Douglas DF: Northern Exposure.

This elegant and advanced  flying-boat was conceived to be operated by Pan Am. First flown September 1936, the DF met all its expected performances, yet it was still not adopted by Pan Am. Neither did Douglas found other takers in the home market so luck was tried overseas. The results proved to be meagre. Only four (prototype included) were produced: two went to Japan and two to the USSR.

In the USSR they were operated in the Siberian regions by the GU SMP (Main Administration of the Northern Sea Route) for both passenger and freight transport services. This interesting photo says a lot about their harsh life there…. a long way from Pan Am’s usual idyllic operations places.

Yakovlev UT-1: Resting Places (XII).

The ultra cute UT-1 was a decently aerobatic advanced single-seat trainer operated, mainly, by the Soviet AF’s VVS during the late 1930’s-early 1940’s period. Well-liked and sturdy, some of them even were hastily armed at the start of WW2, but that was only a temporary measure. The total of 1,241 produced were mainly employed as “military pilot makers”.

A suitably all-red painted example exhibited inside the incredible Vadim Zadorozhny’s Museum of Equipment, Arkhangelskoye (Moscow).

Dornier Delphin III (L3): Grace wasn’t in the equation.

The peculiar Delphin were produced Dornier in the 1920’s as single-engined a small commercial flying boat to compliment their larger tandem-engined Wals. With those iconic Wals the Delphin shared the squared low-aspect ratio wing surfaces and the household stummels. Three basic models were produced with each one characterised by its increased in power and payload. The Delphin III was the most powerful of them and could take 10 passengers. They had few takers.

With its BMW VI perched above the “nautical” cabin, these were a strange kind of dolphins. Anyway, that engine configuration again.

Ryan NYP (replica): No coaching needed.

Just revisited again -I’ve lost count of the times- Billy Wilder’s 1957 “The Spirit of St. Louis” movie. Still bizarre to watch the then almost 50 years old James Stewart as a 25 years old Charles Lindbergh…. Anyway, the attention to the technical details in this superb movie is just mouthwatering. One thing that also gave credibility to the movie was that James Steward was an accomplished pilot and it shows.

Just look at their NYP cockpit. Skilled hands at work.

Polikarpov I-17 (TsKB-15): Art Deco in Red.

After his epoch-making I-16, Polikarpov was decided to achieve higher speeds with its next fighter project. In order to do that he chose the slicker water-cooled inline engine instead of the I-16 trusty air-cooled radial. The basic I-17 platform was similar to his previous rotund fighter, but thanks to the inline engine the fuselage cross-section was reduced to the minimum; quite similar to some “speed-seekers” of that era. First flown in September 1934, the design proved to be fast yet not promising enough. Only 3 prototypes were produce plus a few variants studies. Curiously this pretty things were though to be in service with the Soviet AF in early WW2 and were “shot down” in huge numbers by the Germans…

Magnificent 3-view drawing of the 1st prototype, the TsKB-15. With its imported 760hp Hispano-Suiza 12 Ybrs it attained a maximum speed of 455km/h.

Nakajima B4N1: Incom T-65’s Ojiisan.

The B4N1 was an unsuccessful Nakajima entry in an Imperial Japanese navy (IJN) 1932 carrier attack bomber contest. The IJN wanted the usual biplane, and Nakajima produced this stunning aircraft characterised by its drum-shaped welded steel tube fuselage and a bizarre backwards folding wooden “X-wing” structures. Two prototypes appeared in 1933. Their performance proved to be poor, thanks to their asthmatic and troublesome Hikari II engines, and they also suffered stability problems produced, it seems,  by the straight  outer sections in the lower pair fo wings. In the end neither the B4N1 nor its Mitsubishi competitor gained acceptance into service.

It was really something, don’t  you think so?