Saturday, August 20, 2016

The Elegant and the Beautiful - aircraft, that is

It was a quiet morning when my friend James came in and dumped a tube of caulking stuff on the bar. "Bloody leaks" he said. "I've been trying to find and fill in where the water is coming in.". James is building a boat. Hand crafted. I wish him well. He is a sailor  - in his mind - although landed for quite a while now. He has dreams. I am waiting for him to say  "I am a sailor in a landlubbers body". Lord help us if he suddenly wants to be a lady sailor.

" So", he said as I pulled him a refreshing pint of the amber fluid, "I need a bit of balance. What would you think are the five most elegant /beautiful/ whatever aircraft designs ever". Well that got me thinking, I can tell you. There is barely one made since Montgolfier that I have not wanted to have a go in. I just love them all. 

There have been so many, and of course the first and easiest to mind was the Spitfire, but I half-think he was expecting that one so I didn't say it. So I gave him five as I tidied the bottles and wiped the tables.

1. The Cat. I am not particulalry a cat person but The Cat, the Catalina PBY is to me just a dream machine. It is over 80 years old now and few of its type have ever come close.

The Cat is very old now but there are examples still lovingly restored, maintained and flying. The side 'bay' windows  were gun ports. Some restored ones have uprated turbo-prop engines and there is at least one with four engines.  Properly fitted out, it would make a fine Gentlemen's Flying Residence. 

It was designed well before WW2, saw sterling srvice in the Pacific and even in British waters, and continued serving long after.

Would I have one? Oh yes. My island is perfectly suited with bays and lakes and sheltered harbours. It would fit in well.

2. I have to put the Hunter at #2. The Hunter is  very much a 'female' plane. All aircraft are spoken of as 'she' but some, like the Hunter are curvey and smooth and just look girly: Privately owned ones are now surprisingly plentiful. 

 On some mid to later models the guns needed a way of stopping ejected shellcases hitting the fuselage so collection was effected in the 'Sabrinas' which protruded below and named after a 50's 60's pin-up girl of that name. 

That one is called 'Miss Demeanour'. It always turns heads. And she not only looks good but has a sound, the 'blue note'.

 3. The Vulcan is almost unique in its delta design. Designed as the main 'Nuclear Deterrant' for the RAF (along with the Valiant and the Victor - hmmm. now there was a unique design), the only 'hot' action it saw was against the Argentinians in the Falkland Isles. 

The Americans wanted one to study when they were designing the Space Shuttle but they were refused in a fit of pique after one was shot down over Maryland by an Air National Guard fighter whilst on exercise - at the American's request - testing their radar defences. There are no flying examples since earlier this year, to Britain's great shame.

It is to Britain's shame that successive Governments have failed to provide the wherewithall to keep, maintain and fly regularly every type of fighting plane made in Britain since WW2.  We don't even have a flying Buccaneer. I would have included a Bucc in this list but even I have to say it is far from elegant as you can get It is a Brute. 

The Vulcan is Loved. The British public knows what it likes even when what it likes is tatt. This aircraft is pure Taste though. And noise.

4. It is to a civilian we next turn. The Icon A5 is possibly the most beautiful little plane ever designed. It may take another generation before a more thought-through design comes along. 

Meanwhile there will be 'copies'. 

Amphibious and for the general (sports) aviation fraternity, its cockpit (for two)
looks more like a sports car. It is a 'sports' plane for enjoyment rather than long travel. The wings swivel and fold back for towing behind a car.

The design concept was initiated by a pilot who used to fly the next on my list. He saw the niche created by a new 'sports' licence for limited performance planes that 'everymen' could afford to buy. He also saw the opportunity for a water craft. 
Combining several features not scoped before or together, the A5 is just a stunning machine. And sheer fun.

Ond on to the plane flown by the boss of the Icon Co. The F16. This is the modern Hunter equivalent. Just as widely used by many air forces, it is relatively cheap for a fighter but 'looks' just how a modern fighter should look. Fast, sleek, fit for purpose.

It goes like a bat out of hell and, befitting its ascribed gender, there are even squadrons of them flown by lady pilots.  IF this is a female aircraft, it is the sort you might want to steer clear of. She has curves but a lot of sharp edges and plenty of pointy bits too. And she is a right show-off.

"Well there you are", I said to James. "Make of it as you will". I pulled another pint for the lad.

"I might put that on at Nourishing Obscurity", he said.

And so he did:

I didn't bore him with the plane I would have as my personal battle-steed. (see it the top, right wall). There is always a place for an ugly girl if she behaves well and treats you aright. So the Bucc she is. Built like a brick bog. Everyone who flew it said, the only replacement for a Bucc is another Bucc. 

And another I would have in my hangar for personal, fun use, is the Gnat. Of course. It was Perfect.  For me, at any rate. A Beautiful Lady.



  1. Ah, the lover of fine things always has the pick of the crop in pics and data.

    1. You did very well yourself. Thank you for asking me. Enjoy the amber fluid.

  2. For my money, the Vulcan wins it by the average light-year.

    I had the rare privilege of working in a Vulcan whilst commissioning a repaired TACAN beacon unit sited on the Station base. As I was stretched out horizontally whilst checking connections and read-outs from the Nav. Panel, my words were being broadcast over the Station intercom system. The Wing Commander who spoke to me about my 'broadcast' simply asked, 'Were you in the Royal Navy; or the Merchant?'

    Fabulous aircraft, gone the way of most 'good things'; destroyed by a bunch of traitorous buffoons masquerading as politicians!

    1. It is an aircraft that I have not actually been in. I have flown the (real) Flt Sim several times, successfully taking off and flying, but sadly not managing to land it Hahaha. I put it down to being young. That we do not now have one in flying condition is an everlasting shame. I would be happy to have you broadcast that.

      Drink on the bar, sir.


Ne meias in stragulo aut pueros circummittam.

Our Bouncer is a gentleman of muscle and guile. His patience has limits. He will check you at the door.

The Tavern gets rowdy visitors from time to time. Some are brain dead and some soul dead. They attack customers and the bar staff and piss on the carpets. Those people will not be allowed in anymore. So... Be Nice..