Entries by Cayley

Boeing 707

The Boeing 707 was the aircraft that ushered in the age of mass air travel. The first US commercial jet, it could carry many more passengers than the largest propeller-driven airliners while halving long-distance journey times. Pan Am boss JuanTrippe said of the introduction of the 707: “In one fell swoop we have shrunken the earth.” Boeing spread the […]

Hughes H-4 Hercules

In 1942 American millionaire and aviation enthusiast, Howard Hughes, and ship-builder, Henry Kaiser, were jointIy awarded $18 million of US government funding to build a “flying liberty ship”. This was to be a huge flying boat capable of ferrying American soldiers and military equipment across the Atlantic, free from the threat of German U-boats. Kaiser withdrew from the project when it […]

Santos-Dumont Demoiselle

Alberto Santos Dumont’s delicate Demoiselle (“damselfly”) monoplane was the true ancestor of all ultralights. A Brazilian-born Parisian dandy, Santos-Dumont was renowned for airship flights before he turned to creating heavier-than-air machines in 1905. His public demonstration flights in his first powered aircraft during October 1906 – the first in Europe caused a sensation. But this was a clumsy box-kite biplane that, at best, managed […]

Caproni Ca.60 Transaero

With his Ca.60 Transaero, Italian designer and manufacturer Gianni Caproni produced an over-ambitious monster to set alongside Howard Hughes’s notorious “Spruce Goose”. This weird, ungainly craft was inspired by the dream of aeroplanes replacing ocean liners on the world’s major long-distance passenger routes. An enormous “triple triplane” flying boat, the Ca.60 had no fewer than nine wings, arranged in banks of three. The […]

Lockheed Vega

The stylish Lockheed Vega was a charismatic aircraft that scored high on both looks and performance. Designed by Jack Northrop for the Lockheed Aircraft Company, it was a fast, high-winged monoplane with room for six passengers. The Vega owed its exceptionally clean lines to its smooth semi monococque plywood fuselage, built in two halves in a concrete mould, and its cantilever wing free […]

Northrop Grumman B-2A Spirit

The formidable B-2 Spirit is an American multi-role stealth bomber capable of not only penetrating sophisticated enemy defences, but also of attacking heavily defended targets with both nuclear and conventional weapons. Aware that Northrop’s living-wing bombers of the late 1940s had been difficult to track on radar, the US Air Force approached the company in the 1970s when it required a subsonic bomber to penetrate Soviet […]

Lockheed F-104 Starfighter

When it first appeared in 1954, the super-fast, lightweight F-104 Starfighter was dubbed “the missile with a man in it”. Designed by Lockheed’s Kelly Johnson, it was both small and simple – indeed, F-104s were memorably described by journalist Tom Wolfe as “chimneys with little razor-blade wings”. The first combat aircraft capable of sustaining speeds above Mach 2, the Starfighter had an […]

Vickers Wellington

The twin-engined Wellington, affectionately known the “Wimpy”. was the RAF’s most advanced bomber aircraft going into World War II. It boasted a “geodetic” construction patented by inventor Barnes Wallis, its fuselage and wings being formed from a latticework of intersecting aluminium units, but could only be fabric-covered, a major disadvantage. However, the resulting airframe was light, damage-resistant, and easily repaired. This was extremely fortunate, […]

Heinkel He 178

The Heinkel He 178 was the world’s first aeroplane to fly purely on turbojet power. It was mi experimental prototype built to test feasibility of the jet engine developed by Dr Hans von Ohain. Apart from its powerplant, it was a conventionally designed, small monoplane with a duralumin fuselage and a mainly wooden wing. The engine’s air intake was located in the nose. […]