Link - article by Avi Abrams

"The Bigger the Better" seemed to work for airplanes, just like it worked for dinosaurs - for a while

Of course you can fly the latest Airbus today, but vintage giant planes still evoke a certain fascination and sadness of their demise. Their stupendous size seemed to fuel dreams of daring-do and glamour... like smoking a cigar on board of a giant flying boat bound for some nameless Central American lake, while discussing the odds of finding an ancient treasure with a sultry brunette lady - seemingly a fellow adventurer but, very possibly, a rival spy.

The closest thing that aviation history has got to offer in realizing such a ludicrous pulp-fiction dream is the Dornier Do X flying super-boat:

Dornier Do X, by Lufthansa

The largest, the heaviest, and most powerful flying boat in the world - made by Germany in 1929, nicknamed The Flugschiff. It was "The Flying Ship", indeed, or rather a small airborne island with a crew of 14 and capacity for more than a hundred passengers.

Check out this dieselpunk-infused photo of a German engineer operating the twelve engines:

(image Deutsches Bundesarchiv, via)

The highlight of this video? Total worship of technology, the "bigger, the better" attitude.

Tarrant Tabor: super-weird and equally disastrous

This "flying furniture" wing set-up did not survive past the first attempt at flying. It was big, yes, but the real problem was the placement of the engines: too high over the wings, forcing the nose down on the lift-off (more info)

(image via)

Tarrant Tabor, though, looks like a game-designer dream come true:

(image via)

Giant "flying wing" and "engines within wing" concepts from the early 1940s:

1000 Passenger Giant Transport Project from 1950's

Saunders-Roe has been building large flying boats since after the war (see "The Princess" and "The Duchess" below):

But the plans for the tentatively-named "The Saro Queen" were simply out of this world. This flying monster boat (slated for the London-Sydney run) was to have FIVE decks, enough to carry a thousand passengers in comfort, plus include bars, dining rooms and elite lounges! The mammoth aircraft was to be powered by twenty-four engines (mounted within wings). "The wings were deep enough for the engineers to be able to carry out maintenance standing up while the aircraft was in flight." (more info)

(image via)

Brabazon! Bigger than Boeing 747

Bristol Type 167 Brabazon was a full-size flying machine worth remembering. "This huge prop airliner, around the same size as a 747, was only built to carry about 100 passengers and was deemed economically unfeasible." (more info)

(images via 1, 2)

The largest piston-engine land-based transport aircraft ever built

Convair XC-99 was basically a military transport, but a passenger version was also proposed (Convair Model 37, good for 204 passengers):

(images via 1, 2)

It had an elevator to load and move cargo between decks. It was so heavy that it was restricted as to where it could land as on occasion it crushed runways. XC-99 was developed from B-36 bomber, itself pretty huge:

This hefty plane, comparable to Bristol Brabazon, had a few successful flights, but US Air Force simply decided that it did not need such large, long-range transport at the time...

Wondrous Supersonic Aviation

Why wondrous? Well, for one thing, it would be a sheer wonder if you did spot any non-military supersonic airliner flying over the US - simply because they are forbidden to do so, due to the fear of sonic booms devastating peaceful suburbia (read our article about supersonic aviation development in the US. Tongue-in-cheek comments aside, any supersonic plane is quite a beauty to behold with its swept wings and a space-bound attitude. Here is a comparative size chart of supersonic airliners from Russia, England, and the US (the proposed SST):

(image credit: TIME Magazine, October I969)

We do not have the luxury of crossing the Atlantic on the Concorde due to the well-known tragic incident... but take a look at the Concorde cockpit: quite intense, isn't it? (Click to enlarge)

(image via)

Military supersonic airplanes are another (success) story: it is hard not to mention Blackbird SR-71, one of the oldest Decepticons, capable of sustained speed 10% faster than a 30-06 bullet at the gun muzzle. Still the fastest plane ever - think Mach 3.5...

What is this behind the double cockpit? A space for the R2-D2 droid? -

(image via)

Well, this opening seems to be the in-flight refueling door.

This plane truly has a formidable presence... "After the Soviets shot down Gary Powers' U-2 in 1960, Lockheed began to develop an aircraft that would fly three miles higher and five times faster than the spy plane - and still be capable of photographing your license plate." One pilot remembers:

"... The Mach continues to increase. The ride is incredibly smooth. There seems to be a confirmed trust now, between me and the jet; she will not hesitate to deliver whatever speed we need, and I can count on no problems with the inlets. The cooler outside temperatures have awakened the spirit born into her years ago, when men dedicated to excellence took the time and care to build her well. We are a bullet now - except faster. Screaming past Tripoli, our phenomenal speed continues to rise, and the screaming Sled pummels the enemy one more time, laying down a parting sonic boom. In seconds, we can see nothing but the expansive blue of the Mediterranean. I realize that I still have my left hand full-forward and we're continuing to rocket along in maximum afterburner."

SR-71 also holds the record of highest sustained flight for a man-powered aircraft (25,929 m) and the speed record still holds since 1976!. The aircraft was retired twice because of high operational costs, and a letter was written to US Senate, signed by astronaut John Glenn: "Mr. President, the termination of the SR-71 was a grave mistake and could place our nation at a serious disadvantage in the event of a future crisis."

If you get an opportunity to fly this noble plane (who knows, you may be the next Sam Witwicky), here is the SR-71 Flight Manual.

Rare assembly pictures of Blackbird SR-71 ("Watch for G.O.D."? - er, sorry no, it's F.O.D. - Foreign Objects Damage)

(images credit: Lockheed, via)

Here are some interesting plane concepts, related to the development of Blackbird unique engine. Convair NX-2, for example, for one of the weirdest - at one time even slated to become America's first Atomic Plane (more info):

("Convair NX-2", images via 1, 2)

Check out this huge atomic engine on the left:

(images via Modern Mechanix)

The Russians also came up with a few radical supersonic concepts - this is the RAK-DA project, or Sukhoi T-4MS, a strategic heavy bomber from the 1960s (more info)

(image via)

Smaller T-60S was an intermediate range bomber:

(image via)

Some dreams require a custom Boeing 747 to get them off the ground

Coming back to our day and age, we have exclusive pictures of Boeing 747 Large Cargo Freighter Dreamlifter (more info), sent in by John P. A. Cooney (photos taken at the 2008 Experimental Aircraft Association Airshow):

(photos credit: John P. A. Cooney)

It's perhaps among the most exciting things in the world to watch such a heavy bird rise gracefully into the sky:

(image credit: Royal S. King)

Finally, as a sort of a riddle for our dear readers, here are some planes that need to be identified:

UPDATE: Good fun with answers: left plane is the experimental unmanned aerial vehicle Boeing X-48. The plane on the right is the Aero Spacelines Super Guppy

Article by Avi Abrams, Dark Roasted Blend.



Also read Part 1: Big Planes and Part 2: Huge Helicopters


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Anonymous Anonymous said...

The port behind the double cockpit SR-71 is for in-flight refueling and the mystery plane on the right is an Aero Spacelines Super Guppy.

Anonymous Anonymous said...

The fst mistery plan may be a Boeing X-48B unmanned experimental plane.

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thank you for your post! Actually, the Dornier seaplane's name is not Dox, but Do X.

Blogger Unknown said...

Plane above on the right is a Super Guppy - http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Aero_Spacelines_Super_Guppy

Blogger Unknown said...

The first plane is not the X-43B, I think it is an elaborate photoshop, possibly using the X-43B as an template (this pic in particular: http://www.aeronautics.nasa.gov/images/content/bwb_cst2227b.jpg). Concepts like the X-43B have been designed for personal transport, but have never been realised so far.

Anonymous Jose M. / Sandglass Patrol said...

Mistery Planes:

First One is a "Concept-Plane", a proposal for next Giants in the air, a one thousand passenger airliner designed by Boeing. A bigger plane than A380, with less fuel consumption

Second MIstery Plane is "Supper Guppy". From B29 Bomber was born C-97 cargo. From C97 was born KC97 tanker and "Pregnant Guppy". From "Pregnant Guppy" was born "supper gupy", with turbo-pop engines

Anonymous Anonymous said...

A funny fact about the SR-71 is that it would leak fuel at take-off because the fuselage panels didn't fit when the airplane was cold.

Blogger McLisa said...

The bulbous thing is called (I think) the Pregnant Guppy. It was built for NASA to move booster rockets from the Los Angeles manufacturing facility to Florida. The photo was probably taken at the Air & Space museum in Tuscon. Great waste of a day, sign up for the boneyard tour, next day go to the Titan museum.

Blogger JetAviator7 said...

Aviation has always been a leader in technology, whether through innovation in airplanes or the space program.

The technologies that have been developed for aircraft have migrated to consumer products which benefit us all.

Let's hope aviation begins a recovery soon.

John M. White, ATP Pilot
Entrepreneur & Internet Publisher
Randolph Engineering Aviator Sunglasses

Anonymous Mike said...

The Brabazon wasn't quite as big as the 747 in terms of fuselage length (177 ft) - actually slightly shorter than that of a 767-300 (180 ft). The wingspan is another matter, however, about 230 feet - this is greater than the wingspan of any 747!

By the way, the Soviets came up with an equally large plane during the '50s called the Tupolev Tu-114. Unlike the Brabazon, it saw regular service for a number of years and could carry up to 224 passengers, but usually carried about 170. It also had a remarkably good safety record. For more about this amazing plane, see: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tupolev_Tu-114

Anonymous vladimir said...

Massive planes man, just massive

Blogger Jason said...

The 2000 Concorde accident is not the reason it no longer flys. It was returned to service for several years after the accident, however it was later grounded because it was uneconomical to fly and maintain due to it's age and high fuel consumption.

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Doesn't count without the Spruce Goose - also water based - ie flying boat

Blogger Avi Abrams said...

Spruce Goose is on the next page of this article

Anonymous Anonymous said...

The Bean counters at Airfrance saw money in more seats,longer journey times, and pretty much was unnegotiable with parts suppliers for Concorde. The British would have left the old swan flying if Airfrance hadn't put pressure on the parts supplier. As a result both fleets got decommissioned.
The X-43 is the boeing BWB it is on aerosite.net. There were something like 32 SR-71 blackbirds, and 32 A-12 constructed. One blackbird was half sr-71 half A-12 and knicknamed the 'ba[r]st[ew]ard'

Anonymous Anonymous said...

X-48 not 43. X-43 is a scramjet testbed.

Blogger Rally said...

The Blackbird's J-58 engines developed from an even more radical concept put forward by Lockheed for the USAF: the CL-400 "Project Suntan", a 170-foot-long Mach 2.5 liquid hydrogen-powered spyplane proposed in 1956. More info here: http://xplanes.free.fr/suntan/cl400-1.html

Anonymous Anonymous said...

One of the unidentified pictures is a an artist's conception of what a blended wing body aircraft would look like from below. It comes from this Rolls Royce Jet Engine presenpresentation


Blogger Dia Bishop said...

What's the source of the first image? The giant yellow plane drawing?

Blogger Avi Abrams said...

Dia, this is slightly cleaned-up Popular Science cover from the 1940s

Blogger Nate said...

Two things about the SR-71- I had the privilege of seeing the bottom side of on up close as it came in for landing and I was driving a truck on the perimeter road that was supposed to be closed but wasn't- impressive! I also had my retirement ceremony from 21 years of USAF service under the wing of a retired jet at the Hill AFB, UT museum.

Anonymous Tom said...

I heard an interesting fact the other day about the Lockheed A-12 (ultra-secret CIA predecessor variant of the SR-71). Apparently, due to its unprecedented high speed, the aircraft had to be made out of titanium. During production it turned out that US titanium wasn't strong enough (due to impurities), and the only place to import the right grade titanium from was the Soviet Union! So in a bizarre irony, the US imported titanium from the Soviets to build the very aircraft that would spy on them for decades!

Also, I've been researching an article about the hypothesized Aurora spyplane and some of the artists renderings look remarkably similar to the Sukhoi T-4MS you mention in your article. All fascinating stuff, and thanks again for a great read!

Anonymous Anonymous said...

That mystery plane on the left doesn't look much like the Boeing X-48... I've looked up many photos of the X-48 and they don't seem to quite match up.

Anonymous Rob said...

That's true, the X-48 is a small-scale prototype. The plane in this picture- if wheel size is to be taken as average wheel size for a plane- is massive, rivaling the size of the A380 and other commercial airliners. Even the engine nacelles are off. Niels is right, this is an elaborate photoshop.

Blogger Auki Henry said...

Some amazing imagery in there, great writeup! Certainly stirs romantic notions of exploring a bygone age.

- Auki Henry

Blogger My Best Photographs said...

would you be interested in a photo of Canadian cargo jet... it's from 2009?

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Where's the BV 238 ??

Anonymous Anonymous said...

I was just working on photos of the DO X - it's amazing to see photos of it in the air!



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