Many aircraft, some famous and some rare, gained a reputation for being difficult to fly and sometimes downright dangerous. This book looks at some of the worst culprits over a period spanning World War One to the age of supersonic flight. The following aircraft are included.BE.2 - The RFC went to war in it in 1914. The BE was easy to fly and very stable - but it was difficult to manoeuvre and very easy to shoot down. Sopwith Camel - The Camel shot down more enemy aircraft than any other Allied type in WWI but it had vicious traits that killed a great many pilots. Tarrant Tabor - The Tabor was grotesque, a massive misfit of an experimental bomber that predictably came to grief on its first flight. This chapter also looks at other bomber abortions. The Flying Flea - Henri Mignet's Flying Flea of the 1930s seemed the ideal vehicle for offering cheap flying to thousands - but its flight characteristics killed many pilots. The R.101 Airship - The British government-sponsored airship R.101 was doomed from the moment it left its mooring mast on its maiden voyage to India. Fairey Battle - When it first appeared in 1936, the Fairey Battle light bomber was state-of-the-art.
Three years later, at the outset of World War Two it had been overtaken by advances in military aviation and become a death trap. Messerschmitt Me 209 - The Me 209, built specifically for an attempt on the world air speed record, was a truly frightening aircraft. Even experienced test pilots were terrified of it. Blackburn Botha - Underpowered and under-armed, the Botha was hated by its crews. Its career was mercifully short-lived. Avro Manchester - The twin-engined Manchester would fly all the way to Berlin and back - only to burst into flames over its own base. It killed many aircrew before Avro added two more engines and turned it into the magnificent Lancaster. Messerschmitt Me 210 - The Me 210 was developed as a successor to Goering's Destroyer, the Bf110. It was a disaster with a phenomenal accident rate. Martin B-26 Marauder - They called the B-26 the Widow-maker, fast and powerful, with some savage characteristics, it killed many crews before they learned to handle it properly. Mitsubishi G4M Betty - They called the Mitsubishi G4M the Flying Cigar. Lacking self-sealing fuel tanks or any form of armour protection, it stood no chance against Allied fighters.
Messerschmitt Me 163 Komet - Its volatile mixture of rocket fuel made the Me 163 a death trap. Its pilots risked being vaporized or dissolved. Reichenberg IV - The Reichenberg IV, a manned version of the V-1 flying bomb, was a desperation weapon, its pilots intended to fly suicide missions against Allied shipping. It was tested by woman pilot Hanna Reitsch. Bachem Ba 349B Natter - The Bachem Natter (Viper) target defence interceptor was an interesting concept, and a test pilot's nightmare. The X-Craft - In the immediate post-war years, the Americans took enormous risks in their quest for speed and altitude. This chapter tells of the men who 'rode the fire'. Russia's Early Jets - With the end of WWII, Russian aircraft designers strove to achieve parity with the West by testing secret German wartime jet and rocket projects - some of them little more than lethal weapons. McDonnell XF-85 Goblin - The concept of the parasite fighter was not new, but the XF-85 Goblin, designed to ride in the bomb bay of a B-36, was among the most dangerous ever devised.
Chance Vought F7U Cutlass - Its pilots nicknamed this US Navy jet fighter the 'Gutless', because it lacked just about everything - except an ability to kill its pilots at an alarming rate. Tu-144 - Rushed prematurely into its test programme to beat the Anglo-French Concorde, the TU-144 was intended to be Russia's supersonic dream. Instead, its career ended in a series of spectacular crashes.
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Author Biography - Robert Jackson
Robert Jackson has written many books on military, aviation and naval history since retiring from a leading national newspaper where he was defence correspondent. He lives in Darlington; his other main interest is rugby union.