Curtiss SOC: Shockproof elan.

The tough and ready Curtiss SOC Seagull was a scout/recon floatplane employed by the US Navy in their catapult-equipped battleships and cruisers from 1935 until, in some cases, well into 1945. The cause of its commendable front line longevity was the failure of its intended replacement: Curtiss’ other Seagull, the SO3C. They also saw service with the US Coast Guard. Produced both by Curtiss and by the Naval Aircraft Factory (NAF) as the SON-1, around 320 of them were produced.

Jumping over the heavy waves and don’t giving a damn. Pure poetry this photo.


De Schelde S.21: Tadpole sting.

With its pusher engine, twin boom tail feathers and hugely glassed cockpit canopy, the S.21 looked right out of a pulp aviation comic of its era. This late 1930s/early 1940s Dutch single-seat fighter design was the brainchild of T. E. Slot, the former chief designer of Pander & Son. Of all-metal construction and powered by a German 1050hp DB 600Ga, as conceived, the S.21 was heavily armed with four fixed light machine guns and a curious 23mm Madsen cannon which could be directly handled by its pilot.
The construction of the prototype was initiated in the early 1939, and it was still uncompleted when the German invaded the Nederlands in May 1940. Seized by the conquerors, the prototype, still unfinished and unflown, was destroyed by them during some terminal structural tests.

Magnificently done contemporary cutaway.

Caproni Ca.134: The right amount of weirdness.

The Ca 134 two-seat biplane conceived by CapronI in 1936 to cover a Regia Aeronautica “strategic reconnaissance” requirement. Quite orthodox in design, the Ca.134 had nevertheless a strange biplane tail with endplate fins and rudders: a feature chosen to give the gunner a fairly unobstructed rear field of fire. Of classic Italian mixed-construction, this biplane was powered by a potent but heavy 900hp Isotta-Fraschini Asso XI R.CAO.
Displaying a fast pace of design and construction, the first prototype maiden flight took place in Jan. 1937. Soon followed by a second example, the Ca.134 didn’t convince the Italian authorities though. No production was undertaken.

It certainly had allure. Just like its quite related, and also unlucky, little boy.

ANF Les Mureaux 170: Winner of my heart (VI).

This sublime parasol fighter was a contender in the 1930 French Air Ministry C.1 specification for a fast (350km/h min.) supercharger-engined single-seat fighter. First flown in late 1932, the design proved to be both maneuverable and very fast. In fact, it was the fastest French military aircraft at the time. In the minus side, its pilot’s poor visibility due to its parasol gull-wing configuration. The two prototypes built were the only Les Mureaux 170 ever produced; the Armée de l’air chose the Dewoitine 500 monoplane and the SPAD S.510 biplane instead.

Slightly photoshopped (that tail didn’t float by itself) yet gorgeously neat photo of this beauty.

Kellner-Béchereau 28VD: Pas de grandes phrases… Quel Dommage!!

The 28VD was a racing aircraft designed by the great Louis Béchereau to take part in the classic 1933 Coupe Deutsch de la Meurthe. The result, as we can observe, was a truly thing of beauty gorgeously streamlined with a short low aspect ratio wing and retractable undercarriage. Pretty inside too: the contest specified the use of engines of less than 8 litres so Béchereau chose a little 7.95 V-12 jewel from the Delage company. That engine and its troublesome propeller were the cause of the 28VD demise while the aircraft was preparing it qualifications for the race. The 28VD was severely damaged in a crash, gladly with no lost of life, and that meant the end of its story.

Wing skin radiators included. What’s not to like?