Miles M.68 Boxcar


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31 December 2008
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On the heels of the Fairchild XC-120 Packplane,6263.0.htm, let me present it's little British cousin, the Miles M.68 Boxcar. Basically a four-engined variant of the M.57 Aerovan, the one and only M.68 Boxcar had a removable central fuselage which could be towed on it's own wheels. It would have been quite handy, I think, to have fuselages kitted out for cargo use, refrigeration, passengers, medevac, you name it, to switch out as needed.

Here are some specs and pics, all from Don L. Brown's fantastic MILES AIRCRAFT SINCE 1925.

M.68 and M.72.
  • Four 100 hp Blackburn Cirrus Minor II.
  • Span 50 ft; length 35 ft 8 in; height 11 ft 10 in (M.68), 13 ft 6 in (M.72); wing area 390 sq ft; aspect ratio 6.4; wing section, root NACA 23018, tip NACA 2412.
  • Weight empty 3,618 Ib; fuel (l00 gal) 750 Ib; oil (8 gal) 72 1b; pilot 160 lb; payload 1,400 lb; all up weight 6,000 Ib (4,100 lb without container); wing loading 15.4 lb/sq ft.
  • Maximum speed 137 mph; cruising speed 121 mph.
  • Run to unstick 795 ft; distance to 50 ft 1,620 ft; landing run 444 ft; landing from 50 ft 975 ft.
  • Rate of climb 630 ft/min; rate of climb, one engine out 250 ft/min; time to 10,000 ft 31 min.
  • Range 610 miles; duration 5 1/4 hrs.


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And some pics from the same source:


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Neat, I was not aware of this dedicated freighter.
It is not entirely clear from the pictures so maybe you can clarify this for me:
is the tail fairing detachable too and can it be mated to the front of the fuselage when the central container is not flown?

Thanks for posting this!

EDIT: I got curious about this and searched Flight's archives. you can find an article here:
Yes, the rear fairing works as you described. In the third picture it has been detached from the container and is being attached to the cockpit and in the fourth picture it is in place on the cockpit. It looks like it was not attached permanently to the aircraft, but it's not hard to imagine a sliding track on the underside of the boom to make moving the fairing about a one-person job.

Given the relatively light weights involved, a simple winch system on the aircraft (or jacks on the containers) could make even changing containers doable by one person with a light vehicle or powered towbar to move the trailer around.

It's too bad that, as far as I know, no one is building anything even remotely comparable to this these days. It seems like a rugged simple freighter like this would be very useful in developing countries.
I just found a great video clip (in French, but interesting even if you don't understand the narration) of the Miles M.68 Boxcar in action. It shows the plane landing with the cargo pod, the pod removed and driven away as a trailer, the rear fairing moved forward and the plane taking off again with just the fairing in place. Neat!

One thought that comes to mind about this system is the possibility of using the removable modules not for cargo, but pre-equipped for various uses--cargo, passengers, tourist flights (lots of seats, no luggage, big windows), flying doctor, ambulance, firefighting, surveying, etc. The modules would be much, much cheaper than having multiple, specialized aircraft and would help keep the aircraft busy doing multiple missions rather than sitting on the ground and costing money while waiting for a specialized mission need to arise.
That put a big smile on my face ;D
Thank you for posting
Great video, you can see all the operations required (minimal amount!)
thanks for posting :)
Very nice. I rarely take the time to watch the videos that members post (for lack of time, mainly) but this is a Miles aircraft and it's in French, two reasons for me to make the effort...

I have translated the commentary for all those who are interested:
This aircraft is the most recent freight transport. It is used to expedit in the fastest way possible some perishable goods that do not require handling during transport. Its fuselage consists in a sort of backbone to which are connected three separate and autonomous parts: the cockpit, the cargo hold and the rear end. The ground mechanics literally pull the aircraft apart. The rear part, which serves only to direct the air stream towards the read end of the fuselage, is detached first. However, to remove the next section, a jack is required to maintain the relatively heavy cargo hold while the four safety bolts are removed. The hold is then lowered onto a wheel train. Finally the two side bolts that fix the cargo hold to the cockpit are removed too, and the middle section of the aircraft can be moved about like a regular trailer. It can be towed by a small car, and the goods carried door-to-door with no further handling. If crossing a border is required, the mobile cargo hold can be sealed before departure by the customs officers. Supposing the return freight is not ready for loading, then the rear end of the fuselage can directly be bolted onto the cockpit. Two bolts to screw, half a minute's work, and the aircraft is ready to take off so it can go and fetch another cargo load. In case of perishable goods such as fruit for instance, the cargo hold will be refrigerated. It may seem as a rather unorthodox way of flying, but whether it carries a freight load or not, the aircraft is especially safe and easy to pilot.
Here is a nice article from the IAOPA magazine General Aviation on the Miles M.57 Aerovan including some great photos (check out that cockpit!) and, at the very end, some additional information on and illustrations and photos of the Miles M.68 Boxcar.
Very nice article and pics. Thanks for sharing, Matthew! (and sorry for calling you "Fred" again yesterday!!).

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