Brewster SB2A Buccaneer: Cargoes of Bullshit.

The main claim of the mass-produced Buccaneer/Bermuda is that not one of them took part in any front-line service. This “world-beater” was an updated evolution of Brewster’s 1936 SBA dive bomber. More powerful and well-armed, a very promising design, in resume. When first flown in June 1941, the hard reality became soon evident. The prototype was dangerously unstable and suffered lethal dive brake asymmetric deployment and buffeting both in those brakes and with the intended turret. During its development some faults were solved, but the Buccaneer/Bermuda endemic instability remained untamed. Hard to understand why 1,052 were produced with nowadays hindsight. Anyway, the vast majority was simply scrapped by their “happy” receptors (RAF, RCAF, USAAF and the US. Navy) or just employed in training.

To give you an idea of the SB2A’s awfulness: the US. Navy preferred the Son of a Bitch 2nd Class instead…. The funny thing was according to the company “Brewster Builder” magazine (July 1943): “Bermudas (its British nickname) are over there by the hundreds (true*), and everybody who has flown them is enthusiastic (not so true*). The Squadrons are located in North Ireland, Scotland, England and South Wales. They would rather fly the Bermuda than any other plane….(oh, well*).”

Robey-Peters Gun-Carrier: “Looks Ma, no fear!!”.

This three-seater armed tractor biplane was constructed by Robey and Co under the design of J.A. Peters to carry the Admiralty-sponsored Davis recoiless gun. The more remarkable feature of this 240 hp Roll-Royce powered aircraft was its crew members disposition. The two gunners were located each in a nacelle faired into the upper wings where they manned their Davis guns, while the pilot was placed bizarrely in a cockpit towards the very rear of the fuselage just ahead of the fin. Two examples were ordered by the Royal Navy Air Service (RNAS) in May 1916, but in the end all came to naught when the first prototype crashed in its very first flight in May 1917.

Arado Ar 231: Der Kinder Surprise.

The smart Ar 231 was an ultra light-weight floatplane conceived in the early WW2 years to be carried and operated from submarines. Its main unusual feature was an offset wing design to enable its two wing panels to fold aft flat in its watertight stowage tube without interfering with each other, the inner section was designed on a slant so the right wing was in fact lower than the left. Tested thoroughly during 1940, the design couldn’t get over its inherent fragility, lack of power and awful air/seaworthiness qualities. Only a bunch of prototypes were built.

At any rate, a superbly elegant failure with some clever engineering behind it.

Saro A.21 Windhover: “The luck of the ugly one,….” (II).

The Cutty Sark-Windhover-Cloud family of amphibious aircraft was the more commercially successful aircraft produced by the Saunders Roe company ever. Nothing to set the world on fire though keeping in mind that, in total, only 36 were produced. The three models main difference was in their size. Introduced like its “brothers” in 1930, the Windhover was the intermediate one. It was also the least successful with only two produced.

Gorgeous photo of the first Windhover (A.21/1 ZK-ABW) soaring low over the Solent, late 1930. As we can see here a quite pretty thing, maybe the prettier one of the family. Well, they were pretty until a sort of “embryonic” auxiliary winglet was fitted over the engines to cure an engine-on and -off handling anomaly.

Blackburn Sidecar: Left aside.

With this horrendous looking, to say the least, Sidecar the Blackburn company tried after WW1 to give an affordable aircraft to the huge number of former military pilots willing to keep themselves in the air. A potential market that proved to be a chimera anyway. This two-seat ultra-light aircraft powered by the mere 40hp hp of an ABC Gnat engine was built in 1919 and it appeared at the Harrows Department Store that same year….a declaration of intentions in itself. Later powered by a more meaty 100hp Anzani, the Sidecar never went anywhere. Some sources even say it never flew.

Wistful thinking and total lack of appeal. Some combo.

Short S.B.3: THE Shame.

As I commented in my previous Short Sturgeon post, the Short company found themselves with a promising airframe in search of a role to fulfil. This hideous contraption was conceived for the M.6/49 light anti-submarine aircraft requirement -it was in fact the only contender. Short reengined their Sturgeon with two 1,147 hp AS Mamba turboprops and, horror of horrors, a monstrous nose affair with the radar in its “chin” and a pair of radar operator above. The first of the two prototypes took flight in Dec. 1950 and proved that it wasn’t only ugly in appearance: its Mamba engined jet exhauts made the S.B.3 highly unstable. The project was soon cancelled.

Well, at least it became as ugly as its fishy namesake.

Airco DH.2 & DH.5 (Replicas): Gimme Two !!

Gorgeous photo of a pair of New Zealand replicas of the Airco fighter stable: a DH.2 pusher and its intended replacement, the DH.5 “back-staggered” tractor biplane. As a replacement the DH.5 failed miserably for many reasons, both real and imaginary. First, its clumsy looking configuration and structural problems rumours (unjustified) contributed to its unpopularity. Worse, the poor high-altitude performance didn’t help either. To add to all that, when the DH.5 showed up in service (Spring 1917) there were already better fighters available: read Camels & S.E.5‘s. Half thousand of them were produced nevertheless and they served quite decently on ground-attack duties. The DH.5’s sturdiness and good low-altitude behaviour were definitive assets there, yet they remained as unloved as always.

Impeccable photo, methinks.