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The World's Worst Planes: Aircraft Designs That Failed

samzenpus posted about 5 months ago | from the what-goes-up-must-come-down dept.

Transportation 209

dryriver (1010635) writes in with an interesting look at some aircraft that should have stayed on the ground. "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."

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Does not matter (4, Insightful)

sabri (584428) | about 5 months ago | (#47071157)

Successful people are those who fail and don't give up. The same is true for aeronautical design. If you don't fail a couple of times, you won't win either.

Re:Does not matter (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#47071221)

Well, tell that to Hitler!

Re:Does not matter (4, Funny)

FatdogHaiku (978357) | about 5 months ago | (#47071703)

Well, tell that to Hitler!

Oh My Godwin!

Re:Does not matter (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#47072467)

Well, tell that to Hitler!

Oh My Godwin!

You are right. However let's tell it to the Beta people where it will be more politically correct and where they show a remarkable determination not to give up no matter how many times they are asked to. You have replicated the numbered links; that is good. You have added the "quote parent" that is good (though it's a big shame it only works once; often we quote once, edit, quote again, edit). You still waste huge amounts of space and the fact that you show so few comments (because you don't fold up some to just their titles) makes Beta still unusable.

Most importantly, you need a web feedback form for those who don't feel like dealing with more email spam.

In the end, you may actually succeed in rewriting the entire classic discussion system. That will be better than the current beta.

Re:Does not matter (4, Interesting)

Jeremiah Cornelius (137) | about 5 months ago | (#47071229)

One of my FAVE failures:
McDonnell XF-85 Goblin [wikipedia.org]

What WERE they thinking?

Re:Does not matter (4, Interesting)

Nidi62 (1525137) | about 5 months ago | (#47071291)

One of my FAVE failures: McDonnell XF-85 Goblin [wikipedia.org]

What WERE they thinking?

Does the Antonov A-40 [wikipedia.org] count?

Re:Does not matter (1)

Hamsterdan (815291) | about 5 months ago | (#47071865)

First attempt at building Blitzwing?

Re:Does not matter (1)

lgw (121541) | about 5 months ago | (#47071347)

The concept actually makes sense, when you remember that the bombers for a time had a longer range than the fighters, and would have to fend for themselves over Germany with no fighter escort - so carrying the fighters inside the bombers, hey, it was worth a try.

I think the idea made more sense when Zepplins were still being pondered by the military, but I'm not sure anyone ever had a good plan for actually recovering the fighters after launching them.

Re:Does not matter (1)

chihowa (366380) | about 5 months ago | (#47071739)

They were recovered via a trapeze system. It's mentioned on the wiki page [wikipedia.org] , and in a little more depth here [airvectors.net] . Pretty interesting stuff.

Re:Does not matter (1)

rossdee (243626) | about 5 months ago | (#47071943)

"the bombers for a time had a longer range than the fighters, and would have to fend for themselves over Germany with no fighter escor"

While the carrier aircraft was designed for the 2nd world war, (but didn't go into service until after the war) the Goblin jet fighter was designed during the cold war.

What really killed the idea was air-air refueling, it made the idea unecessary. ,"I think the idea made more sense when Zepplins were still being pondered by the military, but I'm not sure anyone ever had a good plan for actually recovering the fighters after launching them."

I think you are refering to the Ackron and the Macon. The little biplanes had no problems launching and docking with those carriers. What killed that project was the loss of the airships (in aeparate storms)

Re:Does not matter (4, Insightful)

Anonymous Psychopath (18031) | about 5 months ago | (#47071409)

One of my FAVE failures:
McDonnell XF-85 Goblin [wikipedia.org]

What WERE they thinking?

They were thinking that many bombers were getting shot down after their shorter-range fighter escorts had to peel off and head home. It wasn't clear at the time that mid-air refueling could work.

Re:Does not matter (1)

nitehawk214 (222219) | about 5 months ago | (#47071743)

Wait, they were not sure mid air refueling could work, but they thought they could dock a fighter to a bomber in mid air? What sense does that make?

Re:Does not matter (4, Interesting)

camperdave (969942) | about 5 months ago | (#47071857)

It makes a lot of sense. They had experience with docking aircraft. It used to be done with dirigibles in WWI.

Re:Does not matter (4, Interesting)

arth1 (260657) | about 5 months ago | (#47071413)

I see your Goblin, and raise you a De Lackner HZ-1 Aerocycle [wikipedia.org] .

The operator is standing on an open hub platform on top of a helicopter rotor. What could possibly go wrong?

Re:Does not matter (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#47071725)

I see your Goblin, and raise you a De Lackner HZ-1 Aerocycle.

The operator is standing on an open hub platform on top of a helicopter rotor. What could possibly go wrong?

Now I want to build a quadcopter version of that. I wonder if it would have been possible to build a self-stabilizing quadcopter using the analog tech of the 40s.

Re:Does not matter (1)

I'm New Around Here (1154723) | about 5 months ago | (#47072139)

That's awesome. The pilot steers by shifting his body weight. It's like a prehistoric version of the segway scooter.

Re:Does not matter (1)

Culture20 (968837) | about 5 months ago | (#47072149)

It's like a flying segway!

Re:Does not matter (4, Funny)

wonkey_monkey (2592601) | about 5 months ago | (#47072615)

Intended to be operated by inexperienced pilots with a minimum of 20 minutes of instruction

Is that a typo? Is it supposed to say "life expectancy"?

Re:Does not matter (1, Insightful)

flyingsquid (813711) | about 5 months ago | (#47071383)

How in the hell can you write an article called "The World's Worst Planes" and not include the massively over-budget and behind-schedule F-35 Lightning II?

Re:Does not matter (2)

Algae_94 (2017070) | about 5 months ago | (#47071565)

Because budget and schedule aren't really the be all and end all of planes. I don't see how you can put the F-35 Lightening II in the top 10 worst planes ever (Over 110 years of planes).

Re:Does not matter (1)

jd2112 (1535857) | about 5 months ago | (#47071723)

Because budget and schedule aren't really the be all and end all of planes. I don't see how you can put the F-35 Lightening II in the top 10 worst planes ever (Over 110 years of planes).

How about worst for the money? It could be the best plane ever made and still qualify.

Re:Does not matter (1)

schnell (163007) | about 5 months ago | (#47071871)

How about worst for the money? It could be the best plane ever made and still qualify.

At least it will eventually fly. All the "worst ever" list would consist of massively expensive R&D efforts that never produced a flying aircraft, like the XB-70 Valkyrie [wikipedia.org] , the Boeing 2707 [wikipedia.org] , or to a lesser extent ones that were cancelled but had some of their R&D incorporated into a different aircraft like the B-1A [wikipedia.org] . Aircraft that were expensive to develop and saw only a few flights would also top that list, like the Tupolev Tu-144 SST [wikipedia.org] or the Hughes "Spruce Goose" [wikipedia.org] .

The F35 has been a huge clusterf**k - largely because it had some wholly unrealistic goals to start out with (*cough* V/STOL *cough*) - but aviation history is full of clusterf**ks that out-clusterf**k it by a significant margin.

Re: Does not matter (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#47071969)

The XB-70 project produced two flying aircraft; the march of technology (high altitude SAMs and ICBMs) obsoleted it, but it was otherwise viable.

Re:Does not matter (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#47072153)

the valkyrie flew: two of them did, and flew amazingly well and fast. go learn something.

Re:Does not matter (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#47071897)

At $2bn per aircraft and only 21 units ever produced, the B-2 stealth bomber attained a level of boondogglery (is that a word?) that the F-35 can only dream of.

Re:Does not matter (2)

MightyYar (622222) | about 5 months ago | (#47072179)

Only because the cold war ended. Procurement costs were more like $1 billion. If they had purchased the original complement of over 100, I expect that would have gone down. Still very expensive, but remember that it would have required the Soviets to spend a fortune upgrading their air defense.

Re:Does not matter (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#47071401)

Unfortunately Failures are also those who fail and don't give up.

Re:Does not matter (1)

Mister Liberty (769145) | about 5 months ago | (#47071423)

This is on the verge of being a rhetorical tautology.

Re:Does not matter (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#47071629)

If you don't fail a couple of times, you won't win either.

Unless you win first time of course.

Re:Does not matter (3, Interesting)

Kittenman (971447) | about 5 months ago | (#47071709)

Successful people are those who fail and don't give up.

Nonsense. This sounds like one of those take-aways from a life coach seminar. Successful people are those with good ideas, don't give up, are lucky, are in the right place at the right time, and ... and... and... But the good idea thing is a starting requirement. A successful idea is rarely a bad one.

Cue people responding with bad, successful ideas. (Seriously, I'm interested).

Re:Does not matter (2, Funny)

Culture20 (968837) | about 5 months ago | (#47072161)

Cue people responding with bad, successful ideas. (Seriously, I'm interested).

Corn Flakes. They were designed to induce chastity. Terrible implementation, but wildly successful product.

Re: chastity (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#47072511)

Have you ever had Sex right after eating cornflakes?
Or even wanted Sex right after eating cornflakes?

Re:Does not matter (1)

nitehawk214 (222219) | about 5 months ago | (#47071735)

Successful people are those who fail and don't give up. The same is true for aeronautical design. If you don't fail a couple of times, you won't win either.

Not when it comes to engineering. Failure is always an option. Some people are just terrible at it and should pursue other careers, preferably ones where people will not die when they make mistakes.

Re:Does not matter (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#47072055)

Are you implying that flapping wing aircraft are a sound design if only we didn't give up?????

Re:Does not matter (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#47072581)

Why not? The MUTO in the new Godzilla movie flies by flapping its wings.

Re:Does not matter (1)

jcrb (187104) | about 5 months ago | (#47072079)

Yes this is how we advance the state of the art.
Among my favorite engineering maxims are;

Experience is directly proportional to the amount of equipment ruined

and

Good judgement comes from experience, and experience comes from bad judgement.

The Concorde failed too (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#47071195)

You see any flying today? Too expensive, too niche, too fragile. Let's face it, the future is more efficient and less showy. The high-energy future we thought we'd have in the 1960s never materialized.

Re:The Concorde failed too (1)

nitehawk214 (222219) | about 5 months ago | (#47071755)

Of the examples given, remaining Spitfires are historical pieces, but there are 70 year old Dakota's still flying and doing work every day. Now that is a mark of a successful plane.

Re:The Concorde failed too (4, Informative)

GrahamCox (741991) | about 5 months ago | (#47072165)

The Concorde was most definitely NOT a failure. In scheduled service for 27 years? Almost 50,000 flights at supersonic speed? That's not a failure - plenty of "classic" aircraft have not flown anywhere near as long. Concorde's main problem was that the USA took against it out of spite, because they didn't like to be beaten in aerospace technology. (which is weird, because Britain and Europe certainly admired the contemporary achievements of Apollo, and the 747, etc). That meant that it wasn't the economic success it should have been, but it was and remains a technical triumph.

Stupid (5, Informative)

c6gunner (950153) | about 5 months ago | (#47071197)

They include the DeHaviland Comet - a fantastic aircraft which set the standard in the airliner industry for decades to come. It did suffer from a design flaw which caused several crashes, but those crashes helped us learn a lot more about metal fatigue and the structural integrity of aircraft, and lead directly to improved safety in later designs. It was also fixed as soon as it was identified. Suggesting that the Comet was one of "the worst planes" - or that it should have never have flown - is just plane ignorant.

Re:Stupid (0)

the_humeister (922869) | about 5 months ago | (#47071263)

They include the DeHaviland Comet - a fantastic aircraft which set the standard in the airliner industry for decades to come. It did suffer from a design flaw which caused several crashes, but those crashes helped us learn a lot more about metal fatigue and the structural integrity of aircraft, and lead directly to improved safety in later designs. It was also fixed as soon as it was identified. Suggesting that the Comet was one of "the worst planes" - or that it should have never have flown - is just plane ignorant.

Thank you for not putting in "no pun intended." How I hate that phrase. Now I look like the asshole for pointing it out.

Re:Stupid (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#47071543)

I believe the pun was intended.

Re:Stupid (2)

antifoidulus (807088) | about 5 months ago | (#47072285)

Um, the pun WAS intended, as the spelling of the word if it weren't would be "plain", not "plane".

Re:Stupid (4, Informative)

Jeremiah Cornelius (137) | about 5 months ago | (#47071287)

DH Comet? It also had a real problem with birdstrike...

Having the engines in-line with wing-plane was aerodynamic, but limited turbine diametre while increasing risk in event of failures.

But agreed. Beautiful and elegant plane - far advanced over Yank planes from Lockheed and Boeing. The oval-window variant was especially so. I flew on BOAC Comet 4's as a child. They don't make 'em like this now...

Re:Stupid (1)

by (1706743) (1706744) | about 5 months ago | (#47071299)

Not to mention the fact that it is, to my way of thinking, stunningly gorgeous: http://www.oocities.org/capeca... [oocities.org] http://www.oocities.org/capeca... [oocities.org]

Something about the way the jet intakes are integrated into the wing. Very pretty!

Re:Stupid (1)

Spy Handler (822350) | about 5 months ago | (#47071335)

Pretty, yes. Safe, no. Placing the engines at some distance from the aircraft's main structure turns out to the a great safety feature in the event of an engine fire or explosion.

Re:Stupid (4, Informative)

Richard_at_work (517087) | about 5 months ago | (#47072595)

Turns out that isn't as much of an issue as you think - the Comet airframe became the base airframe for the Nimrod maritime patrol aircraft, which flew in regular service from the 1960s right up to 2011, without a single airframe loss due to engine placement.

Yes, but people died (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#47071353)

It did suffer from a design flaw which caused several crashes, but those crashes helped us learn a lot more about metal fatigue and the structural integrity of aircraft, and lead directly to improved safety in later designs.

Yes, but people died.
 
Was it utterly impossible to learn this lesson without putting that flying time bomb in the air?

Re:Yes, but people died (1)

Deadstick (535032) | about 5 months ago | (#47071569)

Was it utterly impossible to learn this lesson without putting that flying time bomb in the air?

Well, no. There's another way: Start a war. Then your government gives you truckloads of money, and you can do all the testing you want with test pilots, and only a few people die.

Of course, huge numbers of people die from other causes, but aeronautical research doesn't get the blame.

In the history of the people who died to give you a way to get to Las Vegas that's so fast and safe you can afford to bitch about getting felt up by security droids, the Comet affair is scarcely a bump.

Re:Stupid (1)

GrahamCox (741991) | about 5 months ago | (#47071407)

I must say I totally agree with you - including the Comet in such a list is utterly stupid. Sure by modern standards you can easily look back and point out various issues with the plane's design, but at the time, none of that was known. Every advance in a field is going to look quaint once sufficient time has passed. And as for the comment that "people died!", well that's a shame, but people die all the time. People died in Spitfires and P51s too, in far greater numbers. Does the fact that these aircraft were not proof against being shot down make them bad? Arse. (I know you didn't make that point, but if I'm going to rant I'd rather do it in one go).

Re:Stupid (1)

calidoscope (312571) | about 5 months ago | (#47072003)

Except that Boeing, Convair, Douglas and Lockheed figured out how to put windows on pressurized airliners before the Comet flew.

Re:Stupid (2)

GrahamCox (741991) | about 5 months ago | (#47072147)

The real problem wasn't the shape of the windows (which were NOT rectangular, they had rounded corners), but the thinness of the skin combined with a stress point. The skin was thinner than typical because the jet engines of the day were not very powerful, so the weight had to be shaved down to the minimum that would work safely. Unfortunately they got that wrong. If it had been built with the same skin thickness as those pressurized Boeing/Convair/Douglas piston-engined aircraft, the windows would not have failed. But then the plane would have been too heavy to fly. By the time Boeing caught up 5 years later, jet engines were already much improved in power, making the weight saving unnecessary. Remember the Comet first flew in 1949 - that's very early, even pressurization wan't very mature, let alone jet power. Boeing's 367-80 which led to the 707 first flew in '54.

Re:Stupid (1)

Assmasher (456699) | about 5 months ago | (#47071479)

Indeed.

Unknown design flaws often helped identify new areas of concern, e.g. the compressibility issue with early P-38s.

Re:Stupid (1)

Algae_94 (2017070) | about 5 months ago | (#47071573)

They also had the DC-10 listed. A Plane that flew for 44 years and had it's last flight months ago.

Re:Stupid (1)

Registered Coward v2 (447531) | about 5 months ago | (#47071645)

They also had the DC-10 listed. A Plane that flew for 44 years and had it's last flight months ago.

Actually, it's last passenger flight was a few months ago but it's still in use as a cargo hauler with FedEx.

Re:Stupid (3, Funny)

LordLimecat (1103839) | about 5 months ago | (#47071719)

Weren't DC-10s flying for many thousands of years longer than that? I feel like I've heard something about that.

Re:Stupid (1)

NoMaster (142776) | about 5 months ago | (#47071791)

Go home Xenu, you're drunk...

Re:Stupid (1)

Diddlbiker (1022703) | about 5 months ago | (#47071803)

No that's the DC-8.

Re:Stupid (1)

LordLimecat (1103839) | about 5 months ago | (#47071821)

Ah, my mistake. Its still quite a remarkable operational service record.

Re:Stupid (1)

Diddlbiker (1022703) | about 5 months ago | (#47072039)

And in space, as well!

Re:Stupid (1)

c6gunner (950153) | about 5 months ago | (#47071763)

They also had the DC-10 listed. A Plane that flew for 44 years and had it's last flight months ago.

Yeah, I'm sure the list included several poor choices - the Comet was just the one that stuck out the most, for me. I know the DC-10 was successful and long-lived; I don't know much about it otherwise.

Re:Stupid (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#47071623)

They also had no idea about the square windows increasing the stresses on the surrounding metal. If I remember correctly, other aircraft manufacturers privately admitted that had de Havilland done the square windows first (and discovered, unfortunately through hull loss incidents and deaths), they would have.

Re:Stupid (3, Interesting)

Registered Coward v2 (447531) | about 5 months ago | (#47071663)

They include the DeHaviland Comet - a fantastic aircraft which set the standard in the airliner industry for decades to come. It did suffer from a design flaw which caused several crashes, but those crashes helped us learn a lot more about metal fatigue and the structural integrity of aircraft, and lead directly to improved safety in later designs. It was also fixed as soon as it was identified. Suggesting that the Comet was one of "the worst planes" - or that it should have never have flown - is just plane ignorant.

In addition, they left out the Lockheed L-188 Electra which also had a series of early crashes due to a design flaw called whirl mode flutter which resulted in the wings diverging from the fuselage's flight path. Nonetheless, it soldiered on and a variant still flies today as the P-3 Orion.

Re:Stupid (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#47071667)

The same thing can be said about the early Boeing 707. When it was introduced it had an awful safety record. Crashes occurred with alarming frequency and, at the time, there were no black boxes installed so all that could be learned about the cause was from the wreckage and what the crew said if they had any chance of calling in a "mayday". Some of the crashes were clearly due to pilot error, thanks to their inexperience with jetliners. One was due to a lightning strike which caused a wing to explode. Another was due to a violent updraft while flying near Mount Fuji in Japan which caused the plane to break up in midair. But most of the deaths were not in vain—small comfort to the victims and their families—but Boeing learned a lot from these failures.

When the 747 was being designed a few years after the introduction of the 707, the knowledge gained was employed to create a very safe airplane. Given how long the 747 has been in service, its safety record is remarkable. When you look at recently introduced airliners such as the Airbus A380 and the Boeing 787 Dreamliner, despite their recent problems such as a devastating engine disintegration on the A380 a few years ago and the 787's battery fires more recently, none of these planes have crashed even though hundreds of both models are in service today.

Re:Stupid (1)

gman003 (1693318) | about 5 months ago | (#47071985)

The Comet is the exact opposite of the kind of aircraft they were supposedly listing.

It was incredibly advanced for the time. The one major flaw it had was unknown at the time - the best engineers in the field couldn't figure it out even when they recovered 90% of the airframe from a crash.

In the various hearings, engineers from competing aircraft companies admitted that they wouldn't have found the flaw either, and the only reason it's Comets that flew with such a defect and not DC-8s or 707s is because the Comet came out first.

Damn BBC (3, Insightful)

kooky45 (785515) | about 5 months ago | (#47071209)

Anyone like to repost the content for us poor UK residents who aren't allowed to see the BBC's own content!?

Re:Damn BBC (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#47071333)

Of course ,this is to punish the people that pay the monthly fee.

it's a worthless article (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#47071373)

The article is a list of mediocre airplanes. The article is titled "World's worst planes: The aircraft that failed". The article's title is incorrect. I recommend completely ignoring it.

Not so sure about some of these picks (4, Informative)

the_humeister (922869) | about 5 months ago | (#47071253)

So the MiG 23 wasn't as popular as the MiG 21. That doesn't really make it a failure. Their first two examples were definite failues ( Fairey Battle and Douglas TBD Devastator): easy to shoot down.

Where's the Goblin (3, Informative)

Spy Handler (822350) | about 5 months ago | (#47071267)

I went through the slideshow but didn't see my favorite, the XF-85 Goblin parasite fighter. At the time, jet fighters had very limited range and in-flight refueling hadn't been developed yet, so there was a great concern about how to protect long-range bombers from enemy jets when your own jet fighters can't escort the bombers very far, and long-range piston engine fighters (i.e. the P-51) would be outclassed by enemy jet fighters.

So they designed this tiny jet fighter to be carried under the B-36, and if you saw enemy jets approaching, release the Goblin which would fight off the enemy and then return to the B-36 and dock with it via a trapeze. Good idea in theory, but two things killed it off: 1) You needed superhuman piloting skills to successfully land on the mothership... maybe Chuck Yeager could do it but most pilots couldn't, and 2) in-flight refueling became possible.

I always thought it was pretty cool though, like an aircraft carrier in the sky.

Re:Where's the Goblin (1)

crgrace (220738) | about 5 months ago | (#47071283)

Indiana Jones piloted a parasite fighter in Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade. I never knew those things were real!

That was no failure (1)

Opportunist (166417) | about 5 months ago | (#47071285)

As long as we learn anything out of it, it was a success.

F35? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#47071357)

If Mig 23 was a failure because it couldn't replace Mig 21 then let's see how that will work out for F35 vs F15/F18

SCNR!

Moeller Skycar (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#47071361)

Has not flown with a human, ever. And he's been pushing this silly concept since the 1970s at least.

Re:Moeller Skycar (1)

Deadstick (535032) | about 5 months ago | (#47071603)

And he's been pushing this silly concept since the 1970s at least.

Silly? That's four decades of very nice income for Mr. Moeller.The Skycar does precisely what it's designed to do.

Pretty Lame Selection (5, Insightful)

awrc (12953) | about 5 months ago | (#47071381)

At least most of these actually got off of the ground and some really don't belong in a list of bad aircraft - the example of the Comet has already been raised, the MiG-23 wasn't a bad plane by any means - unforgiving of inexperienced pilots, but so was the F-104 and *that* one gets included in a lot of "best planes ever" lists. Total production of the MiG-23 family is over 5,000 - bad planes don't get built in that sort of numbers.

Throw in planes that were pretty adequate in their time but verging on obsolete when they had their 15 minutes (the Devastator), those that weren't actually bad but had the misfortune of being the successor to something so successful it wouldn't go away (the Albacore). It's difficult to call the Me 163 a bad plane - it was a desperate measure that made it very dangerous, but it's a very significant type. The He 162? Another desperation measure, but one of the more trusted opinions on the merits of aircraft (Eric "Winkle' Brown) found it a downright joy to fly, although again it was (again) unforgiving of inexperienced pilots, which perhaps wasn't the best quality for something intended to be flown by pilots with minimal training.

Besides, there are so many things that can ruin otherwise good designs - how many 50s US jets are considered jokes because the DoD decided they were to be powered by the Westinghouse J-40? Not bad planes, but a bad engine. Some planes that escaped from the J-40 and had alternate power plants suggested (F4D, for example) ended up being considered classics.

Gee Bee (3, Informative)

godel_56 (1287256) | about 5 months ago | (#47071419)

OK how about this one. From memory, it killed just about everyone who owned it.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gee_Bee_Model_R

Re:Gee Bee (2, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#47072251)

As touchy as the Gee Bee is (and it's a motherfucker to fly, even as an RC model) it's relatively sane compared to the original Lockheed widowmaker [wikipedia.org] . Stubby little wings requiring fast touchdown velocity, plus a downward-firing ejection seat preconfigured to dig the pilot his own grave: the only surprise is that they didn't require a separate seat for the pilot's ballsack (which must have been enormous going by the odds of survival in these things)

The Spruce Goose (4, Informative)

riverat1 (1048260) | about 5 months ago | (#47071449)

I think Howard Hughes Spruce Goose could fit in this category. It only had one flight and never got out of ground effect.

Re:The Spruce Goose (1)

Bonobo_Unknown (925651) | about 5 months ago | (#47071795)

Arguably Howard Hughes Spruce Goose was a fantastic success. But not from a aeronautical engineering point of view. In fact Howard Hughes did about zero to increase the field of aircraft design, nothing ever worked (at least in time to be useful) and none of his designs ever made it to production.

Re:The Spruce Goose (1)

MouseTheLuckyDog (2752443) | about 5 months ago | (#47072561)

Technically the war ended before the plane was ready. If the war went into extra innings it might be different story.

Re:The Spruce Goose (1)

mcmonkey (96054) | about 5 months ago | (#47072069)

What about the Spruce Moose?

Huge oversight missing from the list.

Question (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#47071521)

So you're saying I should stop flying my Christmas Bullet over populated areas?

What no Canadien's Arrow (1)

denisbergeron (197036) | about 5 months ago | (#47071567)

Look like the biggest aircraft flop of the world AREN'T there. But the articles is slashdoted so who knows?

Re:What no Canadien's Arrow (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#47071687)

The Arrow was quite technologically advanced, including a revolutionary wing design that's still being used today. The Arrow was killed because of politics (budget concerns and possibly pressure from Uncle Sam), plain and simple

Re:What no Canadien's Arrow (1)

dryeo (100693) | about 5 months ago | (#47072449)

As the AC says, it was very advanced but killed by pressure from the Americans who didn't want a neighbouring country to have a better plane then they could make and also needed expertise to work with their Germans and build a space ship to go to the Moon.

book was out in 1990 (3, Informative)

Mspangler (770054) | about 5 months ago | (#47071591)

http://www.amazon.com/Worlds-W... [amazon.com]

My favorite is the Blohm and Voss Bv-141. Symmetry is for weenies.

Me163 Komet... what the? (2)

NewtonsLaw (409638) | about 5 months ago | (#47071619)

How dare they include the Me163 Komet in a list of "worst planes" -- it was a groundbreaking craft (in more ways than one -- get the pun?) which highlighted the innovation (and desperation) of the Germans near the end of WW2.

Yes, the choice of fuel components made it horrendously dangerous and the limited flight-times did reduce its utility but it was undoubtedly *the* fasted aircraft of WW2.

BBC plays Cracked.com? (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#47071651)

...

Shameless plug (2)

DaveAtFraud (460127) | about 5 months ago | (#47071669)

One of my favorite treeware magazines is Air & Space Magazine [airspacemag.com] published by the Smithsonian. They have a frequent series of articles on the theme, "Some ideas will never fly." Definitely a much more creative and well reasoned critique of a number of airplane ideas that, well, will never fly.

Several of the planes singled out by the BBC article really weren't all that bad when they were initially in service (Brewster Buffalo, Douglas TBD Devestator, Fairey Battle). They were just kept in service long after they should have been retired and their pilots and crews paid the price. That's not a fault of the airplane; it's a fault of the politicians who decided to spend the money to modenize elsewhere.

Cheers,
Dave

Re:Shameless plug (1)

Arker (91948) | about 5 months ago | (#47071713)

The Buffalo in particular was not a bad plane. After the US decided it was unusable the stock was sold east and these planes actually served with the Finnish air force with distinction against the Russians through the end of the war.

A few differences of course. The Russian airplanes were probably a notch below the Japanese at the beginning of the war, though by the end that was no longer true. But two changes the Finns made were crucial - modifications to the engine to improve reliability, and a very different tactical doctrine - flying to the planes strengths and avoiding testing it where it was weak.

mankind? (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#47071775)

sounds sexist. use humans, humanity, people instead.

*steps off soap box*

Same for cars... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#47071817)

http://www.lanemotormuseum.org/

Anything ... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#47072011)

.... with a Ryanair logo.

Boulton-Paul Defiant (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#47072061)

My own candidate would be the Boulton-Paul Defiant. It was a WWII fighter that could only shoot backwards. The idea was to fool Luftwaffe pilots into thinking it was a Hawker Hurricane and attacking it from behind - a plan that worked for about a week. But apparently it was something of a success as a night fighter, so perhaps it wasn't quite the worst ever.

How about a kickass plane? (1)

Scottingham (2036128) | about 5 months ago | (#47072171)

Enough of these flops (though, as others have said, the list kinda sucks).

http://www.solar-flight.com/su... [solar-flight.com] The sunseeker duo is the most innovative design I've seen in a while. Solar plane!

Gotta see The Wind Rises (1)

ukemike (956477) | about 5 months ago | (#47072217)

Miyazaki's new movie about a Japanese airplane designer frequently features the fanciful designs of Caproni. While watching the movie I kept thinking how odd it was that they made a biopic about real people and had such unreal planes, but I was wrong every strange plane in the film was real.

This one crashed on it first test flight.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/C... [wikipedia.org]

Anyway it is a fantastic film. If you love aeronautical history it just cannot be missed.

I see your problem (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#47072349)

Daytime disaster
        The Fairey Battle was a 1930s-era daylight bomber; by the time it saw service against the Germans in 1940, it was hopelessly outclassed. Nearly 100 were shot down in a week. (RAF)

No wonder! It has 3 giant targets painted on it!

Icarus (2)

Tough Love (215404) | about 5 months ago | (#47072419)

The original fail

Wrong Tactics, Weapons (3, Insightful)

bkmoore (1910118) | about 5 months ago | (#47072497)

The article calls a lot of sound aircraft designs failures because they were employed improperly (wrong tactics) or the weapons they were designed to carry weren't ready by the time the war started. An example, the TBD-1 losses at Midway were the result of attacking Japanese battle ships without fighter escorts and by the outdated torpedoes that couldn't be dropped at high speed without breaking up when hitting the water. The Grumman TBF-1 Avenger was "successful" because by the time it entered service, more modern torpedoes were available and military planners knew that torpedo bombers needed fighter escort.

The parallel in Europe is in 1939, both the British and the Germans tried sending daylight bombers without fighter escort into battle. Every time, they suffered unacceptable losses. The point is in 1939 to 1940, aerial warfare was so new that most military planners did not know how to properly employ their air forces, or what the capabilities and limitations of their aircraft were. At the time, Bomber Generals saw fighter production as competition for resources, i.e. aircraft. The Bomber people at the time believed Stanley Baldwin's quote from 1932, "the bomber will always get through."

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