Cairo to Baghdad in 1921

The Royal Air Force pioneered a route over 540 miles of empty desert—to deliver the mail.

Cancelled: the Gregor FDB-1

“They’ll start the war with monoplanes but finish it with biplanes.” So predicted aeronautical engineer Michael Gregor, who persuaded the Canadian Car & Foundry Company Limited (Can-Car) of Montreal to hire him to design and build a highly maneuverable biplane fighter at its Fort William, Ontario plant. It would have to compete with the likes of Hurricanes and Helldivers. Can-Car’s general manager, Leonard Peto, was evidently impressed. In 1940, he told the Montrealer magazine he thought the new aircraft “would find a heavy market in Britain and France.”

Carpenter’s Special: DeHavilland D.H.98 Mosquito

Conceived as a light bomber, the World War II de Havilland Mosquito was designed to defend itself with its 400-mph speed rather than with guns. De Havilland eliminated armament to save weight, and because Britain’s supply of aluminum was limited, built the aircraft of wood. In the process, Britain’s war effort came to involve cabinet and furniture makers, carpenters, and piano builders.

Lying Down on the Job

Pulling into a loop at 410 knots, “half way up I glanced at the g-meter and saw the maximum-reading needle at 6g with no sign of a blackout,” wrote Royal Air Force test pilot C.M. Lambert in 1954 after flying a specially-modified Gloster Meteor fighter—while lying on his stomach.

The Bombing of Waziristan

In the world’s most rugged hiding place, outlaws are rarely run to ground. The Royal Air Force learned that lesson 80 years ago.

Travels with Churchill

Why the British prime minister flew wartime rounds in a Yank bomber with an American pilot

Woe Canada

Thermometers were nudging 100 at Malton Airport in Toronto, Canada, when North America’s first jet airliner lifted off in a stiff crosswind. The aircraft flew for 65 minutes that day, August 10, 1949, just two weeks after Britain’s Comet jetliner had become the world’s first and five years before the United States would fly its first, the Boeing 707.

The Avro Canada C102 Jetliner could out-climb and out-cruise any airliner on North American drawing boards. It also needed less runway than anything the airlines had in their fleets and could fly higher, faster, and, a cost analysis later found, cheaper. The airplane was coveted by at least six airlines, the U.S. Air Force and Navy, the U.S. Civil Aviation Authority, and even billionaire Howard Hughes. Yet despite all the interest, seven years later the jet was put to the cutting torches. Its nose section sits forlornly at the Canada Aviation Museum in Ottawa, and the rest of the pieces were long ago sold to an Ontario scrap dealer.

What happened?


The Moose Jaw Nine

I’m in the left seat of Snowbird No. 4’s aircraft as the team practices an arrowhead loop formation over a flat January landscape the color of faded wheat near its home base of Moose Jaw, Saskatchewan. On the pullup and during the float over the top, I keep an eye on Snowbird No. 8, Captain Mark LaVerdiere, the outer wing man, three airplanes away on my left. He maintains his position but there’s a bit more movement than I’m seeing from the aircraft to my immediate left. As we come down the back side, with the call “Power coming up” from the lead aircraft, I try to picture what it must be like keeping LaVerdiere’s outer wing position in a nine-aircraft line-abreast formation. Like the end of a crack-the-whip.

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