For aircraft Enthusiasts: On a wing and a prayer, ten more of the worst planes ever.

Blazer

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Well, I did two lists on the worst ever planes before, here's the links for you to check out.


But in the meantime, I found out about more planes which have people go, "This will never work!" and "What on earth were they THINKING?" when they look at them now. So let's get to it.

10. The Blackburn Roc.
Blackburn_Roc.jpg

As I said before in different aviation threads, the concept of the fighter with a turret was an obsolete one, but people held onto it as if it owed them money. The Roc was designed from the outset to be a carrier based fighter, but pilots quickly found out that it was woefully underpowered, and lugging around that mechanized turret didn't help either. Regardless, the Roc served in many naval operations in the early stages of the second world war. The Type being there during the Norway Campaign and the evacuation of troops from France at Dunkirk.

Yes, it was there... scoring a single air-to-air victory, which is an inexcusably poor statistic. The Roc was then used in Search and Rescue roles before being pulled from service in 1943.

9. The Lockheed F-104 Starfighter.
lockheed-f104-2-mindef-archive.jpg

There's a clip on youtube of a former USAF pilot raving on what a great plane the F-104 was. But as he goes on, his enthusiasm wanes, and he goes: "Well...come to think of it..to be honest with you guys..."
Of course I did a thread on the plane and what made it so notorious, click here to see it.

8. The Mikoyan Gurevich MiG 23/27 Flogger.
10270980b.jpg

No doubt a classic, very cool plane with its sleek look and swing wing design. But it also had some very serious issues. The MiG 23 was the fighter interceptor, and it was notorious for coming with De-rated engines in so assuring the Soviets that their buyers would be coming back for more parts to keep their fleets flying. It also made them terrible in actual dogfights.

The 27 fared better, it was meant for ground attack missions, note that it doesn't have the airsplitter at the intakes nor does it have an afterburner. The flatter nose also meant that forward facing vision was top notch. But there was one thing that sealed its fate.
IAF%20MiG-27%20%5BIAF%5D%20%232.jpg

An Indian Air Force MiG 27 firing its cannon, something which caused the death of many pilots, since the vibrations of that cannon would upset the balance of the plane and make it crash, or causing an engine flame out making it crash, or make the plane fall apart making it crash... You get the idea.

7. The Curtis-Wright CW-21 Demon.
cw21-avweek-sept1941.jpg

I guess the caption says enough. But what the caption doesn't mention is that the CW-21 was one of those reject planes that American airmen were going "No way!" and the manufacturers were going "Well, if they don't want it, maybe we can sell them overseas." The CW-21 was indeed fast, but it came at a cost, the armour for the protection of the pilot was insufficient, it also had no self sealing tanks the armament of two machine guns in the nose was too light to even faze the slowest of opponents. The Dutch minister of armament who procured the deal with Curtis-Wright got into very hot water with the Dutch houses of commons when it turned out he never had Dutch pilots test the planes before forking out the cash to buy them.

They were a disaster in service against the Japanese and the best showcase of "Try before you buy!"

6. The Messerschmitt Me-163
Messerschmitt_Me_163B_USAF.jpg

"WHAT THE [email protected]#%$ WAS THAT?" Which was the reaction of most WW-2 era bomber pilot who had the displeasure of encountering this cropped bumblebee of a fighter as it shot by them much faster than the BF-109's or the FW-190's they were used to. But as deadly as this rocket powered interceptor was to the bombers, it was even deadlier to its pilots. As the rocket fuel was very volatile and if the plane didn't explode on take off, there was also the chance of dissolving the pilot if the tanks ruptured.

5. Tupolev Tu-22 Blinder.
0-1.jpg

Okay, where do I start with this one? It was based on the older Tu-16 Badger from which it inherited its flight control systems, fuselage and wings. Which meant:
- That flying it was exhausting for the pilot, since that flight system worked with wires and pulleys and there was no co-pilot to help him.
- The wings weren't designed for supersonic use, which this bomber was expected to do, many just fell from the sky when their wings came off.
- The engines were on the very back of the fuselage, made the plane aerodynamically efficient. But that also meant that the balance of the plane was very tail heavy, leading to many accidents in take-offs and landings.
- Related to the engine placements: the Blinder had downwards facing ejector seats, so the crews wouldn't end up in the engines should they have to eject. BUT having so many accidents happen during take-offs and landings, they were pretty much useless.

4. The Blackburn Botha
1434616181907.jpg

The Botha was a two-engined torpedo bomber and reconnaissance aircraft, which first flew in 1938. What was the problem? The view from the crew compartment was so appalling that the aircraft was deemed useless as a recon plane. Next, it turned out it was dangerously underpowered – the extra weight from suddenly having to carry an extra crew member meant the plane would have struggled to carry its intended torpedo armament. When they were phased out of frontline service in 1941 they passed onto training squadrons – but the Botha was so tricky to fly that there were many accidents.

3. The Goodyear Inflatoplane
5.jpg

Now Goodyear is known for its Blimps and somebody deemed it a good idea to have an inflatable combat plane. Packed into a 44 cubic foot container, the aircraft could be inflated in 5 minutes. It flew successfully a number of times, but considering a well-aimed bullet could take down the aircraft, the project was abandoned.

2. The Supermarine Scimitar
scimitar-f-mk-1.jpg

The final fighter design of Supermarine wasn't their finest moment, which for some reason is the fate that many WW-2 era companies known for producing fighters share. (Look up the Curtis XP-70 blackhawk to see what I mean...) So what was the problem here?

Take an aircraft so dangerous that it is statistically more likely than not to crash over a twelve year period- and arm it with a nuclear bomb. Prior to this, ensure one example crashes and kills its first Commanding Officer, in front of the press. There you have the Scimitar. Extremely maintenance heavy, an inferior fighter to the Sea Vixen and a worse bomber than the Buccaneer; the Scimitar was certainly not Joe Smith’s finest moment. It was the last FAA aircraft designed with an obsolete requirement to be able to make an unaccelerated carrier take-off, and as a result had to have a thicker and larger wing than would otherwise be required. Only once did a Scimitar ever make an unassisted take-off, with a very light fuel load and no stores, and then just to prove that it could be done.

1. The DFW T.28 Floh
204-1.jpg

Looking like something from a Dick Dastardly cartoon episode. The Floh (Flea)must have been the cuddliest combat aircraft ever built. There seems to no other reason for building this tiny yet simultaneously weirdly massive machine. Despite being reputedly very fast, because of its daft shape the Floh was never a serious contender for fighter operations. The main problem was visibility, which was excellent so long as you only wanted to look upwards. The pilot’s view forwards for take off and landing was non-existent, and the massive triangular tail surfaces conspired with the biplane wings to obscure the view of more or less anything below the aircraft. With all that fuselage side area and only a relatively modest rudder, one can only assume that directional control was not the aircraft’s strong suit. Add to that a perversely narrow undercarriage, and it should come to no surprise that the Floh crashed on landing after its first test flight.

But at least it had that cute smiley face.
pStFeVWniISsMP_ssbsfYfUXKVEPZKzvY2C5F3krekU.jpg
 
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Rufus

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To be fair, aviation was changing so rapidly in the early to mid 1930s that often a design that was state of the art on the drawing board was obsolescent by the time it entered production. Never before or since has there been such an evolution in such a short time period.

Everything from retractable landing gear, flaps, enclosed cockpits, constant speed props, instrument flying, radios, fuel injected and turbocharged engines, self sealing fuel tanks, change from biplanes to monoplanes, airspeeds over 400 mph, multiple machine guns and cannon equipped aircraft were introduced.

Along with the technology, the warfighting tactics using the new aircraft had to evolve... and many countries were very slow doing so.

The British were still using the unbalanced and unwieldy fixed formations of three aircraft to fight the Battle of Britain in 1940.

Germany introduced aircraft fighting in pairs (Leader and Wingman) during the Spanish Civil War (1937 or 1938), developing the superior flexible tactical formation later known as the Finger Four by American pilots.
 

trapdoor2

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It is significantly difficult to produce a good aircraft in times of great change. Peace is squeezes every penny, war opens the coffers...neither guarantee a decent result. Some of the best are those designed in a hurry...before technology moves on or politics move in.
 

Ed Driscoll

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6. The Messerschmitt Me-163
Messerschmitt_Me_163B_USAF.jpg

"WHAT THE [email protected]#%$ WAS THAT?" Which was the reaction of most WW-2 era bomber pilot who had the displeasure of encountering this cropped bumblebee of a fighter as it shot by them much faster than the BF-109's or the FW-190's they were used to. But as deadly as it was to the bombers, this rocket powered interceptor was, it was even deadlier to its pilots. As the rocket fuel was very volatile and if the plane didn't explode on take off, there was also the chance of dissolving the pilot if the tanks ruptured.
If the Komet didn’t melt the pilot’s flesh, there was also the chance that it would break his back in a hard landing. In 1991, the Discovery Channel’s Wings of the Luftwaffe series did a segment on this plane:

 

Masmus

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I've seen a pair of F104s doing a subsonic high performance turn, It took about 10 miles. They were good as an intercepter for bombers but not much more.
 

Bob Womack

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The F104s had wing protectors that covered the leading edges when they were on the ground because the leading edge was sharp enough to be easily damaged. The ejection seat featured a two-stroke initialization - handle forward to eject the canopy, handle back to punch out. It was discovered the hard way that a pilot in an emergency just too often missed the first step, and it was fatal.

We had a gaggle of F-104s, the 134th Fighter-Interceptor Wing, based one ridge away from our house during the cold war to protect the nearby Oak Ridge National Nuclear Laboratories. And yes, they were a pure interceptor, much like the MIG-25 Foxbat. Think of them as a missile with stubby wings. They took off and were vectored in as straight a line as possible towards an intruder. We used to go down to the field and watch flight ops. After landing and during taxiing, the pilots would open their canopies and wave at us. At home, as they practiced going to afterburner at takeoff and doing radar intercepts, the sonic boom rattled the glass doors of our china cabinets in a threatening way. My parents simply took the doors off. The sound of freedom.

The reconstituted German Luftwaffe took over our squadron's F104s. On takeoff during a ferry flight, one of the young German pilots developed an engine fire and punched out, using the one-step, pull-back-only departure method. He was killed.

Oh, and our squadron's next planes? It caused a bit of pilot consternation but they accomplished the transition in eight months, starting in April 1964:
KC-97.jpg


That is the KC97L, called by its crews the Stratotanker but the Internet DEMANDS that the name never existed, assigning it instead the same name as the cargo version, the Stratofreighter. Their new name for the group was the 134th Air Refueling Wing. This aircraft was one of theirs, perhaps the one I toured around 1970. It is preserved at the Air Mobility Command Museum in Dover, Delaware. These planes flew above my head during most of my growing up years. The 134th Wing now flies KC-135s and has participated in practically every conflict since the 1960s.

Bob
 

trapdoor2

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Saw the F104 "Starfighters" demo team about 10yrs ago at an airshow in Tennessee. Amazing, great show.

I call my charcoal chimney "The J79".

Frankly, the F-104 was a fine design with a bad rep. Should be replaced in this list by the F7U "Gutless Cutlass".
 

4 Cat Slim

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Thank you for yet another fascinating aviation post, Blazer!
So many different elements need to come together
to produce outstanding aircraft, with funding, good design and technological innovation being among the most important.
When I was in primary and middle school, I built many models, these purchases enticed by the heroic action-filled scenes depicted on the box art. I would build these kits, then try to research some of the combat history of the aircraft, which took some effort decades before the internet came into being.
Often, I'd learn that some of the coolest looking planes sometimes had a dismal history, if indeed they saw much action at all. But the illustrations on the boxes sold me on the kits (I'm looking at you, Airfix!).
Among these were the Boulton Paul Defiant and Fairey Battle, and (except for those flown by the Finnish), the Brewster Buffalo and the the Heinkel He-162.
Just an observation...
 

reactor99

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Like some sports cars, the 104 had great speed but was unforgiving of mistakes and had a high accident rate.

The Me-163 was ahead of its time in many ways (except pilot safety...) and we're lucky that, as with the 262, it was deployed too little and too late
 




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