Think Small

Eleven airplanes you could only call “cute.”

Air & Space Magazine

WITH GENETICS RESEARCH MAKING HEADLINES ON A REGULAR BASIS, it's just a matter of time before the discovery of the "twee" gene, which confers a fondness for diminutiveness-dollhouses, teacup Chihuahuas, and Mini Coopers, for example. When this gene is dominant in people also carrying the prop-head gene, individuals are particularly drawn to wee aircraft. Further research will likely reveal that builders of such craft also carry the Guinness gene, which confers a congenital yearning to land in the record books.

Smallest Fighters

McDonnell XF-85 Goblin
The U.S. Air Force lacked an ultra-long-range escort fighter for its ultra-long-range Convair B-36 bomber. McDonnell built the XF-85 to be stowed aboard the B-36. Instead of equipping the fighter with landing gear, a trapeze would extend from the mothership and a retractable hook on the Goblin did likewise to facilitate launch and retrieval. Most of the test retrievals, conducted with a B-29, resulted in collisions with the trapeze and belly landings by the Goblin, and the program was cancelled in late 1949.

Wingspan: 21 feet 1.5 inches
Length: 14 feet 10.5 inches
Empty weight: 3,740 pounds

Wee Bee
Aeronautical engineers William Chana, Ken Coward, and Karl Montijo produced the all-metal Wee Bee in the late 1940s pretty much as a lark. Its 30-horsepower engine enabled a top speed of 82 mph. To fly it, its pilot lay atop the fuselage, making it an airshow attraction. The Wee Bee succumbed to a fire that swept the San Diego Aerospace Museum in 1978; a replica took its place.

Wingspan: 18 feet
Length: 14 feet 2 inches
Empty weight: 210 pounds


Westland-Hill Pterodactyl V
The Pterodactyl was a British design of the 1920s created in response to a government request for a two-seat fighter. The rear cockpit accommodated a gunner, the wingtips pivoted to act as ailerons, and the wing trailing edge had elevators. A 600-horsepower Rolls-Royce Goshawk powered the tailless Pterodactyl, which ended up serving primarily as an airshow attraction.

Wingspan: 45 feet 6 inches
Length: 17 feet
Empty weight: 900 pounds


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