The Coolest Experimental Planes of World War II

Blackburn Aircraft B-20

Flying boats and floatplanes played a major role in the various air forces belonging to major powers fighting World War II. They represented distinct advantages in that they provided commanders with operational flexibility during sea-based operations. However, most were difficult to maneuver just because of their bottom-heavy design. Plus, they were large and slow.

As such, the Blackburn Aircraft Company sought to design a plane that could merge the best elements of floatplanes and flying boats; the design was the B-20.

Half the plane’s fuselage was retractable float. When the B-20 came in to land on water, the lower half of the fuselage would dip into the water thus giving the plane more versatility in combat. In addition, it increased the wing incidence to give the plane a shorter take-off. When the B-20 was airborne the fuselage would join together again to make it appear as though it was a small flying boat. This configuration gave the aircraft far less drag than other flying boats, making it faster.

B-20 in flight.

The prototype would fly for the first time on March 26, 1940. On 7 April, during a test run, the aircraft experienced extreme vibration due to aileron flutter and the crew bailed out, three were lost the other two were picked up by HMS Transylvania, a converted merchantman. Development ceased when the first prototype crashed, as Blackburn’s resources were dedicated to the war effort.

The concept of the B-20 was sound, but as Blackburn had to focus its attention to building preexisting airplanes, so nothing ever came of the B-20.


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