Near the Equator Grumman Albatross
03° 06′ 59″ N / 101° 42′ 14″ E
The Grumman Albatross was designed for maritime patrolling as well as overwater search and rescue missions. The pair of Twin Wright R-1820 nine-cylinder radial engines could power the Albatross off medium seas and carry 15 people. Flights could be as far as 2850 miles/~4600km at a leisurely 124 mph/200kph. Albatrosses were the last of the U.S. military’s amphibious fixed wing or flying boat aircraft but a significant evolution of the aircraft came to be Japan’s Shin Meiwa (now Shinmaywa) US-1 and US-1A with an improved the hull design, adding another pair of engines, making all main engines turboprop, and an additional jet turbine which powers the boundary layer control system — the post of that aircraft can be seen here.
X-15: the World’s fastest rocket plane and the pilots who ushered in the Space Age
X-15: the World’s fastest rocket plane and the pilots who ushered in the Space Age, John Anderson and Richard Passman, 2014, ISBN 9780760344453, 144 pp.
This is, in the authors’ words, a biography of the North American X-15 and the program’s 199 flights. Yes, there are technical aspects as there are descriptions of the records obtained in the X-15 but there is so much more in this colorful book which has it differ from previous books on this aircraft. Anderson (Curator of Aerodynamics NASM) and Passman (also with the NASM and was influential in the X-2 and X-16 programs) have written the X-15′s bio so that we can understand the unique niche these three aircraft (X-15-1, X-15-2 and X-15-3) created and still solely occupy.
The X-15 was built to burn and to burn through the atmosphere into near space — to explore a performance envelope no other aircraft had experienced. Though missiles briefly travel hypersonically they do not return in the same piece as which they were launched so the rocket powered X-15 would be a pioneering aircraft design. The X-15 design proposal request called for an aircraft which could fly in the hypersonic flight regime to gather data for future aircraft designs but also fly transonically as well as subsonically. Anderson and Passman write well how challenging this request was given the lack of wind tunnel data for flying at hypersonic speeds as well as developing materials to survive in the high temperature environments above Mach 2.
Anderson and Passman provide short bios of each of the twelve pilots who flew the X-15 as well as describe mission planning (including staff required for up to five alternate airfields), Iconel X (an alloy required for the surface of each X-15 which could maintain its strength up to Mach 7) as well as the aircraft’s design.
Intuitively, one may expect a hypersonic aircraft to be at least as sleek as the Mach 2 Lockheed F-104 Starfighter but the authors clearly and easily explain why the X-15 had to be more blunt and more stubby— as well as the finer design points of the wings, rolling tail and vertical surfaces. The engines are also nicely addressed as is the major rebuild of the second X-15 to the X-15A-2 configuration with the 29-inch fuselage extension and exterior saddle tanks added to carry additional fuel.
Along the way we also learn the X-15 had not one, not two but three joy sticks and why. We also learn of the prehistory to hypersonic flight by the team of Woods and Dornberger as well as Stack and another, Kotcher. Nearly 200 photos are within the book, 175 to be exact, and compliment the text though the captions are written with economy. Descriptions of the record breaking maximum speed flight (Mach 6.7 piloted by Pete Knight) as well as the maximum height flight (347,800 feet piloted by Joe Walker) are presented. Pilot histories are included — several of which are even more remarkable than one might anticipate. Interestingly, the book has a tabulation of flight times at each Mach number obtained.
The book is a joy to read and to learn of the nine years the X-15 flew, usually for about 10 minutes and covering no more than 300 miles during each flight. Amazingly, the average flight had the X-15 flying under power for 90 seconds, then following a ballistic trajectory, then once again flying but as a glider. The authors also neatly illustrate the work done by the pilots who followed a precise flight plan on each mission and were challenged to learn on the fly, in a matter of minutes, how to pilot the X-15 whenever a design change was made.
Smaller than a coffee table book yet too large for an airline seat table/tray this book is well written by authors who know the material but, more importantly, know the esteemed place in history occupied by the North American X-15. Anderson and Passman recall the starts, the activities and the accomplishments of the X-15 program which generated a unique data set still in use five decades after the 199th and final X-15 flight.
Today is the release date for this remarkable book about this extraordinary aircraft — written by knowing authors who love what they wrote about.
As is the publishing business custom, Zenith Press provided a copy of this book for an objective review.
03° 07′ 00″ N / 101° 42′ 15″ E
Quoting from this previous post:
“The Caribou’s capability is impressive. It could transport 32 troops, 24 paratroopers or 14 litter cases — or 8000 pounds of cargo (~3640kg) — yet land in less than the length of three football fields (pitches) while having a combat radius of over 500 miles (800km). More information on the C-7 can be found at this website, The C-7A Caribou Association.”
The featured Caribou of this post served in the Royal Malaysian Air Force and is on exhibit at their museum, the Royal Malaysian Air Force Museum (use the search window to find other aircraft featured at this museum as well as a museum review).
As noted by Allan Damp (see comments, below), the Caribou was known as the C-7 in the U.S. Army yet the DHC-7 is a four engine turboprop commuter airliner — so some confusion ensued since the information sign stated the aircraft as a “DH-7″ when the de Havilland Canada designation was DHC-4. Since the sign states the designation as DH-7 we have to honor that though naming mistakes were made on two other museum aircraft signs — it is likely the Royal Malaysian Air Force designation was “C-7″ but the sign maker used a British naming protocol which would yield “DH-7″ though the British naming protocol would more correctly be DHC-4.
Osprey “Feet Dry”
Bell Boeing’s V-22 Osprey is remarkable with its ability be fly either as a helicopter as well as a conventional airplane (VTOL/STOL). Taking nine years to fly since design-start and almost as long again before first entering service with the U.S. Marine Corps (USMC) as the MV-22 Osprey. The USMC likely was more than happy to be the first to field Ospreys (designated MV-22) for the U.S. Armed Forces so that they could replace the aged CH-46 Sea Knight.
And why not?
The Osprey can carry 24 seated troops (up to 32 if only on the floor) which is the same as the Sea Knight but flies a speedy 316 mph as compared to 166 mph and for 1011 miles to the Sea Knight’s 633. Additionally, the Osprey can carry a maximum load of 20,000 lbs which is 15,000 more than the Sea Knight.
Any helicopter is complicated, some say that a helicopter is an assemblage of parts flying in loose formation and inherently does not wish to fly compared to fixed wing aircraft. The Osprey, too, is complicated with powerful engines delivering power through a cross-linked transfer system so that single engine flight is possible without adverse yaw or roll. Then there is the matter of tilting the engines (2 x Rolls-Royce Allison Liberty turboshaft) through an arc of 90º taking 12 seconds. STOL operations are accomplished at rotation of 45º.
The USMC will prove the worth of the Osprey, whether flying greater cargo loads into disaster areas, insertions of troops with fewer lifts or deep special forces missions — one way or the other.
de Havilland Heron — the “obvious successor”
03° 07′ 00″ N / 101° 42′ 14″ E
The de Havilland Dove design (see previous post) was so successful as Britain’s first post WW II airliner design it was, naturally, improved a few years after the Dove’s debut as well as enlarged becoming the Heron. Essentially the de Havilland Heron had an extended fuselage and four engines, as compared to the Dove’s two. The Heron has a lot of compatibility with the Dove so any operation serving the Dove could easily also service the Heron. De Havilland produced Herons at a fifth the number of Doves but these served worldwide in 30 countries, as well. The Heron’s fuselage was not only longer but also taller with the passengers able to walk erectly as they made their way along the aisles. Curiously, if boarding passengers first took seats in the rear Heron’s would sit on their tails until ground crews were able to install tail stands to preclude such unsettling behavior. Herons could carry nearly twice the number of passengers of the Dove at the same speed and range using the same engines as well as several other interchangeable parts — bootstrapping the Heron’s introduction with regard to establishing a logistical support network.
An excellent article on the Heron has been written by Ross Sharp of Shortfinals’s Blog and it also has a nicely done photo of the de Havilland Heron known as the Duchess of Brittany of the former Jersey Airlines which was restored and kept flying during summers — with seats available for enthusiasts — on Jersey Island (one of the Channel Islands in the UK).