Boeing 2707-100: Don’t bite off more than you can chew.

The 2707 was the winner of the American late 1960s SST competition. With its swing-wing, it was a bold and innovative design which won over the more orthodox fixed-wing Lockheed L-2000.
The -100 the coolest stage of the Boeing design with its four engines placed below the horizontal stabilizer. From there the project went downwards. Weight became soon a problem and range suffered accordingly so in the end, the capital sin: they scrapped the whole wing design to one similar to the Lockheed L-2000(!!) but equipped with a tail. Riddled with technical and political problems cancellation was the obvious conclusion.

The superlative mock-up and its gorgeous canary livery.


McDonnell F-4M(FV)S Phantom II: Spooky stillborn mutant.

In 1966 McDonnell company in view of the lack of future General Dynamics/Grumman F-111B fleet defense fighter program put forward an unsolicited proposal for a variable-geometry version of their world-beating Phantom. The idea was to produce a faster and less expensive alternative to a clean sheet design like the one eventually procured by the US. Navy, the F-14A Tomcat. While they were at it, McDonnell people decided to evolve two versions: the original F-4J(FV)S based on the F-4J for the US. Navy, and with the British market in mind, the F-4M(FV)S based on the F-4M for the Royal Air Force. Later even bolder re-engined configurations were studied. To no avail, neither the US. Navy nor the RAF saw potential in the variable-geometry Phantom to compete agaisnt brand new designs.

Not a hard thing to do, but it sure looked cleaner than the original. The design sadly(?) lost in the transformation its characteristic anhedral horizontal stabilizer.

Spiral Air-Orbital Plane (VOS): 2nd to none.

Designed by a Mikoyan OKB-155 design team headed by Gleb Evgeniyevich Lozino-Lozinskiy, the Spiral (aerospace system) was a Soviet project created as a military orbital spaceplane in response to the American Boeing X-20 Dyna-Soar. Ironically by the time the design was started (1965) the American project was already cancelled so after four years it was also stopped….to be initiated in the middle 1970s as a possible answer to the Space Shuttle. The project reached the hardware state with sub-scale orbital test models and a manned test vehicle to explore low-speed behavior, the MiG-105.

To no avail, in the end the Spiral was cancelled when the Soviet authorities decided to follow closely the American Space Shuttle concept. The Buran project was the result.

This clever GIF gives us an idea of its audacious configuration. The Spiral spaceplane with its attached  liquid fuel booster stage seats atop hypersonic jet mothership designed by the Tupolev OKB. That reusable mothership acted as the complex’s first stage which launched Spiral and its booster at high altitude.

Nord 600/6000: Very Heavy-Paper Aircraft.

The 1960s USAF CX-LHS (Cargo Experimental Heavy Logistics System) requirement -and the eventual winner, the 100t C-5 Galaxy- created a little commotion in the aviation industry. To keep abreast of the new technological arena, aircraft design teams around the world became involved in studies of giant cargo aircraft. The Nord Aviation company was one of them. Their 1965 original Nord 600 was conceived as a horizontal bilobe fuselage airliner soon developed into different heavy cargo airlifters. With the Nord 6000 they just went ballistic. Only a “style exercise”, in fact, under the Nord 6000 designation a plethora variables were considered. One of them a sixteen-engined, 120m long/113m wingspan cargo behemoth which leaves the 84m long Antonov An-224 in tatters.

Drew by Fernand Rajau, this is an original design (nº 04-51) of one of the various Nord 600 iterations.  It gives us an idea of the whole concept. Of note its bilobe fuselage section, tiny human-reference figures and one of its four magnificent engine nacelle. No high specific thrust turbofans here. Each individual nacelle was intended to house four jet engines, a total sixteen. And remember, the 600 was tiny in comparison with the 6000.

Junkers Ju 187: Mueve la colita.

One of the lesson learned by the Germans of Battle of Britain was the vulnerability of the Ju 87 to enemy fighters and the need of a replacement. It was soon obvious that something better than a cleaned out up-powered Ju 87 was needed. The daring Ju 187 was Junkers’ answer. While keeping the basic Ju 87 shape -gull-wing included-, Junkers added to their design a remote control defensive turret, a retractable landing gear and, the best for last, a rotating vertical tail to improve the gunner field of fire.
As we can see in this somehow funny GIF, the Ju 187 would have looked quite weird. Anyway, the whole project was cancelled by the RLM in 1943: its performances didn’t seem to offer a real advantage over its fixed-undercarriage predecessor.

Couzinet RC.360: Daddy Cool (XI).

René Couzinet was without doubt one of aviation greats, and also a bit of an enfant terrible. In the early 1950s, after a troublesome and peripatetic professional life (Brazil included), Couzinet began to considered the possibilities of a VTOL flying saucer design…,under the spell of the UFO era, no doubt. After filling some patents, he produced a 3/5th-scale Aerodyne engineering model which was presented to the press the fall of 1955. Sadly, after some initial interest in his “soucoupe volante” the project soon died down. The horrid thing is that, disillusioned by that lack of interest in his work, Couzinet and his wife committed suicide at the very end of 1956.

Magnificent Maurice Jarnoux’s portrait, part of a “Paris Match”  1955 article. The engineer is seen here gazing at the gorgeous wooden scale model of his RC.360. This model represented his proposed flying model. An aerodyne equipped with six Lycoming piston engines to drive the two contra-rotating discs which provide the VTOL performances (it had fifty adjustable vanes) and an AS Viper jet engine (in the nacelle above the body) to provide forward propulsion. Utterly “Couzinet” all.