960, this Canadian designed and built trainer served the training needs of generations of Canadian military pilots and remains the mount of the Royal Canadian Air Force’s Snowbirds air demonstration team. Malaysia used the Tutor for ground attack from 1967 to 1985.
Grumman A-6 Intruder: The U.S. Navy’s long serving shipborne heavy strike aircraft, the Intruder first flew on April 19 of 1960. The Intruder saw action in the Vietnam War as well as action over Bosnia, Iraq, Lebanon, Libya and Somalia. The last Intruders were retired from U.S. Navy service in 1997.
Grumman E-2 Hawkeye: Conspicuous by its rotating radar disk, the Grumman E-2 Hawkeye has been serving the U.S. Navy’s need for ship based airborne early warning for six decades, a job it continues to do today. It has been exported to seven countries over the years. It first flew on October 21 of 1960.
55 Years Old
Antonov An-22: A hulking beast of a transport first flown on February 27 of 1965, the An-22 is the largest turboprop powered aircraft in the world. Very few of the 68 built still fly today and the ones that do fly are quite active with both military and humanitarian missions.
Breguet Br.1150 Atlantic: The Atlantic was first flown on July 19 of 1965 and was the world’s first maritime patrol aircraft that had been designed and built as such from the ground up. Created by a multinational consortium, the Atlantic remains in service only with the French navy today.
50 Years Old
Saab 37 Viggen: A decade and a half after putting their distinctive Draken in the skies, Saab sent their equally unique Viggen skyward. First flown on July 2 of 1970, the Viggen was the world’s first production aircraft to have canard foreplanes as a standard part of the design. The Viggen was also one of the first aircraft to incorporate a flight computer of integrated circuit design, thus allowing a complex military aircraft to be crewed by a single person. The Viggen only served Sweden and was retired in 2005.
McDonnell Douglas DC-10: The world’s first wide-body trijet first flew on August 29 of 1970. The combination of a wide body and three engines worked quite well for long haul airline routes and the DC-10 along with its MD-11 follow on developments have enjoyed a good deal of popularity in airline and air cargo service over the years.
Lockheed L-1011 Tristar: First flown on November 16 of 1970, the Tristar was Lockheed’s bid to get in on the wide-body trijet market that the DC-10 was airmed at. While the Tristar did enjoy some success, it was not quite the hit that the DC-10 was. Part of that was delays in the Tristar sales due to developmental issues connected to the aircraft’s Rolls-Royce engines. The Tristar continues to fly in limited numbers today.
Grumman F-14 Tomcat: First flown on December 21 of 1970, Grumman’s F-14 Tomcat was an umistakable symbol of U.S. Navy air power wherever it went. An intimidating looking aircraft, the Tomcat was built to provide air defence to the U.S. Navy fleet and for three decades it did that job very well indeed. Though retired from American service in 2006, the Tomcat still serves in limited numbers in Iran.