IMAM Ro.57bis: Too little, way too late.

The Ro.57 was a pretty neat twin-engined, single-seat monoplane fighter/interceptor and dive-bomber produced by the Industrie Meccaniche e Aeronautiche Meridionali (IMAM) for the Italian  Regia Aeronautica. Based originally on a concept almost similar to American Lightning or the British Whirlwind , this late 1930’s design suffered a protracted development. First flown in 1939, the Ro.57 did not go into production until 1943. This delay was produced mainly for the decision to switch its role; from heavy fighter into a ground attack-dive bomber. That costed deathly. By the time it entered service it was already obsolete. Only around 50 were produced.

Superb profile cutaway of the Ro.57bis, the  dive bombing variant taken form its official instruction manual. Neat and purposeful it was.

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AW Albemarde Mk I: Second-best at best.

Late in the 1930’s the British Air Ministry grew concerned that, if there was a war, the possible supply shortage of aircraft light alloy materials could became a problem. One of the product of that concern was the RAF specification B.9/38 for a bomber built with alternative materials -the Albemarde was the answer. With its already dated steel tube, wood and fabric construction, the Albemarde proved to be both overweight and low on performance compared to up-to-date designs. Obviously, its bomber role was soon forgotten replaced early on by general recon duties. In the end it was as transports and gliders tugs where these unloving and unloved things earned their keep.

Gorgeous cutaway of this aircraft which its chief designer John Lloyd defined as “.. an aircraft that could be built by the tinker, tailor and candlestick maker outside the industry”.

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.