Thursday, July 02, 2009

Ugly is the new beautiful

St. Thomas, ON, June 2009 [Click all images to enlarge]

About this photo: Thematic Photographic celebrates aviation all week long. If you've got an aviation-themed photo (or two...) to share, please click here to participate. We'd love to see what you've got.
It's long been considered the bastard stepchild of the US. Air Force fleet. It isn't remotely sleek or supersonic. For much of its existence, it's fought against endless internal campaigns to have it permanently grounded in favor of faster, sexier and, yes, more expensive aircraft like the F-16.

Yet the A-10 Thunderbolt II - also affectionately known as the Tankbuster and the Warthog, and less affectionately as the Devil's Cross by its enemies - has survived and thrived as the world's most robust and survivable close air support platform. Built around a frighteningly powerful 30 millimetre gun, this is likely the last thing you want flying overhead if you're not on the U.S.'s side.

As much mayhem as this thing can cause, it's the toughness and simplicity that impress me. Everything's designed to be field serviceable. It can take hits and keep on flying - a capability proven time and again in the Persian Gulf, where A-10s with giant holes blasted through the airframe have brought their pilots home safely.

And those pilots? Probably the most genial and capable aviators you'll ever meet. I believe the world would be a better place if everything in life were designed as thoughtfully as this machine.

Your turn: Why do ugly ducklings fascinate us so?


Cloudia said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Cloudia said...

We see ourselves in them and share in their victories; we are all ungly ducklings at heart, Carmi.

Comfort Spiral

Anonymous said...

It's sorta ugly but fascinating at the same time :) Aloha

marcia@joyismygoal said...

love the title

Unknown said...

Ugly fascinates us because often the most beautiful things come from ugly: Ducklings - Swans, Caterpillars - Butterflys etc etc

Mojo said...

We used to get the occasional A-10 flying in or out of Robert Gray Army Airfield at Ft. Hood when I was turning wrenches for the US Army back in the day. Even in a windowless shop, we could always tell when a Warthog was going by just from the sound. It has a distinctive 2-tone whine that you can identify instantly without ever seeing it.

You're absolutely right when you say the A-10 was designed around survivability. Even the placement of the engine nacelles was affected by that primary consideration. By placing them high on the empennage, they were shielded from ground fire by the titanium tub that makes up the floor of the fuselage. which incidentally, does a pretty good job of protecting the aircrew too.

Sexy? Not on your life. The A-10 is as ugly as homemade soap. Unless you're pinned down by enemy armor. Then, there's no more beautiful sight -- or sound -- anywhere on earth.

The A-10 will survive the attempts to replace it for the same reasons the B-52 has outlasted the B-1B and B-2B. It works. It works very well. It's reliable, survivable, (relatively) inexpensive, and very, very good at its job.

But that won't stop the engineers from trying to build a better mousetrap. Which I'm sure was the thinking behind this entry from the National Air and Space Museum. The photo is 10 years old, so I don't even remember what the designation was supposed to be. I'm hoping somebody can identify it. Sexy? You bet. But so far as I know, it never saw production.

Thematic Photographic 56: "Aviation" v.3.0

sage said...

Interesting post--I had a chance to see the F-23s coming off the assembly line--they are so expensive, it's good that we have a few cheaper planes that can really do a good job.

Biff Spiffy said...

One of my favorite airplanes of all time! Got to see them swarming around Battle Creek, MI where they used to be based.

If I ever won a 'you can fly any one airplane that's ever lived' contest the A-10 would be in the running (against a P51 and F4U, and maybe the SR71).