Miles M.20: Bueno, Bonito y Barato.

This toylike cuteness began as a Miles company’s 1939 proposal for a no-nonsense and cheap alternative fighter, just in case. The project evolved later, in the summer of 1940, into a simpler easy-to-produce design to cover some concerns the RAF had with the possible disturbances in the production of their classic fighter combo (Spitfire/Hurricane) due to battle damage. Being a “Miles”, the M.20 was built in their usual all-wooden structure and employed for simplicity a lovely spatted fixed undercarriage. Powered by a RR Merlin, it was armed with the RAF standard of eight machine guns.
First flown that cruzial day of 15 Sept. 1940, the M.20 showed serious potential from the very beginning. Its performance in fact was better than the Hurri, but not up to the Spitfire. It had longer legs and carried more ammo than both though. Sadly, with the Battle of Britain won, the very reason of its conception had disappeared. Only two prototypes were finally produced, the second one for the Fleet Air Arm. The latter wanted the design for their carriers and also for the CAM ships, but the availability of Hurris put an end to that too.

Lovely inflight photo of the first prototype. The wing hides the other innovation of the M.20: an elegant 360º visibility “teardrop” cockpit canopy. I couldn’t resist to use the old Spanish unattainable “3 Bs” : Good, Beautiful & Cheap. It was all three.

NAA F-86A Sabre: “Is this a collision course I’m flying?”

The gorgeous Janet Leigh in the hilarious “Jet Pilot” movie. Being a Howard Hughes’s aviation movie, the filming started in 1949 and was concluded in 1953 to be released in 1957(!). By then this A-model Sabre was definitely dated. It was nevertheless as stylish as our tovarich with its V-shaped windshield and those trapdoors equipped guns.

The air action is simply outstanding, no doubt about that.

Boeing B-29 Superfortress: Happy times fly.

The “Waddy’s Waggon” crew (869th BS, 497th BG, 73rd BW, 20th AF) duplicating the stupendous caricature nose art of their B-29. Sadly, all except the pilot in this photo (a co-pilot, really) died when their “Waddy’s Wagon” disappeared without a trace while aiding a crippled B-29 back to safety during a mission against the Nakajima aircraft factory (Musashino, Japan) on 9 Jan, 1945.

Rumpler Twin-Hull Flying Boat: Daddy Cool (XIV).

The eminent Austrian engineer Edmund Rumpler contribution to aviation started when he founded in 1909 an aviation company to produce, at first, copies of the Taube. During WW1, the Rumpler company became well-known mainly for their recon-aircraft, but did not survive the postwar conditions.

Dr. Rumpler didn’t lose his aviation dreams though. Here we can see him displaying a gorgeous model of his immense 1930 transoceanic flying boat design. He took this, among other of his ideas, to the US, where sadly, he found not takers.

Miller JM-2: Pure Gold.

In the early 1970s Jim W. Miller decided to create something different, weird and radical for personal transport. Wisely, Miller first tried a sub-scale home-model to test his ideas.  His JM-2 was powered by a Continental O-200(B) engine, but instead of a boring tractor prop it was equipped with a shrouded prop in the tail. Not happy with just that, he conceived that circular shroud to function, via moving surfaces, as elevator and rudder. First flown in 1973, it proved promising enough but the idea of an overgrown sibling was abandoned. Gladly, that doesn’t mean the end. Fast and already powered by the mandatory Continental engine, Jim Miller chose in 1975 to modify his JM-2 to compete in the Formula One Air Racing. Two further examples followed, one of them even set a time-to-climb record.

Miller’s original N74M in its superb pre-Formula 1 configuration. The aircraft later lost its cool tail feathers for a more spectacular, but less radical configuration.

Tupolev TB-3: Old dog’s new trick.

The Soviet airborne force was one of the highlights of the Soviet military power just before start of The Great Patriotic War (WW2 in Russia), both real and propaganda-wise. Ironically, during the war, apart for a few relatively minor operations, the Soviet paratroopers operated mostly as mere “foot” soldiers.

Obsolescent TB-3 heavy bombers dropping some “Blue Berets” (1939) in this splendid photo of Ivan Shagin.

Apollo 8: “Please be informed there is a Santa Claus.”

And the Apollo 8 crew continued with their pioneering. On a Christmas day like today but 50 years ago, they performed the first Trans-Earth Injection (TEI). That propulsion maneuver was conceived to set their spacecraft, then in moon orbit, on a trajectory back to Earth.

“Apollo 8 Coming Home” (1969) by the one and only Robert T. McCall.

By the way, Merry Xmas, my friends.

Nieuport 11 Bébé: Rocket Science?

Superb portrait -printed in reverse, if I’m correct- of Norman Prince admiring a Bébé armed with Le Prieur rockets. Basically just overgrown fireworks, these rockets were placed on the Nieuport’s wing struts and were used mainly for attacks on observation balloons and airships. Quite inaccurate, it was necessary to shoot them at close range.
Photographed here as a sergeant in the French air service, Prince became later one of the founder of famous American volunteers’ Escuadrille N 124 “La Fayette.”

Apollo 8: You’re go for TLI.

Fifty years ago today, the Apollo 8 crew (Borman, Lovell and Anders) blasted off on a daring and risky journey that would take them around the moon. A truly historic mission, in some ways much more important than Apollo 11.

Already on their way to the moon after the Translunar Insertion (TLI),  Apollo 8 CSM is here separating from the spend Saturn V‘s S-IVB third stage. At the top of the latter we can observe the cylindrical LM mass simulator.

NASA artwork.