For aircraft enthusiasts: a flaw in the design, the top ten worst planes ever.

Blazer

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Okay, let's be honest, for every successful design, there is a far larger amount of duds. The Supermarine Spitfire was a very successful plane but in the annals of Supermarine aviation it was a very notable exception because subsequent fighter planes by Supermarine such as the Spiteful, Seafang, Attacker, Swift and Scimitar were hampered by bad designs and stability issues.

But as bad as those were, they weren't the worst planes by far.

Here's my Top Ten of the worst ever planes, in both designs and attitude behind their creation.

Number 10: The Brewster F2/B-339 Buffalo
brewster-f2a-buffalo-big-heavy-rafs-buffalos-14221795.jpg

The Buffalo was the first monoplane to enter service as a carrier borne fighter with the US Navy, who quickly found out that it was completely useless. But as time would show, the outbreak of the second world war gave Brewster aviation a whole slew of Customers as many air forces around the world needed fighter planes. And the Buffalo was readily available and sold in their thousands.

But in combat, the de-rated Wright Cyclone engines were prone to overheating, the plane was under powered and the machine guns were prone to jamming. Many pilot lucky enough to have survived a dogfight against a Japanese Zero would often shout in frustration at his own plane.

In Finland however, that wasn't the case, the Arctic conditions of the country remedied the overheating problem and the pilots deemed it a pleasant flyer.

But yeah, despite not being totally useless, in overall the Brewster Buffalo earned its place in this list.

Number 9. The Baade 152
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The very first German made jet airliner and as it stands the only East-German made airliner is actually the very last plane to have been designed at what was once the famous Junkers factory.

The Baade had a striking resemblance to the Boeing B-47 stratojet bomber in both its lay out, shoulder decker configuration, bicycle under carriage and use of twin engines in a single pod. It was being marketed to supply airliners with a cutting edge plane which would replace the aging propliners and bring the DDR into the modern age.

This promotion video for the Baade 152 starts with the words "Fast", "Safe" and "Adequate", words which as it turns out, the plane itself was not living up to. It was unstable to fly and a persistent problem with the fuel pipes led the prototype to crash during its second flight.

With only three made, the Baade 152 never lived up to expectations and Soviet made Tupolev Tu-124 "Cookpot" in good supply, was deemed redundant straight away.

Number 8. The De Havilland DH-106 Comet
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Or "Here-is-why-you-should-not-design-a-jetliner-using-propliner-technology" This particular one is the last remaining complete example of the first version of the Comet. The very last one with the square windows which made it that the fuselage would tear open in mid flight because of metal fatigue.

Sadly, that happened after the plane had been sold in quite a large number to several airlines. Later versions of the Comet rectified that issue and the plane itself actually flew until the eighties but for many, the De Havilland Comet will always remain a failure.

Oh and that picture, if you're a Top Gear fan, there's an Easter egg with the spitfire standing in front of it...

Number 7. The Curtis SB2C Helldiver
Curtiss_SB2C-5_Helldiver_warbird_in_flight.jpg

Now you KNOW you've got a dog on your hand when a professor of aeronautical engineering declares you crazy if you actually build more of them when wind tunnel testing revealed inherent issues with the plane's overall balance and stability. Even more so if that plane was meant as a dive bomber where balance and Stability are the KEY features.

But because the US Navy was in short supply of Dive Bombers to replace the obsolete Douglas SBD Dauntless, Curtiss got the order to start mass producing the SB2C, basically they were bought sight unseen.

It came back to haunt them in a very real way. The SB2C required more than what the rookie pilots could even hope to supply and many found their death in landing accidents. Both the pilots and the carrier crews began to hate the "Son of a ***** second class" because of its instability issues and high accident rate.

One man who had their profound sympathy was famed English test pilot Captain Eric "Winkle" Brown, who tested the Helldiver for the Royal Navy and declared that it was unfit to fulfill the task it was designed for in the first place. Brown even went as far as never going near an aircraft carrier in a Helldiver.

Number 6. The Fisher P-75 Eagle
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Proof that even when you mix up some excellent aircraft together, it doesn't mean that you will end up with a winner.

The P-75 had the fuselage of a Douglas SBD dauntless, married to the wings of a P-51 Mustang, the undercarriage of a Chance-Vought F-4U Corsair and the cockpit of a Bell P-39 Airacobra. It was meant as a long range escort fighter but when tested against already in service designs fell hopelessly short of expectation. It was too large, too heavy and not nearly nimble enough to fulfill what it was designed to do in the first place.
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Still, it has its looks going for it and that counter rotating propeller is just the coolest.

Number 5. The Royal Aircraft factory B.E.9
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Ah, the first world war, the very first military conflict in which air power was employed. The first role those planes fulfilled was aerial reconnaissance But the design of the planes themselves didn't really lend itself for that purpose because with the big engine in front and the big wings at both sides of the cockpit left very little place for the photographer to get his camera out and take pictures the way he was supposed to do.

So the solution was to add a gondola in front of the engine and put the navigator, photographer in there: problem solved, he now had an unobstructed view of the battlefield. But was also in constant peril of being sucked into the spinning propeller or crushed to death if the aircraft did a nose up landing. With only one example built, the project was deemed too dangerous and abandoned.

But the story doesn't end there because apparently the French thought otherwise and developed the SPAD S.A-2 which used the same configuration.
SPAD_S.A-2_named_Ma_Jeanne.jpg

It was an unpopular plane on account of the flaws that the Brits had long since identified.

Number 4. The McDonell XF-85 Goblin.

Don't you guys love that juxtaposition with the humble Bumblebee, which according to common laws of physic shouldn't be able to fly and yet it DOES.

The XF-85 was meant to be taken on board a B36 bomber as its own fighter protection. It was a good idea but a flawed one because the Goblin was difficult to fly and because it had no internal landing gear of its own, no way of landing it, otherwise then just hooking it back up to its mother ship bomber which brought it back to earth. There was no way this concept was ever going to be practical.

Number 3. The De Lackner HZ-1 Aerocycle.
We have all read those comics of super heroes using jet packs to fly into action, it is a cool idea and it has people experimenting to achieve just that. In the 1950s, the U.S. Army thought that having their infantryman hover into battle was the right thing to do. Not with jet packs, but on a one-person helicopter.
hz-1-aerocycle.jpg

Right, you probably see where this is going: a TINY platform on which the soldier going into battle is standing on and four inches below that platform are twin spinning blades. It gives a horrifying new meaning to the word "Chopper"

Number 2. The Christmas Bullet
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This is what you get when somebody who has no experience in aeronautical science figures "How hard can it be?" and designs a plane.

It was designed by Dr. William Christmas who had his own very specific idea on how the wings of a plane should flex with the wind the way nature is also flexing birds' wings as they fly, as such the Bullet was designed to be without the reinforcing struts which give Wings their strength.

Only two Bullets were ever made, both of them crashing during the maiden flights when their wing designs came apart and in both cases costing the lives of the pilots.

Now among aircraft enthusiasts, the Christmas bullet is the worst ever plane but I argue that there is a worse one and not just because of it being a failed design but also because it was involved in a scandal and all being masterminded by somebody who should have known better.

Well, here we are, the one you've all been waiting for...
Number 1: The Langley Aerodrome A.
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A very dramatic picture of Samuel Langley's attempt at achieving powered flight gone wrong. Langley was a curator for the Smithsonian museum had a bit of an ego to match, so when he learned about the Wright Brothers trying to create a motorized airplane he was dead set on beating them at the punch. He got backing from the Army and set out to work. But Langley used the wing designs of Otto Lillienthal of which the Wright brothers had discovered were flawed, they would NEVER work for powered flight. Langley's plane was never capable of flying.

But big headed as he was, Langley argued with the Wrights that his plane WAS capable of flying and thus HE should be in the Smithsonian as the first man who achieved powered flight and to prove it he brought out his prototype to another rival of the Wrights, Glenn Curtis who flew it, taking away the title from the Wrights.
_KMxdmJG7Oxk4FC1OWt6yLDjhSYwyx-jgkiHwSQlD0_5ldMVpUzbOUp7siI0FuFOP3oHcYgvTelqRbPywEA-olr_idxI8HRYIm4AIT5UBY6Bb4RdVnfgyFfhgl45STVXhNANTXDezTA7dY0_A24WozfCvyRV7wrZzYSgKaT6ZHEilMhK38PFOo3QFl4baBKBpyT08xxHp45hm99gWDNyW7L4OCRK5I3QBUB_llPhR6E6mPSsVpG3_-HCW-aXlEaWfR1g8cgQDg2HVXQDm6iS

But not that much later, it was revealed that Langley had Curtis rebuild the wings completely incorporating Curtis' modifications to the Wrights wing design which made it airworthy and after the flight had the old wing reattached again. In short, he cheated. It took until 1942 before a court ruled against the Smithsonian and the Wright brothers were rightfully reinstated as the pioneers they were.

So because of being a plane which never could have successfully flown and then being used in a ruse to take away the credit from the people who truly deserved it. Langley Aerodrome A. is the number one worst plane ever.
 
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DADGAD

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I nominate the Vaught F7U Cutlass for worsts. Early jets were terrible.


 

uriah1

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Maybe the comet is in the worst list, but, it looked so cool.
The bc10 too
 

Rufus

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To put things into perspective, aircraft that seem laughable by today's standards were sometimes not more than an idea that didn't quite work out....or often that aviation developed faster than an aircraft design could be modified.

the Brewster monoplane was considered pretty state of the art when designed in the early 1930's. Airforces around the world were transitioning from wooden fixed gear biplanes to sleek, retractable gear metal monoplanes, where speed, not maneuverability, was the key. By 1942, the Brewster Buffalo was virtually a flying coffin against Japanese aircraft in the Pacific but as you stated, still saw minor success in Finland (against older Soviet aircraft).

Aviation changed faster in the 1930's than probably any other time in history. Military aircraft designed in the early to mid 1930's could be (and often were) completely obsolete by the 1939 beginning of WWII. The German Luftwaffe was a victim of its own early success. Their Condor Legion that fought in Spain (1936-39) had bombers (Do-17, He-111)that were faster than almost all enemy (biplane) fighters (except for the Bf-109 and Soviet I-16 monoplanes) and thus believed that their bomber force was impervious to defending fighters. Fast forward a few short years to 1940 when Spitfires and Hurricanes replaced obsolete biplane fighters and the tables had turned.

The Helldiver was flawed, but no other alternative was in sight in 1942. It was much more powerful than the obsolete Douglas Devastator (slaughtered en masse at Midway) and obsolescent Douglas Dauntless. During times of war, unorthodox ideas are often attempted...some are successful, some are not. Remember that the Chance Vought Corsair, now considered one of the best fighter aircraft of WWII, was plagued by initial developmental problems and was restricted from aircraft carrier operations until late in the war, but served very successfully with the US Marines from shore based airfields. Sometimes aircraft designs need time and modification to live up to their potential.

1914-1918 Aviation was in its infancy and WWI aircraft designs were all over the place, designs ranging from monoplanes, biplanes, triplanes (and even more wings) were built and tested. Most aircraft were tractor type (propeller in the nose) but due to the Allied Powers'initial lack of an interrupter gear to allow a machine gun to fire thru the spinning propeller blades, a "pusher" configuration was developed, with the propeller in the rear. Those WWI B.E.9 and Spad SA-2 aircraft seem to be an attempt at a compromise, using a tractor configuration (albeit behind the pilot) while still enjoying the advantage of firing without obstructions. Obviously, they were not an ideal design, but in comparison to other aircraft that were in use at the time, they were not totally unusable ...and probably better than some other designs. Remember the Royal Aircraft Factory B.E. 2 observation/bomber served WELL past the point of its obsolescence. Its successor, the RE-8, was only marginally superior in performance.

Aviation designs have to be judged in context of its time period.
 

otterhound

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The P-51 had a terminal design flaw that almost grounded the plane before ever being used in combat . The nature of the flaw was caught literally by accident after the aircraft had been given up on . A field installed mechanical lock mechanism for the landing gear solved the hydraulic issue that was causing catastrophic wing failures in testing . The mechanical lock remained on the airframe until it's service end and the hydraulics were not redesigned .
 

Masmus

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The Buffalo was indeed a death trap against the Zero, but as stated above it was used so effectively by the Fins that I think it had a higher kill ratio than any other aircraft by how the Finnish air force used it against the Soviets.
 

Bob Womack

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I was expecting the The McDonnell XF-85 Goblin. One plane that should be up near the top of the list is the Wright Flyer. Yes it was the first plane to achieve powered flight with a man. But, I saw a documentary where a team of aeronautical engineers and test pilots built an exact replica of the Wright Flyer to see if they could squeeze more performance out of it than the Wright Brothers did. What they discovered was that the Flyer was fundamentally unstable about the pitch axis. You had to fly it every second or it would climb and stall or nosedive into the ground. They had a hard time reproducing the Brother's flight, much less improving on it. As each pilot finished his tries, he or she was simply glad to be finished with it and out of danger. It was that dangerous.

Bob
 

Rufus

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the truth is, there were several airframe designs beside the Wright Bros. that could have been the first to achieve powered flight. The problem was finding a powerplant that was small and light but could provide the necessary horsepower.
The man that handbuilt the small engine that powered the Wright Bros. Flyer has never received the credit that he deserves.
I cannot recall his name right now...:confused:
 

beninma

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Aviation designs have to be judged in context of its time period.

This but this was still a good thread and enjoyable to read.

A lot of these airplanes were designed under a different idea of engineering safety/schedule tradeoffs because the countries designing & building them were faced with very real existential threats.
 

Switchy

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Number 3. The De Lackner HZ-1 Aerocycle.
We have all read those comics of super heroes using jet packs to fly into action, it is a cool idea and it has people experimenting to achieve just that. In the 1950s, the U.S. Army thought that having their infantryman hover into battle was the right thing to do. Not with jet packs, but on a one-person helicopter.
hz-1-aerocycle.jpg

Right, you probably see where this is going: a TINY platform on which the soldier going into battle is standing on and four inches below that platform are twin spinning blades. It gives a horrifying new meaning to the word "Chopper"


.


Needs more COW.....ling :eek:
 

Peegoo

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VERY cool stuff.

The Wright flyer's pitch issue was caused by having the elevator planes ahead of the main wing. Subsequent designs moved the elevator to the rear which made trimming the aircraft a simple task so it would be inherently pitch stable with no control input.

The cool thing about the Wright Brothers, when comparing them to Sam Langley, was the Wrights had spent a total of one thousand dollars on their efforts (travel included) by the time they achieved manned powered flight. They also are believed to be the first to build a wind tunnel, which they used to test their airfoil shape and their wing warping control. They also built their own engine with the help of Charlie Taylor, who ordered a block of aluminum from the new Alcoa company and machined the engine block using nothing but a small lathe and a drill press. Taylor was a mofo machinist.

Langley, on the other hand, had the might of the scientific community behind him, and had received grants from his friends (Alexander G. Bell and others), as well as a $50K grant from congress to fund his efforts.

If you find this stuff fascinating, check out David McCullough's book The Wright Brothers.
 

scooteraz

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I think the TU-144 should be on the list.

The only jet crop duster is a thought. If only because the economics of such an aircraft should have been obvious at the start.

@Rufus and @otterhound make valid points. Some aircraft had flaws that were later developed out. The P-51 gear up lock issues are often overlooked by aficionados. The F4U underdamped main gear is discussed more, but as noted were ultimately fixed, and the hosenose was a successful carrier aircraft as well as a land based fighter in the Pacific. The early F-14 with the TF-30 engines had engine out stability problems, particularly on short final to the carrier deck. But it rarely shows up on these lists.

The Helldiver is a case in point. A successful combat aircraft that wasn’t a great airplane. But it filled a need adequately, if just barely adequately. The Sopwith Camel has pretty poor stability, but it is considered a good aircraft because those flying it successfully learned how to exploit that.

In addition to the F7U, the F8U was also considered an “ensign eliminator”. However, the F8U has a better reputation as an aircraft. No doubt it was better, but it also had a better engine. Wright’s jet engines are memorable for not working to specification/promise. Pratt and GE both made engines that weren’t as anemic, and responded faster. Not saying the F7U was a good airplane. Obviously not. But it may have been the best available when the contract was let. Those learning experiences led to better aircraft, later.
 

Old Deaf Roadie

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Through the years, Piper has had some odd designs. One in particular concerns the placement of the bleed valve at the bottom of the brake cylinders. Then there's the nose wheel on the Seneca, also known as the patron saint of landing gear collapse.
 

archtop_fjk

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I nominate the Convair XFY-1.

"Upon later flights with longer durations, flaws in the design were found. Due to the Pogo's lightweight design, and the lack of spoilers and air brakes, the aircraft lacked the ability to slow down and stop efficiently after moving at high speeds. Landing was also a problem, as the pilot had to look back behind himself during a landing to properly stabilize the craft." [Yikes!]

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Convair_XFY_Pogo

800px-Convair_XYF-1_Pogo.jpg
 

otterhound

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I think the TU-144 should be on the list.

The only jet crop duster is a thought. If only because the economics of such an aircraft should have been obvious at the start.

@Rufus and @otterhound make valid points. Some aircraft had flaws that were later developed out. The P-51 gear up lock issues are often overlooked by aficionados. The F4U underdamped main gear is discussed more, but as noted were ultimately fixed, and the hosenose was a successful carrier aircraft as well as a land based fighter in the Pacific. The early F-14 with the TF-30 engines had engine out stability problems, particularly on short final to the carrier deck. But it rarely shows up on these lists.

The Helldiver is a case in point. A successful combat aircraft that wasn’t a great airplane. But it filled a need adequately, if just barely adequately. The Sopwith Camel has pretty poor stability, but it is considered a good aircraft because those flying it successfully learned how to exploit that.

In addition to the F7U, the F8U was also considered an “ensign eliminator”. However, the F8U has a better reputation as an aircraft. No doubt it was better, but it also had a better engine. Wright’s jet engines are memorable for not working to specification/promise. Pratt and GE both made engines that weren’t as anemic, and responded faster. Not saying the F7U was a good airplane. Obviously not. But it may have been the best available when the contract was let. Those learning experiences led to better aircraft, later.
With the P-51 , it could be a bit of bias or it could be because it was still designated as the A-36 Apache if I recall correctly .
 

cenz

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I nominate the Vaught F7U Cutlass for worsts. Early jets were terrible.

Hypothetical question

Would the Cutlass have been successful with a J57 or a J52?

The delta style wing works. 102, 106, B58 and the B2

Brute power can overcome some inefficiency in the design.

Just look at the Phabulous Phantom.

 




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