Hush-kit awards for best-looking aircraft in production 2014: Category 6: Military helicopters

It seems that Hush-Kit readers like the macho, brutal appearance of helicopter gunships.

Bronze award: CAIC Z-10

If a Rafale had a drunken one-night stand with a Mangusta, the resultant child would look like the Z-10 (especially during its teenage goth phase).


Silver: Kawasaki OH-1 helicopter
A perky piscine chopper. A neat, sculpted shape and a good paint-job go a long way for this Japanese scout.


Gold: Kamov Ka-50/52

Kamov’s ‘werewolf’ is hardly pretty. But its mean, muscular form found favour with Hush-Kit readers. The extreme aesthetic of this Russian helicopter sit it somewhere between an armoured car, a robot shark and a combine harvester!


Fast, low and dirty: The Allison Mustang


It is easy to write off the pre-Merlin Mustang as a mediocre performer, but as Matthew Willis explains, there is far more to the story of the Allison-engined P-51 than first meets the eye.

Between July and October 1942, the Aeroplane and Armament Experimental Establishment at Boscombe Down evaluated North American Mustang Mk.I AL997, and concluded that it ‘should prove extremely efficient for its purpose.’

It was clear by late 1942 that the Mustang’s purpose was not the one that it had been intended for, a conventional day fighter. By 1942 air combat was generally taking place between 22,000 ft and 27,000 ft. While the Mustang had superlative performance below 18,000 ft, above that height it could not compete as the engine lost too much power. There were plenty of circumstances where good low-altitude performance was beneficial though, and the fighter fell almost perfectly into the lap of Army Co-operation Command, which was still casting about for a suitable aeroplane for tactical reconnaissance.

During the Battle of France, Army Co-operation aircrews had discovered to their cost that the Westland Lysander was too slow and vulnerable for tactical reconnaissance, and the Fairey Battle was no better at gathering battlefield intelligence. In the face of enemy air superiority, a fighter-type aircraft was clearly needed. The Mustang arrived at just the right time to replace the Curtiss Tomahawk, which was proving troublesome for a multitude of reasons.

The Mustangs just starting to arrive from America might have gone to Russia, India or the Middle East. Fortunately for the RAF’s fighter-reconnaissance squadrons, the decision was taken in January 1942 to earmark the Mustang Mk. I for this purpose. By the end of the month, over 100 Mustangs were in the UK or en route, and Lockheeds at Speke were working furiously to fit F.24 cameras and carry out a range of other modifications. The camera fit for tactical reconnaissance was an important feature. An oblique attachment had been specially designed, which fitted onto a tray behind the pilot’s head. The camera pointed down and to the side through an aperture in the canopy glazing sealed by a rubber gland.

After Pearl Harbour, the US recognised the low-level reconnaissance potential the Mustang had to offer. The USAAF held back 50 Mustang Mk. IA aircraft from an RAF order and converted them to F-6A standard with K.24 cameras behind the pilots head as with the RAF aircraft, and in the rear fuselage for vertical photography.

The RAF’s Mustang squadrons immediately carved out a role for themselves over occupied Europe, mixing visual and photographic reconnaissance with attacks on targets of opportunity. Two Mustang squadrons were heavily involved in the Dieppe landings, focussing on deep, low-level tactical reconnaissance of road networks around and behind the objective. The Mustang pilots were charged with searching for any signs of enemy forces being moved in to repel the assault. The roads were largely clear, and the reconnaissance missions had little to report, though the Mustang’s first air-to-air kill resulted from the operation, showing that the aircraft was not just a passive contributor to the war effort.

As 1942 passed into 1943, the RAF’s 2 Squadron spent much of the period photographing the Dutch coast for 34 (Photographic Reconnaissance) Wing. Missions known as ‘populars’ were essentially photo-reconnaissance with specific targets, usually requested by the Army. They could be offensive or not, depending on the importance of the target and the urgency of the information required. An experienced unit with the right facilities available could plan and launch a mission within an hour and a half of receiving the request, and the resulting photographs could be processed and assessed rapidly by specialist units, giving almost ‘real time’ intelligence.

Initially the AC Mustang Mk. I carried a single, oblique camera, which was later complemented with a vertical camera. These were automatic in operation (thanks to an electric motor) and photography was initiated by the pilot. The aim was to take a series of photographs at fixed intervals, while flying a fixed course to ensure good overlap between images. Images were often taken of the coastal areas, ensuring an up-to-date understanding of defences.

The Fighter Reconnaissance squadrons were clear that the Allison-powered Mustang was the most suitable aircraft for this function. It had become an accepted principle that they should be equipped with the fastest single seater aircraft at heights up to 5,000 ft, with a range of 600 miles. They had found that the high diving speed and stability of the Mustang made it ideal for low level oblique photography, and its performance allowed it to go toe-to-toe with the best German fighters if required. Its Allison engine proved highly reliable, with bearings that lasted much longer between overhauls than the Rolls Royce or Packard Merlin. Frequently engines that had been damaged by gunfire were able to drag aircraft and pilot home.

The USAAF learned a great deal from RAF operations, and its own tactical reconnaissance with the F-6A and F-6B variants were modelled closely on RAF practice. The F-6As did sterling work in the Mediterranean, as did the F-6Bs in North-West Europe, joining RAF Mustangs in building up a detailed photographic record of the French coast before the invasion in June 1944.

As the Mustang Mk. Is and Mk. IAs were gradually replaced during 1944 and 1945, it was arguably not with aircraft that were better-suited to low-level reconnaissance. Indeed, in some cases, (the Typhoon for example), the replacements were a retrograde step in terms of performance. Unfortunately, supplies of the Allison Mustang had all but run out after production switched to the Merlin-engined version.

Matthew Willis is currently working on a book on the Allison Mustang, its development, service and technical details, which should be completed this year

Hush-Kit awards for best-looking aircraft in production 2014: Category 11: Amphibious/seaplanes/flying boats

Let’s get salty with the awards for category 11!

Bronze: Dornier Seastar

It’s as if the Dornier Do 18 stuck on a pair of Marty McFly’s Nikes and hopped into the future. OK, it’s not strictly in production now, but it’s such a cutie we’re willing to flout our own rules to include it.


Silver: Beriev Be-200

It’s jet-powered, it can put out fires, it can land on lakes: the Bereiv Be-200 is a superb and characterful machine, with looks to match. We love it!


Gold: ShinMaywa US-2

In a world of grey plastic military jets and white homogenous airliners, there’s few real aeroplanes being built, one big exception is the fantastic US-2. The US-2 had to be the winner: if Captain Haddock was looking to pick up chicks this would be his vehicle of choice.Image

Just look at it!

Hush-kit awards for best-looking aircraft in production 2014: Category 1: Fighters

Hush-kit readers voted for the best looking fighter aircraft currently in production. Silence please as we open the golden envelope.


Bronze award: Saab Gripen
Though somewhat anodyne compared with Saab’s earlier Viggen, the perky Gripen is well proportioned, with a pleasing canopy and nicely shaped canards. The petite jet nozzle is pleasantly dainty.

Silver: Dassault Rafale
The best-looking Western fighter is, of course, the Dassault Rafale. A distinctive Y-shaped cross section, sensual lines and a touch of the TF-102 combine in a stylish and predatory form.

And the winner is……………

Gold: Sukhoi Su-35
Bill Sweetman noted how the ‘Flanker’ “looks incomparably bad-ass, as if God designed a pterodactyl to go Mach 2.”, the latest member of the family continues this tradition. The bird-like bend to the ‘Flanker’s forward fuselage gives it a noble and almost living appearance. The fuselage/wing blending lends its shape an integrity that most other fighters lack.

It also helps that the Su-35 is unsurpassed at airshow gymnastics (though the MiG-29OVT may be on a par).

Incomparably bad-ass, as if God designed a pterodactyl to go Mach 2

Incomparably bad-ass, as if God designed a pterodactyl to go Mach 2

Booby prizes in this category goes to the F-35B which looks like somebody force-fed a filing cabinet to the runt of a F-22 litter.

What is the best looking aircraft currently in production? Have your say

What is the best looking aircraft currently in production?

Have your say.
Categories (must currently be in production)
1. Fighter
2. Frontline military (non-fighter)
3. Military transport
4. Military other
5. Military STOVL
6. Military helicopters
7. Military trainers/LIFT
8. Airliners (larger)
9. Airliners (smaller)
10. Business jet
11. Amphibious/seaplanes/flying boats
12.  Light aircraft (non homebuilds)
13. Homebuilds
14. Aerobatic
15. Gliders
16. Civil helicopters
17. Emergency service helicopters
18. Other

I look forward to seeing your choices!

Is it right to use the word ‘plane’ ?




The case against

By The Aviation Historian’s Nick Stroud

Plane is:

a noun

1) a flat surface on which a straight line joining any two points on it would wholly lie

2) a level of existence or thought

an adjective

1) completely level or flat

a verb

1) to soar without moving the wings (bird or airborne object)

2) skim over the surface of the water

…but it is NOT an aircraft. The correct word is aeroplane, or airplane if you’re an American and absolutely must.

The case for

By Hush-Kit


Plane is a simple word that is widely understood.


Like most aeronautical words, aeroplane comes from French. Use of the word ‘aeroplane’ in British English predates the actual aeroplane by at least thirty years (and was around even longer in France). I’m not sure why it predates the Wright Brothers, perhaps it was used to describe the aeroplanes that failed to fly in that period, or maybe it was used to describe gliders.

The word ‘level or flat’, is from the Latin platanus and is nothing to do with the word aeroplane.

The ‘plane’ part in aeroplane comes from the Greek ‘planos’ meaning wanderer (I’m not sure if these words are derived from an earlier shared root word perhaps describing a plains wanderer).


Aeroplane has been around longer than the concept we use it to describe today (a powered, non-rotary wing, heavier-than-air flying machine). Insisting on an apostrophe before ‘plane’ is as archaic as putting one before bus (from omnibus, originally from the French voiture omnibus) or before car (motor-car). Car is a good example, the word was in popular use since the 14th Century, it meant cart, carriage or wagon. In 1895 the horseless carriage was called a ‘motor-car’; the very next year many were now simply calling it the car. We drive cars and we fly planes, there’s no need for us to drive ‘cars and ‘planes.



Plane is universally understood in the English-speaking world, to deny this is perverse and not very useful. The difference in time between the creation of the word aeroplane and airplane is tiny.

The American ‘airplane’ sounds a bit silly to some British English speakers, though many Brits do use it unintentionally. This corruption of aeroplane was used as least as early in 1907 and remains in service with most of English speaking world today, to ignore that could be seen as arrogant. To be fair, the Americans invented the airplane, so should be allowed to call it what they like.


Fortress versus Lightning: B-17 and F-35 compared


The Boeing B-17 and Lockheed Martin F-35 are two American bombers separated by around 70 years of history. They belong to the same weight class and bear interesting comparison.

First flight:

B-17 1935

X-35 2000 / F-35 2006

Time from requirement to service entry:

B-17 4 years (1934-1938)

F-35 23 years  (1992-2015 est. for B)


Maximum speed compared to average contemporary fighter:


287 mph/400 mph (71.75 %)


1200 mph/1450 mph (82.7 %)


B-17G:  1,738 nmi, 3219 km with 2700 kg (6,000 lb) bomb-load

F-35: 584 nm (1080 km) on internal fuel (combat radius)

Take-off speed:

B-17: 115 mph

F-35: 0 mph (B variant)

Maximum conceivable amount of enemy aircraft that can be destroyed by standard defensive weapons on one mission

F-35: 2

B-17G: 25+


Max loaded weight:

B-17G: 65K Ib

F-35: 70K Ib

Max internal bomb-load:

F-35: 4670 lbs

B-17: 8000 lbs (4500 lbs for long range missions)

Max bomb-load (including external munitions):

B-17: 17, 600 lbs

F-35: 18,000 Ibs

Max internal fuel:

F-35: 19,200 lb (C model)

B-17: 10, 200 lbs

Wing loading

F-35: 107.7 lb/ft² (526 kg/m²; 745 kg/m² max loaded)

B-17G: 38.0 lb/ft² (185.7 kg/m2)


B-17: $238,329

F-35: $170 million (flyaway average A/B/C 2013)

How many bottles of coke* could you buy with the cost of each aircraft (contemporary prices)?

F-35 is worth 113,333,333 cokes an aircraft.

B-17 was worth 4,766,580 cokes an aircraft in 1943.

The $238,329 it cost to build a B-17 would be worth $3,209,272.19 million today.

*based on bottle of Coca-Cola (1943): 5 cents, (2014): $1.50