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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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  • Re:Does not matter (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Jeremiah Cornelius ( 137 ) on Thursday May 22, 2014 @07:43PM (#47071229) Homepage Journal

    One of my FAVE failures:
    McDonnell XF-85 Goblin []

    What WERE they thinking?

  • Re:Does not matter (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Nidi62 ( 1525137 ) on Thursday May 22, 2014 @07:55PM (#47071291)

    One of my FAVE failures: McDonnell XF-85 Goblin []

    What WERE they thinking?

    Does the Antonov A-40 [] count?

  • Re:Does not matter (Score:5, Interesting)

    by arth1 ( 260657 ) on Thursday May 22, 2014 @08:16PM (#47071413) Homepage Journal

    I see your Goblin, and raise you a De Lackner HZ-1 Aerocycle [].

    The operator is standing on an open hub platform on top of a helicopter rotor. What could possibly go wrong?

  • Re:Stupid (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Registered Coward v2 ( 447531 ) on Thursday May 22, 2014 @09:35PM (#47071663)

    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.

    In addition, they left out the Lockheed L-188 Electra which also had a series of early crashes due to a design flaw called whirl mode flutter which resulted in the wings diverging from the fuselage's flight path. Nonetheless, it soldiered on and a variant still flies today as the P-3 Orion.

  • Re:Does not matter (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Kittenman ( 971447 ) on Thursday May 22, 2014 @09:47PM (#47071709)

    Successful people are those who fail and don't give up.

    Nonsense. This sounds like one of those take-aways from a life coach seminar. Successful people are those with good ideas, don't give up, are lucky, are in the right place at the right time, and ... and... and... But the good idea thing is a starting requirement. A successful idea is rarely a bad one.

    Cue people responding with bad, successful ideas. (Seriously, I'm interested).

  • Re:Does not matter (Score:5, Interesting)

    by camperdave ( 969942 ) on Thursday May 22, 2014 @10:38PM (#47071857) Journal
    It makes a lot of sense. They had experience with docking aircraft. It used to be done with dirigibles in WWI.
  • Re:Gee Bee (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Friday May 23, 2014 @12:59AM (#47072251)

    As touchy as the Gee Bee is (and it's a motherfucker to fly, even as an RC model) it's relatively sane compared to the original Lockheed widowmaker []. Stubby little wings requiring fast touchdown velocity, plus a downward-firing ejection seat preconfigured to dig the pilot his own grave: the only surprise is that they didn't require a separate seat for the pilot's ballsack (which must have been enormous going by the odds of survival in these things)

  • Re:Does not matter (Score:4, Interesting)

    by balaband ( 1286038 ) on Friday May 23, 2014 @04:31AM (#47072807)

    Already mentioned Komet [] probably tops the list. Although revolutionary design, and only rocket-powered plane ever built it had some serious issues - both fuel and oxidizer where really toxic and highly flammable, so slightest problem with landing could be fatal (and when you look at the construction I can imagine it was anything but easy to land).

    Also, (these will be a definite karma burners) to two of the probably most beautiful airplanes that ever flew, but failed to show their promise:

    Valkyrie [] , 6-engined supersonic bomber, 2 prototypes built (which remained most expensive prototypes to this day), run on special boron fuel, and although the icbm lobby had much in its project cancellation, it failed to convince its worth.

    Tomcat [], plane favored in the Top Gun, was expensive both in building, maintenance and operations, and although it has some combat record, never really showed itself on the battlefield (also, it was rumored that variable-geometry wings, due to its construction, were never perfectly aligned which presented problem in-flight)

    Just remembered: how come nobody mentioned this one []?

The only possible interpretation of any research whatever in the `social sciences' is: some do, some don't. -- Ernest Rutherford