Douglas A3D-2 Skywarrior: Jonah abides.

Superb portrait of a HATRON Four (VAH-4) “Whale” pilot. He seems quite happy and contented with the A3D lack of ejection seats; the bizarre round shape behind his seat is the seat headrest. At the right we can observe the Bombardier/Navigator’s console.
Our aviator looks certainly smart in his orange international flight suit. Nothing garish in his natty late version APH-5 flying helmet with MS22001 oxygen mask either.


Dassault Mirage IIIE: Au bureau.

The magnificent photo at the back cover of a scarce book :”La 13ème Escadre de chasse: 40 ans d’histoire dans le ciel d’Alsace : du F-86K au Mirage F1CT” (1997).
This pilot’s Guereau 316 flight helmet bears splendidly the colours of the Escadron de chasse (EC) 1/13 “Artois”, then one of the units of the 13ème Escadre de chasse.

A very alive office. I love its Breguet type 11 clock. I once sat in a more inert one when I was a kid during an open day at the Manises AFB.

Heinkel He 111H: The Germans loved a view (III).

XI Flieger Film Korps photographer Erwin Seeger taking things easy in the nose of a Heinkel He 111H. The plane, according to the info I have, was on a transfer flight from Sicily to Tunisia, carrying under tow a Gotha Go 242 glider, 1942. No enemies were expected; Seeger is resting over the Ikaria MG 15 machine gun turret.
That unmistakable both the kapok-filled Schwimmweste model 10-76B-1 life vest and the “Netzkopfhabe” LKpN101 flight helmet.

That asymmetric marvel.

“Martin XRV”: Save your backpacks for the EVA transfer.

Last night I took the time to watch again 1969 “Marooned” movie. Inspired in Martin Caidin’s book, this movie it’s not one of those I revisit often (dull acting and so-so story), but some of its props had real charm.
The jewel of the crown to me was its “XRV”, a lifting body (LB) shape inspired in the Martin SV-5. This USAF-sponsored LB aircraft was tested in space in the middle-late 1960’s as the sub-scale X-23 PRIME and later in earth atmosphere, as the full-scale X-24A, in the early 1970’s.  A design which has merits; NASA applied later the concept to its now cancelled X-38 rescue vehicle. By the way, the Martin Marietta company had a crystal ball in 1965.
I’m not going to start relating its technical goofs, but the rude way that Sikorsky CH-3C deposited the “XRV” on the lorry couldn’t have done any good to its thermal protection.

Not at Kubrick’s “2001” level, yet the “XRV” cockpit had style and some really convincing gadgetry. The movie’s spacesuits, not being superb, were decent enough.

SNCASE SE.2410 Grognard I: The Hunchback of the South East.

The Grognard I was conceived in the late 1940s as a single-seat ground attack aircraft. Its design embodied several novel and quite radical features, specially at the time of its appearance.Two of them took the Grognard I apart, namely its drastic 47˚ swept wing design and its engine configuration: two RR Nene jet engines, staggered one above the other, in the rear of a very bulky fuselage. The Grognard I flew for the first time on April, 1950. The concept was evolved further into a vastly modified second prototype, the Grognard II. Neither of the two had any luck; both had their development stopped due to some technical problems and changes on Armée de l’Air operational policies. After that they served as armament testbeds.

This photo does real justice to this French fantasy. That nose affair with its “birdcage” cockpit does the trick to me.

Douglas A3D-2 Skywarrior: Windy take-offs.

Nicknamed the “Whale” due to its almost cetacean size, when the Skywarrior entered service it was the heaviest aircraft ever to operate regularly from aircraft carrier. The A-3 was also the second of the only two strategic (nuclear)  bombers -it replaced the previous NAA Aj Savage- to enter service with the US Navy.
Designed by the peerless Ed Heinemann and his team, the prototype (XA3D-1) made its maiden flight in the fall of 1952. The model entered service with the US Navy in March 1956. With the Navy the A-3’s saw a plethora of employs; from their original strategic bomber role to aerial refuelling while becoming also useful in ECM, COMINT, test platforms…, you name it. A handful were still at work during the first Gulf War in 1991.

An A3D-2 Skywarrior of the VAH-1 just off from its floating nest, the Forrestal-Class USS Independence in the late 1950’s. A serious flaw in this superb design was the lack of ejection seats for any of its crew. As a morbid joke the A3D was referred as the “All 3 Dead” early in its service. Note the open escape hatch on the top of the cockpit. That hatch remained always open on take-off and landings. Better than nothing, I guess.

Photo: LIFE magazine.