Only a mother could love them

What was the ugliest aircraft of them all? It's a question almost as old as aviation, but more contenders are being added every year.

Correspondents on the airspace forum on have plenty of ideas, ranging from the Russian and obscure - the Alekseyev A-90 Orlyonok and Tupolev Tu-4 - to the Transavia PL12 Airtruk, an agricultural aircraft developed in Australia. The Westland Lysander makes it in there too, but so too does Boeing's new and very functional Dreamlifter - its 747-derived rival to the Airbus Beluga and used to shuttle 787 fuselages across the USA. Airspace regular "Chipmunker" describes is as a "pregnant hippo".

To have your say on the designs that only a mother could truly love, visit

Sir Richard Teflon

You have to hand it to the one-man charm offensive that is Richard Branson. In the USA last week, on a day that the news was full of tirades against domestic airlines - finally making money because they are regularly filling aircraft - for crowded cabins and air traffic delays, Sir Beardie was given a free ride on one nation­wide breakfast show to plug his new US airline and his environ­mental fuel initiative.

With no mention of the BA-Virgin price-fixing "conspiracy" (which Virgin escaped serious punishment for after whistle­blowing), and only the lightest challenge on the global warming potential of adding more aircraft to the North American skies (which gave him a chance to talk up his green fuel gimmick anyway), Branson had five minutes to showcase Virgin America as the solution to US air passengers' woes - in-flight entertainment and (implied if not said) easier-on-the-eye cabin crew to pass the time in a holding pattern or waiting in the taxi line apparently.

Given the tattered cabins in some 1980s-era US airliners and the equally shabby cabin service, Branson could certainly be onto something. But as last winter's debacle with JetBlue proved, having modern aircraft with in-flight entertainment is little consolation when you're stuck on the tarmac for six hours.

Ethics man

Talking about Teflon, Mike Sears - remember him? the disgraced former Boeing chief finance officer jailed over the offer of a job to a senior Pentagon official while she was still working for the government - has returned to the public eyeas an expert on ethics no less. His subject at a talk on the University of Nebraska's programme of business ethics: how do you recover from an ethical mistake? Presumably by talking about it on the lucrative lecture circuit.

Snow joke

Any idea what a storage igloo might be? Us neither. According to a tender notice put out by the UK MoD for a new installation at RAF Lakenheath, it is an "earth-covered, blast-resistant reinforced concrete facility for the storage of the Small Diameter Bomb". What used to be known as a bunker, in other words.

One-Eleven heaven

Reader Steve Hurely asks us to trace a BAC One-Eleven his late father-in-law Capt Rod Clarke used to fly in the 1970s. His wife, he says, would love to see the aircraft that was a huge part of her father's life. Well, Steve, we've traced the aircraft, G-BBME, but unfortunately we reckon it may be no more. It was sold to South Africa's Nationwide in January 1997 and re-registered ZS-OAG, before being retired in April 1998 and stored at Lanseria. Last seen in 2004.

Source: Flight International