Retromechanix' Lockheed Model L-200 Convoy Fighter Part 2


Jared A. Zichek






Scott Van Aken

Notes: 70 pages, 8 x11 inches, softbound.
ISBN: 978-0-9968754-5-5

During the last years of WWII and into the 1950s, the pace of aviation development was staggering. Advances were coming so quickly that what was top of the line one year, was nearing obsolescence just a few years later. It was also a time of innovation where the military was not afraid to try something new and designers were more than happy to stretch their abilities as well.

Such was the case of the Convoy Fighter. This was a plan to allow ships in a convoy to carry a plane or two for self protection against enemy bombers without the requirement for a large and expensive aircraft carrier. The specifications called for a turboprop powered aircraft that could land and take off vertically without the need for complex handling apparatus. It should also be able to operate from a ship that was moving and so had to be able to handle not only fore and aft movement but also side to side motion. These are the motions that make most first time voyagers sea-sick.

Proposals were submitted by several companies and two were chosen. These became the Convair XFY-1 and the Lockheed XFV-1. Both of these planes flew, though only the Convair entry was able to take off and land vertically. The main issue was the lack of power from available turboprop engines and the difficulty of landing. 

Had these proposals actually been able to overcome their difficulties, it is conceivable that not only would these have made great close infantry support aircraft, but would have been able to defend against the perceived threats of the day. In some way, the modern Marine attack helicopter is performing exactly the missions for which this aircraft was initially conceived.

In this book, the author continues where he left off regarding the Lockheed L-100 design in the first volume. As he states, this is involved in the development of the aircraft and not in the construction or flight testing, though some of that is mentioned in the end of the book.

The first part tackled in this edition is on the landing and take off of the aircraft. Keep in mind that this was supposed to operate from standard freighters or tankers with a landing/take-off pad on the back of the ship. The aircraft also had to be able to be stable in 45 degrees of pitch and roll. Frankly, I probably couldn't stand on a 45 degree angle, yet this aircraft had to be able to stay on deck. The way the designers decided to tackle this was to have the deck as steel grid. Once the plane landed tail first, spikes in the end of each fin tip would open up once through the grid and hold the plane in place. Tests were done with large scale models and it was successful in holding the plane in place.

There also had to be a way to access the aircraft for maintenance and a rather large and cumbersome looking gantry was developed to allow the plane to be put into the horizontal for things like servicing and engine changes. This was also to be able to hold the plane off the deck for an alternate method of 'landing'  and take off by having a mechanism into which the spinner tip could be connected. Like a vertical dirigible attachment.

Then the actual design of the aircraft is covered. This plane went through a considerable number of variations before one was eventually chosen and all those are in the book. We also look at all the systems of the finished design as well as other aircraft types (including a transport, recce plane and light fighter) based on the technology of a VTOL aircraft.

Thanks to a very well kept archive many of the original drawings, plans and artwork are included within. There are also some great profiles of the various alternative aircraft that Lockheed was trying to get the military to fund. Additionally, the development of horizontal take off landing gear and the large scale models are covered, making this a fascinating look into what could have been.

January 2018

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