Currently up on eBay is an original watercolor illustration of a McDonnell-Douglas cargo plane concept. Details are lean, but it looks like it dates from the 1980′s.

ebay 2014-09-29 b

A multibody design make sense for heavy cargo lifters. By spreading the load across the wing, rather than suspending it from a single point, the wing is stressed considerably less. Of course, drag is noticeably increased and runways need to be wider.

This particular design seems a little odd… especially with the leading edge of the wing. Unless the aft fuselage is taller than the forward fuselage, or the wing is tilted up at a substantial angle of incidence, then the leading edge of the wing should be submerged into the upper fuselage, as the trailing edge is. Artistic oversight?

September 29, 1940, saw an interesting air mishap. Two Avro Ansons (twin engine, low-wing training aircraft) were on a long distance flight over New South Wales in Australia when they collided. The collision was relatively gentle as such things go… they did not hit head-on or T-bone, but instead one came up from under the other and they pancaked. What made it especially interesting was that the aircraft became physically locked together after the impact, making something of a biplane. The engines of the upper aircraft were knocked out, while the lower planes engines were stuck at full power; the lower planes controls were knocked out, while the upper plane maintained control. The pilot and navigator from the lower plane bailed out, as did the upper planes navigator, but the upper planes pilot stayed and managed to bring the conjoined aircraft down to a successful belly landing in a field. The upper aircraft was thus saved, repaired and returned to flight. The lower plane was repaired but not flown again, instead used as a training aid.

Read about it on Wikipedia. Or check HERE for numerous photos.

Back in the day – and almost certainly “the day” was “every single moment from the beginning through now to the end” – Lockheed kept files on what the competition was doing. Some of these files included publicly available info on competitors aircraft. And sometimes it was information that was classified, and that by all rights Lockheed probably shouldn’t have been aware of. But it only made good sense to collect all the intelligence they could. Some of this stuff has started to leak out. Not via Wikileaks… but via eBay. One seller has a number of single-page sheets providing summary data on aircraft from the 1950′s. Ya gotta wonder just how big the whole file on aircraft of the time was.

Here’s the Lockheed summary file on the Martin P6M-1 SeaMaster. Fortunately the seller provided decent photos of the files.

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After a bit of a delay, the September rewards have been released. These include a large-format inboard profile of the North American Aviation F-108 Rapier Mach 3+ interceptor:

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And “Notes on Space Technology,” a compilation of notes by the Flight Research Division of the NACA Langley Research Center based on a space technology course given in the early part of 1958. A hefty 670+pages in length, this covered just about every aspect of space travel as understood in 1958. While I haven’t read the whole thing, it appears to be not only of historical interest, but also useful to get a pretty good general grasp of space travel science, principles and technologies.

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Also included for the higher level patrons are three CAD diagrams:

Boeing Bird of Prey stealth, manufacturing and materials testing prototype aircraft from the 1990′s

Zenith Star experimental space based laser anti-missile system, 1988

Hypersonic Test Vehicle 2, a maneuverable hypersonic glider for missile-launched warheads

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The September rewards are about a week and a half late in being released. Since I hope to get the October rewards out a little earlier than normal, that means that the September releases will probably be available for a short time.

If you would like to access these items and support the cause of acquiring and sharing these pieces of aerospace history, please visit my Patreon page and consider contributing.


McDonnell Douglas artwork from ~1970 showing the F-15 late in the design process. While it’s recognizably the F-15, a number of differences are visible, primary being the ventral fins and slimmer nose.

1970 F-15

As odd as the FXM-1 Airacuda was, the McDonnell XF-85 was far odder. Designed to serve as a defensive fighter for the B-36, it was small enough that it could fit within the parent aircrafts bomb bay. It is dubious whether it would have been able to stand up to conventional Soviet jet fighters, but in any event testing of the “trapeze” needed to deploy and recover the parasite fighter showed that recovery was virtually impossible under normal circumstances, much less combat.

A McDonnell propaganda film about the XF-85 from 1948 or so:

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And some silent footage of the XF-85, including a test “anomaly” where the tiny plane rammed the trapeze. The trapeze turned the aircraft into a convertible, sending the pilot on a mission to get to the desert below ASAP.

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The Bell YFM-1 Airacuda remains one of the more unusual aircraft ever built. About a dozen of these planes were built in the late 1930′s to fill the role of “bomber destroyer,” a concept similar to that employed by the German Messerschmit Bf 110: a flying armaments platform meant to blast enemy bombers out of the sky. To that end it had aimable 37mm cannon in the noses of each of the two engine nacelles, which were mounted over the wings and featured pusher props. As well as the cannon, each nacelle also held a crewman whose main role was to load the cannon and hope that he didn’t have to bail out (what with the pusher prop right behind him).

The idea was interesting and the design certainly looked seriously impressive, but just about everything that could go wrong did. It was underpowered so that it was actually slower than enemy bombers.  It was heavy and sluggish, so it couldn’t dogfight regular fighters. The Allison engines tended to overheat, especially on the ground. When the cannon fired, the nacelles would fill with smoke. It had bomb bays in the wings, but the bomb payload was too small to make it of much use. The auxiliary power unit provided electrical power to essentially everything, so if the APU failed, so would the fuel pumps, avionics, hydraulics… basically everything. If the pilots needed to bail out, chances were good they’d smack into the empennage (which happened to one co-pilot as he bailed out, breaking his legs).


Photo via Mark Nankivil.

Well, here’s a new one. I’ve been put in touch with a guy who has an entire aerospace archive he’s selling off. He wants $4000 for the complete set of stuff, a catalog of which is included here as a PDF (the items actually available in the collection are bounded in red). There’s some undeniably interesting stuff in there that I really want, but $4K is well beyond what I can pony up. But I think this stuff might be of interest to a whole lot of other folks. So what I’m thinking… crowdsource this purchase.

There are two groups of documents that I think would be of most interest, so I will provide high-rez scans of the docs for $150 for group A, $100 for group B, or $225 for both).

Group A: shown on page 3, “Space Shuttle Systems Handbook” and “Hubble Space Telescope Systems Description Handbook.” These are fairly enormous collections of diagrams; the original sales price of these two items back in 1993 was $558. I’ve seen a much more recent version of the Shuttle Handbook,” and it was fairly spectacular.

Group B: shown on page 6, a number of “Shuttle Systems Data Reports” which would seem to illustrate just about everything on the Shuttle program. These I have *not* seen personally, so I’m kinda guessing here. The total sales price in 1993 was $258.

As for all the other stuff: I think the best approach would be to auction them off – after scanning, of course – to those who have bought in for either Group A or B. Right now I’m not asking for cash. There are some details I need to confirm first (such as getting photos of the collection… not that I don’t trust the guy, but I don’t trust anybody). But I *do* want to gauge interest, to see if I will actually be able to afford the full $4K. So if you’d like to get in on this, please send an email to letting me know if you wants Group A, Group B or both. If I go ahead with this, I’ll need the funds up front.

WSN catalog

Issues 09 and 10 of US Bomber Projects is now available (see HERE for the entire series). Issue #09 includes:

  • Boeing Model 464-33-0: A turboprop B-52 predecessor
  • Consolidated Army Bombardment Flying Wing: A ground attacker with an extreme mode of attack
  • GE Supersonic System 6X: A Mach 3 nuclear-powered bomber
  • Convair B/J-58: A supercuising version of the Hustler
  • Boeing model 484-2-2: AB-58 competitor
  • Northrop 464L: A blended wing/body spaceplane
  • Martin Model 223-9: a 1944 step on the road to the XB-48
  • Boeing Model 800-15A: A Mach 3.5 hydrogen fueled design of incredible range

USBP#09 can be downloaded as a PDF file for only $4:




Issue #10 includes:


  • Boeing Model 464-34-3: A turboprop B-52 predecessor
  • Martin Model 192-5: A medium-sized flying wing
  • Republic Mach 7: a relatively small high-speed design
  • Convair WS-125A: A large nuclear powered supersonic design
  • Boeing model 484-415: A jet-powered supersonic flying boat
  • Boeing 464L: Boeings first Dyna Soar
  • Martin Model 223-10: a 1944 step on the road to the XB-48
  • Lockheed CL-1301-1: A very small VTOL ground attacker

USBP#10 can be downloaded as a PDF file for only $4:





US Bomber Projects issues 09 and 10 are now done, and will be available for sale just as soon as I get all the requisite website blahblah worked out. Hopefully tonight. I have issues 11 and 12 planned out, though still quite a bit of drafting to do.

The USBP series has been modestly successful (not blisteringly so, but ok, I guess…). I’m pondering doing the same format but with something other than bombers. Other concepts include:

  • US Fighter Projects
  • US Transport Projects (jetliners, cargo, civvies, SSTs, HSTs, etc.)
  • US Recon & Experimental Projects
  • US Launch Vehicle Projects
  • US Spacecraft Projects (spaceplanes, moon landers, Mars ships, etc.)
  • US Helicopter Projects

So, a few questions for commentors:

1) What did I leave out?

2) What would you most like to see? Some of these have a much bigger database to work from than others, of course.

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