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In a Moon's Course ....

Flying the ‘Lame Ducks’

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We most enjoy aircraft with realistic flight characteristics in flight simulation - and, by that, we simmers generally mean aircraft which function well. In the real world, though, there have been a lot of aircraft that were quite unsuited for their role – and in some cases, unsuited to ever being off the ground. The unfortunate flight crews assigned to these aircraft wrestled with these problems - and sometimes they never made it back.

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Ryan Fireball FSX

There are more than a few lists in magazines and in ‘Top Ten Worst Aircraft of (choose your era)’ web lists out there. See, for example, the Listverse and Wordpress blog sites for WWII examples. Here are several of these aircraft from that period that caught my interest as, other than the Botha, they have FSX or FS2004 aircraft in the Flightsim Library.

Blackburn Roc and Blackburn Botha. The company that brought out the wonderful Blackburn Buccaneer jet fighter had its share of dodos in earlier years. The Roc too was a Blackburn fighter, a derivative of their Skua dive-bomber fitted with a gun turret. It flew more slowly than many of the enemy bombers it was supposed to shoot down and had no forward-firing capability, which rather limited its venom. The sole confirmed victory in one was by a Midshipman Day, flying underneath a Junkers 88 otherwise engaged in combat with aircraft above.

The Botha was a reconnaissance/torpedo bomber that had the distinctive reputation of being both severely underpowered and unstable, generating the anonymous quote by a pilot forever memorialized with this aircraft, “Access to this aircraft is difficult. It should be made impossible.” No-one has had the fortitude to reproduce one of these aircraft for flight simulation pleasure yet, I think.

Fairey Battle. I give in my ebook an actual delivery flight story/plan for one of these light bombers, made by Peter Mursell of the ATA into France during the retreat to Dunkirk. They flew nicely but were not up to the military challenge they faced. Battles were relatively slow and were defensively armed with only two light rifle-calibre machine guns, one wing-mounted and the other in the rear of the cabin. During the Battle of France in 1940 combat engagements resulted in the loss of 200 of these aircraft in a period of 6 weeks and with them a lot of the RAF experienced aircrews. Victoria Crosses were awarded early in World War II posthumously to two members of a Fairey Battle crew, Pilot Edward Garland and Flight-Sergeant Thomas Gray. They were the lead aircraft of a flight that pressed home an attack on a bridge on the Albert Canal, Belgium. Only one of the six aircraft in the flight made it back.

Ryan Fireball. While being an innovative fighter (with a dual propulsion piston engine and a small jet engine) introduced towards the end of WWII, the Fireball had structural weaknesses that affected wing integrity (including one wing that fell off completely) and a variety of nose wheel problems, most evident during carrier landings. One aircraft broke in half on landing on the carrier USS Rendova in 1947 and the Fireball was withdrawn from service shortly thereafter.

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Bristol Bombay

Bristol Bombay. As a transport aircraft, the Bombay performed an important role early in the WWII but had already been identified as obsolete for the European theatre. In the Middle East it was used for transport and bombing purposes until sufficient Vickers Wellington bombers were available for Allied use there. As a bomber, the underwing load was supplemented by anti-personnel mines fused by hand being thrown out by crew members.

A Bombay shot down in North Africa in 1942 resulted in the death of Lieutenant General William Gott, who was due to replace General Claude Auchinleck. His death led to General Montgomery’s appointment.

Models (in the Flightsim Library):
Blackburn Roc. FS2004 (Kazunori Ito)
Fairey Battle. FS2004 (Edward Cook)
Ryan Fireball. FS2004 (Kazunori Ito)
Bristol Bombay. (Paul Clawson)

You may have other nominees for this unwanted title so comments are welcome – particularly if there is a flightsim aircraft available!

Allan Jones
[email protected]

Allan Jones is the author of In a Moon’s Course, an ebook of 28 World War II stories and flight plans of the Air Transport Auxiliary. The book is available at Amazon, Kobo, Barnes & Noble, W.H. Smith and other ebook online suppliers at $4.99 or local equivalent – around 18 cents a flight! Adobe pdf, Microsoft Word and on-line reading versions can be bought at the same price at the Smashwords web site book page.

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