Aircraft Nickname Origins

Discussion in 'Aviation' started by Njaco, Apr 2, 2010.

  1. Njaco

    Njaco The Pop-Tart Whisperer
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    Just read a book about Boeing and it stated that the B-17 got its name when a reporter, upon seeing the prototype being rolled out for the first time, exclaimed; "thats a Flying Fortress!" So I'm wondering where other famous WWII aircraft got their names, like Mustang, Spitfire - we can even go for the German names like Moskito, Uhu, Storch, etc.
     
  2. magnu

    magnu Member

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    IIRC The Spitfire was originally going to be named the Shrew, allegedly named after one of the teams daughters who was called a spitfire for her temperament R.J. Mitchell commented That's just the bloody silly sort of name they would chose.
    The Storch (Stork) was named for its long legged landing gear. Uhu (Owl) Nighttime predator.
     
  3. Trebor

    Trebor Well-Known Member

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    what of the ME-262 Schwalbe?
     
  4. Waynos

    Waynos Active Member

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    #4 Waynos, Apr 2, 2010
    Last edited: Apr 2, 2010
    British names did not come about as nicknames, they were chosen by the Air Ministry from a list of suggestons mostly submitted by the manufacturers (Spitfire and Shrew both being on such a list). This also applies to many US types bought by the UK ie Lightning, Mustang, Dakota etc which did not have names until bought for the RAF. The Dakota, I think, also follows the British rule of naming bombers and transports after cities and towns, the last bomber to follow this rule being the Canberra and the first being the DH Amiens (I think)
     
  5. Njaco

    Njaco The Pop-Tart Whisperer
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    Nicknames may have been a misnomer on my part. "Flying Fortress" was evenually patented by Boeing.
     
  6. Waynos

    Waynos Active Member

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    #6 Waynos, Apr 2, 2010
    Last edited: Apr 2, 2010
    Ah right. You might have noticed a British predilection for alliterative names too, Hawker Hurricane, Supermarine Spitfire, Fairey Firefly etc, though sometimes the AM would overrule this. Hawker, for example, Had wanted the Hawker Fury to be called the Hornet but this name was only applied to the prototype.

    With the Avro Lancaster and Manchester bombers you might note that Avro's Woodford factory is in Manchester, Lancashire. Most of these bombers were based in Lincolnshire throughout the war and then of course in 1945 we got the Avro Lincoln. There are many such links that are obscure without a bit of background.

    Perhaps the laziest British name was the Blackburn Blackburn (which is at least a town as well as the surname of Robert Blackburn) but he did also do a Blackburn Blackburd, which isn't even a real word :D
     
  7. zoomar

    zoomar Member

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    #7 zoomar, Apr 2, 2010
    Last edited: Apr 2, 2010
    I may be wrong, but in several books I've read, it is stated that "Flying Fortress" was from the beginning a registered trade mark of Boeing, and referred not to its defensive armament (which was actually quite weak in the early models) but to its intended role as a long-distance aerial bomber to defend the continental US from sea attack and invasion.

    It seems to me that Britain was the only major power that only used names, all of which were part of their official air ministry designations. Also, leave it to the British to come up with the wonderful alliterations. At the other extreme was the Soviet Union, which to my knowledge never assigned "official" names to warplanes and just used type numbers based on design bureau and mission. Even "Sturmovik" was not an official designation! Germany fell somewhere in between. I'm not sure any of the names given to German planes (Storch, Komet, Schwalbe, Wurger, etc) were official RLM designations, in the same way as "Mustang" and "Spitfire" were official for the US and Britain. Some were quasii-official, some were names given by the design company, and some were just found to be useful informal handles (Emil, Freidrich, Gustav, etc for different Bf-109 variants). And there are those nations (Japan and the USSR) that unfortunately got their planes nicknamed for them by western intelligence services. These names stuck so well that they are now often used by the Japanese and Russians themselves when referring to Kates and Oscars and Fulcrums and Bears.
     
  8. zoomar

    zoomar Member

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    There also must have been some thematic ideas as well, like lets name all Hawker fighters after storms of some kind, hence the Hurricane, Typhoon, Tempest
     
  9. zoomar

    zoomar Member

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    Another really lazy British bomber name was "Washington", given to B-29s supplied to the RAF in he immediate post-war years. Until you pointed out the AM policy to name bombers after cities, I always presumed the British B-29's were named after the president. (after further reflection, I guess it would be rather odd to name a British plane after the leader of a rebellious bunch of colonials...but then there's the Cromwell tank so go figure!). In that light, did the AM have a consistent policy with regard to foreign types? It seems that in the early war years there was a tendency to give new names to US planes like the P-40 (Kittyhawk, Tomahawk, etc), Wildcat (Martlet, etc) and then later to just use the American name. Then, why was the Mitchell name kept for RAF B-25s?

    Also, wasn't the name Mustang (for the P-51) given by the British, while the USAAF intended to call it the Apache?
     
  10. Njaco

    Njaco The Pop-Tart Whisperer
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    Here is the quote in the book:

    "Boeing" by David Lee pg 52

    "The first Model 299 was unveiled to the world in July 1935, gleaming in its polished aluminum finish. The aircraft appeared as an all-powerful silver giant to the press and invited guests. With a crew of eight and four defensive machine gun positions, it was a local Seattle newspaperman who is credited with the immortal words, "She's a Flying Fortress." The name stuck and eventually Boeing patented the description as the official title of their most famous bomber."
     
  11. Catch22

    Catch22 Well-Known Member

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    On top of that you had the Avenger which was named the Tarpon, and the Hellcat originally had a different name too, though I can't recall what it is. They later reversed this renaming and called Hellcats Hellcats and Avengers Avengers to avoid confusion with the US, that at times (particularly in the Pacific) were flying the same types at the same time. The Corsair was always called the Corsair though. No idea why they kept the Mitchell's name.

    As for the P-51, you are correct. In fact, the first Mustang, the A-36, was actually called the Apache and was never renamed the Mustang with the later marks of P-51s.
     
  12. vikingBerserker

    vikingBerserker Well-Known Member

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    "Spitfire" is much nicer then "Shrew"
     
  13. Waynos

    Waynos Active Member

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    #13 Waynos, Apr 3, 2010
    Last edited: Apr 3, 2010
    And this has continued of course with the Tornado and Typhoon of today and the F-35 name was changed to *Lightning II in agreement with the British to celebrate the P-38 and EE Lightning which allows us to continue that trend.

    In the 60's we were into 'predators' and this accounts for the Harrier, Jaguar and Hawk while the TSR 2 was to be the Eagle and the last occurrance of the British renaming US types was to result in the F-111 being the Merlin. The Tornado incidentrally was originally to be called 'Panther' under this scheme.

    The patterns are there but cancellations and 'changes of heart' can make them obscure. It is a subject that has always fascinated me and I will try to find the answers to the other questions you posed.

    * Lightning II was originally rejected for the F-22 which became Raptor of course, other contenders on the F-35 were 'Mustang II' (rejected for the F-16 in 1979) Spitfire II (also considered for the Eurofighter but the Germans weren't keen - why was 'Typhoon' better?) and' Piasa' ( I have no idea either)

    In the UK we have also saddled some of our planes with the worst ever monickers, (Gloster) Gnatsnapper, (Blackburn) Cubaroo and (Boulton Paul) Bobolink for example are all Air Ministry selected names that can make your eyes water :D
     
  14. Negative Creep

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    Apparently Blackburd is an old Scottish spelling
     
  15. Waynos

    Waynos Active Member

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    Well, as he was from Yorkshire and both his factories were here as well I still think he's got no excuse :D
     
  16. Waynos

    Waynos Active Member

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    Hi, back again.

    The Hellcat was originally called the Gannet I by the FAA but I cannot find a reason for a new name not being applied to the Mitchell
     
  17. antoni

    antoni Banned

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    #17 antoni, Apr 3, 2010
    Last edited: Apr 3, 2010
    Shrew was one of the many names suggested for the Supermarine Type 300. Spitfire was not any Air Ministry list, it was the name chosen by Sir Robert Mclean, chairman of Vickers (Aviation) Ltd. (I believe he used to describe his daughter as a spitfire.) It was first applied to the Type 224. Mclean had demanded that the company’s new fighter should suggest something venomous and because of the sibilant it had to begin with the letter ‘S’. Until December 1933 it was known as the F 7/30 Type 224 but Mclean wanted to call it Spitfire so on 20th December 1933 General Cadell wrote to H. Grinstead of the Air Ministry – “Dear Grinstead, confirming my telephone conversation this morning, would you kindly reserve the name ‘Spitfire’ for our day and night fighter now being built at Southampton.” Grinstead replied, “Until accepted for supply to the RAF it is requested that you will continue to refer to this aircraft by the title Supermarine F 7/30”. When the prototype was taken on charge at Farnborough many months later the AM form containing the service history carried the name Spitfire so it appears that the name was adopted.

    As for the Type 300 (“The Spitfire”), the name Spitfire first appears on Supermarine reports on 26th June 1935 without the Air Ministry’s knowledge. The Air Ministry Certificate of Design was issued on the 6th of March 1936 and the prototype K5054 was still known as the Type 300. An official of Supermarine wrote to the AM 10th March – “We refer to our conversation of this morning with A.E. Slater. Would you be good enough to reserve the name ‘Spitfire’ for our fighter to Specn: F 7/30 (modified)”. Slater replied “It has been noted for consideration when, and if, an order is placed for this aircraft.” On 10th June a second letter arrived at Supermarine stating the name was now approved for the F 7/30 (F/ 7/34 modified).
     
  18. fastmongrel

    fastmongrel Well-Known Member

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    My favourite RAF alliterative name is the Westland Whirlwind. It always sounds to me like it should be a weather warning by the Met Office.

    Forecast for the day sunshine and showers with a 50% chance of westland whirlwinds
     
  19. Geedee

    Geedee Well-Known Member

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    I've got it in the back of my mind that it was nicknamed un-officaliy, 'Crickey !. Well, it was a potent 'bit of kit' !

    Interestingly...dont know if you know or not but the Fairy Swordfish was also built under licence by Blackburn , and the these babes where called 'Blackfish' !.
     
  20. Ural Rider

    Ural Rider New Member

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    My favorite "official" name was one that snuck by the censors. The Curtiss XP-55 Ascender. Swept-wing design with canards and a pusher prop. commonly pronounced as the "ass-ender'. :twisted:
     
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