Wednesday, 2 October 2013

My Favourite Aircraft

I've gotten so caught up in starting uni that I had completely forgotten about this post, I had started to write it but it no longer fits the context I was writing in so I'll start again...

A question often asked when you say you're studying Aerospace Engineering or just that you like aircraft is "What is you're favourite plane?" I've had to answer it a couple of times in the last week, my favourite is easy so I'll leave that to the end, but a top 5 would be much more representative of what I like, and also a bit more difficult to work out. Anyway, here goes:

I say here goes, but before I get started with the top 5 I will quickly list a few that didn't quite make the list but I like and on a different day might make the list:
  • L39C Albatross
  • F-16 Fighting Falcon 
  • Eurofighter Typhoon
  • Panavia Tornado
  • Airbus A380
  • Boeing 747-800
  • Boeing 787-900
  • Airbus A350
  • Cessna 337 Skymaster
  • Icon A5
  • Vickers VC-10
  • Airbus A400M
  • Boeing C-17 Globemaster III
  • Avro Lancaster
  • Douglas DC-3 
  • Radial Rocket

5: The Boeing Stearman
Breitling Wing-walkers at RIAT 2013

© Graham Haley
I have always loved the Boeing Stearman for the look and sound of it, also, the thought of flying in one with the open cockpit has always been a dream for me. The old bi-plane design with radial engine up front has a sense of nostalgia to it that reminds me of World War 1 aircraft. I also get a reminder of the early days of flying when the pilot had much less instrumentation in the cockpit and each flight was it's own adventure.

I have always had a soft spot for the sound of a radial engine and if you haven't hear one I suggest listening to this link on the Radial Rocket site. I can remember walking home from school one sunny afternoon around a year ago, I looked up when I heard an unusual sound. Sure enough there was a bright yellow Boeing Stearman flying at around 1,500ft. The sight of an aircraft like this that you don't see flying everyday combined with the wonderful engine note really did make my day.
© Graham Haley
4: Supermarine Spitfire/Hawker Hurricane
Hawker Hurricane (Left), 2 Supermarine Spitfire's (Right) @ RIAT 2010
© Graham Haley

I have never been able to choose my favourite of these two iconic WWII fighters, the noise made by the Rolls Royce Merlin and Griffon engines used in them seems to have an effect on everyone. Although the sleek metal design of the spitfire is enough to win over most, you have to admire the wood and canvas rear half of the Hurricane as well as it's status as the unsung hero of the Battle of Britain.

Although I can't decide on a favourite, they are both great aircraft and British icons. If anyone was to ever offer me a ride in one I definitely wouldn't say no.

3:  SIAI Marchetti SF.260 
Image from
Aside from the fact that I would love to own one of these aircraft in the future and tremendously enjoy flying the one I have for flight sim, there is one reason why I really like them...

Wing-tip pods (fuel tanks)!!! 

Image from
Almost all aircraft can be made to look better by the addition of wing tip fuel tanks, fact. The Marchetti is a wonderful airframe that is fully capable of aerobatics as well as being a superb cruising aircraft for general aviation due to it's high speed. They are flown but a number of air-forces as trainer aircraft and by some as fighters, most notably they are flown by 'Air Combat USA' who featured on one of the 'Top Gear' American specials.
2: Avro Vulcan 

Another British icon to add to the list, the cold war delta wing is recognised by many. I have been privileged enough to sit in the pilot's seat of one of these aircraft as well as standing under at least 3 that I can remember. One of those 3 was XH558 at RIAT this year when we were allowed to cross a live taxiway in one of the best hours of my life (that however was to do with a multitude of aircraft passing including the Red Arrows and an Airbus A400M).

XH558 'Raising the Gear' after take-off on Saturday 20th July @ RIAT 2013
© Graham Haley

The number of systems visible in the bomb-bay of a Vulcan is incredible. In XH558 there is also the plaque's of supporters names on the bomb-bay doors. For those that don't know Vulcan XH558 is the only Vulcan still flying and is privately owned by the Vulcan to the Sky Trust. Currently they are looking to do some major works to the aircraft in order to extend flying life by another 2 years but the aircraft will be grounded in 2015. If you do ever go to see XH558 then look for my name on the final plaque in the bomb-bay.

One of the main reasons that the Vulcan is so famous is it's part in the first Operation 'Black Buck' where XM607 flew from Ascension island to the Falklands and back with the help of Victor tankers. I have been fortunate enough to meet the pilot of the first mission, Martin Withers DFC, which at the time was the longest bombing mission in history. 

XH558 taking off from runway 09 on Saturday 20th July @RIAT 2013
© Graham Haley
Not only do I love the Vulcan for it's history and the amazing story of it's successes, but like man others I love the sight of the huge delta wing flying through the sky. Finally, anyone who has ever heard the sound from the 4 Rolls Royce Olympus engines will understand my love for this amazing aircraft.

1: De Havilland Sea Vixen 
The only flying Sea Vixen at RNAS Yeovilton Airday 2009
© Graham Haley
 For my explanation of why I like the Sea Vixen so much I shall just tell you the story of first seeing one. RNAS Yeovilton Air Day was the first airshow that I went to (I'm not aware of going to any others that I may have been to earlier in life), I was in one of the hangars having a look around at the stands when I heard some awesome jet engine sounds. Not the roar you get from a Typhoon or F-16 using reheat, but a bassy, thunderous sound. Upon poking my head outside the hangar I saw what I thought was a superb aircraft, clearly old, but the twin tail booms and swept wing design with the fuel tanks on top of the wing was simply the best thing I had ever seen. A cliche I know, but it really was love at first sight.

The only flying Sea Vixen at RNAS Yeovilton Airday 2009
© Graham Haley
After the Sea Vixen had landed and the Rolls Royce Avon engines whined whilst she taxied, (I say she as the aircraft is known as 'Foxy Lady') I went over the have a look. The details on the Sea Vixen were something else, the triangular jet intakes in the wings, the slightly offset cockpit and the general look of the aircraft was superb. Unfortunately the camera and my use of it were much poorer than they are now so I don't have any superb photo's of it, but one day i hope to go down south and at least see one flying again.