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Mystery Airplane


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  • Mystery Airplane Contest

    Tom Lymburn|Nov 1, 2022

    The iconic Learjet is one of the most well-known and best-selling business aircraft in history. Bill Lear's design was inspired by the Swiss FAA P-16 combat aircraft of 1955. Proposed by Flug-und-Fahrzeugwerke to replace the Swiss Air Force's piston engine aircraft, the P-16 flew in April 1955. After a series of accidents, further development was abandoned. Lear (1902-1978) saw the basic concept, particularly the wing with tip tanks, as worthy of development into a small jet transport. Initial...

  • Mystery Airplane Contest

    Tom Lymburn|Aug 1, 2022

    During WWI, artillery spotting was of prime importance. Both sides used tethered observation balloons. Stopping your opponent's ability to chart your positions was one of the most dangerous jobs for fighter pilots. The German drachens were not armed, but the hydrogen filled gas bags were surrounded by anti-aircraft guns (which the British called "Archie") and protected by fighters. The most successful ace against the drachens was Belgian pilot Willy Coppens (1892-1986), who shot down 35...

  • Mystery Airplane Contest

    Tom Lymburn|Jul 1, 2022

    The Hunting Jet Provost series was designed to replace the 550 hp Alvis Leonides radial engine Provost basic trainer for the RAF. The BAC 167 Strikemaster evolved from the Jet Provost as a light strike/close support aircraft, mostly for export. The prototype Jet Provost first flew on 26 June 1954 powered by a 1750 pound thrust Viper turbojet. The RAF's all jet training syllabus began with the Jet Provost Mk. 1, when it served with RAF Flying Training Command, starting in August 1955. Subsequent...

  • Mystery Airplane Contest

    Tom Lymburn|Jun 1, 2022

    Although it has appeared under multiple company names, the Kitfox can claim over 7000 kits sold in over 40 countries. Capable of flying off wheels, skis, or floats, the Kitfox's wings can be folded to allow storage in your garage and towing behind your car. A side-by-side two-seater, it possesses excellent STOL performance, and has appeared in tricycle as well as tailwheel models. First appearing as the Denney Kitfox and flown in November 1984 from the Denney factory in Boise, Idaho, the design...

  • Mystery Airplane Contest

    Tom Lymburn|May 1, 2022

    Developed by Aerospatiale as a replacement for the 1950's vintage Alouette II, the Ecureuil was designed for civilian and military use. First flying on 27 June 1974 with a Lycoming LTS turboshaft engine at Marignane, France, the AS 350 has evolved into what some sources say is Europe's most successful helicopter. A second prototype with a Turbomeca Arriel followed on 14 February 1975, and with French and later American certification, deliveries to customers began in March 1978. Production has...

  • Mystery Airplane Contest April

    Tom Lymburn|Apr 1, 2022

    The Curtiss Hawk series of fighters began with the Army's PW-8 (PW = Pursuit Water-Cooled) in 1924, and evolved from the P-1 to the P-6. The Navy followed with land and carrier-based models called the F6C. While the Army continued with liquid-cooled inlines, the Navy moved to the F6C-4 with air-cooled radials. The peak of the Curtiss models was the F11C, later re-designated BFC, for dive bombing. On 18 October 1932, the Navy let Contract #28847 to Curtiss for 28 production F11C-2...

  • January Mystery Airplane

    Tom Lymburn|Mar 1, 2022

    The non-rigid airship, or blimp, came into its own during World War I with the Royal Naval Air Service use of Sea Scout, Sea Scout Zero, North Sea, and Coastal non-rigid airships for convoy escort, anti-submarine patrol, and coastal reconnaissance. After the Great War, use of blimps expanded, including their use in advertising. In 1925, Goodyear got into the act with the non-rigid ship Pilgrim, which pioneered the use of an enclosed cabin attached to the airship's envelope. It also was inflated...

  • December Mystery Airplane

    Tom Lymburn|Feb 1, 2022

    During WW II, the Red Air Force realized the importance of having dual-control fighter trainers. Thus, production versions of the Polikarpov I-16UTI, Lavochkin La-5UTI and La-7UTI, and the Yakovlev Yak-7V were built to provide transition training for front line pilots. Each of these, over 1,600 Polikarpov I-16UTI's for example, gave new pilots the chance to experience the flight characteristics of front-line combat aircraft before they met the Luftwaffe. Dual-control fighter trainer development...

  • November Mystery Airplane Contest

    Tom Lymburn|Jan 1, 2022

    Military aviation began before WWI with an emphasis on observation of the enemy. A large number of "two-seaters" emerged during the Great War to be the eyes of the army. Post war, the United States and other nations continued to depend on large, relatively slow aircraft that would make good targets for fast, heavily armed fighters. One of the last of these for the United States was the Curtiss O-52 Owl. Ordered to U.S. Army Air Corps specification W-535-ac-13362 on 12 October 1939, 203 Curtiss...

  • October Mystery Airplane Contest

    Tom Lymburn|Dec 1, 2021

    The de Havilland company got into the jet business with the Goblin powered Vampire. Initially called the Spider Crab, the prototype first flew on 20 September 1943. Too late for service in WWII, 2,928 Vampires were built in the UK, India, Italy, Switzerland, Australia, and France. The need to improve the breed resulted in the Venom in 1949. Using the more powerful Ghost turbojet, thinner wings with a slight leading edge sweep, and wing tip tanks, the prototype first flew on 2 September 1949....

  • September Mystery Airplane Contest

    Tom Lymburn|Nov 1, 2021

    Glenn Luther Martin (1886-1955) taught himself to fly in 1909 in a homebuilt pusher. He set up his first aircraft manufacturing plant in 1911 at Santa Ana, California. Not only did he build airplanes, but acted in the 1915 silent movie The Girl of Yesterday as a pilot opposite Mary Pickford. Over the course of Martin's career, he employed such names as William Boeing, Donald Douglas, Lawrence Bell, and James McDonnell. Martin is often connected to bombers, but beginning in the late 1920's it...

  • August Mystery Airplane Contest

    Tom Lymburn|Oct 1, 2021

    The Liberty powered HS-1L and HS-2L series was the only American designed and built aircraft issued to U.S. forces in France during World War I. Beginning in May 1918, HS-1L and HS-2L flying boats arrived by ship for anti-U-boat operations and were assigned to 10 U.S. Naval Air Stations. The first patrol was flown on 13 June 1918. Of the 182 aircraft delivered, 19 were the longer wing HS-2L capable of carrying a larger weapon load. Since Curtiss lacked enough production capacity, the HS series...

  • July Mystery Airplane Contest

    Tom Lymburn|Sep 1, 2021

    The concept of mating an airplane with an airship was trialed as early as World War I. On 26 January 1918, an Albatros D. III was released from Zeppelin L-35 (LZ-80). The pilot flew the fighter to a successful landing. No method of recovering to the airship was tried. Further trials by the British and later the United States followed. The British experimented with launching a Sopwith Camel (unpiloted) from airship R-23 in 1918 and later a piloted de Havilland Hummingbird and Gloster Grebe from...

  • June Mystery Airplane Contest

    Tom Lymburn|Aug 1, 2021

    This month's mystery, the Aeronca Model LB, was literally washed away. Founded on 11 November 1928, the Aeronautical Corporation of America, based in Cincinnati, Ohio, was the first company to manufacture commercially successful general aviation aircraft. It had the backing of the wealthy Taft family. Located at Lunken Field, Aeronca suffered a major disaster in 1937 when the Ohio River flooded the airport. The Aeronca factory was destroyed and tooling, inventory, and blueprints for the...

  • May Mystery Airplane Contest

    Tom Lymburn|Jul 1, 2021

    James S. McDonnell (1899-1980) qualified as an Army pilot at Brooks Field. With a master's degree from MIT, he worked for Ford, Martin, and Hamilton, before forming McDonnell Aircraft Corporation in St. Louis on 6 July 1939. McDonnell manufactured the Fairchild AT-21 crew trainer under license, but also designed the XP-67 Moonbat fighter for the Army. The XP-67 was not a success, but on 7 January 1943, the Navy ordered the XFD-1 Phantom, which, as the FH-1, became the Navy's first pure jet to...

  • April Mystery Airplane Contest

    Tom Lymburn|Jun 1, 2021

    In August 1989, I attended the Abbotsford Airshow in British Columbia. It was my introduction to the use of the Grumman Tracker as a firebomber. Three Conair Trackers, each with a different color water, made a formation pass over the runway, followed by a DC-6. Conair later modified its Trackers with PT-6 turboprops to create the Firecat with 870 gallons of retardant. The state of California began its use of Cyclone engine Trackers in 1973, each with an 800 gallon capacity. These were designed...

  • March Mystery Airplane Contest

    Tom Lymburn|May 1, 2021

    Between the World Wars, Wichita was the center of aviation in the United States. In January 1925, Clyde Cessna, Lloyd Stearman, Walter Beech, and Olive Ann Mellor (later Mrs. Olive Ann Beech), along with Walter Innes, formed Travel Air Manufacturing. By 1929, Travel Air had 650 employees and had built over 1800 aircraft. Most were two or three place biplanes designed to compete with or replace surplus WWI aircraft. One of the most famous was the Travel Air 4000. Early Travel Air biplanes used su...

  • February Mystery Airplane Contest

    Tom Lymburn|Apr 1, 2021

    Pfalz Flugzeug-Werke was established in October 1913 to license build Morane-Saulnier monoplanes. From these, it evolved its own series of Eindeckers fitted with synchronized machine guns. Further license work followed with L.F.G. Roland D. II biplane fighters. In May 1917, Pfalz produced its own fighter design, the 160 hp Mercedes powered D. III. In the spring of 1918, it built its best fighter, the D. XII, which competed with the Fokker D. VII in the June 1918 Aldershof fighter competition....

  • January Mystery Airplane Contest

    Tom Lymburn|Mar 1, 2021

    The Army Air Force needed dedicated transports, rather than adaptations of civilian airliners, to support airborne operations. These aircraft would have to carry large, sometimes bulky loads and be easy to load and unload. The wooden Curtiss C-76 Caravan and the stainless-steel Budd RB-1 Conestoga were designed with those needs in mind, but Fairchild got it right with its twin-boom C-82 Packet. Powered by a pair of 2100 hp Pratt & Whitney R-2800 radials, the Packet had a 2870 cubic foot...

  • December Contest Photo Pitcairn PA-39

    Tom Lymburn|Feb 1, 2021

    Military interest in the autogiro centered on their use for surveillance and liaison. Only the Japanese succeeded in putting autogiros into service, and these, the Kayaba Ka-1, were for anti-submarine work from the escort carrier Akitsu Maru over the Tsugara and Korean channels. The Kayaba carried a pair of 132 pound depth charges. The U.S. Army tested the Kellett YG-1B for artillery spotting in the mid-1930s, but found light planes would serve better. The British Avro Rota, a license Cierva...

  • October Contest Photo

    Tom Lymburn|Dec 1, 2020

    In 1918, Kawasaki heavy industries established an aircraft and engine division. Between the wars, it produced license versions of the French Salmson 2A2 recon biplane and the Dornier Wal flying boat. Richard Vogt, later of Blohm und Voss, also designed aircraft for the Japanese Army. During WWII, Kawasaki was known for the Ki-61 fighter, the Ki-48 bomber, the Ki-56, a license-built version of the Lockheed 14 transport, and the Ki-45 Toryu twin engine fighter. Intrigued by the concept of a...

  • September Contest Photo Martin AM-1 Mauler

    Tom Lymburn|Nov 1, 2020

    First flying on 26 August 1944 as the XBTM-1, the Mauler was one of four single-seat bomber/torpedo planes ordered for testing by the Navy in 1943. The Curtiss XBTC-2 and the Kaiser-Fleetwings XBTK-1 didn't make it beyond the prototype stage, but the Douglas XBT2D-1, as the AD and in 1962, the A-1, became the famous Skyraider. As for the Martin, it had to settle for second place. Designed around the huge 28 cylinder 3000 hp Pratt & Whitney R-4360 Wasp Major, the "Able Mable" was a load...

  • July Contest Photo

    Tom Lymburn|Oct 1, 2020

    The Panavia consortium, formed in March 1969, was charged with the development of the Multi-Role Combat Aircraft (MRCA) for Britain, Germany, and Italy. From this program came the variable geometry strike and recon aircraft known as the IDS. Britain also required a long-range all-weather interceptor. This version is known as the Air Defense Variant or ADV. The prototype ADV first flew on 27 October 1979 and 18 pre-production F. Mk. 2 Tornados followed. The definitive F. Mk. 3 flew in November...

  • Thomas-Morse S-4C Scout

    Tom Lymburn|Sep 1, 2020

    The Thomas-Morse Aircraft Corporation of Ithaca, NY, built a series of single-seat advanced fighter trainers for the Signal Corps/Air Service beginning in 1917. The S-4B, with the unreliable 100 hp Gnome rotary, appeared in October 1917. Other than being a bit tail heavy, the Tommy had good flying characteristics. With production of the S-4C, power changed to the 80 hp Le Rhone. The Le Rhone was built under license by Union Switch and Signal Company of Swissvale, Pennsylvania. Capable of being...

  • The Mystery Airplane

    Tom Lymburn|Aug 1, 2020

    The C-27J is based on the Fiat G. 222 that first flew on 18 July 1970, and was delivered to Argentina, Italy, Libya, Nigeria, and Thailand. This Lockheed Martin/Alenia development with uprated engines, avionics, and other systems from the C-130J, took to the air on 25 September 1999. Technically called the Lockheed Martin Alenia Tactical Transport Systems, or LMATTS, initial orders were for Italy and Greece. Further aircraft were delivered to Australia, Bulgaria, Mexico, Romania, and the United...

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