Northrop YB-49: Nuke Them All!!!

Jack Northrop’s out of this miserable world YB-49 “Flying Wing” on its way to nuke some Martians on the classic “The War of Worlds” 1953 movie. Archive images: flight testing of the sole remaining YB-49 prototype had ended three years before.

Some fireworks. Happy 4th of July.

Douglas DC-8 Prototype: Daddy Cool (XXIII).

The always natty Donald Douglas Snr enjoying his first DC-8 flight on the prototype. Arguably a better design than the 707, the DC-8 arrived second to the market, and sales sadly showed that.

The cruel irony: a photo taken from the Boeing Historical Archives. Colorised by Benoit Vienne.

Dewoitine D.520-01: Arrested Development.

Emile Dewoitine’s D.520 was the best French mass produced fighter of WW2. This racy beauty was roughly equal to both the Spitfire and Bf 109E in 1940. Sadly, that was also the year of France surrender and the end of D.520’s further serious improvement. The design continued to be produced in quantity by Vichy France anyway, with German permission. Captured and new built saw also service with the Germans, Bulgarians and the Italians. The latter two in anger. It was that good.

The sheer prettiness of the first prototype. Photo taken after its Nov. 1938 landing accident: the three-blade variable-pitch prop has replaced the pedestrian two-blade fixed-pitch wooden prop.

Gloster (A-W) Meteor F.8 “Prone Pilot”: Almost as long as its denomination.

This Meteor extravagance was a testbed conceived in 1954 to evaluate the pros and cons of a prone pilot position in high-speed aircraft; the more modest R.S.4 “Bobsleigh” covered the proof-of concept stage and low-speed range. Flown successfully a number of times, but never with the prone pilot alone, “Pinocchio” displayed mixed results. Despite its advantages to allow the pilot to withstand G-forces, it also suffered for degraded visibility (rearward mainly) and sheer ergonomic clumsiness. This very unique prototype survives at the superb RAF Museum, Cosford.

The best -of the very few available- in flight photo of WK935. Built by Armstrong-Whitworth, the “Prone Meteor” used the utterly “Buck Rogers-esque” Meteor NF 12 tail feathers. So bird-like it all.

Boeing Skyfox: “This briefing is from file A56-7W. Classified”.

Originally proposed by the Skyfox Corporation in the early 1980s, this purposeful looking trainer was a drastic upgrade of the world-beating T-33 Shooting Star. Basically, the airframe suffered alterations which made its heritage almost unrecognisable and its prehistoric Allison J33 turbojet was replaced by a pair of eficient Garrett TFE731 turbofans. The T-Bird’s original designer, Irwin Culver, and some former Lockheed employees were involved in its conception. The idea was to sell it either as a fully equipped and complete aircraft or as a parts kit conversion. One prototype was completed and tested successfully, but found no takers. Boeing saw potential anyway and acquired the design rights in 1986. They enjoyed hardly better luck;  the whole project was cancelled in the early 1990s.

Couldn’t be more Eighties. Looking like an European-1 camouflaged bizjet in this Boeing Co. photo

Rey R.1: While you’re at it, better be Majestic.

The gorgeous R.1 was an experimental twin-engined aircraft conceived by François Rey to explore gust alleviation techniques. His patent was based on articulated wings, which could flap along the rubber black line outboard of the engines. Powered by two neatly cowled 240hp Renault 6Q-10a, the R.1 was tested successfully during the early 1950s.  Despite that the idea didn’t got further back then. The flexible wings of nowadays latest airliners designs are distant descendants.

This thing of beauty in its original configuration, with cutely spatted wheels and small vertical surfaces. With similar aims and equally beautiful.

Convair NB-36H Crusader: Who’s a Good Atom Boy?

The Crusader was a drastically modified Peacemaker employed as a flying testbed for an airbone nuclear reactor. First flown in Sept. 1955, the idea was not to use the reactor as a source of power, but to test the effects of radiation on the aircraft itself and on its crew. This project was pursued in connection with the spellbinding WS-125A nuclear-powered bomber program. A total of forty-seven flights were undertaken in less than a year and the Crusader was scrapped soon after.

The unusual cartoon-esque shape of the NH-36H nose under construction. The shielded crew compartment is already in place waiting for its aerodynamic cover.

Mitsubishi (2MR1) Tobi: Not all Falcons are handsome.


This lanky artifact was Mitsubishi competitor to replace in 1926 the Army locally-built Salmson 2 A2 recon aircraft. The 2MR1 was designed by Nobushiro Nakata with with the help of Professor Baumann. Of mixed construction, the Tobi (a sort of falcon) was powered by a 450-600hp Mitsubishi (Hispano-Suiza) engine. Its sesquiplane configuration consisted on a quite large upper wing mounted way up high connected through a bizarre array of centre section and interplane struts to the boxy fuselage and lower wings.
The Tobi prototype made its maiden flight in the summer of 1927. Factory tests were very positive with a top speed well above the requirements. Sadly, during the official test flights the prototype was seriously damaged on a heavy landing and was eliminated from the competition.

They also knew how to make pretty ones.

Albatros Dr.I: It didn’t add up.

The Dr.I was the very pragmatic way the Albatros Flugzeugwerke tested the qualities of the Triplane configuration in the middle of the craziness. They just took one of their D.V and replaced its two wings with three and compared it with the standard D.V. That’s it. The results were negligible; no production followed.

What an awfully uninspired wing structure. A real sin.