Chyetverikov MDR-6B-1: In full Bloom.

The few MBR-6’s built were the only real success of designer Igor V. Chyetverikov. A little more than 50 of these highly advanced long range flying boats were produced in the late 1930’s-early 1940’s. The MDR-6’s of the main variant were powered by a pair of radial engines (Shvetsov M-25, M-62 and M-63) and served with the Baltic, Black Sea and Far East fleets until late 1942. Structural defects and faulty fuel system caused their hasty retirement. War then was going badly for the USSR and there was no time to spare in these small production assets…..and there were Lend-Lease Catalinas to burn.

Very beautiful aircraft in their more pedestrian form, the MDR-6 became just gorgeous in its later prototype iterations. In this photo, the first -and prettiest- of those prototypes. The B1 was a total redesign. Slicker and smaller, its designer cleaned it out thoroughly -retracting floats included- and replaced the radial engines with a pair of Klimov M-105 liquid-cooled engines. Add to those features a gorgeous twin-finned tail and the result was just irresistible. It was test flown, crash included, during late 1940-1941.

Lioré-et-Olivier LeO 451: “Show me what you got”.

The French LeO 451 was the fastest bomber in service at the beginning of WW2. With the slick and extremely clean LeO 451, at last, the French left behind ugliness and mediocrity in their bomber designs. Sadly, only few were in service when it really mattered, at the 1940 Battle of France. Anyway, such a valuable asset could not wasted; they continued to be manufactured in the Vichy France. They enjoyed an interesting operational life in both sides: Vichy, Free France, Germany, Italy and some even by the USAAF. The end of the war didn’t put an end to these peripatetic aircraft either; the French Air Force didn’t retire their last ones until the late 1950’s.
The fastest and one with the largest “sting”. The defensive armament carried by the LeO 451 is of particular interest, being among the very few which carried a 20mm cannon at that time. The dorsal defensive position seen here was fitted with a Hispano HS 404 mounted on an electro-hydraulically powered SAMM Type 170Bis gun carriage. Some punch no doubt, but disappointing. The field of fire was limited and its hefty 30-round magazine proved to be cumbersome to change. Add to that the rest of its uninspiring rifle-caliber defensive armament…., they needed the speed.

In this photo one of those garishly dressed Vichy France “Armée de l’Air de l’Armistice” aircraft. A LeO 451 of the 2eme Escadrille of GB 1/25 while operated from El Aouina (Tunis), 1941. This unit took part later in the Syrian campaign against the Allies and of their 18 Leo 451’s, 12 were lost.

Messerschmitt Bf 109G-2/Trop: Thank you, Sir.

Just heard the sad news of Russ Snadden’s demise. Snadden was the mastermind behind the epic restoration of that old favourite of mine, the iconic “Black 6”. I still remember how incredible was, back then, to see a real Bf 109 back in its element. His book recounting the whole process is simply mesmerizing,… to read and reread.

Glorious portrait of “she” with the equally legendary Flt Lt Charlie Brown at the controls.  I love its “tropical” air filter.

BAC TSR.2: Chiaroscuro.

The TSR.2 is a still bleeding wound to a lot of people in the UK, just like the previous M.52. This incredible design was a world beating tactical, strike and reconnaissance aircraft (T.S.R) years ahead of its time when it saw the light in the middle 1960’s. Utterly sophisticated, it was conceived with multiple on-board digital computers to process the data available by its innovative radar and sensors. Those gizmos were placed inside a superb airframe capable of long distance weapon delivery (to a target 1000 nautical miles away) with relatively short take-off/landing performances. Very fast, it was conceived for supersonic flight at ultra low level to pass under Soviet radar/air defence screen. All in all, potentially one of the most powerful weapon for the NATO arsenal to have. And yet it was destined never to see service. The reasons?. Well, there were various, all intricate and still controversial….and they’ve been discussed and re-discussed endlessly.

This wonderful photo of the only complete survivor (XR220) depicts magnificently the awesomeness of the TRS.2. Such an elegant piece of machinery.

Photo: © Mike Freer.

Baker MB-1 “Delta Kitten”: Puuuuuuuuur…..

This lovely little thing was built by Marion Baker of Akron, Ohio, in the late 1950’s. The basic design owns a lot to Lippish DM.1 and, maybe, the Payenne Katy. To build his dream Baker took some parts of a wrecked Cessna 140 (the an 85 hp Continental engine, prop and wheels). The result was this rare, then, all-metal homebuilt first flown in 1960. A decent, no-nonsense flyer it achieved a very descent maximum speed of 135 mph. Baker made the plans available for homebuilt construction. There were not takers, if my sources are right.

It’s delta day, it seems.