How This Plane Earned A Dangerous Reputation

How This Plane Earned A Dangerous Reputation : The DC-10 Story

How This Plane Earned A Dangerous Reputation : The DC-10 Story

How This Plane Earned A Dangerous Reputation : The DC-10 Story

The DC-10’s story begins in the early 1970’s, at a pivotal time when air travel was undergoing a revolution. A new generation of wide-body airliners like the Boeing 747 introduced for 1970’s increased passenger capacity at a time when air travel was becoming more affordable.

In 1971, McDonnell Douglas introduced their first airliner wide-body airliner, the DC-10. But few months later, rival aircraft builder Lockheed introduced their new wide body airliner, the L-1011. The DC-10 and L-1011 were similar aircraft aimed at similar segments of the market. The DC-10 incorporated many existing narrow body technologies from earlier DC-8 and DC-9’s. Focusing on simplicity and reliability, McDonnell Douglas took a technologically cautious approach in an era of rapid technological change, and this helped accelerate the DC-10’s development. This design approach, in part, helped McDonnell Douglas beat rival Lockheed to the market and the DC-10 was soon outselling the L1011.

But after just a few years in service, the DC-10 would go from being pride of airlines, to a plane some people thought twice about flying. A series of accidents during the 1970’s, some of which were attributed to the plane’s design, shrouded the DC-10 in controversy. McDonnell Douglas found itself facing extraordinary accusations that it had rushed the plane’s development, leading to inadequate, even negligent design decisions. Damage to the DC-10’s reputation would peak in 1975, after the Federal Aviation Administration temporarily suspended the DC-10’s Type certificate.

Why This Train Is The Envy Of The World

Why This Train Is The Envy Of The World : The Shinkansen Story

Why This Train Is The Envy Of The World :
The Shinkansen Story

Why This Train Is The Envy Of The World : The Shinkansen Story

In 1964, Japan unveiled the Shinkansen – a new high speed railway connecting the country’s two largest cities (in the 1960’s), Tokyo and Osaka. Travelling at speeds in excess of 120 mph (200 km/h), the new specially designed Shinkansen trains had the highest service speeds in the world.

But the Shinkansen project’s success had been anything but assured. Over five years of construction, the cost of building the Shinkansen had ballooned, nearly doubling over the original estimate to nearly ¥400 Billion. Vocal critics within Japan dismissed the Shinkansen project as destined for failure.

But the opening of the Shinkansen changed the way the world viewed railways. The Shinkansen demonstrated that trains were capable of being the fastest mode of travel for intercity trips (faster than automobile and air travel). The Shinkansen was the fastest way to travel the 320 miles (515 km) distance from Tokyo to Osaka when total door-door travel times were taken into account. Within just the first 3 years, the Shinkansen carried more than 100 million passengers.

The Japanese helped inspire other countries to develop their own high speed networks, like France’s TGV which entered service in the early 1980’s. The enormous success of the original Shinkansen line spurred the construction of new Shinkansen lines westward. Over the course of the next half century, the network would be expanded to reach nearly every corner of Japan.

How the Soviets One Upped The West

How the Soviets One Upped The West: The TU-114 Story

In 1955 the Tupolev Design Bureau was given a directive to convert the Tu-95 intercontinental strategic bomber into an airliner. It would be the quickest way to build the Soviet Union a new long-range airliner. Two parallel projects were launched. The first aimed to minimally modify the Tu-95 and convert it into a VIP transport for Soviet Heads of State (Tu-116). A second, more ambitious project aimed to turn the Tu-95 into a proper airliner (Tu-114).

The Tu-114 was significantly modified, but still retained the Tu-95’s powerful turboprop engines and swept wings, which were mounted lower to accommodate a wider fuselage. Other design changes include larger flaps, a taller nose gear and new stabilizers. The Tu-116 airliner is most notable for its incredible maximum speed of 880 km/h (550 mph), which is comparable to modern-day jet-powered airliners. It also boasted a very impressive (for it’s day) range of 10,900 km (6,800 mi). Early versions were configured in a three-class layout, which was rather unconventional for a Soviet Airliner. Features included, large tables, private sleeping cabins and a dining lounge served by a full-size kitchen in the lower deck .

The Air Force’s Crazy 747 Aircraft Carrier Concept

How the Soviets One Upped The West: The TU-114 Story

The Air Force’s Crazy 747 Aircraft Carrier Concept

The Air Force’s Crazy 747 Aircraft Carrier Concept

A Boeing 747 with an internal hanger loaded with 10 specially designed fighter jets. An on board crew to launch, recover, refuel and rearm the jets while in mid-flight. Sleeping quarters and a crew lounge to ensure that a squadron of 14 fighter pilots and 18 mission specialists stay rested. All of it hurtling forward at Mach 0.85, 35 thousand feet above sea-level. That’s asking a lot from a Boeing 747 Jumbo Jet. But a once classified feasible study prepared for the U.S. Air Force details how it could be done.

An Airborne Aircraft Carrying Boeing 747 might have been an overly-ambitious, overly-complex and ham-handed idea from 1970s, but it wasn’t entirely out of left field. The U.S. Military had been experiment with the aerial aircraft carrier concepts for nearly half a century. In the early 1930s, two U.S. Navy airships, the USS Akron and the USS Macon carried up to 5 planes stored inside an internal hangar bay. These airborne aircraft carriers enhanced the Navy’s seaborne scouting ability, and the airships’ onboard planes could be deployed for further scouting or defensive purposes. But both USS Akron and Macon were destroyed in weather related accidents not even 3 years after their introductions, helping to put an end to any future airship-based aircraft carriers. But the experiments continued in the 1940s, this time spurred on by a need to protect long-range intercontinental bombers.

How The US Accidentally Dropped Nukes On Itself And Its Allies

How The US Accidentally Dropped Nukes On Itself And Its Allies

How The US Accidentally Dropped Nukes On Itself And Its Allies

How The US Accidentally Dropped Nukes On Itself And Its Allies

In August of 1957, the Soviet Union launched the world’s first successful Intercontinental Ballistic Missile (ICBM). It was capable of delivering a heavy nuclear warhead to a target six thousand miles away, in under half an hour. The West was left scrambling for a solution. From what U.S. Intelligence could gather, the Soviets were quickly pulling ahead in developing missile technology. Projections showed that by the 1960s, the Soviets would likely have enough missiles to launch a preemptive nuclear attack. America needed a way fill this perceived ‘missile gap’.

Operation Chrome Dome would be the solution. Between 1960 and 1968, B-52 Stratospheres strategic bomber aircraft armed with thermonuclear weapons were kept airborne around the clock, day in and day out. Chrome Dome would send a powerful message to the Soviet Union that America was ready to respond, and help keep the scales of nuclear power balanced. Flying to points along the Soviet border, Chrome Dome missions would be as long as 24-hours each, pushing flight crews and B-52 aircraft to their limit.

There were 5 major accidents involving B-52 aircraft flying Operation Chrome Dome missions. The first came early into the program, when in 1961, two nuclear bombs fell back to earth near Goldsboro, North Carolina. Information declassified in 2013 suggests that one of the bombs came very close to detonating. The next incident occurred just a few months later near Yuba City, California when another two nukes were lost in a crash. There would be yet another incident 1964 in Savage Mountain, Maryland. In all of these incidents, 6 nuclear bombs crashed back to earth and were eventually recovered without much in the way of consequences. Neither their conventional nor nuclear explosives detonated.

This Train Made Passengers Sick

This Train Made Passengers Sick: The APT Tilting Train Story

This Train Made Passengers Sick:
The APT Tilting Train Story

This Train Made Passengers Sick: The APT Tilting Train Story

In the 1960’s, Britain’s railways were in decline. The country’s railways were slow and antiquated and facing fierce competition against growingautomobile ownership and booming air travel. But elsewhere in the world, railways were beginning to make a comeback, and the key seemed to be much higher speeds. Japan’s new high speed Shinkansen Bullet Trains proved enormously successful with passengers, carrying over 100 million passengers in just the first three years of service.

But elsewhere in the world high speed trains were developed along with new special dedicate high speed tracks. These new lines were constructed with long, straight sections of rail and gentle curves. For their Bullet Trains, the Japanese built an entirely new dedicated high-speed rail line (Tokaido Shinkansen). For their TGV, the French would need to build hundreds of kilometers of dedicated high speed track (LGV for Ligne à Grande Vitesse).

But the British would take a different approach. Instead of spending billions on new high-speed rail infrastructure, they would engineer a new kind of high speed train that could run on Britain’s existing rail network. The challenge was that many of Britain’s railways were built a hundred years earlier, and they were full of sharp twists and turns.

But the APT’s development was plagued by setbacks and delays. The train never lived up to its potential. From day one, the APT was plagued by technical problems; everything from frozen breaks to failed tilting mechanisms. Nearly a third of passengers to become motion sick from the tilting mechanism. After a disastrous debut, British Rail faced an uphill battle to overcome technical challenges and win back public confidence in their innovative train. It was a battle they would never win.

Why Airbus Nearly Didn’t Happen

Why Airbus Nearly Didn’t Happen: The A300 Story

Why Airbus Nearly Didn’t Happen:
The A300 Story

Why Airbus Nearly Didn’t Happen: The A300 Story

In 1974, Boeing vice president Jim Austin described the Airbus A300 as “a typical government airplane” of which “they’ll build a dozen or so and then go out of business.” He wasn’t alone in his criticism. And he was almost right.

Airbus began a decade earlier as an ambitious effort to stop the Americans from completely taking over the global aviation industry. Boeing and McDonnell Douglas together were building over 80% of the world’s jetliners. And soon, they would be joined by Lockheed.

All three manufacturers were introducing new state-of-the-art wide-body airliners that would revolutionize air travel in the 1970s by offering increased comfort and efficiency. Europe’s aircraft build stood little chance at competing. Unless they worked together.

By the mid-1960s plans were underway to build a truly European airliner. One that would involve the continent’s leading manufacturers. It wasn’t the first attempt at European cooperation (the French and British had already joined efforts to build Concorde), but nothing on this scale had ever attempted. The Europeans would build a new kind of airliner, a purpose-build, short to medium range ‘people mover’, which was increasingly being described as an ‘air bus’. The new plane would be highly optimized for efficiency by using the latest technologies and state of the art materials. It would feature just two turbofan engines, when the soon to be introduced American wide-bodies would have three or four. It meant Europe’s jet would offer increased fuel economy and lower maintenance. It would be called the A300.

 

Why The Vertical Takeoff Airliner Failed

Why The Vertical Takeoff Airliner Failed: The Rotodyne Story

Why The Vertical Takeoff Airliner Failed: The Rotodyne Story

Why The Vertical Takeoff Airliner Failed: The Rotodyne Story

In the late 1950’s, intercity air travel was on the rise. But while a trip from New York to Boston by airplane might only take about an hour, you’d still need to get to and from the airport. And in many congested cities, that was already taking longer than the flight itself.

As a solution, helicopter airlines had begun to crop up in major cities, letting passengers skip over traffic to connect airports with their city centers. But helicopters were ultimately too inefficient to become a viable form of mass transport.

The Rotodyne was going to change all that. Taking off from downtown rooftops and heliports, but flying faster, further, and more economically than any helicopter, the Rotodyne would be the quickest way to move from one city centre to the next.The Rotodyne might have looked like part helicopter, part plane, but it was actually neither. Where a helicopter uses engine power to spin a rotor blade to force air down and create lift, on a Rotodyne the large rotor wasn’t directly driven by a motor. Instead it used a freely-spinning rotor called an autogyro. As air passed naturally through the rotor blades during flight, it caused the rotor spin around like a pinwheel to create lift.

The Rotodyne still had wings and a pair of turboprops much like an airplane. But in forward flight, the unpowered spinning rotor lifted more than half the aircraft’s weight. To take off and land vertically and hover, tip jets at the end of each rotor blade would be used to spin up the Rotodyne’s rotor. Once in forward flight, the tip jets were shut off and the rotor would once again spin freely.

 

What Happened To Giant Ekranoplans?

What Happened To Giant Ekranoplans?

What Happened To Giant Ekranoplans?

What Happened To Giant Ekranoplans?

In the 1960s, the leader of the Soviet Union, Nikita Khrushchev bragged that his nation had ships that could jump right over bridges. His cryptic words confused Western leaders, but he was alluding to a secret project deep within the Soviet Union.

The Soviets were developing a new class of vehicle that could move as fast as an aircraft, but lift far more payload than a conventional airplane. These machines would fly metres from the surface using an aerodynamic principle called the ground effect. They were called Ekranoplan (roughly translating to mean for “screen plane” or “low flying plane”). Beginning with experiments in the early 1960s, and headed by a pioneering hydrofoil engineer Rostislav Alexeyev, the Soviets quickly developed a series of small-scale prototypes to refine the concept. In 1966 they completed the KM (Korabl Maket) Russian for “ship-prototype”. An enormous machine, larger and heavier than any aircraft in the world. The first large scale Ekranoplan could lift an astonishing 544,000 kg (1,199,315 lb) and reach speeds of over 600 km/h (373 mph).

Alexeyev and his engineers abandoned the KM’s development and moved on to develop more practical applications, including a smaller troop transport (A-90 Orlyonok) and later, a larger anti-surface warfare ship (MD-160 Lun-class). After the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991, the few Ekranoplans that entered service were quickly retired from Russian Navy fleets.

What Happened To Giant Flying Boats?

What Happened To Giant Flying Boats? Saunders-Roe Princess Story

What Happened To Giant Flying Boats?
Saunders-Roe Princess Story

What Happened To Giant Flying Boats? Saunders-Roe Princess Story

The rapid development of aircraft in the 1920’s and 1930’s far outpaced the development of aviation infrastructure to support them. Runways,
even by the late 1930’s, were rare and often little more than an open grass field, useful only for the smallest and lightest of airplanes. It would be at least another decade until many cities developed suitable airports. But commercial aviation wasn’t going to wait around.

By the 1930’s large, luxurious flying boats were already carrying passengers
to far-flung exotic destinations. Requiring only a reasonably calm stretch of water and minimal infrastructure, flying boats kick started an early era of air travel. Destinations that once took weeks to reach by boat could now be reached in just a matter of days. For the lucky few who could afford it, flying boats were simply the most luxurious way to travel. As they were generally larger and more capable than land-based aircraft, many were convinced that the future of long-range air travel belonged to large flying boats.

In 1943, Saunders-Roe, an iconic British aircraft builder, began planning for
the future by drafting a design for a truly next-generation flying boat.
Larger, heavier, and faster than any flying boat airliner in history. Although 1943 was the middle of the Second World War, Saunders-Roe planned to emerge at the forefront of post-war commercial aviation. But by the time the Princess took its first flight, the world had been completely transformed by the rapid development of runways and advances in land-based aircraft.
It would soon become apparent that Saunders-Roe’s flying boat airliner had been designed for a future that never existed.