Aviation Infestation

Aviation Infestation

The weird and wacky names that aircraft have don’t usually include those of insects, particularly parasitic ones but there is no accounting for taste!  From Gnats to Fleas, June Bugs to Crickets, aviation has them all and in this tale we find out about many of them.


The dainty but impressive Folland Gnat which was only slightly larger than the single seat version, the Midge.



The BE2, one of which was unsuccessfully launched from beneath a blimp.


The parasitic Sparrowhawk fighter suspended under the Airship USS Macron.


Another parasite, an F-84 is launched from underneath a modified B-36 Peacemaker.


Two parasites at once… the unlikely combination of a pair of F-84s being towed by the wingtips of a B-29.


The tiny Starr Bumblebee II which was, at the time, the world’s smallest piloted aircraft.


Images under Creative Commons licence with thanks to Nick-D, H M Benner, the Royal Navy, Afcrna and the USAF.

Into Thinner Air

Into Thinner Air

Military pilots aren’t the only ones in danger whilst cruising the upper reaches of the atmosphere.  Passenger jets can be equally vulnerable with tragic results.  These are the stories of two aircraft that sadly flew on to their destruction, with nobody controlling, carrying their unfortunate passengers to their death.

Payne Stewart.


The accident Learjet.


The Learjet’s flight path.


A Helios B737.


The flight path of Helios Flight 522.



Images under Creative Commons licence with thanks to Alan Lebeda, Supergolfdude, NTSB and AAIASB.

Disappearing Into Thin Air

Disappearing Into Thin Air

Military fighter aircraft that fly themselves around without their pilot on board is unusual, to say the least.  Sadly this is often a situation that has tragic consequences.  This tale is of three such events; happily one has safe outcome for the pilot… the others were not so lucky.


An early Harrier prototype, the P1127.


The Sea Harrier.


A 75 Sqn F/A-18 in the foreground during a Red Flag exercise in the US.





Images under Creative Commons licence with thanks to Alan Wilson, Billy Bunting MOD, USMC and USAF.

Die Nachthexen

Die Nachthexen

So feared were these pilots, flying almost silently over the German positions at night to attack any movement or light, that the Nazis called them Night Witches.  With just the wind whistling through the wires of their old Po-2 biplanes, again and again the brave young women of the Soviet Air Force flew with such skill that many were made Heroes of the Soviet Union.

Senior Lieutenant Irina Sebrova who flew 1,008 missions.


The wood-and-canvas Polikarpov Po-2 biplane.


Images under Creative Commons licence with thanks to Douzeff.  Other images from public domain.



Recorded on the anniversary of the world’s worst air accident.  A enormous loss of life that highlights the vital importance of standard radio procedures and the pressures of command.  A word that still puts an icy hand around my heart when I hear it… Tenerife.

The KLM 747.


The Pan Am 747.


Images under Creative Commons licence with thanks to Dutch National Archives, clipperarctic and Michel Gilliand.

Pi in the Sky

Pi in the Sky

The art of Skywriting began with an ex WW1 fighter, the venerable SE5a, saved from the scrapyard.  This is the colourful tale of airborne advertising!

The last of Jack Savage’s SE5a fighters that he used for skywriting, now to be found in London’s Science Museum.


Traditional Skywriting over the EAA Airventure Oshkosh.


A novel marriage proposal on a flying banner.


Images used under a Creative Commons licence with thanks to Alan Wilson, Sky Ads, FutureUApilot and the U.S. Navy.