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The World's Worst Planes: Aircraft Designs That Failed 209

dryriver (1010635) writes in with an interesting look at some aircraft that should have stayed on the ground. "It's more than 110 years since mankind first took to the air in a powered aircraft. During that time, certain designs have become lauded for their far-sighted strengths – the Supermarine Spitfire; Douglas DC-3 Dakota; or the Anglo-French Concorde supersonic airliner, to name a few. But then there are planes like the Christmas Bullet. Designed by Dr William Whitney Christmas, who was described by one aviation historian as the 'greatest charlatan to ever see his name associated with an airplane', this 'revolutionary' prototype biplane fighter had no struts supporting the wings; instead, they were supposed to flap like a bird's. Both prototypes were destroyed during their first flights – basically, because Christmas's 'breakthrough' design was so incapable of flight that the wings would twist off the airframe at the first opportunity. Just as many of the world's most enduring designs share certain characteristics, the history of aviation is littered with disappointing designs."
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The World's Worst Planes: Aircraft Designs That Failed

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  • Stupid (Score:5, Informative)

    by c6gunner ( 950153 ) on Thursday May 22, 2014 @07:37PM (#47071197)

    They include the DeHaviland Comet - a fantastic aircraft which set the standard in the airliner industry for decades to come. It did suffer from a design flaw which caused several crashes, but those crashes helped us learn a lot more about metal fatigue and the structural integrity of aircraft, and lead directly to improved safety in later designs. It was also fixed as soon as it was identified. Suggesting that the Comet was one of "the worst planes" - or that it should have never have flown - is just plane ignorant.

  • by the_humeister ( 922869 ) on Thursday May 22, 2014 @07:50PM (#47071253)

    So the MiG 23 wasn't as popular as the MiG 21. That doesn't really make it a failure. Their first two examples were definite failues ( Fairey Battle and Douglas TBD Devastator): easy to shoot down.

  • Where's the Goblin (Score:4, Informative)

    by Spy Handler ( 822350 ) on Thursday May 22, 2014 @07:52PM (#47071267) Homepage Journal

    I went through the slideshow but didn't see my favorite, the XF-85 Goblin parasite fighter. At the time, jet fighters had very limited range and in-flight refueling hadn't been developed yet, so there was a great concern about how to protect long-range bombers from enemy jets when your own jet fighters can't escort the bombers very far, and long-range piston engine fighters (i.e. the P-51) would be outclassed by enemy jet fighters.

    So they designed this tiny jet fighter to be carried under the B-36, and if you saw enemy jets approaching, release the Goblin which would fight off the enemy and then return to the B-36 and dock with it via a trapeze. Good idea in theory, but two things killed it off: 1) You needed superhuman piloting skills to successfully land on the mothership... maybe Chuck Yeager could do it but most pilots couldn't, and 2) in-flight refueling became possible.

    I always thought it was pretty cool though, like an aircraft carrier in the sky.

  • Re:Stupid (Score:5, Informative)

    by Jeremiah Cornelius ( 137 ) on Thursday May 22, 2014 @07:55PM (#47071287) Homepage Journal

    DH Comet? It also had a real problem with birdstrike...

    Having the engines in-line with wing-plane was aerodynamic, but limited turbine diametre while increasing risk in event of failures.

    But agreed. Beautiful and elegant plane - far advanced over Yank planes from Lockheed and Boeing. The oval-window variant was especially so. I flew on BOAC Comet 4's as a child. They don't make 'em like this now...

  • Gee Bee (Score:4, Informative)

    by godel_56 ( 1287256 ) on Thursday May 22, 2014 @08:17PM (#47071419)

    OK how about this one. From memory, it killed just about everyone who owned it.


  • The Spruce Goose (Score:5, Informative)

    by riverat1 ( 1048260 ) on Thursday May 22, 2014 @08:26PM (#47071449)

    I think Howard Hughes Spruce Goose could fit in this category. It only had one flight and never got out of ground effect.

  • book was out in 1990 (Score:4, Informative)

    by Mspangler ( 770054 ) on Thursday May 22, 2014 @09:12PM (#47071591)

    http://www.amazon.com/Worlds-W... [amazon.com]

    My favorite is the Blohm and Voss Bv-141. Symmetry is for weenies.

  • by GrahamCox ( 741991 ) on Friday May 23, 2014 @12:24AM (#47072165) Homepage
    The Concorde was most definitely NOT a failure. In scheduled service for 27 years? Almost 50,000 flights at supersonic speed? That's not a failure - plenty of "classic" aircraft have not flown anywhere near as long. Concorde's main problem was that the USA took against it out of spite, because they didn't like to be beaten in aerospace technology. (which is weird, because Britain and Europe certainly admired the contemporary achievements of Apollo, and the 747, etc). That meant that it wasn't the economic success it should have been, but it was and remains a technical triumph.
  • Re:Stupid (Score:5, Informative)

    by Richard_at_work ( 517087 ) <{richardprice} {at} {gmail.com}> on Friday May 23, 2014 @03:00AM (#47072595)

    Turns out that isn't as much of an issue as you think - the Comet airframe became the base airframe for the Nimrod maritime patrol aircraft, which flew in regular service from the 1960s right up to 2011, without a single airframe loss due to engine placement.

The optimum committee has no members. -- Norman Augustine