Piaggio P.23M: “Uomo avvisato, mezzo salvato”.

The middle 1930’s P.23M was the prototype of a commercial airliner/transport specifically designed to operate above the North Atlantic. A really cool feature of this outstanding push-pull tandem four-engined  (900hp Isotta-Fraschini Asso XI’s) monoplane was its fuselage; shaped like a boat hull to allow it to ditch at sea in case of emergency. As conceived the P.23M was really an ambitious project: 400 km/h maximum speed and a maximum range of 5,100 km while flying at 300 km/h.
All very promising, but first flown in 1935 the aircraft never ever saw the Atlantic Ocean. Besides, no real data is available about its performance or potential. It was soon forgotten.

Chyetverikov MDR-6B-1: In full Bloom.

The few MBR-6’s built were the only real success of designer Igor V. Chyetverikov. A little more than 50 of these highly advanced long range flying boats were produced in the late 1930’s-early 1940’s. The MDR-6’s of the main variant were powered by a pair of radial engines (Shvetsov M-25, M-62 and M-63) and served with the Baltic, Black Sea and Far East fleets until late 1942. Structural defects and faulty fuel system caused their hasty retirement. War then was going badly for the USSR and there was no time to spare in these small production assets…..and there were Lend-Lease Catalinas to burn.

Very beautiful aircraft in their more pedestrian form, the MDR-6 became just gorgeous in its later prototype iterations. In this photo, the first -and prettiest- of those prototypes. The B1 was a total redesign. Slicker and smaller, its designer cleaned it out thoroughly -retracting floats included- and replaced the radial engines with a pair of Klimov M-105 liquid-cooled engines. Add to those features a gorgeous twin-finned tail and the result was just irresistible. It was test flown, crash included, during late 1940-1941.

Douglas A-1H “Spad”: Ol’ Trusty.

The Skyraiders didn’t only wears Southeast Asia camo in Vietnam with the South Vietnamese Air Force (VNAF). The Spads were also used by US. Air Force. One of those rare cases of US. Navy designed aircraft which saw service with them. Their primary mission was interdiction along the Ho Chi Minh Trail and close air support missions for U.S. and Vietnamese ground forces. But they were best remembered by the “Sandy” role, when they flew cover for helicopters engaged in pilot rescue missions inside “Indian Country”.

A Nakhon Phanom (Thailand) based A-1H of the 1st Special Operations Squadron (SOS) flying along the Mekong River. Really mean-looking with its mighty oil spitting Wright Duplex-Cyclone, a plethora of weaponry and that old times open cockpit canopy. A real “Firebird”.