Trivia Testers : Talk About a Multi-Engine Rating

Talk About A Multi-engine rating!

The greatest number of engines used on any production airplane was:

  1. Howard Hughes’ HK-1 Hercules, N37602, a.k.a. the “Spruce Goose” (even though it was 95% birch) had eight Pratt & Whitney 3000-hp engines. (When the industrialist Henry Kaiser backed out, Hughes removed the “K” and changed the designator to H-4.)
  2. The ca. 1950 Consolidated B-36D bomber had ten engines (six 3500-hp Pratt & Whitney R-4360 radial engines, and four General Electric J-47 jet engines).
  3. Dr. Claudius Dornier’s 1929 Do.X was powered by twelve 525-hp Bristol-Jupiter engines mounted in six tandem sets across the upper surface of the wings. (However, even when the engines were replaced with 610-hp Curtiss Conqueror engines, it could not fly any higher than 1650 feet, but that was then considered a minimal and acceptable safe altitude for trans-oceanic flight.)
  4. Impressed by the Dornier Do.X, Norman Bel Geddes, a well-known American industrial designer and a German aeronautical engineer named Otto Koller, convinced that size was the key to safety and stately comfort, designed Airliner #4, having a 528 ft wingspan, nine decks, two elevators, ample accomodations for over 450 passengers, and a crew of 155. The hulls contained kitchens, crew quarters, lifeboats, and two aircraft which could be launched in flight. There were also well-appointed staterooms, a gymnasium, dining room with dance floor, promenade decks, verandas, and a bar. To get all this in the air, there were twenty 1900-hp internal combustion engines, although only 12 were needed to fly at cruising speed. There were also six additional 1900-hp engines in reserve, for a total of twenty-six!

Answer: C. The Bel Geddes airliner design was real, but it was never built. (There were other designs afoot, as well. The Germans made plans for a huge bomber, the Mannesmann Poll, a ten-engine tri-plane. (Another design by Dr. Edmund Rumpler also had 10 engines.)

Wings: the More, the Merrier

Aside from the extreme example of the steam-powered “multiplane” designs of Horatio Phillips, which resembled a set of venetian blinds attempting flight, the greatest number of wings sported by any airplane of comparatively more realistic design was in the era shortly before, during, and after World War I. What was the second most, shall we say, ambitious?

  1. The Fokker and Sopwith triplanes flew fairly well. Actually, there were other less well-known Sopwith triplanes such as the Snark and Rhino, as well as famous failures like the monstrous Tarrant Tabor, and quite a few French designs like the Labourdette-Halbron, the Morane-Saulnier TRK, and the Astoux-Vedrines. The Germans had the Albatros Dr1 and Dr2, the Siemens-Schuckert DDr1, the Sablatnig SF 4, and the the Pfalz Dr 1 and Dr2 (to name just a few). And let’s not forget the Italians. They had the Breda-Pensuti, the Caproni CA 40, 41, 42, 43… The Russians were perhaps more reserved. They had only the Bezobrazov.
  2. Just three? Nope. Under the impression that “more is better” there were many quadriplanes. The Wright Type 4, the Armstrong-Whitworth FK 10, the Supermarine Nighthawk, and the Pemberton-Billing P.B.29 were real. So were the the Friedrichafen Quadruplane, and the the Naglo Quadruplane.
  3. Hah! We’re just getting warmed up, here! How about a V-8? No, not tomato juice, the The Fokker V.8 quintuplane. Yes, we’re going for five.
  4. About the only example having six wings that I could find was the Avro Bullseye…but…how ’bout seven? The Johns Multiplane had seven wings. And it never flew.
  5. It gets worse.

Answer: E. The booby prize goes to an Italian, Giovanni Battista Caproni, who did design some other very well-known and successful airplanes, but who also had his share of losers. The Caproni Ca 60 Transaereo would be a good contender for the biggest boner. This monstrosity, circa 1920, had three sets of triplane wings bolted to a 100-passenger flying boat hull, and was powered by eight 400-hp American Liberty engines in pusher and tractor sets. The 9000 square foot wings were equipped with ailerons, and the rear set were elevators. It flew just once, a short straight-ahead flight, upon landing it was damaged and thankfully, it sank.

The Perfect Storm

The celebrated storm that took the lives of all aboard the Andrea Gail in the North Atlantic off the Canadian maritime provinces in late October of 1991 (and which was the subject of the movie “The Perfect Storm”) was more than just an average example of the term “Nor’easter”. Due to the cold front that was moving out into the North Atlantic off New England, a near-record intensity high-pressure system behind it with its associated gyre of clockwise motion and intensified winds from the northeast in that vicinity, and Hurricane Grace moving up the Atlantic coast, which pumped even more moisture into that frontal low, National Weather Service meteorologists have considered this event to be the bull goose loony of Nor’easters. But just how did the term “Nor’easter” originate?

  1. The term was coined by a NWS meteorologist in 1957 and signifies the northeast movement of any low pressure system having a pressure drop of more than 24 millibars in 24 hours. Contrary to popular belief, a nor’easter can exist by definition as far south as the Bahamas, and their associated winds may be from any direction, not just from the northeast.
  2. Not only was the phrase “the perfect storm” coined by a National Weather Service meteorologist (in 1991), but in another one of those quirks of fate where you might wonder which came first, the person’s name, or his career choice, the meteorologist to whom we owe this term was named Norris Easterman (but it was in 1969, not 1957, just before the Weather Bureau changed its name to the National Weather Service).
  3. interesting, but almost total bilge water. These strong areas of low pressure, which while they may not always equal hurricanes in intensity, often exceed them in duration, are so named simply because they can form in the North Atlantic off New England, and as such (being areas of low pressure with counter-clockwise flow) often drive winds ashore from a northeasterly direction as the storm approaches shore.
  4. It isn’t nearly so singular or distinctive. About the only thing that distinguishes a nor’easter is just that it’s a plain old winter storm that happens to pick the northeast United States as the neighborhood in which to roost or run amok.

Answer: C. The term indeed comes from the continuous and strong winds that blow from the northeast, and they can be among winter’s worst storms. They actually begin as areas of low pressure in either the Gulf of Mexico or the Atlantic Ocean, which either moves up the East coast into New England and the Canadian maritime provinces, or out to sea. In New York or Boston, if the low moves offshore, and if the storm has enough moisture and cold air, they will see snow, heavy rain, or both, as well as high winds and beach-eating waves that crash onto the shore. These types of storms occur further south, though they occur most often in the northeast. So it’s not where they happen, so much as the direction from which their winds blow. The “almost total bilge water” comment was because there really was a NWS meteorologist (now retired) who originated that “perfect storm” thing in 1991; his name is Bob Case. (That other stuff about Norris Easterman, is, well, uh…)