Better And Better

If you don't draw yours, I won't draw mine. A police officer, working in the small town that he lives in, focusing on family and shooting and coffee, and occasionally putting some people in jail.

Saturday, November 10, 2007


Well, it's been a long time since I've seen a MeMe worth posting, but Tamara brings one to mind, as she was referred from NRAhab, who lists his favorite five airplanes.

Best friend Scott and I spent hours of our teenaged life discussing the relative merits of this airplane and that. This group kills me to select, and I have changed it three times already. I'll just accept that it changes daily. Yes, there are a hundred others that I love, but some of those will be mentioned by others. Here are some of my faves that are underdogs:

5: B-58 Hustler. There was a time, friends, when this nation launched bombers that could outrun most (if not all) operational fighters. Hard to fly and with a notorious accident record, the Hustler had a lot more class than the smaller Aardvark that replaced it. Plus, the "ejection seats" were actually little escape pods, first tested with live bears! (Something tells me that the boys at S.A.C. had a grasp of symbolic irony.)

4. P-38 Lightning. No, it wasn't quite the fastest operational piston fighter in WWII-- that honor was edged out by the Mustang. No, it never fully did quite fulfill its destiny as a heavy bomber escort or interceptor-- its engines began to double and triple the wear time above 20,000 feet. But it was an amazing aircraft, and with that cluster of machineguns and cannon all firing parallel from the nose, the ability to hit far further out like a buzzsaw became legendary, in a time with other aircraft had to shoot at targets in their point of convergence. It was originally outfitted with two .50s, two .30s, and a 37mm cannon in the middle. (Later models replaced the .30s with two more .50s.) Think that wouldn't just ruin a Junker 88 pilot's day?

3. Fieseler Fi 156 "Storch." The very definition of ponderous, slow flying. So ungainly looking, it was called the Stork by those who saw its oversized fixed main gears. Renown for its STOL abilities and friendly to grass fields, it was a damned useful tool for the field marshal who wanted to know how effective an artillary barrage had been.

2. Supermarine Spitfire. Of the 24 marks of this incredibly profligate design, the only ones that capture my attention are the eliptical wing marks, with retractable gear. This was the Brit fighter in the Battle of Britain, as it had pre-dated WWII, and was able to turn tight without stalling, while being able to dive faster than just about any other prop fighter, ever. Whatever-- it was beautiful.

1. PBY Catalina. It's a boat. It's a plane. It's a boat plane. Anti submarine? You got it. Coastline patrol? Natch. Night-time naval bombing missions? Why not. Introduced before the War, the PBY found a LOT of people eager to employ it in peacetime service, post-war. More than one island airline was started with a Catalina. Nowadays, they're still in use in some places for fire-fighting and general transportation, in places where lakes and docks are more common than runways or roads. 70 years after it was first introduced, the Catalina is still a damned useful tool. Beauty is as beauty does.

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At Saturday, November 10, 2007 9:06:00 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hate to nitpick, but it's Supermarine, not Submarine.

Other than that, good picks. I might throw a Corsair in there, or a Mosquito, of even a Beaufighter.

St Paul

At Saturday, November 10, 2007 12:02:00 PM, Anonymous Huck Phinn said...

Uh, oh, dare I go civilian?

Beechcraft Model 17 Staggerwing


DeHavilland Beaver

Cessna 195

Pitts Special (any iteration)(Sorry about the flat engine =D)

At Saturday, November 10, 2007 12:28:00 PM, Blogger Matt G said...

"Hate to nitpick, but it's Supermarine, not Submarine."br/>
Dadgummit. Swear to gawd I know the difference. Thats what spell check gets you when you're not paying attention...

Fixed by edit.

At Saturday, November 10, 2007 3:01:00 PM, Anonymous Bob@thenest said...

That Hustler looked like it was speeding when it was sitting in the hangar. The thing was four grossly overpowered engines hung together by a frame. One hell of an aircraft that one was. And a cute female voice annunciator system, just for contrast with its clearly macho mission capabilities. Ohhh, what a bird.

At Sunday, November 11, 2007 1:23:00 AM, Blogger Rabbit said...

The B58 also was designed with a weapons pylon system that was incompatible with the entire current inventory of stores at the time, which mean that Convair was pushing for the support contracts as well. With cost overruns, the plane would have been less expensive if the airframe had been built from solid gold.

There used to be a Hustler on a pylon on static display over by Meacham. I haven't been over that way in quite awhile to see if it's still there. It was always one of my favorite planes.

I knew two of the people who were killed in the CAF's Catalina accident off the Texas coast some years back. Good folks, fine plane, terrible waste.


At Sunday, November 11, 2007 6:06:00 AM, Blogger Old NFO said...

This one will open a can of worms...LOL

Excellent post and rationales for each choice!

At Sunday, November 11, 2007 11:39:00 AM, Blogger JPG said...

Re: The "Submarine" Spitfire - -
I don't see how ANY list of aircraft with any foundation in beauty of line could fail to include this classic fighter.

And the B58 - -
In the early 1960s, I attended university in Fort Worth AND worked full time at a hospital. I used some of my meager spare time on 35mm photography, developing some modest skill on a tight budget.

One afternoon, the radio stations reported a local crisis: A B58 with landing gear problems was flying around, burning off fuel in preparation for an emergency landing.

I had my camera in my car, but no long lens. I zipped by the old Westcliff Camera Shop and borrowed the biggest lens I thought I could pay for if I happened to ruin it, and set sail for the west side.

Convair/General Dynamics, where the B58 was built, and Carswell AFB were on opposite sides of the two parallel main runways. From the public highway on the civilian side, there was a hill ideally situated for watching takeoffs and landings on the runways.

I set up while the B-58 made a couple of final low passes. One main gear was trailing at about a 45-degree angle, and the radio said that repeated attempts to cycle it had failed. I got a couple of good shots as the pilot gently settled the big delta down to pop the down-and-locked main gear against the runway, trying to shake down the reluctant leg. He made two attempts that I saw, and I don't think he blew out any of the tires.

They made a long, smooth final and set down on the first few feet of foam. A lot of sparks and a bunch of foam flew for several seconds. The badly tilted bomber slewed gently to the left but stayed on the runway. The crew egressed rapidly and the crash trucks crowded in. No fire and only minimal damage.

Most of the action had been far distant from me, and my photos had but little detail. Still, I wish I knew what happened to those negatives in the ensuing decades.


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