(Roughly) Daily

“Flying is learning how to throw yourself at the ground and miss”*…


The Christmas Bullet – with unsupported wings intended to flap like a bird’s – is widely regarded as the worst aircraft design in history (US Government)

It’s more than 110 years since mankind first took to the air in a powered aircraft. During that time, certain designs have become lauded for their far-sighted strengths – the Supermarine Spitfire; Douglas DC-3 Dakota; or the Anglo-French Concorde supersonic airliner, to name a few.

But then there are planes like the Christmas Bullet. Designed by Dr William Whitney Christmas, who was described by one aviation historian as the “greatest charlatan to ever see his name associated with an airplane”, this ”revolutionary”prototype biplane fighter had no struts supporting the wings; instead, they were supposed to flap like a bird’s. Both prototypes were destroyed during their first flights – basically, because Christmas’s “breakthrough” design was so incapable of flight that the wings would twist off the airframe at the first opportunity.

Just as many of the world’s most enduring designs share certain characteristics, the history of aviation is littered with disappointing designs. Failures like Christmas’s uniquely unflyable aircraft often overlooked some fairly simple rules…

The Douglas TBD Devastator was a death-trap; it could only release its torpedo flying in a straight line whilst dawdling at 115mph – making it easy to shoot down. (US Navy)

The Messerschmitt Me-163 Komet was the only rocket fighter to enter service; pilots only had three minutes’ worth of fuel and had to glide back to base. (Baku13/Wikimedia)

See additional airborne accidents-waiting-to-happen at “World’s worst planes: The aircraft that failed.”

* Douglas Adams


As we fuel our fear of flying, we might send soaring birthday greetings to Sally Kristen Ride; she was born on this date in 1951.  Trained as a physicist, Ride became an astronaut after responding to a newspaper ad in 1977; she was the first American woman to orbit the earth when she flew aboard Space Shuttle Challenger in 1983.  (She was preceded into space by two Russian women.)  She remains the youngest American astronaut ever to go to space.



Written by (Roughly) Daily

May 26, 2014 at 1:01 am

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