Aero A.11 – Eleven from Twelve

Aero Ascending 

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Aero Ab.11 replica seen at Prague-Kbely, Czech Republic in 2019.

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

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Aero Ab.11 replica seen at Prague-Kbely, Czech Republic in 2014.

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:

A.11HS
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.

Ab.11
This was the light bomber version. In the bomber version, the A.11 could carry 200 kilograms of bombs.

A.11N
Night bomber version.

Aš.11
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 

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Aero Ab.11 replica seen at Prague-Kbely, Czech Republic in 2014.

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

This bilingual English/Finn link will tell you a bit about the A.11 in Finnish service:
A.11 article at Ilmailumuseot.fi

Boeing 737 – The Baby Boeing

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737-800 of Ryanair seen at Brno, Czech Republic in 2017.

Ubiquity and Omnipresence 

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

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737-700 of Gazpromavia seean at Brno, Czech Republic in 2017.

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 

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737-500 of Transaero seen at Pardubice, Czech Republic in 2014

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 

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737-200 seen at the Alberta Aviation Museum in Edmonton, Canada in 2012.

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 

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A 737 of the “Classic” series showing the distinctive “Hamster pouch” engine shape unique to the series. Seen at Ostrava, Czech Republic in 2013.

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 

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737-800 of Smartwings touches down at Brno, Czech Republic in 2019.

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.

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Tail fin of a Turkish E-7 Wedgetail seen at Ostrava, Czech Republic in 2017.

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 announce 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 peassenger 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 

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737-700 of Westjet seen at Ottawa, Canada in 2019.

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.

This link will take you to a decently detailed, if dated in spots, website about the 737 and its variants:
The Boeing 737 Technical Site

Book Review – Boeing 747 Queen of the Skies

Boeing 747 Queen of the Skies
By: Owen Zupp

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.

Buy with confidence.

This link will take you to the book’s page on the author’s website:
747 Queen of the Skies

Knoller C.II – Old Unreliable

Wings for an Empire 

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Knoller C.II seen preserved in the National Technical Museum in Prague, Czech Republic in 2019.

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

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Knoller C.II seen preserved in the National Technical Museum in Prague, Czech Republic in 2019.

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

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Knoller C.II seen preserved in the National Technical Museum in Prague, Czech Republic in 2019.

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 

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Knoller C.II seen preserved in the National Technical Museum in Prague, Czech Republic in 2014.

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:

Aviation in Austria-Hungary in WWI
The Knoller Program
Knoller Program Aircraft
National Technical Museum’s Knoller C.II

Aircraft Birthdays for 2020

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:

A DeHavilland DH.60 Cirrus Moth

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.

A CASA 352, the Spanish post WWII built variation of the Junkers Ju 52

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.

 

Two old foes, the Messerschmitt Bf-109 and Hawker Hurricane both turn 85 in 2020.

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.

 

North American P-51 Mustang: 80 years old in 2020.

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.

 

The Hawker Sea Fury, one of the fastest single engine piston driven fighters ever put in service, turns 75 in 2020.

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.

 

The Avro Canada CF-100 interceptor. First flown in 1950.

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.

 

The Tupolev Tu-104 first flew in 1955.

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.

 

The Canadair CT-114 Tutor, mount of the RCAF’s Snowbirds team, turns 60 in 2020.

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.

 

The Breguet Atlantic was the world’s first purpose built maritime patrol aircraft. It first flew in 1965.

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.

 

The distinctive Saab 37 Viggen hits 50 in 2020.

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.

 

 

 

 

 

Holiday Wishes from Pickled Wings

This is most likely to be the very last post at Pickled WIngs for 2019.

I thank all veteran readers for enjoying the website for another year and all new readers who found the site during 2019 for coming aboard.

To all the readership, old and new, of Pickled Wings; I wish you and yours a wonderful and magical holiday time and a New Year of prosperity and good fortune.

Rudolf the Red Nosed Airplane is Back for 2019!

December and the Christmas season are upon us. Long term followers of Pickled Wings will know that means it’s time for a bit of a tradition at the site that I call “Rudolf the Red Nosed Airplane”.

Simply put, it’s a time I go through photos I’ve taken of aircraft over the past year  and weed out the ones that show machines with fully red noses or at least a significant amount of red on them. A trip to Canada in October ensured that I could get red nosed aircraft from both sides of the Atlantic this year.

All things considered, 2019 was a pretty respectable year for “Rudolfs”. Let’s take a look:

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