Dassault MD.550 Mirage I: Right between the eyes.

60 years ago this minute prototype began the successful story of the Mirage III. The MD.550 (and other similar “featherweights”) supposed a sort of bizarre reprise of France interwar obsession with the “chasseur léger”, that certified failed formula. Started as a light interceptor, the Mirage I was the second stage of the original MD.550 prototype, called then the “Mystère Delta”. The meagre “muscle” of the Mystère Delta was evident early on so new afterburned MD 30 Vipers and a SEPR 66 rocket engine were added. All in all, from the beginning the design showed its serious possibilities, if it was enlarged and equipped with a decently powerful engine. The rest is history.

Mechanics at Brétigny makin’ fun of the pair of toy-like MD 30 Vipers. The SEPR 66 is clearly seen under the fuselage.

Photo: Musée de l’Air et de l’Espace (coll. Lebourg).

Douglas F4D-1 Skyray: Colourful Fords !!!

In the late 1940s/early 1950s with a “little” of german captured know-how (Lippish) and a decent and “very USAF” J57 engine (after the terrible Westinghouse J40), the Douglas company under the direction of the great E. H Heinemann created this little gem. An iconic beauty called the “Ford” (F4D phonetically) and also called the “10-minutes killer” because fast climb, interception and -hopefully- destruction of the enemy in a flash was its mission. Efficient and good performers, they were indeed a class apart.

Still in the era of unabashed panache, these “Fords” show us their fighting colours. In the foreground the red lightnings of the VF-74 and behind the somehow more elegant ones of the VFAW-3 “Blue Nemesis”. Curiously the later unit was the only Navy unit assigned to the North American Air Defense Command (NORAD). Some Crusaders and “Scotters” also in the background; quite an icing on the cake. The base could be NAS North Island, VFAW-3’s home…, a wild guess of mine though.

CANSA FC.20ter: More bark than bite.

The original FC.20 design was a recon/bomber first flown in 1941. It’s quite decent performances decided the company to develop a ground attack variants. The “-ter” was the third one armed liked the second with this ominous looking 37mm Breda cannon on its nose. Curiously after the shortened solid nose of the second variant (FC.20bis) the “-ter” reverted to a longer glazed one of the original FC.20 -one step ahead, to two steps back… A further iteration followed, but only a few FC.20 prototypes flew and just 3 FC.20bis showed some kind of military service. Utter chaos, as usual, in the italian aircraft industry/operations during WW2.

That nose meant business anyway.

Photo: G. Apostolo’s collection.

Avro Vulcan Prototype: Ethereally Gorgeous (II).

Sad to think the last flying Vulcan bomber (XH558) will not grace again the sky after its final public display flight this month. Let’s remember how pure and elegant the Vulcan was from the very beginning.
The first prototype (VX770) evolving with all elan in its natural element, very high, well above mediocrity indeed.


Santos-Dumont nº 9 “Baladeuse”: Dreams came true.

The always irrepressible Santos used to tailor his creations to his minute size. No better example that his “Baladeuse”. His “smallest of possible dirigible” started to show its astonishing capacities during the spring of 1903, while the Wrights were still putting the final touch to their Flyer. Powered by a Clément-Bayard of only 3hp, this tiny and handy airship was in essence the first practical personal “aircar”. His creator amused himself and all Paris using it instead of a conventional car. He paid visits to friends, went shopping and flew to restaurants, society calls and clubs. He just left the “Baladeuse” outside at doorman’s care.
By the way, this same airship was used by the almost teenager (19-year-old) Aida de Acosta to become the first ever woman pilot, June 1903.

Superbly clear pic. Le Petit Santos,as usual, dressed to the nines… bowler hat included.

Breguet 460-01 Vultur: “A la española”.

The Vultur was originally conceived as another monstrosity to fulfil that Armée de l’Air chimeric “Multiplace de Combat” concept. “Cleaned” somehow later during the design stage it was turned into a high-speed bomber. To no avail, the Vultur proved to be anything but fast when it first flew in 1935.

Towin’ the monster, the spanish way. Pic taken at Barajas airport in 1935 when the prototype was evaluated by the Spanish AF, with negative results. Ironically this same aircraft later ended taking part in the Spanish Guerra Civil…., then the ideal place to dump flying “rubbish” with huge profits.

A close relative.