Powered flight


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Powered flight

Although I do not fly powered aircraft, I have always built plastic models of them and taken an interest in them. Additionally, the early days of modern hang gliding (mid 1970s to late ’70s) gave rise to powered ultralights (known as microlights in Britain because of an existing ultralight category). They were therefore included in the content of the hang gliding magazines of that time, to which I subscribed.

Early powered ultralights

Eagle float-plane. Reprinted courtesy of Ultralight Flying! magazine.

In the late 1970s, Hang glider manufacturer Larry Newman branched out into powered ultralights with the Eagle. Reprinted courtesy of Ultralight Flying! magazine.


Photo of a 1980s powered ultralight

Quicksilver MX

The Quicksilver was an early hang glider which became the basis of a popular line of powered ultralights. This is a multi-axis control variant incorporating spoilerons for roll control. The original Quicksilver had only a rudder and lots of dihedral. The rudder put the craft into a skid and the dihedral then caused it to roll. Kind of weird, but it seemed to work. Reprinted courtesy of Ultralight Flying! magazine.


Photo of 1980s powered ultralights

A section of two Pterodactyls refuels at a roadside gasoline station.

The Pterodactyl was based on the early 1970s Fledgling rigid hang glider.

Photo of a 1980s powered ultralight in flight

Pterodactyl in flight. Reprinted courtesy of Ultralight Flying! magazine.

Powered ultralights enabled greater access to the skies than was previously possible.

Pterodactyl at a filling station. Photo by Charles O'Rear, 1983, reprinted courtesy Ultralight Flying! magazine.

Pterodactyl at a filling station. Photo by Charles O’Rear, 1983, reprinted courtesy Ultralight Flying! magazine.

Assembling a powered ultralight in a living room. Photo by Charles O'Rear, 1983, reprinted courtesy Ultralight Flying! magazine.

Assembly shop. Photo by Charles O’Rear, 1983, reprinted courtesy Ultralight Flying! magazine.

These photos reprinted courtesy of Ultralight Flying! magazine.


In this air-to-air photo, a flex-wing powered ultralight (middle left) shoots the space shuttle runway at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida. It was taken by hang glider sail-maker Roly in about 1999. He writes, “…you could call up NASA radio and get permission to run along it and return, not below 500′.”

A flex-wing powered ultralight (middle left) shoots the space shuttle runway in Florida in about 1999

Over the space shuttle landing zone

According to the wiki, it is one of the longest runways in the world, at 4,572 metres (15,000 ft), and is 91.4 meters (300 ft) wide.

Why the 500 foot height rule? Who knows? However, that stretch of water reminds me of these words from A Man on the Moon, the Voyages of the Apollo Astronauts, by Andrew Chaikin, 1994:

About a week before the launch of Apollo 14, Cernan was flying a helicopter over the Banana River, enjoying the clear air and the smooth, mirrorlike water — so smooth, in fact, that he misjudged his altitude and crashed into the river. The chopper exploded in flames, and Cernan had to dive into the water to escape being burned to death.

NASA Vehicle Assembly Building, Florida

Vehicle Assembly Building photographed by Roly aboard a powered ultralight

At the time of writing, the Vehicle Assembly Building, which contained the Saturn V moon rockets and space shuttles while they were assembled, is the largest single-story building in the world.

For more powered ultralight photos, see Defying Newton, powered ultralight operations at Newton Peveril in Dorset, England.


Nam

Cessna Skymaster undergoing restoration in 2004

Cessna O-2

When I was undergoing hang glider aerotow training at Villamartin in Spain in 2004, this Cessna O-2 (or possibly it is the civilian version) was undergoing restoration in one of the hangars. The O-2 provided twin engine reliability as a replacement for the smaller O-1 Bird Dog used in the forward air control (FAC) role in Vietnam until the introduction of the purpose-built North American OV-10 Bronco.

For an unusual variation of the Cessna O-2 see Science fiction/fantasy in Other plastic model aircraft.


Antonov 2, Popham, 2005

Multi-paned canopy of the Antonov 2

The Antonov 2 is a transport biplane. It was used by — among others — North Vietnam during their war against the south (and against the USA) in the 1960s and early ’70s. You might wonder what I was doing flying one instead of attending school! This example was at Popham, Hampshire, England, in 2005.

The An-2 is like a seaside blockhouse with five portholes, some random cables and a little conservatory on the roof.

The two-horned, floor-mounted yokes stand on over-strength binnacles, and the instruments are laid out at random like salvage in a museum display.

There’s never been a noise like it.

— from Flight Test: Antonov An-2 by Pat Malone in Pilot magazine, 15 October 2015

Coincidentally, the manufacturer of the hang glider I flew at the time, Aeros of the Ukraine, was originally part of Antonov.

Antonov 2, Popham, 2005

“When I flew An-2s in ‘Nam…”


Navion

This Ryan (North American) Navion sometimes appears at Newton Peveril, a powered ultralight strip in Dorset, England, in 2018.

Ryan Navion at Newton Peveril in August, 2018

Ryan Navion at Newton Peveril in August 2018

Pilot and passengers deplane from a Ryan Navion at Newton Peveril

Pilot and passengers deplane at Newton Peveril

Cabin of a Ryan Navion at Newton Peveril

Ryan Navion cabin


Ryan Navion Full power check prior to take off at Newton Peveril

Full power check prior to take off

Notice that, compared to my 2007 photo, the power lines have been re-routed underground instead of crossing the approach.

Ryan Navion take off at Newton Peveril

Lift off

Ryan Navion gear up after take off at Newton Peveril

Gear up


Airplane art

Drawing of an F-80 in the war in Korea

F-80 in Korea

Drawing of Hawker Hurricanes in the Battle of Britain, summer 1940

Hawker Hurricanes in the Battle of Britain, summer 1940

I drew the Hurricanes in 1990, when I worked in Langley, near Slough in Berkshire, England. Hurricanes (and later Typhoons and Tempests) were built at the Hawker factory in Langley. I saw no trace of it in my time there.

Drawing of a Tu-16 of the cold war

Tu-16 of the cold war

Painting of a Armstrong Whitworth Sea Hawk

Armstrong Whitworth Seahawk navy fighter of the 1950s

For my 1/48th scale model Seahawk (finished in 2019) see Dieselpunk days in Other plastic model aircraft.

Painting of a futuristic passenger space shuttle

Futuristic passenger space shuttle

Painting of two one-person powerboats

OK, not airplanes, but near enough…

Painting of Stingray pursued by a mechanical fish

Stingray pursued by a mechanical fish

Stingray (and the mechanical fishes) were in a puppet-based 1960s sci-fi series on UK television by Gerry and Sylvia Anderson. Although technically a submarine, Stingray has the appearance and layout of a light aircraft.


Painting of an Imperial Airways airliner of the 1930s (painted about 1977)

Imperial wizard

I made the mistake of showing the propeller blades as they often appear in photographs. However, the eyes do not see the blades at the normal speed of rotation of a propeller.

Northrop YF-17s painting about 1977

The Northrop YF-17 did not go into production, but it was developed into the F/A-18 Hornet.

Internal links

Clive James on the North American P-51 Mustang and Other Aircraft

Easy riser, my review of the movie Fly Away Home, Columbia Pictures, 1995

Hang gliding

Saving Major Tom, my review of the 1967 James Bond movie You Only Live Twice

Space flight and hang gliding

External links

Flight Test: Antonov An-2 by Pat Malone in Pilot magazine, 15 October 2015

Ultralight Flying! magazine, by whose permission I use some of the photos on this page. (Broken link at the moment, sorry.)

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