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For aircraft enthusiasts: when the more developed version is less successful

Discussion in 'Off Topic [BG]' started by Blazer, May 26, 2016.

  1. Blazer


    Nov 27, 2003
    The Netherlands
    Rogue luthier employed at Knooren Handcrafted bass guitars
    Well we have seen it happen time and time again, for example with the Fender Precision bass, which after getting the contours of the Stratocaster guitar and the split pickup n 1957 became the ultimate version of the said instrument, but Fender tried over the years to update the venerable design with active electronics, extra pickup, Lace Sensors updated neck designs only to find that it is the classic version of the model which remains the most successful.

    So let's talk about when that happened to planes. And I will start off with the P-51D Mustang.
    The evolution of the Mustang happened in significant steps, the engine was changed from the Allison V-1710 V-18 to the Rolls Royce Merlin which was being build by Packard and the next big development was when the canopy was changed into the teardrop shape which gave the pilot unrestricted all round vision. The P-51D was the ultimate Mustang.

    Or was it really? Because when Edgar Schmued, the designer of the Mustang went to England to see the production of Spitfires in action he took some notes on how the Mustang could be improved and it was all down to weight. The result of that was the P-51H
    Looks very similar to the P-51D but the two types share NO interchanging parts, the fuselage of the H is actually longer and sleeker and the wings have been completely redesigned. The Performance, as Schmued suspected was a vast improvement over what the P-51D offered.

    BUT with the production of the P-51D and P-51K (same plane but built in another plant) at full speed and demand for the planes at an ever high, the P-51H was produced in limited numbers, its older stablemate also saw action in Korea because of the sheer numbers that the P-51D was made, the P-51H was seen as surplus and never saw combat.

    Then there's the majestic Avro Shakleton
    The Shackleton was derived from the Lincoln bomber which itself was derived from the Lancaster. Meant as a maritime patrol aircraft. The first variant of the Shackleton MR 1, seen here still has the chin and back turrets of the Lincoln but as the plane was developed they would soon make way.

    This is the Shackleton MR 2 the elongated nose housing the big scary cannons clearly visible. This variant of the "Growler" as the Shackleton became nicknamed curtsy of the sound from its Rolls Royce Griffon engines and contra rotating propellers, was the most successful variant, being used for over 40 years in frontline service as an airborne early warning platform as well as the original role of Maritime patrol.

    So with the longevity of the Shackleton assured, the company went about to improve the design and came up with the MR 3.
    Well, impossible to miss the biggest difference between this variant and the other two: gone was the taildragger configuration which improved taxying ability to no end but that wasn't the only improvement.
    Creature comfort was also addressed, with padding on the inside of the fuselage so the operators could work without being deafened by the reason why the plane was called the "Growler" as well as it now having a gully where the crew could rest and a toilet.
    An MR 3 as operated by the only export customer of the type: South Africa.

    But MR 3 turned out to be a dog, the fitting of the tricycle undercarriage meant that the whole balance of the plane had to be changed and that in term led to fatigue issues in the main spar. As a result, it was deemed to be more valid to improve the older MR 2 model and cease the MR 3's production.

    This diagram shows perfectly the difference between the three variants of the Shackleton.

    THIS is the Lockheed T-33 "Shooting star" AKA the T-bird. Which almost seventy years after it first took to the sky is still in service with several air forces (although not with the Dutch, we retired ours in the early seventies.)

    Now the T-bird had several derivatives. Such as the F-94 Starfire all weather interceptor. Which came with unguided missiles in the nose.

    And the naval trainer T-2V "Seastar" which had a revised fuselage and strengthened undercarriage for deck landings.
    Neither of those two was made in significant numbers and also wasn't in service that long.

    Then in the eighties Boeing started to offer conversion kits turning old T-33 airframes into THIS.
    They called it the Skyfox but no orders were placed and with only one made it faded into obscurity.
    The Skyfox and a normal T-33 together, you wouldn't be able to tell that they are the same plane.

    Then we have the Northrop F-5 Tiger
    Which still is a dependable plane and still is a regular sight in the skies all over the world.

    But when Northrop started work on what would eventually become the F-18 Hornet, they also wondered if their R&D on that plane could be to good use to upgrade the F-5 series too, since they figured that it would make it a cheaper to buy plane than the F-18 was.

    And thus the F-5G, later renamed the F-20 "Tigershark" came to be.
    The F-20 had the same avionics of the F-18 and used the same engine, although only one, not two like the original F-5 series or the F-18 for that matter.
    Sadly though, the market that Northrop were trying to get with the Tigershark already had a stellar seller in the shape of the General Dynamics F-16 Falcon. So after only three prototypes made the project was abandoned.
  2. GIBrat51

    GIBrat51 Innocent as the day is long Supporting Member

    Mar 5, 2013
    Lost Wages, Nevada
    T-38 Talon.jpg Excellent post, as always; but... no mention of the very successful plane that the "OK" F-5 was derived from - The T-38 Talon Advanced Jet Trainer? Shown here in the short-lived Thunderbird paint scheme. A very good looking Thunderbird, I always thought (and I've seen every plane they've ever flown, all the way back to the straight-winged F-84s). Sadly, I was stationed here at Nellis when the entire team crashed in these, up at Indian Springs...:(
  3. Gorn


    Dec 15, 2011
    Queens, NY
    How about an all inclusive aircraft enthusiast megathread?
    Stewie26 likes this.
  4. Sav'nBass

    Sav'nBass Supporting Member

    Jan 18, 2009
    Virginia Beach
    So are you into flights is at all?
  5. skwee


    Apr 2, 2010
    Great thread!

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