Fairey Delta 2: “Faster than the Sun.”

Not known precisely by their high-performance products, the Fairey company nevertheless won with this pure Delta a specification placed by the Ministry of Supply for a high-transonic / supersonic research aircraft. Two of these Deltas were produced and the first one (WG774) took the skies on 1954. The more outstanding feature of this elegant design was its droop-nose which presaged the Concorde’s. Not all was just research, on 10 March 1956, with Peter Twiss, at the helm the WG774 set world speed record of 1,132 mph. Built with all the qualities of a potential first-class fighter, only the power-than-be interest prevent its development. The French, curiously, were quite interested when the FD2 undertook tests at the Base aérienne 120 Cazaux….

The WG774 at speed here. Sadly, or not, this historic aircraft was later “mutated” into the gorgeous BC221.

Artist: Rod Kirkby.

Douglas TA-4SU Skyhawk: Weirdo’s delight.

Singapore chose the Lockheed Air Service (Ontario, CA) to refurbish the forty second-hand A-4Bs they bought in 1972. Taken out of Davis-Monthan AFB, those basic “Scooters” were extensively modified and obviously upgraded to answer their strict customer demands. There was a problem: none was a two-seater. To solve that dilemma Lockheed Ontario did the obvios thing; they extended the fuselage to provide the necessary volume for the second seat, but with a difference. Instead of the the logical long TA-4-type canopy for both pilots, the TA-4S had two separate single-seat cockpits, the rear one bulged to improve both headroom and visibility. Seven were so modified.

Unique design, neat colours and always spotlessly clean. My favorite “Scooter” by very, very far.

Photo: National Museum of Naval Aviation.

Mitsubishi A6M2 Zero: The Chrysanthemum and the Sword (II).

Magnificent piece of traditional Japanese watercolor artistry. This delicate drawing has usually been heralded as a propaganda interpretation of the Pearl Harbor raids. The type model and the colours of these Zeros seem at odds though; no Green Zeros over Pearl Harbor, all mainly Light Grey. The Green appeared later in widespread service.

Property of the Marshall Cavendish Library.

Reggiane Re.2002 Ariete: Resting Places (XVII).

Happy enough with their Re.2001 Falci, the Regia Aeronautica found nevertheless that the difficulty to obtaining the hard-to-get Daimler-Benz DB601 (Monsoni) engines curtailed its deliveries. To solve the dilemma they decided to retrace their paces. With the Re.2002 the Reggiane people took back the basic Re.2000 fuselage, matted it with a wing with fuel tanks modifications introduced in the Re.2001 and reverted to an indigenous radial engine, the 1,175hp  Piaggio P.XIX RC 45.
First flown in early 1942, the Ariete (Ram) proved to be worthy enough, but its engine left a lot to be desired in reliability. Improved somehow during its service these fighters were employed by the Italian mainly as assault aircraft due mainly to it questionable engine. More than two hundred were produced.

The only other operator of the Re.2002 was the German Luftwaffe. The Germans placed a huge order and they even found this sturdy fighter worth further development; the BMW 801 was envisaged as the power plant. The Italian Armistice put an end to all those dreams. Anyway, the Germans got their hands in around sixty Arieti. The Luftwaffe employed them in their anti-partisan war against the French resistance. One of the only two surviving Arieti is this lovely example, sadly incomplete, superbly preserved at the Musée de la Résistance et de la Déportation of Limoges.

Photo: Vicent Schrive.

Mikoyan-Gurevich MiG-21PF: Strangers in a strange land.

A pair of former Hungarian “PFs” nicely stored at then called Aerospace Maintenance and Regeneration Center (AMARC), Davis-Monthan (Arizona) in a photo taken exactly twenty years ago. Since then both have found their wings again; one of them, the one at the right, went to the USAF Museum at Wright-Patterson AFB, Ohio.

Pretty neat fish catching, not a definitive resting place though.

Photo: Bob Shane.

Aermacchi AM.3CM Bosbok: Taking my mind off.

The original AM.3 was a single-engine two-seat light STOL utility aircraft created by the Italian manufacturer Aermacchi together with Aerfer employing the know-how acquired with the Lockheed- Aermacchi AL.60. It was produced in response to an Italian Army requirement for a Cessna L-19 replacement. First flown in the Spring of 1967, the prototype showed promised but soon became orphan when  Italian Army decided to order the SIAI-Marchetti SM.1019 instead. Its development was continued privately anyway. That stubbornness paid in the end when the AM.3 attracted the interest of the South African AF. Forty of the customised AM.3CM Bosbok model served operational with them from 1973 until 1992.

Nothing out of the ordinary in this no-nonsense workhorse, yet it always strikes a chord in me. By chance it was one of the first aircraft I read about when I was a kid.

Fokker F.XII(?): Chronic clones.

These “generic” Fokker trimotors looks like an artist interpretation of the F.XII. The F.XII was conceived by Reinhold Platz in 1930 as a further improvement of the iconic F.VIIb-3M. As usual nothing bold in this airliner, just an evolution of the proven Fokker formula. The about ten acquired  served in their intended KLM Far Eastern service (Amsterdam to Batavia route).

Almost half of the KLM’s F.XII fleet was present in this sublime 1931 Art Déco poster…., all with the same registration.

NAA FJ-3 Fury: Gimme the Power.

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Not twotally happy with the FJ-2, and while its development was not yet completed,the US. Navy instigated the conception of more powerful variant sharing the same basic airframe. The resultant FJ-3 was powered by the Wright J65. That license-built version of the British Armstrong Siddeley Sapphire turbojet offered one fifth more power that the FJ-2’s GE J47.
In spite of serious initial problems with the J65 engine, the US. Navy found in the FJ-3 a very useful asset, specially in view of their previous experiences with the FJ-2. The FJ-3 started its operational life in 1955 and around half thousand of them served until the early 1960s.

Beautifully posed photo of an early FJ-3 (with its slatted wing) of the VF-173 in its superb overall Glossy Sea Blue livery taken on the deck of the USS Bennington (CVA-20). The H-3 or H-4 of its aviator is a golden plus.

Macchi M.C.72: With a little help from the opponent.

We have here a gorgeous contemporary cutaway drawing of fastest piston-engined seaplane in the world today, its speed record, 441 mph, still stands today after it was set in 1934. The M.C.72 was the ultimate Italian contender for the Schneider Trophy. An aircraft of superlatives, its main feature was its power plant: a highly modified FIAT AS.6 supercharged engine (two coupled AS.5, in fact) capable of around 2,500-3,100hp. It used a pair of contra-rotating propellers and huge surface radiators covered the upper wings and a large part of the floats.
Designed by the peerless Mario Castoldi and built for the 1931 contest, engine problems, prevented the M.C.72’s to compete. The British took the trophy home for good with their S.6B. Despite that disappointing situation, the M.C.72’s obvious potential soon found employ as a possible record breaker. In the process serious technical problems were overcome and, sadly, two test pilots died. In the end the records were achieved only after British engineer “Rod” Banks -of S.6B’s fame- solved the chronic backfiring problems with his magic fuel concoction.