Antonov An-2: a russian workhorse

(Photo: Wikipedia.)
The Antonov An-2 is an airplane that has been around for many decades. It is the world largest biplane (that means that it has to pairs of wings, one on top of the other), and is capable of really slow flying. This means low landing speed, and combined with other rugged features, this makes the An-2 an airplane that can be utilised on short runways, on grass or gravel strips. Until recently it held the record for longest production run (45 years), but was exceeded by the Lockheed C-130 Hercules.

The An-2 is mainly used as a parachute drop aircraft, for light utility transport, agricultural work and other tasks well suited for this large biplane. Its designer Antonov, constructed it as a all metal, large single bay biplane. As a passenger airplane it can transport twelve passengers. The payload is 2,870 lb, and it is powered by a Shvetsov ASh-62 engine. 

Its slow flying capabilities is such, that the pilot's handbook reads: "If the engine quits in instrument conditions or at night, the pilot should pull the control column full aft (it won't stall) and keep the wings level. When the airplane slows to a forward speed of about 40 km/h (25 mph), the airplane will sink at about a parachute descent rate until the aircraft hits the ground."

Source: Wikipdia


General aviation

In many parts of the world general aviation plays an important part in connecting smaller communities and cities, with the more populated areas. Roads may be few and in bad conditions, or missing totally. The United States and Canada utilises general aviation on a big scale. General aviation refers to all flights other than military, scheduled airline flights and regular cargo flights. It covers a large range of activities, such as private flying and training, air ambulance and police flights, firefighting and bush flying, gliders, powered parachutes and experimental aircraft.

In 2005 general aviation in the United States suffered 1.31 fatal accidents for every 100,00 flight (source: U.S. National Transportation Safety Board). Pilot training is an important aspect of preventing accidents, and the pilots personal judgement obviously comes into play, especially when the circumstances are unfavorable.

Source: Wikipedia

The Memphis Belle - story of the 25th and last mission

During World War II many young men put their lives on the line in the struggle to defeat Adolf Hitler and his Third Reich. Most soldiers were fighting on the ground, but a lot of them were pilots or air crews in big bombers, flying deep into enemy territory where they were welcomed by anti aircraft guns (flak) and fighter planes. Returning alive from these missions was not a given, and a lot of planes and their crews where shot down. Some survived, only to spend the rest of the war in prison camps.

The Flying Fortress (B-17) named Memphis Belle, in May 1943 became the first U.S. Army Air Forces heavy bomber to have flown 25 missions over Europe. Surviving this many flights over European enemy territory, meant that she and her crew could return safely to the United States. A documentary film was made as "the last mission of the Memphis Belle", depicting the courage of the many air crews flying this bombers.
Source: Wikipedia

Constellation - flaming take off!

(Photo: Mike Lehmann.)
Some airliners came and went without much notice. Not so with the The Constellation, or Connie as it was nicknamed. 

This airplane with its unique, sleek lines became a familiar sight in airports all over the world, and represented an era in air travel. This was before jet engines became the preferred propulsion of larger airplanes, and the radial engines was a sight to behold on take off.

The Lockheed Constellation was powered by four 18-cylinder radial Wright R-3350 engines. During 1943 to 1958 a total of 856 airplanes was made with its triple-tail design and fuselage resembling a dolphin. It was a fast airliner in its day, capable of transatlantic flight. As jet airliners, like the de Havilland Comet and the Douglas DC-8, was introduced, the piston-engined Constellation became obselete. Yet, it continued to operate on domestic routes for some years.


Piper Cub - very short landing and take off!

(Photo: Ahunt.)
Small one engine airplanes have been around for over a hundred years now, and some models have become more popular than others. Reliability is a must when it comes to airplanes, and the Piper Cub have shown its reliability for seven or eight decades now. It's a classic airplane that's still in widespread use all over the world, and it's treasured for it's STOL (Short Take Off and Landing) capabilities. 

The Piper J-3 Cub is a simple, small and light aircraft that was produced from 1937 to 1947 by Piper Aircraft. It was to become one of the most popular light airplanes in aviation history. Modern versions are produced by Cub Crafters (Washington) and American Legend Aircraft (Texas).

Source: Wikipedia

Dash 7 - STOL capabilities turboprop

(Photo: Udo K. Haafke.)
The Norwegian airline Wideroe startet its business flying mail in small one engine seaplanes. Eventually the company grew, utilising bigger planes like the Twin Otter and later the de Havilland DHC-7. This four engine green machine (in those days anyway) was a common and welcomed sight in many small communities in Norway, specially in the north. Operating from short runways (about 2,500 feet) in mountainous areas, the extra power of the four engines was necessary.

The de Havilland Canada DHC-7, more commonly known as the Dash 7, is a remarkable airplane when it comes to STOL (Short Take Off and Landing) capabilities. It was first made in 1975 and the last airplane came out of production in 1988. The oversized propellers, rotating slower than other aircrafts, made it a relatively quiet propeller airplane. In many aspects, the Dash 7 was a larger version of the two engined Twin Otter. The main differences was size, two more engines and a pressurized cabin. The four engines provided extra lift at low speeds, due to two engines on each wing, with propellers blowing air over the whole span of the wing. At landing, when put into reverse, the same propellers slowed the airplane down quickly.

Source: Wikipedia


Saab Gripen operating from public roads

(Photo: Ernst Vikne.)
If you've ever driven in the woods of Sweden, you would sometimes come upon wide open stretches of public road that would look similar to a runway. Well, chances are that it actually was a runway. Kind of, anyway. The Swedish airforce took into account that in a war with its russian neighbour, they would eventually be overrun. In such a case, they could utilise the specially prepared public roads in the woods, and continue fighting from the air despite having lost the military airfields.

The Saab JAS 39 Gripen was the aircraft suited for this kind of fighting. It is a lightweight single engine multirole fighter aircraft, and as of 2008 a total of 236 had been ordered from several countries. Operating from these public roads, in just ten minutes a ground crew could re-arm and refuel the aircraft, and send it back in the air. 

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