“What Might Have Been” – The XF-91 Thunderceptor – PHOTO TOUR

XF-91keyimageWARBIRD RADIO – As we continue our series on “What Might Have Been” we turn our attention to the XF-91.  Currently on display at the National Museum of the United States Air Force this bird is big and bold.  Here’s what the museum has to say:  The XF-91, a high-speed experimental interceptor, was America’s first rocket-powered combat-type fighter to fly faster than the speed of sound. The airplane had a number of unusual design features — an inverse taper wing (wider at the tips than at the roots), a variable incidence wing that could be varied in flight (high angle of attack for takeoff and landing and low angle of attack for high-speed flight), a main landing gear that retracted outward with the tandem wheels being housed in the wing tips and a rocket engine that augmented the standard jet engine to provide an outstanding rate of climb.

The airplane made its first flight on May 9, 1949. Numerous other test flights were made, providing valuable research data, but the airplane was not put into production because it did not carry sufficient fuel for a flight of longer than 25 minutes and did not incorporate the latest type of fire control system.

The XF-91 on display was transferred to the museum from Edwards Air Force Base, Calif., in May 1955.

Span: 31 ft. 3 in.
Length: 43 ft. 3 in.
Height: 18 ft. 1 in.
Weight: 28,300 lbs. loaded
Armament: Four 20mm cannons
Engine: General Electric J47 of 6,700 lbs. thrust with afterburner and Reaction Motors rocket of 6,000 lbs. thrust.
Cost: $5,000,000
Serial number: 46-880

Maximum speed: 984 mph
Cruising speed: 560 mph
Endurance: 25 minutes
Service ceiling: 48,700 ft.


“What Might Have Been” – Avro Canada’s Avrocar – Photo Tour

AvrocarKEYIMAGEWARBIRD RADIO – The Jetson’s idea of a flying car isn’t all that far fetched, just take a look at the Avrocar.  Currently on display in the National Museum of United States Air Force in Dayton, Ohio.  Here’s what the museum has to say about it:  The Avrocar was the result of a Canadian effort to develop a supersonic, vertical takeoff and landing (VTOL) fighter-bomber in the early 1950s. However, its circular shape gave it the appearance of a “flying saucer” out of science fiction movies of the period.

A.V. Roe (Avro) Aircraft Limited (later Avro Canada) based its design concept for the Avrocar on using the exhaust from turbojet engines to drive a circular “turborotor” which produced thrust. By directing this thrust downward, the turborotor would create a cushion of air (also known as “ground effect”) upon which the aircraft would float at low altitude. When the thrust was directed toward the rear, the aircraft would accelerate and gain altitude.

In 1952, the Canadian government provided initial funding but dropped the project when it became too expensive. Avro offered the project to the U.S. government, and the U.S. Army and U.S. Air Force took it over in 1958. Each service had different requirements: the Army wanted to use it as a subsonic, all-terrain troop transport and reconnaissance craft, but the USAF wanted a VTOL aircraft that could hover below enemy radar then zoom up to supersonic speed. Avro’s designers believed they could satisfy both services, but these two sets of requirements differed too much.

Research data originally indicated that a circular wing might satisfy both the Army’s and Air Force’s requirements, and Avro built two small test vehicles to prove the concept. Designated the VZ-9AV Avrocar (“VZ” stood for “experimental vertical flight,” “9” for the ninth concept proposal, and “AV” for Avro).

Tests with scale models at Wright-Patterson AFB, Ohio, indicated that the cushion of air under the Avrocar would become unstable just a few feet off the ground. The aircraft would be incapable of reaching supersonic speeds, but the testing went ahead to determine if a suitable aircraft could be developed for the Army. The first prototype-the Avrocar on display (serial number 58-7055)-was sent to the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) Ames Research Center at Moffett Field, Calif. There, wind tunnel tests proved that the aircraft had insufficient control for high speed flight and was aerodynamically unstable.

The second Avrocar prototype underwent flight tests that validated the wind tunnel tests. If it flew more than three feet above the ground, the Avrocar displayed uncontrollable pitch and roll motions, which the Avro engineers called “hubcapping.” The Avrocar could only reach a maximum speed of 35 mph, and all attempts to end the hubcapping failed. The project was cancelled in December 1961.

The second prototype aircraft went to the U.S. Army Transportation Museum at Fort Eustis, Va., and the first prototype Avrocar came to the National Museum of the United States Air Force in 2007.

TECHNICAL NOTES: Crew: Two Engines: Three Continental J69-T9 turbojets of 927 lbs. thrust each Wingspan: 18 ft. Height: 4 ft. 10 in. Weight: 4,620 lbs. empty




“What Might Have Been” The Piper PA48 ENFORCER – Photo Tour

EnforcerKeyImageWARBIRD RADIO – When you walk into the Research & Development Gallery at the National Museum of the United States Air Force (NMUSAF) one of the airplanes that jumps out at you is the Piper Enforcer.  The Enforcer is one of those “what might have been” projects from the 80’s.  On the surface it’s reminiscent of the P-51 but on the inside it’s a completely new airplane.  According to the NMUSAF’s website, the PA48 is a turboprop-powered light close-support/ground-attack aircraft built by Piper Aircraft Corp. Lakeland, Fla.  By direction of Congress, the USAF evaluated the aircraft, beginning in 1983. Testing was conducted in 1984 and the Air Force decided not to order the Enforcer.

Since the Enforcer was never in the Air Force inventory, it was not given an official military designation and did not receive an Air Force serial number. Instead, it carries the Piper designation PA-48 and Federal Aviation Administration registration number N481PE.


Span: 41 ft. 4 in. Length: 34 ft. 2 in. Height: 13 ft. 1 in. Armament: Mixed armament includes two GE GPU 30mm gun pods, MK-82 snakeyes, Bristol GRV-7 rockets, CBU canisters and MK-20 Rockeye antitank rockets Engine: Avco-Lycoming YT-55-L-9 turboprop of 2,445 hp C/N:48-350001 Registration number: N481PE (no USAF serial number assigned)


Maximum speed: 403 mph Range: 921 miles Service ceiling: 25,000 ft.


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