History Mystery

By Dorr, Robert F. | Air Power History, Winter 2014 | Go to article overview

History Mystery


Dorr, Robert F., Air Power History


In our last issue, as we've done in each issue for more than a quarter century, we challenged Air Power History readers to identify a mystery aircraft.

Our final "Can you name it?" airplane was the Douglas XB-42 Mixmaster, a unique bomber design that relied on pusher-prop power.

This was an unorthodox aircraft with a crew of three, powered by two Allison V-1710 liquid-cooled piston engines, one for each contra-rotating propeller. Its first flight, in the hands of pilot Bob Brush, took place on May 6,1944. Douglas built two XB-42s.

The XB-42 can claim to have been one of the most advanced piston-engine warplanes ever built --as fast as the speedy De Havilland Mosquito (at 488 miles per hour in its final form) but with twice the bombload (8,000 pounds). Had World War II lasted longer, we might have seen swarms of Mixmasters in hostile skies.

As a child, I saw one of the XB-42s at Bolling Army Air Field in Washington, D.C. A day or so later on December 16, 1945, that aircraft crashed. The crew survived. The mishap was found not to be due to any flaw in the aircraft design.

The surviving XB-42 is part of the collection of the National Air and Space Museum. The design strongly influenced the Douglas XB-43, another rare bird that was America's first jet bomber.

In the past, this space has announced a winner in the History Mystery contest and the awarding of a prize.

This time around, no one entered our context.

Thanks for the Mystery

In reflecting on how the "History Mystery" feature touched many lives, it's also time to reflect on generational change and, in my case, no pun intended, to head for the door.

In 1989, a small band of history buffs re-invented the magazine that had been known as Aerospace Historian, re-labeled it Air Power History, and began a new era--something we all need to do from time to time.

The inventors included publisher Ramsay D. Potts, editor in chief F. …

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