Rocheville (EMSCO) Arctic Tern: Aeroplanum inexploratus.

In the decades before WW2 Arctic exploration took a new impulse thanks to aviation. This chumsy-looking aircraft was one of the rarest airplanes designed specially for that purpose. This one-off “Frankenstein’s Monster” was designed by Charles Rocheville in answer to a Shell Oil Co. request for their Alaskan survey explorations. Built in 1932, this three-seat mid-wing monoplane amphibian had a certain Lockheed’s touch; it was created using a Sirius’ wing and a Vega’s tail. The pilot enjoyed the pleasure of a open cockpit atop the small nacelle while the crew was cosily placed in the ugly cabins above each float/pontoon. It was powered either by a 300 hp Wasp Junior or a 450hp Wasp. During tests the Arctic Tern displayed wholly satisfactory performances, but, sadly, the aircraft was lost in 1933 in an accident caused by fuel starvation and Rocheville suffered serious injuries.

Such a peculiar shape, a pity it couldn’t enjoy its metier. Photo: Smithsonian Institution.

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