Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Beautiful and odd aircraft and Buccaneers

click photo to enlarge
On a recent visit to the Imperial War Museum (IWM) site at Duxford, a location that specialises in military and civil aircraft (though there is a tank museum too), I began reflecting on British aircraft design. Looking at the exhibits on display it occurred to me that a number of British  designs count among the most beautiful aircraft to fly.

In this group is, obviously, the Supermarine Spitfire, but also the Hawker Hunter, the Avro Vulcan, Concorde (honours shared with France), the Vickers VC10, the BAe Hawk and quite a few others, including, I think, the subject of yesterday's post, the De Havilland Dragon Rapide. But our country's designers were equally capable of producing inelegant designs, aircraft that look like they are made for an environment other than the sky. I'd put the Handley Page Heyford, the Fairey Gannet, the Blackburn Beverley and the Britten-Norman Trislander in that group. Then there are what I call the interesting oddities - aircraft that are not out and out beautiful but equally, are not without a certain charm. The English Electric Lightning and the Blackburn Buccaneer (above) definitely fall into that category for me.

I came upon this Buccaneer, an example of the aircraft that has been dubbed "Britain's last bomber" (purpose-built bomber that is) in a hangar at Duxford. Its wings were folded, showing its origins as a carrier aircraft with the Royal Navy. However, all the Buccaneers were eventually transferred to the RAF and this example is in the colours of 208 Squadron. The Buccaneer's oddness is seen in the air-brake that protrudes at the back of the body, the "hump" below where the fin starts, and the nose which is hinged to make the body shorter to fit on an aircraft carrier elevator. The saving grace - the beautiful bit if you will - is the elegant curve of the fin with its "T" tailplane. The arrangement of the aircraft and adjacent exhibits stopped me getting a good photograph of this feature but I liked the head-on view and so took that one instead.

photograph and text © Tony Boughen

Camera: Nikon D5300
Mode: Aperture Priority
Focal Length: 52mm (78mm - 35mm equiv.)
F No: f6.3
Shutter Speed: 1/80 sec
Exposure Compensation: -0.33 EV
Image Stabilisation: On