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.

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Nieuport 11: Bleu Horizon.

That very French blue, Adrian helmet and the idiosyncratic Level rifle. You can’t almost hear the staccato of the 11‘s Le Rhône rotary. From the “Le pilote à l’edelweiss” comic series. The superbly detailed style of the great Romain Hugault, without his overused pin-up girls here….., thanks god.

Papin-Rouilly Gyroptère: So sterile yet so stimulating.

Can you imagine a huge one-bladed rotor air-jet helicopter powered by a 80hp Le Rhône rotary engine?…., well, that was precisely the idea patented in 1911 by A. Papin and D. Rouilly. This pair of French gentlemen based their idea on the sycamore seed which turns while it falls to ground.
The basic configuration of their Gyroptère is quite evident in this gorgeously clear photo. The beautifully built rotor blade at the right counterbalanced by the engine and its fan which is sightly to one side of the axis of rotation. The pilot “drum-cockpit”, over the peculiar round float,  was placed on the axis of rotation and mounted on ball-bearing and was centered against 4 horizontal rollers. The long tube near our intrepid pilot is the swiveling air-duct employed to to keep his “drum-cockpit” from moving with the blade and to provide the necessary forward thrust.
Tested in 31st March 1915 on Lake Cercey (Cote d’Or), the Gyroptère proved to be wildly unstable and sank without even achieving flight.

Robey-Peters Gun-Carrier: “Looks Ma, no fear!!”.

This three-seater armed tractor biplane was constructed by Robey and Co under the design of J.A. Peters to carry the Admiralty-sponsored Davis recoiless gun. The more remarkable feature of this 240 hp Roll-Royce powered aircraft was its crew members disposition. The two gunners were located each in a nacelle faired into the upper wings where they manned their Davis guns, while the pilot was placed bizarrely in a cockpit towards the very rear of the fuselage just ahead of the fin. Two examples were ordered by the Royal Navy Air Service (RNAS) in May 1916, but in the end all came to naught when the first prototype crashed in its very first flight in May 1917.