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

Blazer

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Wasn't the F-104 the aircraft that the ejection seat fired DOWNWARD instead of UPWARD?
Yes and NO
cq9lbx3re6t61.png

Only the XF-104 prototype had that feature

But from the completely revamped YF-104 (stretched fuselage, different engine) on, every single F-104 had a normal upwards firing ejection seat.
Deutsches_Museum_Munchen_2012_32.jpg

A diorama in a German air force museum of a Starfighter pilot leaving his aircraft, something that the Luftwaffe was VERY familiar with.

As for why they changed it.

Well, most accidents happened either with take off and landing situations, when the plane is close to the ground. And what good does an ejection seat do if it kills the pilot by slamming them into the ground.
 

4 Cat Slim

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Thanks for clearing that (myth) up, Blazer.
I had also read about the downward ejection feature. The explanation given was that
an ejecting pilot might hit the high tail surfaces of the F-104 during ejection.
This didn't make too much sense, as so many other aircraft in the USAF's Century Series
(and other aircraft, in general) featured high tail surfaces.
 

Rufus

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Yes and NO
cq9lbx3re6t61.png

Only the XF-104 prototype had that feature

But from the completely revamped YF-104 (stretched fuselage, different engine) on, every single F-104 had a normal upwards firing ejection seat.
Deutsches_Museum_Munchen_2012_32.jpg

A diorama in a German air force museum of a Starfighter pilot leaving his aircraft, something that the Luftwaffe was VERY familiar with.

As for why they changed it.

Well, most accidents happened either with take off and landing situations, when the plane is close to the ground. And what good does an ejection seat do if it kills the pilot by slamming them into the ground.
I would have assumed that aircraft design engineers would understand the concept of ejecting downward being bad for the pilot's health and welfare, BUT we learn something new everyday.
 

aging_rocker

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The Starfighter inspired Robert Calvert (former Hawkwind front-man) to produce a 'satirical concept' album about the F-104 story back in the early 70s. It's mostly Hawkwind plus a few guests, including Viv Stanshall, on the album.

This track takes me back to my schooldays.

 

ClashCityTele

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Aww, come on. Don't pick on the cute little T.28 Floh. It's not as if anyone ever had to fly it as a combat aircraft.
Although imagine a whole squadron of them coming at you out of the Sun. 👨‍✈️
 

Vibroluxer

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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.
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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.
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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
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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
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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
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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
I love these threads! Thanks for another one.
 

Masmus

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, and (except for those flown by the Finnish), the Brewster Buffalo and the the Heinkel He-162.
Just an observation...
Thanks for the mention, so few people understand it. It is shocking at just how well the Fins utilized this plane and just how poorly it performed for everyone else.
 

Flyboy

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The Starfighter inspired Robert Calvert (former Hawkwind front-man) to produce a 'satirical concept' album about the F-104 story back in the early 70s. It's mostly Hawkwind plus a few guests, including Viv Stanshall, on the album.

This track takes me back to my schooldays.


I remember this band back then but I never paid any attention to them. Which is shame, cos that's a cracking tune. Love the explosion at the end !
 

Flyboy

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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...
The Brewster Buffalo. The 'plane the RAF used in the defence of Malaya and Singapore. No match for Zeros.
 

BryMelvin

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As the Air Forces are Fighter centric there are Other arplanes that were widow makers. As a former MAC aviator I will point out that the C133 "Widowmaker" deserves a spot for its number of unexplained crashes.
 

Rick330man

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The West Germans dubbed the F-104 "the widow maker". Unfortunately, it seems a few too many airframes have earned the same moniker. The story is that the F-104 was fast but those stubby wings left it with zero dogfight maneuverability.
 

Blazer

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The West Germans dubbed the F-104 "the widow maker". Unfortunately, it seems a few too many airframes have earned the same moniker. The story is that the F-104 was fast but those stubby wings left it with zero dogfight maneuverability.
Because of it being designed to intercept high flying bombers, who needs manoeuvrability for that?
 

4 Cat Slim

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The F-104 may have had its problems, but it looked so much cooler than anything that
anybody else had in the air at the time.

I remember in elementary school, one of the guys in class brought a model of one he'd built.
What was funny was that he'd glued the wings in wrong (in aeronautical terms dihedral
instead of anhedral). Besides the instructions, the box art showed you how the wings
were supposed to go... I didn't have the heart to tell him he'd gotten it all wrong.

I've said it before, but I enjoy your aviation posts so much, Blazer.
 

Blazer

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Anyone who wants to live when the MiG escorting the bomber comes after him/her.
Who says that those bombers come with escorts?

Because they do not, look up pictures of Soviet Bombers being intercepted by Western jets: there is NO escort.
1980s-page-1-tile.jpg

Let's see who spots the odd one out here...
 

Rick330man

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Who says that those bombers come with escorts?

Because they do not, look up pictures of Soviet Bombers being intercepted by Western jets: there is NO escort.
1980s-page-1-tile.jpg

Let's see who spots the odd one out here...
Those photos are from surveillance runs - the stuff that has been going on for the last 70+ years. An actual bombing run is a whole different ball game.

A retired USAF F-16 pilot friend tells me that the Warsaw Pact would even have E-266s (MiG 25) interceptors accompanying some of the Tu-95s on surveillance. Strange combination, but apparently observed and tailed by USAF and NATO pilots.
 
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tubedude

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Because of it being designed to intercept high flying bombers, who needs manoeuvrability for that?
In the '70's pairs of 104's flew at low altitudes across West Germany. The threat was different. We all thought a tank heavy blitz across the Fulda Gap was likely. Air superiority and ground attack were the main roles.
 




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