Aérospatiale SA 315B Lama: Over the top and beyond.

The history of nowadays very successful Airbus Helicopters began with the trend setting Aérospatiale Alouette family. Those turbine helicopters produced in huge numbers were with the Mirage III the aviation products which put France again where it belongs. The Lama was the overpowered high-altitude variant. At the control of one of them, Aérospatiale Chief Test Pilot Jean Boulet set a absolute world record, on 21 June 1972, for the highest altitude reached by a helicopter (all categories). He reached 12,442 meters, a record still unsurpassed. Furthermore, that feat was not a piece of cake. When he reduced power to begin he descend, because of the extreme cold and high altitude, the engine flamed out, and Boulet had to perform the highest ever power off autorotation landing flying blind because the cockpit bubble iced over. As a plus, that autorotation also set a new world record. By the way, it seems the unpowered fly down credited him also with the highest altitude ever reached with an autogyro…, sort of.

Boulet on oxygen in the stripped out cockpit of his Lama. Less weight more height.


Messerschmitt Me P.1101 V1: Spoils go to the victor.

The original P.1101 design was Messerschmitt’s answer to the Luftwaffe July 1944 Emergency Fighter Program. That program was looking for a second generation single-seat/single-engined jet fighter to replace the Me 262. A subject of constant development, in the end the P.1101 came nevertheless second best behind the Ta 183. Not wanting to waste the design work, the RLM chose to turn it into a experimental prototype for high-speed testing . In order to do that the resulting P.1101 prototype had a wing which sweep angle could be changed (35, 40, and 45 degrees) on the ground. War events put and end to all that,…in Germany.

A charming group of United Service Organizations Inc. (USO) personnel and their unlikely companion.  When the US Army entered Messerschmitt’s Oberammergau complex they seized, among other things, the Me P.1101 V1 incomplete prototype. Too vandalised to be made airworthy, it was shipped to the Bell Aircraft Works in Buffalo where it served as the obvious basis from the company X-5 aircraft. Sadly, it was scrapped in the early 1950s.

Antonov An-22: Daddy Cool (XIII).

The Russian master of transport aircraft Oleg K. Antonov and a pretty model of the first of his famous “heavylifters.” The huge An-22 with its cavernous fuselage, idiosyncratic tail feathers and mighty Kuznetsov NK-12 turbines.

In a 1984 television interview Antonov was asked why all his aircraft (the An-2 apart) had a high-wing configuration. Antonov calmly answered: “Have you ever seen a low-wing aircraft? There were, obviously, more practical reasons for his choice, but he sure had elan. (source Y. Gordon & D. Komissarov).

Grumman LM: Squares & Circles.

At first sight Emilio Pucci (at the left), specially in this gaudy attire, had nothing in common with the squareness of NASA. The connection with NASA came when the Apollo 15 crew unsatisfied with the designs considered for their mission patch contacted Pucci to take care of the matter. The resulting mission patch while not 100% Pucci has clearly his touch, but it’s sure soberer.

That LM mock-out served as a magnificent background. Pucci was not at lost in his conversation with this NASA employee, I guess. This Italian couturier in his utterly incredible life had time to become a Gobbo, P.108 and SM.84 pilot with the Regia Aeronautica during WW2.

De Havilland Comet 3: Aloha from Hawaii!!

The De Havilland DH.106 Comet 3 (G-ANLO) arrives at Honolulu International Airport on Dec. 13, 1955 during a global publicity tour. A measure necessary after the fatal accident crisis and the withdrawn from service suffered by the previous models. The Comet 3 was a sort of transitory variant which sped up, with route tests like this, the quick certification of the most successful variant of the type, the Comet 4.

Funny cover of that classic aviation magazine. Not a staged photo definitely; I kinda love the pilot taking the picture of that wahine perched on a forklift.