First strike

Birth of the bomber Long before Curtis Le May billed airborne devastation as a weapon of peace, or Arthur ‘Bomber’ Harris promised Winston Churchill that the unrestricted bombing of Germany would cost Britain ‘400 to 500 aircraft…[but] cost Germany the war’, the full power of air attack had been clearly seen by its inventor and first advocate. No, not Billy Mitchell or Hugh Trenchard, but … Continue reading First strike

‘As British as Queen Victoria’

Germany’s greatest fighter What if the Spitfire – that most iconic British fighter – wasn’t? British, I mean. What if it’s sighed-over elliptical wing (which, as any attentive high school student could tell you, isn’t even an ellipse) owed as much to the Germans it fought against as the English it saved? A masterpiece of aerodynamics Okay, I admit it’s a deliberately hackle-raising question… After all, the … Continue reading ‘As British as Queen Victoria’

The man inside K5054

‘Don’t change anything’ You’ll hear this story a lot at the start of every March – on the 5th of the month, 1936, Vickers’ Chief Test Pilot ‘Mutt’ Summers took the prototype Supermarine Spitfire, K5054, for its first flight. On landing, he’s widely reported to have said ‘Don’t change anything’ – or words to that effect. There’s been a lot of speculation about this brusque … Continue reading The man inside K5054

Way to go

I have a thing for maps. (I might have mentioned this once or twice before…) So finding a collection of old air navigation maps on the internet is a serious delight – one I’m not about to keep for myself. The collection covers about 70 maps from the Connecticut State Library at Hartford, and is an incomplete set of ‘United States Air Navigation Maps (Experimental)’ from … Continue reading Way to go

Roll models

Now, I dislike greedy, counter-productive litigation as much as the next person (especially if the next person happens to be X-Plane’s Austin Meyer), and I’ve always been somewhat troubled by the Wright Brothers’ aggressive patent actions around “their invention” of the aileron. So I was very intrigued to find the following article in the November 4th, 1911 issue of Flight magazine. . .       … Continue reading Roll models

Jenny lessons

The Curtiss Jenny hardly needs an introduction. Designed for Glenn Curtiss by Benjamin Thomas, who had worked at Sopwith Aviation, the original JN1 was a heavy, underwhelming performer. The subsequent JN2 and JN3 improvements weren’t much better. However, Curtiss hit gold with the JN4. Mild-mannered, manoeuvrable and robust, the definitive JN-4D variant made up the bulk of a 6,813 airframe production run. An estimated 95% of … Continue reading Jenny lessons

Safety, Edwardian-style

  If you still can’t believe World War One pilots were never issued with parachutes, this glimpse into Edwardian attitudes may help… Last post, I shared Flight magazine’s account of the first fully documented spin recovery (‘Parke’s Dive’), from August 31st, 1913. But before we move on, here’s an editorial that appeared just two weeks later, on September 13th, 1913. Even though Parke was restrained … Continue reading Safety, Edwardian-style

In a spin

  Inspired by master spinner Rich Stowell’s salute to Harry Hawker 100 Years of Intentional Spins (do make sure you watch it) I looked up that original account of the first described spin recovery by Wilfred Parke. What follows is Flight magazine’s original account of the event, with a PDF of the full, original article down below. From Flight, August 31st, 1912 Salisbury Plain, Sunday, August 25th Here is the true … Continue reading In a spin