Lockheed P-38F Lightning: Resting Places (XVI).

This Lightning (41-7677) suddenly appeared on a beach in 2007. Piloted by 2nd Lt. Robert F. Elliott (49th Fighter Squadron, 14th Fighter Group USAAF), it had crash-landed on the Harlech beach (Wales) on 27 Sept. 1942.

The semi-submerged P-38 and its still recognizable business end and gun ports. The weaponry was recovered at time from the wreck. His pilot was not so lucky; Elliot was killed when his P-38 was shot down in the Mediterranean theatre three months later.


Riout 102T Alérion: “Sur un nénuphar éphémère,..”

Designed by René Riout, the Riout 102T Alérion was without doubt one of the most advanced ornithopters ever built. Built in 1937, its sophistication was a wasted effort; like almost all aircraft of this type, the Alérion was a non-flyer. Luckily, this superb contraction is still with us today, lovingly preserved at the Musée Régional de l’Air d’Angers.

Four wings and four wheels. Jolie Libelulle, n’est ce pas? 

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.

Boeing EC-135E ARIA: “My nose isn’t big. I just happen to have a very small head”.

The ARIA marries two subjects very dear to me: early space exploration and aircraft “ugliness”. The original Apollo Range Instrumentation Aircraft were C-135B cargo aircraft modified into EC-135N to provide tracking & telemetry in support of the US space program during those epic the late 1960s/early 1970s. Later renamed “Advanced” instead of “Apollo” at the end of that program the ARIA’s continued to provide service in space/missile related duties until they became redundant in the middle 1990s.
The heart of the ARIA systems was its 7ft diameter two-axis steerable antenna, a “world’s largest”. The antenna was located in this humongous 10ft diameter nose. A nose both hilarious and draggy, its nickname “Jimmy Durante” was well-deserved.

In this photo, “Droop Snoot”, an EC-135E on display at the USAF Museum. The -E was the original -N model re-engined with P&W TF33 turbofans.

Another C-135’s nose proboscis.

Friedel-Ursinus (B.1092/14): In the beginning….

The unusual G.I started the family of Gotha’s heavy bombers, a company name that became (in-)famous in that business. The B.1092/14 was designed by Oskar Ursinus, the founder and editor of the seminal Flugsport magazine, and Major Friedel. The main peculiarity of this biplane design was that its fuselage was attached to the upper wing instead of the usual lower one. Its two engines were placed close together on the lower wing to minimize, it seems, the asymmetrical thrust in case of engine failure.
The Friedel-Ursinus prototype made its maiden flight in early 1915 and its tests showed the need of some improvements. After a few modifications Gotha Waggonfabrik decided to produce a very modest number of them (around 20). Its operational story is obscure, but one thing is certain: they weren’t loved. Gotha chose to follow a more conventional layout for their later “G” bombers.

The bizarre shape of the B 1092/14 flying overhead us. Its utterly German-looking aerodynamically balanced ailerons were one of the improvements applied after the initial tests.