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Secret...grasshoppers?

cluttonfred

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During WWII, a category of aircraft emerged that some would have never expected to have been so useful. The Great Depression gave birth to a new class of light aircraft that made flying less expensive than ever before, epitomized by the Piper J-3 Cub. When war came, a few enthusiasts thought that the little puddlejumpers could be handy, and the J-3 Cub became the L-4 "Grasshopper."

So here's my question...does anyone have any projects or prototypes for low-cost, low horsepower light observation and liaison aircraft from WWII or earlier, Allied, Axis or neutral? Let's say STOL performance, one or two crew and under 100 hp, the grasshoppers that got away. Just so you don't all think I'm a tease... I'll start. ;-)

After the tragic death of his wife Annette at the hands of French partisans, homebuilt aircraft pioneer Henri Mignet threw himself into a new project at the request of Free French Colonel Eon for a "commande parachute," a handy light aircraft that could land anywhere and be hidden in moments. Eon, commanding paratroopers, wanted to be able to reach and rally dispersed airborne troops after a jump and throughout an operation. He was thrilled with the design, which featured quick folding wings incorporated in later Mignet designs, and steerable main gear which was not.

Check out these original 1940s pics including great comparison shots with a Fieseler Storch and a Westland Lysander. There are some more vintage pics here that give an even better idea how compact this plane was. Here are some specs thanks to Airwar.ru and Google Translate since my books and scanner are in boxes:

HM.280
Span 5.10 m
Length 4.10 m
Wing area 8.75 m2
Empty weight 150 kg
Gross weight 265 kg
Maximum speed, 140 kph
Cruising speed 115 kph
Endurance 3 hours
Ceiling 3505 m
Crew 1-2
 

cluttonfred

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Justo Miranda said:
Please see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Flying_Flea
Much as I appreciate the link, Justo, the only Flying Flea connection in this thread is that the example I gave was one of Mignet's creations. Any projects or prototypes for similar light liaison aircraft, airborne observation posts, etc. to share?
 
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joncarrfarrelly

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The Taylorcraft L-2 (O-57) and the Aeronca L-3 (O-58), both with 50 or 65hp engines, were also called Grasshopper.
The Interstate Cadet was used as the L-8
 

redstar72

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Here are some Soviet “Grasshoppers”… or the aircraft which could become Soviet “Grasshoppers”.

When young Alexander Yakovlev created in 1930 his AIR-4 (the two-seat parasol designed as a civil trainer, sport, and courier airplane), he proposed it to the VVS as a liaison aircraft. The VVS suggested to make some changes… and in August, 1933 the new version – AIR-8 appeared. It featured a new wing (shorter and wider), redesigned tail fins and the landing gear with “balloon” tires of low pressure. Initially, AIR-8 was powered by M-23 (NAMI-65) 65-hp engine of Soviet design; but, due to vibrations, it was replaced by 60-hp Walter and then by 85-hp Siemens. With Siemens engine the aircraft was tested in August, 1934. Thus AIR-8 was mainly intended for aeroclubs and flight schools, it fitted perfectly to the requirements for army’s light liaison aircraft. It had the maximum speed of 150 km/h, and a landing speed of 60 km/h; it could be in air during 6 hours and take off and land almost everywhere. AIR-8 surely was a good candidate for “Grasshopper” role.


http://www.airwar.ru/enc/law1/air8.html

Even better candidate was another updated AIR-4 version – the E-31 (Э-31 in Russian). It was designed at the NII GVF (Scientific & Research Institute of Civil Airfleet) with the assistance of CAGI department of experimental aerodynamics. In 1931 summer, these two organisations began to research the flaps – first time in the Soviet Union. After tunnel tests, it was decided to build an experimental aircraft based on Yakovlev’s AIR-4. B. Zalivatsky and L. Shekhter, the NII GVF employees, designed a new wing; all its trailing edge was occupied by the 4-section flaps. There was no more place for the ailerons, therefore "floating" wingtips were used. When the rolling moment needed to be produced, the wingtips pivoted to 15 deg. in opposite direction to each over. Rest of the time they “floated” freely like… yes, like canards of the XB-70 Valkyrie or the Gripen. These unusual ailerons were rather large – their area was about 16 % of all the wing area.
The E-31 aircraft was tested in July-November, 1933 by Julian Piontkovsky, future well-known Yakovlev OKB test pilot. The results were amazing: E-31 was a real STOL aircraft – its landing speed was only 30 km/h, and it needed only 52 m landing runway. Those who saw E-31 landing noted that it landed as an autogiro! Also the aircraft had excellent stability, flight control and anti-spin characteristics. Its only disadvantages were increased construction weight (60 kg heavier than the standard AIR-4) and a complicated aileron control system.



http://www.airwar.ru/enc/law1/air4.html

Another possible “Grasshopper” was Konstantin Kalinin’s design from 1930, the K-9 – thus it was also designed firstly as a civil multi-purpose aircraft. The two-seat K-9 featured foldable wings, 60-hp Walter engine, its maximum speed was 138 km/h, and the landing speed was about 50-60 km/h.


http://www.airwar.ru/enc/law1/k9.html

The K-9 was onetimes discussed here: http://www.secretprojects.co.uk/forum/index.php/topic,4819.15.html

Unfortunately, all these interesting airplanes didn’t come into mass production. The main reason was that was no such a low-power engine in production in the USSR. The attempts to develop the M-23 into conditions allowing its serial production were unsuccessful, and the smallest serial aircraft engine was well-known M-11 - with its 100, 110, or even 140 hp power (due to modification). So, legendary Po-2 biplane became the aircraft that incured “Grasshopper” role in the Red Army during the World War II.

P.S. Sorry for my English and for not very good photos of AIR-8 and E-31 - I have no better ones...
 

cluttonfred

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Thanks so much for the fascinating posts redstar72...and you're English is much better than my Russian. ;)
 

burunduk

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redstar72, where did you find K-9 profile? Thank you for this.
 

redstar72

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XP67_Moonbat said:
How about the Fiesler Storch?
It's in different weight category :) . The Storch is about 1.5x larger than the Grasshopper, and it has 240-hp engine. To make it clear, I added the Storch to the profiles:
 

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cluttonfred

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You never know what you're going to find on YouTube...the first 22 seconds of this clip seem to show the original HM.280 light observation aircraft landing at post-war fly-in!

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eXXsOZXgGeA

cluttonfred said:
After the tragic death of his wife Annette at the hands of French partisans, homebuilt aircraft pioneer Henri Mignet threw himself into a new project at the request of Free French Colonel Eon for a "commande parachute," a handy light aircraft that could land anywhere and be hidden in moments. Eon, commanding paratroopers, wanted to be able to reach and rally dispersed airborne troops after a jump and throughout an operation. He was thrilled with the design, which featured quick folding wings incorporated in later Mignet designs, and steerable main gear which was not.

Check out these original 1940s pics including great comparison shots with a Fieseler Storch and a Westland Lysander. There are some more vintage pics here that give an even better idea how compact this plane was. Here are some specs thanks to Airwar.ru and Google Translate since my books and scanner are in boxes:

HM.280
Span 5.10 m
Length 4.10 m
Wing area 8.75 m2
Empty weight 150 kg
Gross weight 265 kg
Maximum speed, 140 kph
Cruising speed 115 kph
Endurance 3 hours
Ceiling 3505 m
Crew 1-2
 

Jemiba

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A question about the Mignet , I had from the start of this thread: Would it have been dropped with a parachute near
to the troops, as other equipment ? Flying it to the front could have been difficult, I think.

Another type, that came to my mind, is the LF1 Zaunkönig (wren). "LF" stould for "Langsamflugzeug" (slow aircraft),
designed and built by the Technische Hochschule (technical university) Braunschweig during 1940. Minimal recorded
speed was 47 km/h ! The aircraft was designed for small size and low fuel consumption. Because those characteristics
made it interesting for military use, a second prototype was built during 1943 (the first one had crashed November 1942)
and was fitted experimentally with a Panzerfaust anti-tank rocket launcher.
(data and pictures from Flugrevue, June 1974)
 

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cluttonfred

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Jemiba said:
A question about the Mignet , I had from the start of this thread: Would it have been dropped with a parachute near
to the troops, as other equipment ? Flying it to the front could have been difficult, I think.
I have always understood the "command parachute" reference to be figurative and not to imply that the aircraft would actually be parachuted in, only that it would be a handy tool for a commander seeking to reach scattered troops, such as after a parachute drop. The details of how that would work with a plane with only the half the speed of a C-47 towing a CG-4A glider, and about one third the speed of the C-47 carrying paratroopers, was never explained. I see it more as command runabout, though a two-seater would probably have made more sense.

Another type, that came to my mind, is the LF1 Zaunkönig (wren). "LF" stould for "Langsamflugzeug" (slow aircraft),
designed and built by the Technische Hochschule (technical university) Braunschweig during 1940. Minimal recorded
speed was 47 km/h ! The aircraft was designed for small size and low fuel consumption. Because those characteristics
made it interesting for military use, a second prototype was built during 1943 (the first one had crashed November 1942)
and was fitted experimentally with a Panzerfaust anti-tank rocket launcher.
(data and pictures from Flugrevue, June 1974)
Yes, the Zaunkönig is a wonderful design that deserved more success than it found, I actually have Hermann Winter's book Segelflug und Langsamflug even though I don't read German.

Cheers,

Matthew
 

Cy-27

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There was a Zaunkönig LF1 at the museum at Oberschleissheim near Munich. I have not visited for some years, so I don't know if is still on public display.
 

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Richard N

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Why Colonel Éon wanted a Command Parachute

"During an air-drop, a part of Éon’s group landed in the middle of German troops and
was annihilated.

That was food for thought for Éon. He did not accept that an airborne
action could be lost because its chief would fall into the hands of the enemy due to a
dropping error and, at the end of 1944, he met Henri Mignet and asked him to design a
“Command Parachute”, a tiny light aircraft based on the HM-14, the famous Flying-
Flea.

This aircraft would have to take-off from any road, even a winding one, to land
in a forest clearing, and to be undetectable less than a minute after touchdown. It
would even have to be able to make an emergency landing in bushes, with possibly
some material damages, an extremely maneuverable aircraft, allowing very wide
speed discrepancies. Its main characteristic would be folding wings, allowing hiding it
in barns or under very small sheds. Excited about the project, Henri began designing
the Pou-Maquis on his drawing board.

While he was in Paris to work on his new design, his wife Annette was murdered by
French communist members of the Resistance. In spite of his grief, HM completed the
plans of the HM-280 and gave them to Éon."


This information is from page 6 of the May 2013 issue of "Pou Renew", the magazine for enthusiasts of Henri Mignet's designs. The May 2013 issue No. 50 is dedicated to the HM-280 "Pou Maquis" and contains the history of the aircraft, many photos, scale drawings, and articles about replicas built of it. I contributed several of the photos and references.

The full issue is available here: https://78462f86-a-05384b27-s-sites.googlegroups.com/a/flyingflea.com.ar/www/home/traditional-fforg-menu-1/pou-renew/pourenew-1/PR50-2.pdf?attachauth=ANoY7crgCdZI5t5jR3RxXfb5_aPIlJoTAi4gjWlkQ9-rRQLFO7v7Ybr83h8DijMW0pS8prY7sr7u3hbBLaU92I_GANR-pG2zH81bP3JZLlm-7aIp1nCMk3KOUeISe3Vat1TkgV1MHv4Lg6fTV35itFvf7ojjEOjjxGnJGqVWf_7HKCdJy1F9oWw0Irdfz8SR6vc-l8LeGOcC4TEbHGj50dwoNW7HwSdajVcTCqrMwdROYaDyINO12c12v5FKD6arFhhdiquyyaQFlHVs5MCf0cxkcDRyB_WjKA%3D%3D&attredirects=1

The home page of the Pou Renew is here: https://sites.google.com/a/flyingflea.com.ar/www/home/traditional-fforg-menu-1/pou-renew where you will find issues of the Pou Renew and other Mignet related newsletters as well as a great deal of information on Mignet's Pou de Ciel aircraft.
 

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Jemiba

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Many thanks for the links to those interesting materials ! The Mignet layout reallymay have been
an ideal choice for this task: Small and easier to fly, than other aircraft, although to make full use
of "stealthy" characteristics (low flying at night, landing and taking off even from a winding ruway)
probaby would have needed a skilled pilot anyway. Today a ultra light helicopter would be used, I think.
 

galgot

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The Arado 231 was very small too , though it was a float plane made specifically for U-Boot:


 

Aubi

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Some other exaples. Basically everything Stinson ever made were high wing light utility aircraft, supplied to the armed forces as L-1 Vigilant (but too poweful engine), L-5 Sentinel (still too powerful) and L-9. Talyorcraft L-2 and Aeronca L-3 were mentioned, but the army used also Interstate L-6 Grasshopper, perfect match for Piper, 250 pieces.
Yakovlev had AIR-6, slightly larger and slightly more powerful, also used in tiny numbers as utility by the army, and later sstill heavier Yak-12. Too powerful.
Poles. Trainer, but also usable for liaison was RWD-8, serving in a number of countries. Similar RWD-17, with weaker engine. RWD-13, utility, ambulance and stuff, war-tested. LWS-2, ambulance plane, sligtly bigger, too powerful.
 
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