The Junkers were the Prussian German-speaking aristocracy who controlled vast estates in what is now Eastern Europe. The story of that unhappy chapter of European history and how it got that way, is best to left to other writers on Medium.

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Junkers J 1. Photo by Peter Grosz

In this case, we are talking about a long line of innovative aircraft produced by an engineer named Hugo Junkers, whose original aircraft the J 1 was the world’s first flyable all-metal aircraft, and one of the fastest machines of its day in 1915. The firm went on to produce a limited number of other types during the Great War. Just after the war, a four-passenger monoplane designated the F-13 was produced, which has the distinction of being the world’s first all-metal airliner. The outer skin used duralumin, a copper-manganese-aluminum alloy. By using a corrugated structure the metal was strengthened further, reducing the need for rivets and making it easy to work with. …


De Havilland Canada’s ‘flying pick-up trucks’ had made the company and its products a household name in the frozen north of Canada, and the then-new US state of Alaska, by the 1960s. Many isolated communities were almost entirely dependent on transport links provided by the DHC-2 Beaver and its larger sibling the DHC-3 Otter. When Pratt & Whitney Canada, maker of the Wasp radial (piston) engine on the Beaver and Otter, began producing a small turbine engine, named the PT6, the designers at DHC recognized an opportunity. …


Geoffrey de Havilland’s eponymous company was thriving in the ‘Roaring 20s’ as the world entered a heady period of growth, following the carnage of what was being called the Great War. A number of innovative designs were produced, and de Havilland finally hit pay dirt with the D.H.82 Tiger Moth. In 1931 the Royal Air Force adopted this wood-and-fabric biplane, with its benign handling characteristics, as the basic trainer for its pilots.

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A D.H. 82 Tiger Moth at Ratmalana airport in Ceylon. DP collection

This led to a surge in orders as the Tiger Moth (not to be confused with the preceding D.H.60 Moth/Gypsy Moth) was acquired by many other air forces around the world, especially as the clouds of war began to gather in the mid-1930s. Almost 9,000 Tiger Moths (of all variants) were built over the next decade, including many examples at a dedicated subsidiary facility in Toronto, Canada, named De Havilland Canada (DHC). …


Alliot Verdon Roe was another of the world’s almost-forgotten aviation pioneers. In 1909, only six years after the Wright brothers first flew in Kitty Hawk, North Carolina, young Roe designed, built and flew the first British aircraft in Hackney, near London.

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Avro 504 at Duxford. Courtesy Imperial War Museum

A.V. Roe and his brother Humphrey formed the Avro aircraft company in 1910. Their first successful model was the Avro 504 biplane that served in the First World War. The type was very popular for its benign handling characteristics, and served post-WW1 as a trainer, with almost 9,000 being built; a record for its time. …


The Ukraine is a huge expanse of fertile steppe in Eastern Europe. This land with a long and turbulent history has been fought over for millennia. It is known as the breadbasket of the region, and possibly because of this has suffered two devastating famines in recent history. The Russian Famine in 1921 after the Revolution led to the deaths of an estimated 5 million and another caused by the collectivization of agriculture under Stalin in 1932, known as the Holodomor, killed up to 12 million more.

Neither these tragedies, nor the turbulent recent history of the region, is however the subject of this column. …


The Cold War, a contest of wills between the Soviet Union and the ‘West’ led by the United States, was at its height in the 1950s. The Soviets were determined to prove that its scientists’ technological prowess was superior to the West’s, regardless of economic and societal factors.

Part of this was the showcasing of advanced aircraft and aerospace technology. With the launch of the Sputnik satellite into space in 1957 the Soviets enjoyed a triumph. …


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The legendary Ford Model T known as Tin Lizzie. Photo courtesy silodrome.com

A hundred years ago the Ford Motor Company was an industrial colossus, its pioneering River Rouge factory in Michigan being the largest manufacturing plant in the world. Ford automobiles dominated the roads, with 500,000 examples of the legendary Model T sold before the First World War began in 1914. By the end of the 1920s Ford had 20 assembly plants scattered around the world — in North and South America, Europe, Australia, South Africa and Asia. …


Airline travel, as enthusiasts know and passengers accept unthinkingly, is the safest means of transportation in the history of mankind. But almost every type of aircraft has met with accidents; even the legendary Boeing 747 was involved in many, especially during its early years.

To find a type that has never been in an accident that resulted in passenger fatalities while in commercial service, one has to search long and hard. One recent standout is the Airbus four-engine A340 family of airliners. There have only been a handful of accidents involving the A340 in airline service, none of which resulted in deaths. The best known is that of the Air France A340–300 that had a runway excursion on landing at Toronto’s Pearson International Airport in August 2005. There were many injuries and the aircraft was destroyed by fire, but thankfully no lives were lost. …


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A deserted street in Melbourne’s central business district. Photo by Zoe Singleton on Twitter

Six months into the coronavirus pandemic, the world is slowly coming to terms with the fact that life, as we knew it in early 2020, has changed forever. Melbourne, Australia where I live, is in ‘lockdown’ for a second time and it shows no sign of ending soon. New virus infections are stubbornly persistent and a panicked state-government appears to be paralyzed. The only noise to be heard other than birdsong, is a gentle sigh as the economy collapses.

COVID-19 is proving to be the seminal event in modern history, dwarfing even 9/11 and the SARS epidemic in its economic impact. The crisis has impacted the airline and travel industries particularly hard. We are only now coming to terms with how much damage has been done to an industry which was worth half a trillion US Dollars in 2019. …


The USA’s Convair aircraft manufacturing firm was previously known as Consolidated Vultee, the result of a 1943 merger between the Consolidated and Vultee companies. Consolidated was responsible for an impressive roll call of military aircraft, perhaps the most famous being the PBY Catalina flying boat, which still holds the record for the longest non-stop commercial flights, better known as the Qantas ‘Double Sunrise’ trans-Indian Ocean service between Ceylon and Australia during the Second World War.

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A restored B-24. Photo credit Alphacoders

Consolidated also produced the B-24 Liberator four-engine bomber, a WW2 stalwart in Allied service, which has the distinction of being the most prolific in terms of aircraft production numbers in US military history, with over 18,000 examples built. …

About

Suren Ratwatte

I love airplanes. As an airline captain I flew many including the A380 and Boeing 777. But wish I’d had the opportunity to fly some of these old propliners.

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