What's inside those mechanized fighting vehicles?
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Boeing Stratocruiser Cutaway Drawing 1952

Click Image For Full 1636 x 781 px Size

In 1952, the 67.5 ton Boeing Stratocruiser cost a (then) whopping $1.5 million.  With a 3,000 mile range, this craft–first delivered to PanAm–offered up luxury as few commercial passengers had seen before:  a galley, a lower-deck lounge, sleeping berths, a forward stateroom, and more.

Truly a case of “swords to ploughshares,” the Stratocruiser was “developed from the C-97 Stratofreighter, a military derivative of the B-29 Superfortress used for troop transport,” according to Wikipedia.

Or as a promo film from that time says, “from bomber to boudoir,” referring to the powder room accommodations for women.

Making Dinner on the Stratocruiser

Making Dinner on the Stratocruiser


Source:  LIFE, August 16, 1948

Triple Deck Auto Transport Plane 1952


A lovely 3-color cutaway by Popular Science stalwart, technical illustrator Ray Piotch, of the Blackburn Universal Freighter (“BUF”).

The BUF had two lower freight decks that could accommodate 6-8 autos, depending on size, and an upper deck for 42 passengers.

This hulking beast wasn’t known for its speed, though, reaching a maximum of 180 miles an hour.

See AirpowerWorld for pictures of the real-life BUF.

Source:  Popular Science, October 1952

Naturally, in the popular press of the time, Consolidated Vultee’s B-24 Liberator bomber would be hailed as a magnificent fighting machine, capable of plowing down any obstacle like cutting through butter.

While the B-24 did have its strong points, crew members had a different angle on the craft. Lately, I have been reading Laura Hillenbrand’s book Unbroken: A World War II Story of Survival, Resilience and Redemption.  The person who is the centerpiece of the book, Louis Zamperini, who was a B-24 bombardier, says that the B-24 was called other names by crew members, such as “The Constipated Lumberer,” “The Flying Coffin,” and “The Flying Brick.”

Click to Enlarge to 1328 x 506 px:

B-24 Liberator Bomber Cutaway 1943

B-24 Liberator Bomber Cutaway 1943


Source:  Popular Mechanics November 1943

Even though I like Ray Pioch, his 1951 cutaway drawing of this fanciful atomic airplane really isn’t very good.  It’s got the typical middle-of-magazine two-color scheme, and the perspectives within this so-called atomic airplane are all wrong.

That said, it was predicted that, by 1980, atomic-powered jets would already be in use.  However, more realistically, it was said that the nuclear power plant would be so heavy (about 50 tons) that it would cost as much in terms of weight as a petroleum-fueled plane (power plant replacing fuel).

Another problem:  a radioactive engine being dangerous to the flight crew, extensive and heavy shielding would have to be added.

And another problem:  the nuclear reactor’s slow start-up time.

Click to Enlarge to 1230 x 755 px:

Atomic Airplane Cutaway 1951

Atomic Airplane Cutaway 1951

Source:  Popular Science October 1951

This is the Tupolev TU-10 bomber.  I have not been able to find information on this aircraft.  If anyone has leads, please leave information in the comment section.

Click to Enlarge Image to 1375 x 745 px:

Soviet TU 10 Two Jet Bomber 1951

Soviet TU 10 Two Jet Bomber 1951

Source:  Popular Science August 1951

You’re looking at a Douglas Skymaster C-54M that has been converted into a 32 litter (bed) “Flying Hospital.”

At the time this cutaway was drawn, the Korean War was in full force.  Rather than taking wounded soldiers home by ship or rail, Military Air Transport Service’s (MATS) C-54M took them home far faster and in better conditions.

Litters were a bit cramped (18.5 inches vertical clearance for each patient), but the “Flying Hospital” did have other superior accommodations, such as a full nurse’s station, air-conditioning, and galley for preparation of hot meals.

Click to Enlarge to 1607 x 735 px:

Douglas Skymaster C54M Flying Hospital Cutaway 1951

Douglas Skymaster C54M Flying Hospital Cutaway 1951

Source:  Popular Science April 1951

Only the cockpit of the XC-99?  Well, this plane was so freaking huge, we can barely show more than this.

Based on a B-36 bomber, the XC-99–built by Convair–flew 7,400 hours over the span of about 10 years.

Click to Enlarge to 786 x 742 px:

US Air Force XC-99 Cargo Plane Cockpit Cutaway 1951

US Air Force XC-99 Cargo Plane Cockpit Cutaway 1951

Source:  Popular Science March 1951

Where’s the pilot?  Well, maybe it’s not a plane.  Maybe it’s a missile of some sort.  But then, where’s the warhead?

You’re looking at a G.H. Davis cutaway drawing, 1956, of a Leduc 021 ramjet aircraft.  No pilot, no warhead.

The Leduc 021 was carried up by a Languedoc airliner, Space Shuttle-style, and then released.  The Leduc’s maximum ceiling was 65,000.

The reason for this unusual launch was because the Leduc used a ramjet instead of a rotary compresser (like you see on passenger jets) to force (i.e., ram) the much-needed air into the engine.  The jet had to build up a certain minimum airspeed in order for the jet to fire.

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French Leduc 021 Experimental Ramjet Cutaway, 1956

French Leduc 021 Experimental Ramjet Cutaway, 1956

A nice G.H. Davis cutaway (note “France” added just above his signature) of a French Baroudeur SE-5000.

See the landing gear on the Baroudeur?  No?  That’s because the Baroudeur (roughly translated to “adventurer”) is leaving its landing gear behind on the ground.  That’s right, the SE-5000 carried no gear, instead relying on a wheeled trolley to assist its takeoff.  It landed on grassy fields on skids.  This cutaway drawing shows the skids retracted.

Developed for NATO, this lightweight fighter, with a range of 1,500 miles, never entered production.

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French Baroudeur SE 5000 Fighter Jet 1956

French Baroudeur SE 5000 Fighter Jet 1956

Source:  Popular Mechanics May 1956

The Comet was quite a big deal when it was unveiled in 1950.  Both Popular Mechanics (Popular Mechanics’ deHavilland Comet Cutaway) and Popular Science pulled out all “cutaway stops” to feature this luxurious liner of the skies.

Here, illustrator Jo Kotula tips the Comet to an angle rarely seen in aircraft cutaways.

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Comet Airliner Cutaway 1950

Comet Airliner Cutaway 1950

Source:  Popular Science May 1950