And we’re back! Sorry for the long break, I came down with something during the early weeks of December, then got caught up in all the christmas events, but I’m back now! To complement how much I have failed in keeping this blog updated, I am going to talk about 5 of the worlds worst aircraft.
- Yakovlev Yak-38
In 1967 the Brits were busy showing off their new Harrier Jump Jet that we all know and love. The Harrier is a VTOL aircraft, which meant that it rotates it’s engine nozzle in order to land and take-off vertically. The Soviet Navy got then asked for their own VTOL plane (they had small aircraft carriers which couldn’t handle conventional fighter aircraft). The Yakovlev design bureau accepted the challenge and set out to produce a Soviet VTOL, they weren’t aiming to build something awesome (VTOL aircraft need to sacrifice performance in order to be able to hover) but in the end, they came up with something shockingly horrible. Unlike the Harrier, the Yak-38 couldn’t rotate two of it’s front engine nozzles which meant that half of the engine was essentially dead weight during flight. In an effort to reduce weight, designers removed the radar (!) and reduced fuel capacity, leaving the Yak with a short range and pathetic combat capability. Left without a gun or radar, the Yak-38 operated with only four missiles, and that was when they worked properly. Most of the time they were stuck in their hangers undergoing constant repair. Needless to say the Yak-38 wasn’t a great design, the only good feature was that it had an automatic ejector seat, I’m sure the Soviet pilots put that to good use.
2. Blackburn Firebrand
The Firebrand was supposed to be a fighter-bomber for Britain’s Royal Navy. It first flew in 1942 and immediately things went badly, the prototype Firebrand flew 33 mph slower than expected (and crashed on the second flight) , and designers spent the next two years looking for new engines and tweaks to the airframe to reach the Royal Navy’s requirements. By the time the Firebrand was fixed, Hitler had blown his own brain out. Heavy, bulky and awfully inefficient, the Firebrand had a top speed of 340 mph despite having a 2520 hp engine, in comparison the P-51D Mustang reached a top speed of 440 mph with a 1700 hp Merlin-60. The cockpit in the Firebrand was also placed too low and too far back, giving pilot very poor forward vision and essentially no vision during takeoff and landing. Test Pilot Eric Brown, who test flew and assessed over 470 types of aircraft, ranked the Firebrand as the most unpleasant. His opinion was ‘sadly short of performance and lacking in manoeuvrability.’ Firebrands never saw action and were replaced by Jet fighters and attackers when the Korean War begun.
The MiG-23’s predecessor was the MiG-21, a small, nimble and cost-effective fighter that proved to be very popular and deadly even against more high-tech American planes. The MiG-23 sadly had non of it’s older brother’s positive attributes. Unlike the MiG-21, the 23 was expensive, mechanically complex, and frowned upon by pilots who flew previous MiG Jets, which were all decent if not excellent. The MiG-23’s supposed redeeming quality was that it had the ability to fire long range missiles, but it’s radar was inferior to the American F-4 Phantom and F-106. It also only carried two (very unreliable) radar guided missiles. In the end, the MiG-23 wasn’t completely useless or awful, but it was no better than it’s predecessors and did nothing to justify it’s cost and complexity.
4. Convair F-102 Delta Dagger
Designed in the 1950s to shoot down Soviet Bombers, the F-102 Delta Dagger was a pathetic excuse of an interceptor. Due to it’s engine’s poor performance and aerodynamic design, the F-102 couldn’t even break the sound barrier when it was supposed to fly at 1.5 times the speed of sound. Several major redesigns only resulted in minor improvements in performance, and in 1957 the Air Force got so sick of the countless changes to the F-102 that they basically asked for a new airplane. So the F-102B improvement program became the F-106, a plane that was totally different and performed fairly well. F-102s fought in the Vietnam War as bomber escorts and ground attackers, with minimal successes.
5. Heinkel He 162
In 1944, Nazi Germany was running out of planes, resources and time. Hitler’s genius solution to this problematic situation was to build volksjagers, which means ‘People’s fighter.’ This plane was supposed to be built by common folks with plywood and glue, so that airplane factories only needed to produced the engine and thus save time. You do not need to be an engineer to figure out that letting untrained people build fighter jets out of glue and plywood was a bad idea. Cracked.com described the He-162 perfectly. ‘It seems like the Nazis had a “How to Fail” checklist that they followed with unbridled enthusiasm: 1. Have your jet-powered nightmare capable of over 1,700 pounds of thrust assembled by random townsfolk? Check. 2. Have it made of plywood crudely glued together with adhesives that not only didn’t work but were actually acidic to the wood? Check. 3. Hilariously rush the design and construction process to guarantee no hope of safety? How about going from the first plan to the first prototype in less than 90 days? Double-check.’ The He 162 was actually very well designed, the main problem was the quality of the material used and the terrible method of production. Many test pilots felt that the 162 was agile, easy to handle, and could have been a nice airplane if it had been properly built with aluminium.
And that’s all I have! Thanks for reading, and next week all should be back to normal!