Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Aeroplane Icons - Mosquito

UNDOUBTEDLY one of the greatest and most versatile aircraft of the Second World War, the Mosquito was also the world's first true multi-role combat aircraft (the second not arriving until the Panavia Tornado). Designed by a company with no previous experience in producing high-performance military aircraft, de Havilland managed to produce a timeless classic which will remain one of those spine-tingling machines now sorely missed in British skies. However, while I write these words, far away in New Zealand, the sound of a pair of Merlin engines in harmony is to be heard in the skies once more, as Jerry Yagen's long project (Canadian-built FB.26 KA114) is now back in the air. The Mosquitoes versatility during the Second World War saw the aircraft operating in a variety of roles including as a pure unarmed bomber, a heavily armed fighter-bomber, rocket and heavy cannon armed anti-shipping aircraft, radar-equipped night-fighter, an unarmed reconnaissance aircraft, meteorological, trainer and finally as a target tug. From the PR.1 to the T.43, there was not a role the Mosquito could not be adapted to carry out; the aircraft was even modified for light transport work both during and after the war.

Aeroplane Icons - Meteor

THE STORY of the Gloster Meteor is one of the greatest in the history of the aviation industry and one we generally take for granted. This pioneering aircraft was not particularly advanced, was given very little chance to prove itself in combat but, as a 'first-generation' jet, its arrival launched the RAF into a new era. Development of the jet engine, thanks to the efforts of Frank Whittle, began in 1936, and as with all military projects, the outbreak of the Second World War saw his work accelerate to the point of the first flight of the E.28/39 from Cranwell in May 1941. Less than two years later, the F.9/40 was off the ground and, by August, the first Meteor F Mk 1s were entering service with 616 Squadron. This was an incredible achievement which saw the Meteor poised to re-equip a host of RAF squadrons during the immediate post-war era. By 1950, the best of the day fighter breed had arrived in the shape of the F Mk 8 and, for the next five years, over 30 operational units were flying the type, up until the arrival of the'second-generation' Hawker Hunter.

Aeroplane Icons - Hurricane

I often enjoy discussing various subjects, especially aviation ones, where I like to take the opposite viewpoint regardless of whether I agree with it or not in order to prompt discussion. When the subject of Spitfire or Hurricane comes up I will always plump for the Hurricane as the better aircraft... though not to play devil's advocate, but because it was! It may have not been the prettiest or the best performing but it will always been seen as the aircraft we needed at the time and, thankfully, in high numbers. Its design incorporated older, tried and tested technologies but also took fighter design a little further forward. When George Bulman first took the prototype into the air at Brooklands on the 6th November 1935, the new Hurricane was presented to the world as a modern fighting monoplane. Fitted with eight guns, a retractable undercarriage and the ability to breach 300mph with ease, many journalists of the day commented that the peak of fighter performance had finally been reached.

Spaceships of Science Fiction

The oldest known story, the Epic of Gilgamesh, was written on clay tablets more than 3,000 years ago. In it the king of Uruk, Gilgamesh, travels to the ocean at the end of the known world on a quest for knowledge and immortality. The merest touch of the water there will bring instant death, and the stone charms which could have protected the ship have been-destroyed. But Gilgamesh cannot rest until he has crossed to the far side of the deadly sea. He boards the ship despite the fact that he may not make the crossing alive. As our world was discovered and mapped, heroes no longer needed to travel In small and fragile craft across deadly and inhospitable oceans. The development of sailing ships, first of wood and then of iron and steel, means that the oceans of today hold little peril, and there are no new lands to conquer on the Earth. The world is smaller now,' and to find new challenges the heroes of today's fantastical stories are forced to leave this planet behind to find the unexplained and the weird, the beautiful and the monstrous. But still they must travel through hostile, deadly waters.

Aeroplane Icons - Blenheim

The story of the Blenheim has its roots firmly embedded within a civilian project first envisaged by Frank Barnwell and his design team at the Bristol Aeroplane Company, Filton, in early 1933. The plan was to produce a commercial light transport aircraft capable of cruising at a minimum speed of 250mph. By late July 1933, Barnwell, closely supported by Leslie Frise, had transcribed his ideas for the new aircraft onto paper. This revealed a twin-engined, low-wing monoplane with a monocoque enclosed cockpit and a fuselage capable of holding two crew and six passengers in comfort. Power was planned to be a pair of Bristol Aquila I sleeve-valve, air cooled radial engines producing 500hp each. However, the Aquila was still under development with a team of Bristol engineers led by A H R 'Roy' Fedden and was not destined to be ready until September 1934.

Aeroplane Icons - Sunderland

THE ARRIVAL of the Short Sunderland in RAF service in 1938 raised the bar considerably with regard to flying-boat design, compared to what airmen had previously experienced. Gone were the draughty, cluttered cockpits, cramped fuselages and mediocre performance associated with average inter-war flying boat. The Sunderland brought a host of improvements which remained, only marginally altered, for the aircraft's 21 years of RAF service. Those crews still operating the Saro London and Supermarine Stranraer must have looked on in envy as the Sunderland crews enjoyed a bridge', a galley, a dining room and even a sleeping area, thanks to the flying boat's cavernous hull. Coastal Command would operate almost 50 different types during the Second World War but only the Sunderland would continually serve on the front-line from the first day to the last. This, and the fact that the flying-boat remained in RAF service until 1958, and almost a decade beyond - with the RNZAF - is testimony to the aircraft's forward thinking design.

Aeroplane Icons - Lightning

Spoken of in hushed tones by those who remember the type in service and longed for by those too young to remember it in flight, the English Electric Lightning is one of the most iconic British jets ever built. The highly swept wings, the bulletlike nose cone and the ear-splitting crackle from its reheated Avon engines combined to make the aircraft unmistakable. It was the first operational British aircraft capable of achieving twice the speed of sound and although designed primarily as an interceptor to meet incoming Soviet bombers at heights up to 60,000ft, it was later developed for ground attack. The Lightning was clearly an aeroplane with much promise and export potential, yet despite a decade of development by the boffins at English Electric, it was struck down by a very British problem... indecision and ineptitude by policy makers and government bodies. Speaking frankly in his 'Silver Flash' article on page 22, the late Roland 'Bee' Beamont (the legendary test pilot) bemoans the Lightning project as, "bedeviled by prevarication and repeated Whitehall U-turns."

Aeroplane Icons - Halifax

ONE OF THE three British four-engine heavy bombers which took the night war to Hitler's heartland, the Handley Page Halifax contributed in no small way to the destruction and ultimate surrender of the Third Reich. Unlike its Short Stirling and Avro Lancaster companions, the Halifax proved a more versatile design, taking on roles additional to its principle mission with RAF Bomber Command. Yet its comparatively short period in service and a production run of 6,176 machines was not without problems. In its early years from service entry in March 1941, little good could be said about the Halifax. Its in-built faults found it underpowered, its performance was lamentable, it suffered from a vicious swing on take-off causing inherent undercarriage collapses, and rudder stall problems often gave fatal results. All round it was a poor design from Britain's most famous builder of big bombers! In fact, so bad was the aircraft that'Bomber'Harris wanted it withdrawn from service and production switched in favour of the Lancaster. Indeed, his opinion of owner Frederick Handley Page bordered on the murderous!

Airfix Model World 08/2012

THE FIRST airshow of the season at the Imperial War Museum Duxford was held in unseasonal weather for we Brits -there was glorious sunshine and record temperatures. With the Queen's Jubilee firmly in everyone's mind, the Duxford staff made the link to pull together aircraft for the flying display that have a royal connection, and it led to a good variety of types on display. One was a Royal Navy Lynx HMA8; Prince Andrew had flown an earlier variant of the helicopter following his return from the Falklands War, where he flew sorties in Sea Kings. One of the highlights of the display was the recently restored Gloster Meteor T. 7 owned by the Air Atlantique Classic Aircraft Trust. Prince Phillip had flown the Meteor when he learnt to fly with the RAF in the 1950s. Hard to miss with its agility, noise and the welcome use of flares during its stunning routine, the Belgian Air Force F-16AM from 360 Squadron at Florennes was resplendent in a new 2012 display scheme, against the clear blue sky.

Airfix Model World 07/2012

A question often discussed by modellers at club meetings, on-line forums, at shows and in letters pages, is who makes the best kit in a particular scale of their own favourite modelling subject. The personal favourite of this author (when taking a break from the usual diet of motorsport kits) is World War Two Luftwaffe, particularly 1/72 fighters. The Messerschmitt Bf 109E is always popular, but which kit should one choose? In a bid to clear these murky waters, two kits were purchased to decide which should take the 'Best 1/72 Emil' crown. The two kits purchased (E-3s) were those from Tamiya and ICM. Judgements for the purposes of this article were based not just upon accuracy and quality, but also ease of construction and general enjoyment for the builder. Tamiya's kit has 44 parts moulded in dark Grey styrene on a single sprue and three in clear. Quality of moulding is simply exquisite and the clear parts are excellent.

Airfix Model World 06/2012

By 1941 the threat of German invasion had receded such that Britain thought once more about landing an army on the continent The Germans had also considered this possibility, though, and were busy fortifying the coast in what became known as the Atlantic Wall. Furthermore, because any army large enough to defeat German forces would need enormous quantities of supplies, the Germans turned all major ports into fortresses capable (it was thought) of resisting attack long enough for any invasion to fail through
lack of materiel support. The wisdom of this strategy was confirmed on August 19,1942, when the Allies tested their ability to capture a port with the ill-fated assault on Dieppe. None of the major objectives were achieved and the attacking forces withdrew after just six hours, leaving 3,600 of their number (nearly 60% of those that went ashore) killed, wounded or captured. This catastrophe emphasised the impracticality of assaulting a fortified port and so, when the Combined Chiefs of Staff met in Quebec during late August 1943, it was decided that the allies would take harbours with them.

Airfix Model World 05/2012

TAMIYA WILL re-issue its old T-55 tank kit with four new sprues to allow the building of an Iraqi 'special'. It was during Operation Desert Storm in 1991 that Coalition forces came up against the T-55 'Enigma' variant. They used the moniker in place of any official Iraqi designation being known. This upgrade to the real vehicle was long overdue, as the T-55 series was developed in the immediate years after World War Two. 'Enigma' involved new gear such as heavier main armour, along with additional protective armour blocks on the glacis, turret and hull sides. Tamiya's new sprues include an entirely new upper hull and turret, as well as the extra armour. This new release, coded 35324, will allow some exciting build and diorama opportunities, as the vehicle was used in the Iraqi Army's only offensive action during the 1991 Gulf War, the Battle of Khafji.