Bristol Brabazon: The Greatest Flop.


The magnificent aircraft in this neat Qantas poster looks like the predecessor of the Bristol Brabazon. Bristol proposed in 1942 a “100-Ton” bomber which was turned down by the RAF who preferred then their war-proved Lancasters and Halifaxes. The work already done was not lost because Bristol based its proposal to the Brabazon Committee’s Type I airliner in it.

The aircraft concept depicted here shows the pusher engines and gorgeous V-tail (direct for the “100-Ton” bomber) early considered yet also displays the wing platform adopted in the end by the actual Brabazon airliner built.

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Stroop SP-7: Incom T-65’s prequel.

This amazing idea was Robert C. Stroop’s brainchild, an obscure American designer of the Depression era. Stroop proposed his aircraft concept  to the USAAC in 1935 as a way to convine high maximum speed with decent low landing speeds. As we can observe in this drawing, it was a beautiful idea for a convertible aircraft. In cruising flight the machine worked just as any conventional monoplane of the era. The SP-7 wing was split in two halves in flight for take-off and landing, the upper part went upwards while the lower part downwards to form a sort of “X” biplane. The project was, maybe, too bold and was rejected by the USAAC. It seems it never left the Stroop’s drawing board.

By the way, SP-7 had a flying predecesor: the SP-6. More “X-winged” than the SP-7, the SP-6 was mentioned in Stroop’s USAAC letter, photos included. Glorious, my friends.

General Dynamics LEM: Do you read me, HAL?

A wonderfully convincing view of the General Dynamics’ Lunar Excursion Module (LEM) proposal mock-up/simulator. They sure tried hard, but in the end Grumman won the laurels.
The Commander and the LEM Pilot at that early stage of the LEM development still enjoyed the luxury of a seat. The “LEM pilot” here is wearing the ubiquitous BF Goodrich MK.IV pressure suit while he plays “docking” in the simulator. This US Navy full-pressure suit were usually employed in those days for this kind of work. In fact, the Mercury space suit was developed from it.

Destination Clavius?.

Photo: San Diego Air & Space Museum Archives.

Zimmerman’s Flying Apparatus: “Here I come to save the day….”

Behind this somehow comic-looking patent was the mind of Charles Horton Zimmerman. The young Zimmerman was at that time interested in what he called “kinesthetic control”: to achieve control through the use of the pilot body in small flying vehicles….a sort of flying gyro scooter, sans gyro.  This patent was materialized later in a more pedestrian prototype that was tested at the Hiller company factory. It flew, but not very high; it showed serious stability and control problems.

Ah, and those “mice ears”?  They had no control functions. They were there to support the pilot head and lesser the his/her neck fatigue during the horizontal flight.

Handley Page “Sycamore”: Triple somersault.

The “look twice” Sycamore was a Mach 2 airliner design study which was started by the Geoffrey Lee at the Handley Page company in 1959. Up to 150 passengers (plus fuel and baggage) were carried within a wing that was conceived to be slewed to either 72 degrees for high speed flight or 25 degrees for low speed. The crew was accommodated in a small cabin at the “forward” tip of the wing counterbalanced by a quite tall fin at the other. The four podded jet engines rotate in flight for obvious reasons.
A study it remained: the advantages of the formula were not clear and there were concerns with its stability and control qualities.

Boulton Paul P.103B: “Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery.”

At first sight, apart of those contra-rotating props, this neat sketch looks like an Allied early interpretation of the German Fw 190A. In fact, this Bristol Centaurus-powered  “clone” was one of the two Boulton Paul’s proposals (the P.103A was a RR Griffon-engined version) to fulfill the Royal Navy N.7/43 fighter specification. That requirement was conceived to supply, at last, the Fleet Air Arm with an up-to-date all-British carrier fighter after years of barely satisfactory landplane conversions (Sea Hurricanes & Seafires) and American types. In the end, after a tortuous path, it was the Sea Fury the one which answered the “Senior Service” prayers…., but only after the war ended.

Ah, that cockpit canopy.

Avro Canada TS-140 proposal: Double take that !!

This incredible tandem, or canard, winged fighter was a design presented by Avro Canada to meet the US Navy TS-140 Vertical Take-Off and Landing (VTOL) fighter Specification of 1956. Conceived to be powered by four Bristol Orpheus placed in swiveling nacelles in each of its wing tips, The Avro Canada design lost against the Bell D-188A proposal. A meagre victory: the D-188A was later cancelled too.

Pretty interpretation of what might have been. A very conventional looking big carrier for a such VTOL creature.