Thomas-Morse R-5: “So the last will be first..”

In 1922 the United States Army Air Service (USAAS) put the requirement for a racing aircraft design to take part in the already famous Pulitzer Trophy Race. The Thomas-Morse company answered with this advanced all-metal parasol monoplane powered by a 600hp Packard 1A-2025 engine. Two R-5s were produced and both took part in the 1922 Pulitzer. With not very bright results: they finished last and next-to-last. The USAAS found nevertheless the right usage for them though. They were destroyed during static structural tests.

Unmistakable the style of Douglas Rolfe in this drawing. Part of Rolfe’s “Air Progress” series of the 1950’s, later reedited in this marvellously abused book. By the way, the information is wrong; it corresponds to the US.Navy Thomas-Morse MB-7 racer of 1921.

SFCA Maillet 21: Quel bizarre effort.

This strange aeroplane was the product of the little known Société Francaise de Constructions Aéronautiques (SFCA). That French company had inherited a design called the Maillet-Nening MN-A from its recently deceased designer: André Maillet. From it they developed their first product, the Maillet 20 in 1935. Only two of this all-wooden three-seat monoplane tourer were produced, but the Armée de l’Air saw something in the design and bought 30 examples of an improved trainer version under the name Maillet 201.
The Maillet 21 was sort of prototype made rebuilding the still unbuilt second Maillet 20. The main peculiarity of this model was its cockpit disposition: the pilot was placed at the rear on araised seat yet the forward glazing was lowered to lay flush with the forward fuselage. From this prototype SFCA manufactured a short production serie equipped with a retractable undercarriage under the name of Maillet-Lignel 20.

The Maillet 21 in all its eccentric splendor. Photo taken at the 1935 Hélène Boucher Cup race, a race for female pilots. The 21 was no slouch; Claire Roman finished second at its helm. The Spanish Republicans bought this monoplane later and it was devoured by the Spanish Guerra Civil cauldron.

Messerschmitt Bf 109G-2/Trop: Because the Night.

Like Patti Smith’s song my relation with the Black 6 has always been a torrid one, I must confess. So imagine my shock when I’ve discovered tonight a bunch of stupendous photos taken during an engine night run. These photos have just been published in the highly recommendable Me 109/ Black 6 Facebook place. They’ve been so kind to allow me to share one of them in here. Muchas gracias, my friends.

With her heart burning bright. This is by far my favourite.

Madam Satan (1930): Electrifying !!!

Madam Satan is a long forgotten film directed by Cecil B. DeMille at the dawn of the “talkies”. Nothing noticeable in this movie. Its screenplay and structure were, at best, pure hilarity. Well, nothing until a character decided to organize a monumental masquerade party aboard a zeppelin… the Great Depression wasn’t still in full bloom.

Let’s hope that zeppelin used Helium.

Hansa-Brandenburg D.I: Ill-starred.

Also known as the KD (Kampf Doppeldecker), this German fighter was the brainchild of Ernst Heinkel. The principal peculiarity of this not very graceful aircraft was its distinctive “star-strutter” biplane interplane structure. First flown in 1916 the D.I showed from the beginning poor handling qualities and dubious lateral stability. Despite its poor performances they were produced in serie for the always wanting Austro-Hungarian AF. Around two hundred in total were produced; a few of them were still in service at the end of the war.

Short and angular, the KD was certainly not the definition of classic beauty. And this photo does it a favor. Our KD lacks the over wing huge boxy fairing which covered a Schwarzlose MG. That Austrian machine gun had always difficulties in synchronising with the engine so it was usually placed firing over the propeller.