Cunliffe-Owen OA-1: The harsh reality.

The British little known Scottish Aircraft & Engineering Ltd. company purchased in the middle-late 1930’s the licence rights to produce Vicent Burnelli‘s UB-14 lifting fuselage. Called by them OA-1, the prototype took flight in 1939,.. the year of the invasion of Poland. With the country at war, the by then renamed Cunliffe-Owen company, turned its back to the Burnelli and soon switched their capabilities to produce parts for other aircraft companies. So this unique prototype remained the one and only “British Burnelli” produced. It worked for a living though; serving with both the RAF and latter with the Free French AF (de Gaulle included) until its extinction.

Lovely publicity artwork with a neat cutaway depicting the main features of Burnelli’s idea.

CAPRA R.80: The stuff dreams are made of.

The CAPRA R.80 was a stunning mail carrier seaplane studied in 1942. It was intended for a Franco-Portuguese company that hoped to capitalize the Lisbon-New York route. Conceived by the always bold Roger Robert, the basic formula of this CAPRA was radical: a catapultable only (total lack of propellers-water clearance) trimotor seaplane. Its engine configuration was certainly interesting; two of its 1250 CV  Hispano-Suiza engines were in the nose geared to a pair tractor co-axial props and a third was placed at the back driving a pusher prop via a long drive shaft. To move around in the water a little marine engine was envisaged.
What happened to it?… well, the year of its conception says it all. Anyway, hard to think it could have been technically or economically viable even against the large flying boats already in service, even less against the landplanes just around the corner. A delightful mirage though.

A more complete account in French by the author of this precious 3-view drawing, Jean Moulin.

Short Mayo Composite: Awesomeness through Weakness.

In the late 1930s the British found themselves with a serious shortcoming to compite with the Americans, mainly, in the North Atlantic airmail service: Imperial Airways latest Short C-Class flying boats lacked the range. Gladly, the airline technical manager R.H.Mayo had the vision and the boldness to find a very original solution. He thought that a small long-range floatplane could be taken in the back of one of those C-Class and then launched at the limit of mothership’s range to continue the flight with his own fresh supply of fuel. The unlikely contraction that resulted worked like a charm….a stopgap solution, granted, but gimme more like this.

Imperial cutaway of the iconic Flight magazine.

Northrop YA-9A: Loser at first sight.

The YA-9A drew the short straw against the Fairchild A-10 prototype in the 1970s USAF Attack Experimental (A-X) competition. If the A-10 couldn’t certainly be considered a “beauty” -being more an acquired taste-, the YA-9A was awful, pure and simple. That gargantuan vertical tail surface should have been such a “flying target”.
The only two built ended their short flying days with NASA.

Artist: John Weal.

Bristol 197 Brabazon: The White Elephant.

A few post ago I was talking about the DC-3; the aircraft that got all right. The Brabazon in contrast got almost all wrong. The Bristol 197 was conceived by a committee (certainly not a quality guarantee) in the middle of WW2 as the flagship of british postwar civilian aviation. Incredibly gargantuan and technologically risky, the main Brabazon’s problem was nevertheless the woefully dated concepts used during its conception. The technology and infraestructures evolved during the war had “democratized” the air travel yet the Brabazon was built with the same “rich and famous” mindset of the prewar years.

Precious cutaway -very “prewar” also. Notice the passenger meagre number and the huge amount of space “wasted” in their amenities. The elegant, but definitely too thick wing hides eight Bristol Centaurus  radial engines with complicated shafts and gears that drove the propellers. The Brabazon didn’t have a chance against very cheap, efficient and easily available C-54’s/DC-4’s…., only one flew.