Mystery Plane

by wjw on June 2, 2008

Instead of sitting around in Baltimore waiting for the con to start, I headed out on Friday to lovely Chantilly, VA, to see the Steven F. Utvar-Hazy Center.
Which will probably ring no bells with you, until I state that it’s part of the Smithsonian’s Air and Space Museum. In fact it’s the part that contains the 80% of the Smithsonian’s collection that won’t fit into the museum in D.C.!
So I entered the huge hangar-like structure and gazed down at the floor below me, and I said, “Holy crap! That’s a P-61!” And then I looked a little to my right, and I said, “Holy crap! That’s an SR-71 Blackbird!”
My dialog grew very repetitious at this point, so I’ll just skip the rest.
(Can you tell I used to build model aeroplanes as a child?)
I was with Greg Bear, who not only built model aeroplanes as a child but still builds them, so the two of us were in total Geek Heaven. We completely spazzed as we feasted our eyes upon the Corsair, and the Tomahawk, and the Northrop N-1M flying wing, and the P-38, and the Concorde, the insane-looking Dornier Do-335, the gorgeous Arado 234, the weird manned little autogyro kite that the Germans designed to be towed behind U-Boats, the submarine-launched Aichi M6A, the Wright Flyer (a replica built by someone with an unusual design sense, as it’s heavily chromed, with red velvet seat cushions), the Nieuport 28 with its hat-in-the-ring insignia, the Spad 13, the Virgin Atlantic Globalflyer, all the strange little between-the-wars craft, the Double Eagle II, the MiGs 15 and 21, the Tomcat and the Sabrejet, and even the F-35, which isn’t even in service with the Air Force yet.
Not to mention the Enola Gay, very large and shiny, and the Enterprise, which is off in a hangar of its own along with a lot of capsules and missiles.
Which brings me to this week’s contest. (My last contest didn’t work out, since nobody [including me] can seem to scare up a copy of Implied Spaces.) So here goes:
Can any of you Aero Geeks identify the aircraft in the photo above? It’s an obscure one, but then the Smithsonian specializes in obscure.
Jw Johnson June 3, 2008 at 2:10 am

Rare one indeed. Some form of a Douglass A20 Havoc?

reddiana June 3, 2008 at 2:21 am

I respectfully submit that this is a Nakajima J1N1-S Gekko(Moonlight) IRVING.


dubjay June 3, 2008 at 3:09 am

“Holy crap! It’s an Irving!”

I figured this contest would take forever or would be solved in about twelve seconds.

Yes indeed, this is a Nakajima Gekko (Irving), a twin-engined fighter developed as a long-range escort, but used principally as a night fighter, tank buster, and suicide plane. I believe only a few hundred of them were built.

I used to fly this machine in Dynamix’s classic game of the Nineties game, “Aces of the Pacific,” and it was a nimble scrapper for a something the size of a light bomber.

The photo shows the only Irving in existence. It sits alongside what I suspect is the world’s only surviving Aichi M-6A, a plane that was developed to be launched from submarines in order to make a daring bombing raid on the Panama Canal.

I should point out that the Bomber— uh, Reddiana— deserves congratulations for more than a thorough study of her Ground Observer Corps flash cards!
She’s signed a two-book deal with Bantam Doubleday Dell!

So yes! Diana’s going to be published by the Kraut Konglomerate!

dubjay June 3, 2008 at 3:10 am

And yes— Nakajima =did= produce a plane called Irving. You can look it up.

reddiana June 3, 2008 at 3:34 am

🙂 Thanks! I admit to being something of an aero-geek, thanks to AFROTC paying my way through GA Tech (and being accepted into AF pilot training–back when only about 30 women a year were accepted.) However, I’ll also admit to a certain amount of google-fu to get the specifics on the mystery plane.

dubjay June 3, 2008 at 3:38 am

It was a good job just figuring out it was Japanese. Very few Japanese aircraft survived.

Charlie Stross June 4, 2008 at 12:15 pm

I’m late to the party, but I, too, had it pegged as something obscure and Japanese. (It’s too curvy for a Me-110, not to mention the canopy being completely wrong.)

Udvar-Haszy rocks. I got to visit in February; it’s way cool.

For an equivalent tip? Next time you’re in the UK, you should plan on spending two days to do the RAF museum — one day for the Hendon site (in outer London), but an extra day to get the train to RAF Duxford, where they keep the museum annexe with the stuff that’s too big for Hendon.

Finally: you didn’t mention the Boeing Dash-80 that was stashed next to the Enola Gay — an even more significant plane, historically.

dubjay June 5, 2008 at 4:54 am

I believe I’ve been to Duxford. That’s the place in Norfolk near Cambridge, right? I have a picture of Melinda Snodgrass caught in a First World War barbed wire entanglement. Very realistic.

Of course that was something like twenty years ago.

I also recall visiting the Imperial War Museum just after it opened. The place was jammed with a colossal amount of gear, much of it just piled in rooms and corridors— it hadn’t been entirely sorted out into exhibits yet, so visiting was more like going to a yard sale of surplus military gear. I’m surprised that half of it wasn’t stolen. Perhaps it was.

Charlie Stross June 5, 2008 at 5:58 pm

Er, I got it wrong: I mean Cosford, out near Wolverhampton and Birmingham (north-west midlands) damn it. Duxford’s worth seeing too, but Cosford’s where they keep the heavy stuff. (I think they’ve added a Vulcan recently.)

Incidentally? The Blogger captcha just challenged me to type “bumsukah”. I am amused …

dubjay June 5, 2008 at 8:37 pm

I saw a Vulcan in Wherever-the-Hell, Norfolk. The last time I saw one of those was in “Thunderball.” They had a Concorde there, too, and this was before the Concorde had been taken out of service. (=That= happened on a trip to Paris. Turned on the TV and there was the pillar of fire at the end of the runway. Time from crash to worldwide saturation media coverage = ten minutes.)

Martin Wisse June 11, 2008 at 12:59 pm

Did you know some nutters managed to rebuilt a Vulcan enough to get it flying again?

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