Fairey Gannet T.2: Character in spades.

The spectacularly intricate nose affair of the Gannet. In this case a T.2 (the dual-control trainer of anti-submarine AS.1) preserved at the Midland Air Museum, Coventry.

Intakes and more intakes for the Double Mamba turbojet engine, and its neatly presented contra-rotating propellers. Utterly British.

Photo: © June 2014 Siteseen Ltd.


Budd RB-1 Conestoga: “If It Looks Right,…..”

Specialised in welded stainless steel products, the Edward G. Budd Manufacturing Co. was awarded a contract by the US. Navy in 1942 for the design and manufacture of a “C-47-class” transport in that material. The Conestoga displayed some very modern features; mainly its clear cargo area, upswept “tailfeathers” and rear cargo door/ramp. First flown in late 1943, the Conestoga prospects seemed promising with an initial US. Navy order of 200 machines plus 600 by the USAAF. Regrettably during the flight tests problems soon appeared; mediocre range, systems follies and complicated stainless steel construction.
Delays in production, plus the problems already enumerated, resulted in a drastic production reduction. In the end only around twenty were  produced for the Navy, and none saw active service. Some had a very interesting postwar civilian lives though. One incomplete example survives to this day in the Pima Air and Space Museum.

Admiring that comic nose affair, its most distinctive feature. Handsome it was not.

Boeing EC-135E ARIA: “My nose isn’t big. I just happen to have a very small head”.

The ARIA marries two subjects very dear to me: early space exploration and aircraft “ugliness”. The original Apollo Range Instrumentation Aircraft were C-135B cargo aircraft modified into EC-135N to provide tracking & telemetry in support of the US space program during those epic the late 1960s/early 1970s. Later renamed “Advanced” instead of “Apollo” at the end of that program the ARIA’s continued to provide service in space/missile related duties until they became redundant in the middle 1990s.
The heart of the ARIA systems was its 7ft diameter two-axis steerable antenna, a “world’s largest”. The antenna was located in this humongous 10ft diameter nose. A nose both hilarious and draggy, its nickname “Jimmy Durante” was well-deserved.

In this photo, “Droop Snoot”, an EC-135E on display at the USAF Museum. The -E was the original -N model re-engined with P&W TF33 turbofans.

Another C-135’s nose proboscis.

Heinkel He 119: Non Plus Ultra, bare none.

The Günter brothers -Siegfried and Walter- were among the most talented aircraft designers of their era, renowned for their ultra sleek aerodynamic designs. Of all their brainchilds the the middle/late 1930’s He 119 was their “tour de force”. This unique aircraft concept was a private venture unarmed reconnaissance bomber conceived to outpace any enemy fighter. The main feature of the design was its Daimler Benz DB606 (a pair of coupled DB601) engine buried deep in a lovely streamlined fuselage. First flown in 1937, the He 119 delivered the superb performance promised; one World Record included. Despite its guarantied potential, the aircraft proved to be just too unorthodox for the then conservative German Reichsluftfahrtministerium (Air Ministry). Only eight “Versuchs” models (prototypes) were produced, one of them as a seaplane.

The most outstanding feature of the design was its crew accommodation with the DB 606 extended shaft passing through the middle of that utterly German multifaceted glazing nose. That retractable radiator just made it irresistible.

Armstrong Whitworth F.K.8: A-verage W-inner.

Nicknamed “Big Ack”, this clumsy looking general purpose biplane was designed by a Dutch maverick, the aircraft designer Frederick Koolhoven. Both F.K.8 and the RAF R.E.8 entered service in early 1917 as a long overdue replacements for the “bloody” B.E.2. Of the two Koolhoven’s F.K.8 was the less-known, but not because of its qualities. Compared to its partner it was more rugged and handled better, yet it was even less sprightly than the already passable R.E.8. One thing both had in common, they shared the deadly inbuilt stability of the B.E.2. Notwithstanding the certain lacklustreness,  the F.K.8’s were well-received by their crews who appreciated they sturdiness, reliability and versatility.

A somehow dour F.K.8’s crew next to the lovely ultra-hideous nose of our protagonist. Ugliness apart, both the inverted V radiator and the V-shaped oleo-undercarriage suffered teething problems. That “A-W” logo is a touch I’ve always found really neat.