Book recommendation: The World's Worst Aircraft

I noticed this book on the bargain shelf of Barnes and Nobel and picked it up--I haven't been able to put it down since. It's a terrific romp through 150 of the worst aircraft designs in history, but what it really is a catalog of all-too-common engineering errors, such as:

  • Solutions looking for problems (such as jetpacks and the Hillar hovering sniper platform)
  • Engineers designing planes with no sense of what pilots wanted
  • Dependencies on exotic fuels that aren't available
  • The "Gillette problem" of adding more wings than the last guy, including some crazy 8-wing things
  • Delivering so late that the need is gone.
It's beautifully illustrated and very funny, thanks to the sparking writing of Jim Winchester. And the stories are hilarious. Here's my favorite passage, about the ME 163 Komet, an experimental German rocket plane:

"The fuels in the Komet were highly corrosive and would dissolve organic material (such as the pilot). To avoid this, the pilots would wear special asbestos-fiber suits"

Kill you now or kill you later ;-)

Highly recommended!


Views: 806

Comment by Duane Brocious on November 26, 2010 at 8:54pm
The Komet was a very advanced aircraft and modern equivalents are just as dangerous.
The Komet used 80% hydrogen peroxide solution (T-stoff) which is much diffrent than the very dilluted product from the drug store. It creates massive amounts of heat and steam on contact with organic matter.
It really wasn't a dumb idea and is still being used in several ground based rocket applications such as drag racing motorcylces and cars.
Comment by Duane Brocious on November 26, 2010 at 10:12pm
You made me go get this book. Great stuff!!!! Thanks.
Comment by Jack Crossfire on November 26, 2010 at 11:32pm
Wanna ride a tank full of hydrazine hydrate built for the lowest bidder by slave labor?
Comment by Greg Fletcher on November 26, 2010 at 11:49pm
Jack, Stop knockkkin the >GOV. They put men on the moon before you crapped your /.,??>>
Comment by Greg Fletcher on November 27, 2010 at 12:00am
And they made it home. We have come a long way, and we're still here!

3D Robotics
Comment by Chris Anderson on November 27, 2010 at 12:03am
The ">GOV" that Jack was referring to were the Nazis. The Komet was a WWII German aircraft.
Comment by Duane Brocious on November 27, 2010 at 6:47am
The problem the Nazis had was over engineering everything which greatly reduced production of everything. Slave labor was for menial and labor intensive tasks not engineering and mechanics. Had the NAZIS not been so nit-picky they would have had 10 times as many tanks and aircraft and the world history would be much different today. We are very lucky that they were anal retentive, genocidal maniacs,
Comment by diego colonnello on November 27, 2010 at 9:47am
my favorite selections on this book.... Caproni Stipa (1932) and Christmas Bullet (1918) jajajajajajajajaja what where they thinking?????
Comment by Duane Brocious on November 27, 2010 at 10:16am
The Caproni seemed to be trying to make a deadlier GeeBee, : )
I like the Goblin myself, talk about tricky landings.
Comment by john bero on November 28, 2010 at 11:11pm
The geebee ws a leading edge design for one purpose: pylon racing. I would like to see this plane up against the stuff they race today. It might shock you.

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