The fastest propeller-driven airplane was developed during the Second World War?

The fastest propeller-driven airplane was developed during the Second World War?

Science and technology is constantly moving forward, but that doesn’t mean that some records will just continue to be broken. While planes with piston engines are still being developed, many roles nowadays are being fulfilled by jets. Therefore, it doesn’t really come as a surprise that the fastest propeller-driven airplane was actually born during the Second World War. However, we’re not really sure which one would it be.

You may think that describing such record is simple – whichever one was the fastest is the record holder. But there are some layers to this question that we’d like to explore. But, first things first, the official record holder is Grumman F8F Bearcat – American single-engine carrier-based fighter aircraft.

Rare Bear, heavilly modified Grumman F8F Bearcat, is the fastest piston-engined airplane in the world. (Don Sleeter, Wikimedia)

It took off for its maiden flight in August 1944 and was a mighty impressive aircraft. It was so potent, so quick and so versatile it managed to stay in service up until 1963, but even then it never stopped flying. AT this point enthusiasts wanted to get their hands on one and many did.  Grumman F8F Bearcat became popular between acrobatic flying pilots and air racers. Of course, for these purposes plane had to be heavily modified. That was how the fastest of them all – the Rare Bear – was born.

Rare Bear, extremely modified F8F Bearcat, dominated Reno Air Races for decades. It was just too fast for others to even think of competing with it. Its official record is 850.24 km/h and so it is the fastest airplane with piston engine in the world. Or is it?

Hawker Sea Fury was fast in service already, but people have modified these planes for air racing. (Don Ramey Logan, Wikimedia(CC BY-SA 4.0)

Rare Bear holds the official record, but another heavily modified airplane, based on British Hawker Sea Fury. This fighter plane was also born at the end of the Second World War. Seeing that war is pretty much over, RAF lost interest in Hawker Fury, but the Royal Navy still wanted the fighter, so a Sea Fury version was developed. It was amazingly quick for its time, but, when got even quicker after it finished its service and got into hands of acrobatic pilots and air racers. Unofficial record of highest speed of propeller-driven airplane belongs to a heavily modified Hawker Sea Fury – 880 km/h.




So we know which airplane holds the record. But both of the contenders were heavily modified and it is kind of interesting to see, which airplane was the fastest straight from the factory. That would be German Dornier Do 335 Pfeil. It was introduced at very late stages of WW2 and didn’t manage to prove its full potential. However, we do know it was the fastest propeller-driven airplane in the entire war.

Blue Angels, United States Navy’s flight demonstration squadron, transitioned to the Grumman F8F-1 Bearcat in 1946. (USN, Wikimedia)

Dornier Do 335 Pfeil had two engines mounted in the fuselage and each one of them drove a separate propeller – one was pushing the airplane, while the other one was pulling. This peculiar arrangement meant that Do 335 Pfeil could reach speeds of up to 765 km/h and even if one of the engines was turned off or disabled it could still fly at 563 km/h. Only 11 fighter planes were delivered in 1945 until Americans took over the factory, but those Allied pilots who witnessed the Do 335 Pfeil could not believe its speed at level flight.

Dornier Do 335 Pfeil had to engines and two propellers – one was mounted on the tail of the airplane. (Guinnog, Wikimedia(CC BY-SA 3.0)

Now the only surviving example is in a museum, so we will never know what speed could it reach in a dive. However, we do know that a British Supermarine Spitfire reached 1,110 km/h speed in a dive in 1952. That’s the closest propeller-driven airplane ever got to the speed of sound. That is an impressive performance, but it is far from the actual fastest plane in the world.

A similar Supermarine Spitfire got close to the speed of sound several times, but only in a dive. (RAF official photographer , Wikimedia(CC BY-SA 3.0)

That would be Lockheed SR-71 Blackbird, which in 1976 reached 3,530 km/h. This strategic reconnaissance aircraft is retired from 1988, but is still regarded as one of the best airplane designs ever.



Sailplane with ambitions – glider is going to try reaching the edge of space (Video)

Sailplane with ambitions – glider is going to try reaching the edge of space (Video)

Sailplanes are magnificent machines. They soar high in the sky, elegantly jumping from one stream of rising air onto another. It is a really beautiful sight and, we believe, a nice thing to experience too. However, one sailplane is not looking for fun – it is getting ready to make world‘s jaws drop as it will literally reach the edge of space at an altitude that was never touched by any other piloted aircraft before.

It is called Airbus Perlan Mission II, but before we start talking about its impressive plans and goals, we should take a look at what makes its dream possible. There is a phenomenon called mountain waves. It is waves of air that have been used by glider pilots since 1932. Einar Enevoldson, a NASA Test Pilot, once noticed that these waves might by a little taller than people think and spent the period of 1992-1998 researching them. The data he collected left little doubt that these waves actually reach stratosphere and are strong enough to take a sailplane there.

Airbus Perlan Mission II is prepared for cold and extreme speed for when it is going to storm the record altitude in 2019. (Perlan Project/a>))

That is how Perlan Project was born with an objective of researching stratospheric waves from their inside. Scientists also say that taking a glider to the stratosphere could help get more reliable data about planet’s climate, since measurement will not be corrupted by the aircraft’s own polution.

The task of getting so high is far from easy. First of all, these waves are only active during winter and only close to the Earth’s poles. Having in mind that mountains are necessary too, it does not leave that many places that they can try their idea at. And, of course, reaching high altitudes with a sailplane requires some daredevil characteristics as well as specially prepared glider.

On August 30, 2006 Steve Fossett and Einar Enevoldson took the standard Parlan 1 glider to the altitude of 50,671 feet (15,460 m) – that is an official record for gliders. Cabin was not pressurized, so pilots had to wear pressure suits borrowed from NASA. Now Perlan is moving onto the second stage, when the team will be aiming to reach the altitude of 90,000 feet (27,432 kilometres) – something no other piloted aircraft has ever been able to do.

Airbus Perlan Mission II has a crew of two. The sailplane is on its way to Argentina for this year’s testing. (Perlan Project/a>)

Standard gliders, obviously, cannot go that high, so a new aircraft had to be built. Airbus Perlan Mission II, named after the main sponsor, has a pressurized cabin, wingspan of 84 feet (25.6 meters) and weighs around 816 kg. It was already flying in Argentina last year, but due to bad weather could not reach the desired altitude. Instead, team performed a number of tests that gave them needed information for future attempts. However, Airbus Perlan Mission II did reach its own record altitude of 30,615 feet (9.33 km) in April this year.

Some more information and flight footage

Conditions at the edge of space are not the most pleasant, as the air density at the record altitude is only 2 % of what we have at sea level, temperature is way below than what commercial airliners have to deal with and speed that Airbus Perlan Mission II is going to achieve is stressfull for any type of  aircraft – 403 mph (648.47 kph).

Airbus Perlan Mission II is going to reach altitudes that were never touched before by a piloted aircraft – even U-2 or SR-71 have never been that high. However, this is only the second stage from three – in the final stage glider will try reaching 100,000 feet (almost 30.5 km). For that transonic wings are going to be needed.

At the moment Airbus Perlan Mission II is on its way to El Calafate in Argentina. Tests are scheduled for July and attempts to reach the altitude of 90,000 feet  – in 2019. We’re going to post on the progress of the project as well as more information about the technical characteristics of the aircraft. So stay tuned and cross your fingers for Perlan’s success.



The shortest flight in the world – how short is it and why is it needed? (Video)

The shortest flight in the world – how short is it and why is it needed? (Video)

How far do you go when you need to buy some groceries? Chances are that if you flew by plane, it still would not be the shortest scheduled flight in the world. Airplanes are convenient transport, but are usually used to cover long distances, because trains, cars and buses are better suited for short trips. So why the shortest scheduled passenger flight in the world exists? How short is it exactly?

The longest flight in the world, Doha-Auckland by Qatar Airways, covers more than 14.5 thousand kilometers and takes at least 16 hours to complete. It is not as insane as it sounds. For people, who do need to get to New Zealand or to come back from it, it is much more convenient than transferring one or two times on the way. However, it still sounds a little painful to sit in a plane for so long. Good thing most flights are shorter.

Pilatus Britten-Norman BN2B-26 Islander is perfectly suited for the task. (Mark Longair, Wikimedia(CC BY-SA 2.0)

What was the shortest flight you have ever taken? Less than an hour? Maybe half an hour? Sounds like ages compared to the actual shortest scheduled passenger flight in the world. Before telling you about it, we have to define what makes a flight qualify for this record.

First of all, it has to be somewhat needed for people – it cannot be just for entertainment. It also has to be regular and conducted by some airlines. However, it does not have to be international or extremely popular.

Speaking of which, the shortest international flight for some time has been Friedrichshafen-St. Gallen over Lake Constance, but now it’s been canceled. Why? Well, it was never meant to be very popular. From the very beginning environmentalists were criticizing the flight for bringing unnecessary noise to a rather beautiful area and polluting atmosphere for no reason. A train would take 2 hours to go from one city to another, while car ride is possible too. However, a flight, covering only about 20 kilometers and taking 8 minutes was established anyway, thinking it will bring around 40 thousand passengers a year.

That, of course, didn’t happen, so this April the route was cancelled. There really cannot be any profit in these ultra-short flights. However, the shortest scheduled passenger flight in the world has no problem with money.

Westray to Papa Westray flight, carried out by Loganair is the current record holder. The route is partially funded as a subsidized public service obligation. Why? Westray are Papa Westray are a couple of small islands in Orkney Islands in Scotland, United Kingdom. Westray has a population of almost 600, while less than a hundred people live in Pappa Westray. It means that you really should not think about a bridge – it is simple not viable.

This is how the shortest scheduled passenger flight in the world looks like

Ferry, of course, is an option and it is being used for cargo and, sometimes, people. But both islands have rocky beaches, which do not make job easy. The flight helps bringing students and scientists to archeological sites and is crucial for the wellbeing of people in Papa Westray – that is how doctors come to see them. The flights between the two islands occur daily, but on weekends 8-seater plane flies only one way.

There are many shorts flights in the world, usually between some islands. However, it is unlikely that something is going to beat this record anytime soon. Officially it takes 2 minutes to fly from Westray to Papa Westray, but usually flight only lasts for about a minute or even less. Could it be a tourist attraction? Maybe, but a nice flight over many islands is probably more exciting.



284 tonnes against one Porsche – no sweat, no drama (Video)

284 tonnes against one Porsche – no sweat, no drama (Video)

Porsche is one of those automotive companies that never shy away from a challenge. By now it has achieved so much that it really doesn’t need to prove anything. It makes probably the best sports cars in the world, it has reached countless victories in sport competitions, it is demonstrating impressive business results – it’s got everything. But Porsche SUV’s, as popular as they are, really didn’t get their medals. However, the Cayenne has now finally reached a new level of fame.

Obviously, Cayenne is a very important car for Porsche. It basically saved the company – that’s how popular it was. But it is not a sports car – it is a heavy SUV. So what is it good for?

Well, as you will see in the video, it is good for road tripping from the UK to France in comfort. That comes as no surprise. And then it can tow an Airbus A380 out of its hangar. Wait, what?

It is a new achievement in the Guinness World Records books. A completely standard Porsche Cayenne SUV managed to pull the 284 tonnes of a plane over the course of 100 feet (30.48 metres). The previous record belonged to the Nissan Patrol, which towed an aircraft weighing 170.91 tonnes. So the record was not only broken – it was crushed to pieces.

As you might have noticed, it was just a common diesel Porsche Cayenne with a 4.2 litre engine that did it. Sure it is powerful and has lots of torque, but it is just an ordinary car – you can buy one like this tomorrow and pull another Airbus A380 if you want to. Porsche experts just had to make sure that pressure in the tires was correct and that the car was in a good shape.

One might notice that it is not the most powerful SUV on the market. We don’t know how long it will take for someone to beat this record but there is no denying that it is mighty impressive. Porsche is famous for its reliability, speed and handling. And now for pulling a seriously heavy plane. It didn’t even look like it broke a sweat…

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