Curtiss P40

Curtiss P-40

Most famous fighters are magnificent thoroughbreds, the best of the best of their contemporaries, if only in some sharp tactical way that, very temporarily, makes them special. The P40 was an exception. Competent and rugged, its brilliance flowed not from its very mediocre specifications, speeds, and performance, but from the sharp minds and aggressive spirit…

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Grumman F6F Hellcat

Grumman F6F Hellcat in action

The robust Hellcat was the primary U.S. carrier fighter of the last two years of the Second World War. Unlike many other famous combat aircraft, it was a simple airplane, simply developed, and was put into production after detailed comparison with what the U.S. Navy accurately perceived as its primary foe: the Mitsubishi A6M Type…

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Rumpler Taube

Early Rumpler Taube

If today’s fighting machines seem versatile compared to the cheaper hardware of 40 or so years ago, it’s a full circle process. In aviation’s early days, specialization didn’t exist. If it could get into the air–precarious enough before the Great War–it was an airplane, and it might be called upon to do more or less…

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Sopwith Camel

Sopwith Camel taking off

The Sopwith Camel was credited with the destruction of 1,294 enemy aircraft during World War I, thus claiming the unique distinction of obtaining more air-to-air victories than any other single type in that conflict. Developed from the Pup, the Camel was utterly conventional for its time, wings and fuselage comprising wire-braced wooden structures with fabric…

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Sopwith Pup

Sopwith Pup flying

Pilots who flew faster, more famous, more sophisticated airplanes have been known to wax poetic discussing the tiny Sopwith Pup, some even claiming it was the most perfect flying machine ever made. Objectively, it likely was the most delightful and easy to fly aircraft of the 1914-18 conflict. Though underpowered in its 80 h.p. version,…

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