Heinkel He 115B: The loser took everything.

Blohm & Voss loss was Heinkel gain. Anyway, in service the “second best” displayed ample capacities and was a well-loved by its crews. As we can see here, the He 115 was also a quite slick looking aircraft; prettier than the Ha 140, those floats struts apart.

Blohm & Voss Ha 140: The winner took nothing at all.

The Ha 140 was conceived by Richard Vogt to fulfil a a late 1930s Luftwaffe long-range torpedo bomber / reconnaissance aircraft requirement. The three prototype were built of which the first one took its  maiden flight in Sept. 1937. During the competitive tests they proved to be easily the best of the bunch, among them the He 115 which came second. And here it comes the incredible. Blohm & Voss declined to produce their Ha 140 because they’d found themselves without the production capacities. The people of Heinkel couldn’t believe their luck.

The first prototype, Ha 140 V1 (D-AUTO), in its element. Not a pretty nose, but those gorgeously clean floats more than made up that deficit.

Potez-CAMS 161: Didn’t run very far.

The CAMS 161, like the Latécoère 631, was a magnificent six-engined flying boat designed to operate on the prestigious North Atlantic routes; the jewel of the crown in the aviation of the late 1930s. Sadly, only a prototype was built after its configuration was tested by a proof-of-concept aircraft. First flown at the end of 1939, the CAMS 161 story is quite obscure. Taken by the Germans it undertook some flying under their colours. It was destroyed in an unclear place near the end of WW2.

Balkenkreuz-equipped. Not as clean as the 631, but mighty in its own way.

Lockheed P-38J Lightning: Drive it like you stole it.

The proud new owner of a Volkswagen 166 Schwimmwagen sharing space in this photo with the P-38J “Miss Mass” (42-67449) of Lt. V. J. Noble (392nd Fighter Squadron, 367th Fighter Group, 9th Air Force). The Lightning is warming out nicely at Cricqueville-en-Bessin, France (A-2), Aug. 26, 1944.

A good catch, by the way. The German “Swimming Car” was the only version of the Kübelwagen which bested its American counterpart, the Jeep.

Photo: LIFE magazine.

Fokker D.III: When skill & manners mattered.

The D.III was one of those barely decent biplane fighters produced by the Fokker company right after their monoplanes became hopelessly obsolete. Powered by the stunning, but dubious Oberursel U.III two-row rotary engine, the two-bay winged D.III like it’s older biplane brothers proved to be just too slow. It also still employed the already archaic wing-warping control system. And add to all that Anthony Fokker’s usual decease: poor quality control. They appeared at the frontline in the summer of 1916, but soon were relegated to the less demanding areas. More than two hundred were produced.

In this delightful artwork, the always chivalrous Oswald Boelcke meets his 20th victim, Captain R E Wilson (32 Sqn RFC), on 2 Sept. 1916. He achieved seven victories with the D.III (352/16), but was adamant in his dislike.

Horten H Xa (Piernífero): Little Wing.

Reimar Horten started to develop a small minimalist foot-launched sailplane in the very late 1940s from an idea he was already toying before WW2 started. Built by its eventual test pilot, the Argentine Rogelio Bartolini, this “Alita” was only a bit bigger than the later classic  Rogallo-wing hand glider. Completed in 1953, the first Piernífero due to its high wing loading proved to be useless when foot-launching was tried. Towed by a car it showed good average performance, but also some lack of stability. Furthermore, the pilot’s legs safety appeared to be quite questionable during landings. Two improved longer-winged Pierníferos followed: one remained uncompleted (Xb) and the other unbuilt (Xc).

Even the way it was road carried was stunning. National Air and Space Museum.(NASM) photo.

Definitely not as practical as Rogallo’s, but boy, was it cool.

Drawing: Peter F. Selinger.