What's looking for a space on a shelf?
And then there might have been...
You will have seen a reference or two by now to my shelves devoted to Crecy Publications' output with a strong core of real What If? designs, some of which have occasionally resulted in a few optimistic models, at least from me. One of the major threads of the my modelling is the chance to feature those unit - usually squadron - markings which are no longer worn, mostly those of fighter, and occasionally bomber, squadrons, a long-standing personal prejudice. The contents of this latest book in this series may offer me less opportunity for this, but some of the designs included are somewhat unusual and with a distinct if bizarre charm of their own; cover artists have an unerring eye for the eye-catching which I really appreciate. With one or two exceptions - that on the right being a prime example - most of them come with a high wing on a capacious fuselage, with either turboprop or jet engines paired with straight or swept wings respectively; these are notable examples of form following functions, which illustrates their prime task to carry vehicles or people to war.
This account starts with the entry of the United States in to the hostilities in 1941 - when the USAAF had about 30 DC-2s - and reaches a pause at the formalisation of the Cold War with the Cuban missile crisis (although it does include early supersonic designs); further progress will come with the second volume, in 2020. Many of the earlier "airfreighters" were conscripted civilian designs which had by 1945 evolved in parallel in to the foundation of the blossoming airline industry and which became familiar in Europe with the establishment of the Berlin Airlift.
By the end of the war the American industry was already producing prototypes designed to carry vehicles as well as troops, with the first to be produced in considerable numbers being the Fairchild C-82, its pod and twin boom layout being an influence for many years; and other prototypes were being prepared with some features fron WWII German designs, culminating in the Lockheed Model 206 with high wing and loading ramp as part of the lower fuselage below a high tail. The first Lockheed C-130 flew in August 1947, and with continual incremental development is still in production, still recogniseable, seventy-two years later. Its influence has been world wide, and even much more modern designs with wide variations in size and power have recogniseable points of similarity in both shape and operations.
The authors' summary of this volume points out that by the beginning of the 'sixties the airlift needs of the ground forces were being met by only three types, the C-123, the C-130 and the C-133 all of which were turboprop-powered, and the 123 was a powered version of an assault glider that originated in early 1946. At a first look through this book it seems to cover, with a few very notable exceptions, many similar-looking aircraft; a thorough read will reveal many variations on familiar themes, unsurprising perhaps when the majority originate from the project offices of Boeing, Douglas and Lockheed, and offer fascinating subjects for the aviation historian and enthusiast to study. The What If? modeller who truffles through the astonishing number of photos, sketches and line drawings will I suspect have to consider sticking to 1:144th; the end of this book foreshadows the C-5 Galaxy and the giant transports that the US Army needed to carry not only larger numbers of GIs but their substantial tanks and mechanised transports. Secret American Projects 3 will cover their development and introduction, facilitated by the arrival of the large jet engine which was equally responsible for the surge in civilian air transport. This next book in the series will I hope be with us later in 2020; and if you get a look at the proposed painting on the cover, your imagination will be gripped again!
Keep on Truckin'
At a time when we - or at least I - seem surrounded by uncertainty it's good to have a few familiar pieces of the jigsaw falling into an expected place. Even though the ends of my "Crecy" shelf seem to bulge slightly it's so good to have an addition to their Secret Projects coverage, and as you can see from the cover this follows the Secret Projects 2 above, progressing the theme to the present decade. As mentioned above this development was facilitated with the advent of the large jet engine, and while this is perhaps the major theme it is the possibilities of STOL and especially VTOL that grips my attention (and not just for the What If modelling ideas).
There was considerable effort put in to potential multi-service designs, with one section in this volume devoted to naval COD aircraft, some looking somewhat familar if occasionally unlikely; who knew there was a navalised Avro 748 proposal (and did anyone tell the Admiralty?). Understandably the story includes several variations on the C-130, or at least its layout, and I was vey taken with the model of an amphibian development that looks like a classic flying boat. A series of nuclear-powered designs shows the lengths in layout that were necessary to provide shielding from powerplant and reactor and a separate chapter shows the possible uses of basic transport designs as missile carrier and launcher, a multi-purpose possibility that seems to be revived at regular intervals.
With all of the books in this series I have an eye open for translating some of the designs featured in to models, or at least something bearing a passing resemblence. In the case of both these "American airlift" volumes this could be to use one of today's cult words, challenging, both because of the basic models available for substantial modification, and because of the likely size, although some of my colleagues in the 144th scale interest group may well raise an interested eyebrow. The illustration at the foot of this section, taken from the back of the dust cover thoughtfully already in a smaller size, is of one of the V/STOL possibilities if perhaps not probabilities; perhaps Fantastic Plastic could consider it. You'll find it on page 317 - like the other books in the series it's a substantial work - and you'll discover it's the Northrop Special Operations Forces Transport Aircraft (aka SOFTA), one of a series of designs from the beginning of the 'nineties; I'm even more taken by the McDonnell "Super Frog", and the little grey cells keep coming back to how this might be made to happen, in 1:144th obviously. This end of the book in particular offers many, largely unlikely, alternative projects which were probably always destined for obscurity, but which I am so pleased to see rescued for the knowledge of men. The reading, and the wondering at the illustrations, is as always in this series well worth the time; My thanks to authors and publishers, and I wait with well-founded hope for what migh next come off their drawing boards.
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