104 votes
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Why was the P-51 Mustang not adopted by the U.S. Navy?

The biggest driver behind the use of the P-51 Mustang in naval operations was the need for B-29 escorts while bombing Japan. No naval fighter at the time had the range to accompany the B-29's so the P-...
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94 votes

Why don't aircraft use nuclear propulsion?

TL;dr - too heavy :-) It's just not a good energy source for something like an aircraft. Nuclear energy is superb for instances where you need continuous output over a long period of time, for ...
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  • 1,441
91 votes
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Why does it take so long to develop modern military jets?

First of all, it took at least five years even back then, but your observation is absolutely correct. You would need to go back one more decade to find a frontline fighter that was designed within ...
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91 votes

What is the slowest fixed-wing airplane?

The Gossamer Albatross is a human-powered plane with a top speed of 29 km/h (18mph). It was used to cross the English Channel and seems to meet the criteria of the question.
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88 votes

Why does it take so long to develop modern military jets?

There are quite a few reasons for this- technically speaking, the primary one is that the system complexity has increased tremendously. More systems mean more interfaces, more redundancies, meaning ...
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85 votes

The F-16s that were scrambled to intercept United 93 did not have time to arm the jets, so the pilots were going to “ram it” how does that work?

(disclaimer - Former USAF armament specialist) The intention was not necessarily to "ram", but rather get eyeballs on the situation and take whatever action was needed. That may have, ...
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  • 3,962
74 votes

Have any large aeroplanes been landed — safely and without damage — in locations that they could not be flown away from?

TACA Flight 110 made a deadstick landing on a grass levee. Engines got replaced and it took off using a nearby NASA facility. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/TACA_Flight_110
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  • 769
73 votes

Why don't aircraft use nuclear propulsion?

To a large extent, it wasn't revived because the only realistic use case became obsolete. The USA and USSR were both interested in nuclear-powered long-range bombers. The plan was to have a fleet of ...
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72 votes
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How could "aggressor" pilots fly foreign aircraft without speaking the language?

A couple of things come to mind that enable this: you don't become a fighter pilot if you are not intelligent and highly motivated you are not learning a new skill, just doing what you are already ...
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65 votes
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Why was the production of the Lockheed SR-71 Blackbird halted?

Why did they stop building it? Because they built 32, and that was as many as was needed at the time. 32 spy planes was plenty for the USAF/CIA to use, so building more would have been a waste. By ...
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  • 10.3k
64 votes
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How did SR-71 spy, flying at 80,000 ft and 3500 km/h?

The SR-71 Blackbird was equipped with specialized cameras. It would overfly the area of interest and take high-resolution pictures of the ground. Of particular interest is the Technical Objective ...
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  • 1,655
61 votes

What is the slowest fixed-wing airplane?

The Antonov AN-2 has no stall speed quoted in the operating manual and can fly under full control at about 30 mph. Thus if the headwind is sufficiently large the aircraft will move backwards with ...
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59 votes
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Could the Wright brothers fly across the US today?

It's possible, but it would be difficult under today's regulations. Restrictions (regulations): Avoid any controlled airspace that requires talking to ATC For the sake of argument I'll pretend we ...
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  • 67.2k
57 votes

Is 3 crew cockpit safer than 2 crew?

No aircraft ever had more than two pilots (on duty at the same time). The additional flight crew members were flight engineer, navigator and radio operator. Dedicated radio operators were only ...
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57 votes
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Is this really a British Airways 727?

Interesting question! In the background, a Lufthansa Boeing 747-400 can be seen. Therefore, I assume the airport is a Lufthansa destination. Since the 727 is not exactly a long range aircraft, but ...
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  • 74.2k
57 votes
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Has a commercial or military jet bi-plane ever been manufactured?

Yes I present to you, the Belphegor, a jet powered, crop-dusting, biplane. I think I need not say that this is a Soviet Bloc design, from Poland in particular. Note the braces between the wings ...
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56 votes

Why was Concorde never sold as a private business jet?

Private business jets have a few requirements: Operational costs must be within budget. The concorde is pretty expensive to run as demonstrated by the high ticketprices you had to pay for a trip on ...
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52 votes

Have any large aeroplanes been landed — safely and without damage — in locations that they could not be flown away from?

Sure! An Ex-Interflug Ilyushin Il-62 was landed on the 900 m runway of Stölln/Rhinow airport (EDOR) in the German countryside in 1989 to be turned into a tourist attraction. Here is a short video of ...
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52 votes
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Why did flying boats in the '30s and '40s have a longer range than land based aircraft?

Since fuel volume in aircraft is a large factor in range, and the volume of an aircraft increases faster than the linear size, larger aircraft have a big advantage for range. In the 1930s, the biggest ...
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52 votes
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Can anyone identify what appears to be a crashed WWII German plane?

It's a P-47 Thunderbolt, the original "razorback" version (not the later ones with the bubble canopy and cut-down rear fuselage). The instant giveaway is the V shaped windshield, which had ...
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  • 103k
50 votes

How were bullets fired through the propeller in the Focke Wulf 190?

Note: See Peter Kämpf's answer for specifically how the Fw 190 Achieved this Electronically This answer is specific to how this was achieved via mechanical means in earlier aircraft and not specific ...
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48 votes
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Why did the Ju-87 Stuka have a siren?

Wikipedia: The B-1 [variant] was also fitted with "Jericho trumpets", essentially propeller-driven sirens with a diameter of 0.7 m (2.3 ft) mounted on the wing's leading edge directly forward of ...
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47 votes

Other than a swing wing, what types of variable geometry have flown?

Extending wings The idea is to have a larger wing area at takeoff for more lift and a smaller wing area in flight for more efficiency. The NIAI RK and followup RK-I used two tandem wings that served ...
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  • 1,292
47 votes
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The F-16s that were scrambled to intercept United 93 did not have time to arm the jets, so the pilots were going to “ram it” how does that work?

Just read the Washington Post article that was cited in the Wikipedia article. The intention of the two F-16 pilots was to ram the Boeing 757 in a likely suicide mission, since they had no ammunition ...
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46 votes
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Why is the autopilot called "George?"

The first "practical" autopilot was invented by George DeBeeson (the patent can be found here, updated here) - This seems to be the most likely reason for the informal name "George" for the autopilot ...
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  • 67.2k
46 votes

What is the slowest fixed-wing airplane?

The Harrier, Yak-38, Yak-141, XV-15, and V-22 are all fixed wing aircraft. All can hover in mid air, controlled. So they are in controlled flight at 0 velocity. At least the Harrier can even be in ...
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  • 14.9k
45 votes

In WW2, were self-sealing fuel tanks really cost-beneficial?

Your description of a self-sealing fuel tank remaining on fire when lit is the exact situation of the sealing mechanism failing. As soon as the tank is punctured, regardless of a fire or not, the ...
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  • 1,249
45 votes

Have any large aeroplanes been landed — safely and without damage — in locations that they could not be flown away from?

The various Space Shuttle Orbiters did this all the time. They mostly got piggyback rides back to their launch facilities.
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  • 839
45 votes

How could "aggressor" pilots fly foreign aircraft without speaking the language?

You don't need to speak(1) fluent(2) Russian(3): In fact you don't need to speak at all, just understand. You don't need to be fluent, just understand enough to not crash the plane. It's not about ...
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44 votes
Accepted

Why did the B-29 have so much leftward torque at take-off?

It didn't arise ONLY during takeoff, but it is most noticeable then for several reasons The engines are at maximum power, therefore producing maximum torque You've got a very good reason to need to ...
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