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ANSWERED on Tue 9 Mar 2010 - 2:18 am UTC by byrd

Question: Please identify this biplane

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 7 Mar 2010 17:24 UTCSun 7 Mar 2010 - 5:24 pm UTC 

simple enough, but I don't have the time or the expertise:

Found in a manga volume, Can someone identify this biplane model?




 9 Mar 2010 01:23 UTCTue 9 Mar 2010 - 1:23 am UTC 

Hi mblind,

I'm not posting this in the answer box because I'm not sure you want to accept for your answer that the biplane in the picture is not a drawing of a real biplane. However, that's what I think, and here's why:

First of all, the story takes place in the 1890s. The earliest biplanes were built during that decade, so the timeframe is slightly plausible. However, the design of the first biplanes were nothing like the one in the drawing. See this account with images of the Wright Brothers first biplane, built in 1899:

Here are a couple more links showing early biplanes from approximately the same era:

"Biplane Glider of Octave Chanute, c1896 (1910)"

"1900's Wright Glider"

1910 Bristol Box Kite

You'll notice these very early biplanes look much different than the one in the "Emma" drawing, which would be actually quite futuristic for the time in which the story is set. Apparently this fact was noticed by others also.

In one review of the comic, the reviwer says, "the toy biplane on pg. 31 is an anachronism," which of course means something that cannot have existed at the time stated.  http://www.rocketbomber.com/2010/03/07/emma-mmf-daily-diary-vol-1

Apparently the author, or at least her staff agreed, as in a future edition of Emma, according to another commenter, "Kaoru Mori got it half-wrong ... but the staff of the anime corrected her error. The anime still had a flying model aircraft, but they replaced her relatively futuristic biplane with a model of the Aerial Steam Carriage, an 1840s design that didn’t fly but might have been known about by at least a few people (there was an aviation display at the Crystal Palace, even if controlled, powered flight had yet to occur):

According to this Wikipedia article, author Kaoru Mori attempted in Emma "to recreate 1895 London with meticulous detail." However, since there were no biplanes flying around London in 1895, it's obvious that she could not have drawn an actual biplane from that time and place.

Furthermore, the biplane in the drawing does not match any of hundreds of images of real biplanes I viewed on dozens of vintage aircraft sites. None match all the details of the drawing including radial engine, two-bladed propeller, single bay open cockpit, squared-off empennage (tail assembly), partially exposed strutwork in the aft fuselage, six pairs of vertical struts separating the wings, wings of the width depicted, wheels directly forward of the cockpit and centered under the lower wing, and so forth. Early British biplane manufacturers included British and Colonial Aeroplane Company (Bristol), Hawker-Siddley, Sopwith, Nieuport, General, RAF (Royal Aircraft Factory), Vickers, Avro, and Fairey. Of these, a few of the closest matches are

Avro 504
http://www.ctie.monash.edu.au/hargrave/roe.html (scroll down to nearly the bottom of the page)

Bristol Fighter

Nieuport 28

Sopwith Pup

But none of these match exactly, and they are all of much later vintage. Also, none of the British models had three pairs of vertical struts on either side of the fuselage separating the wings as depicted in the drawing. In fact, the only biplane I found that had that particular feature was a German WWI biplane called the Gotha Bomber, here:

Just for comparison a coupld of other close matches might be the American Grumman F3F or the Sopwith Tabloid:

However, neither did these have all the features of the drawing.

Therefore, based on all the above, I believe the drawing in the original Emma Volume 1 is a fictitious composite, made up of parts of various aircraft, either imagined, drawn from memory, or combined from a variety of actual aircraft, to create a representative biplane, but not a faithful drawing of any actual year, make or model of real biplane. If you concur, I'll be glad to post this information as an answer. If not, perhaps someone else might do a better job of identifying the biplane in the drawing.






 9 Mar 2010 01:37 UTCTue 9 Mar 2010 - 1:37 am UTC 

I especially like that you picked up on the RocketBomber review, as I wrote it. (and was trying to peg just how many years out of place this damned 'aeroplane' was, hence the uclue query)

Your research work is excellent.  If you could give me your best guess as to which year this model might best fall into, I'll happily take that (with the information above) as your answer.  And I hope you don't mind, but I'll likely link to this post when discussing this matter on RocketBomber.com later in the week.





 9 Mar 2010 02:18 UTCTue 9 Mar 2010 - 2:18 am UTC 

Hi Mblind,

I'm glad you were pleased with the research and information. I believe the closest matches to the Emma drawing might be the Avro 504 (1916), the Bristol Fighter (1916), and the Gotha Bomber (early 1917). Therefore my best guess as to the vintage of the biplane in the Emma drawing would be mid-WWI or 1916.

Just fyi, I am a pilot and while not an expert in historical aviation, I do nevertheless have a large collection of aviation related bookmarks, and know how to locate and use aviation databases, as well as have some base knowledge of aircraft history and manufacturers, etc. that gives me a starting point from which to search. In addition to researching Emma and Kaoru Mori, a few of the other resources I used included:


I don't mind at all if you link to this post, please do. I'll be making a point to check RocketBomber.com to see what kind of conversation is sparked. Now I'm interested too!

Thanks again for accepting my research in answer to your question. Please let me know if there is anything else you need on this.

Best wishes,





 9 Mar 2010 02:59 UTCTue 9 Mar 2010 - 2:59 am UTC 

Wow!  I suspected that Byrd must have been taking time to give the definitive answer, which is much, much harder when it comes to justifying a "No, that didn't exist" reply.

I rather think that the cartoonist was inspired by the Proctor Antic biplane model (taking liberties with the vertical stabilizer):

perhaps assuming the company had based it on an actual plane.  

Someone on this blog, however, posted the following:

"As much as is practical for a parkflyer type plane like this, it is a fair replica of the 81" Antic model (which I've heard refered to as "The most accurate scale model of a full size airplane that doesn't exist)."


Regards, Myoarin




 9 Mar 2010 03:08 UTCTue 9 Mar 2010 - 3:08 am UTC 

Quite nice.  Thank you.




 9 Mar 2010 03:30 UTCTue 9 Mar 2010 - 3:30 am UTC 

Hi Mblind, you're very welcome. I'm happy you were pleased. Thank you for the kind words and tip! Best regards, Byrd




 9 Mar 2010 03:40 UTCTue 9 Mar 2010 - 3:40 am UTC 

Hi Myo,

That Proctor Antic biplane is a pretty good guess too. Here's a good clear image: http://www.proctor-enterprises.com/photo_gallery/antic/images/antic_biplane1-w.jpg

Only problem is, even though it has the open framework on the aft fuselage, it also differs quite a bit from the drawing in more details than just the curvilinear vs angular vertical stabilizer, i.e. no big round radial engine upfront; gap between the prop and the engine compartment; angular vs rounded fuselage; solid vs spoked wheels; four vs twelve total struts on the wings; open framework on the fuselage all the way to the empennage vs the aftmost end being covered; two piece angled vs solid straight wings, etc. Those are the same sorts of inconsistencies I ran into with "real" airplanes too.

But I totally love the quote:"The most accurate scale model of a full size airplane that doesn't exist" That's great! Might apply to Mori's drawing as well, eh?






 9 Mar 2010 10:45 UTCTue 9 Mar 2010 - 10:45 am UTC 

Hi Byrd,

Oh, I agree entirely.  Not bothering to trace the cartoon, I didn't give much thought about Mori's attempting accuracy, and only knowing what 20+ pages of G. images taught me about me about biplanes, I found only Proctor's model with an open fuselage. 

The blog was a lucky chance finding, my last click on another image after starting my comment.  Maybe Mori saw an actual model, and the builder said it was based on an real plane.  A quick sketch, augmented by incorrect details from elsewhere, resulting in the cartoon image.

Congratulations on a well-earned  - hard earned -  tip.  When I noticed your extending the lock, I remembered that you are a pilot, imagining your stubborn obligation to answer "your" question.

Cheers, Myo




 10 Mar 2010 01:41 UTCWed 10 Mar 2010 - 1:41 am UTC 

post went up:

and thanks again.  You know, Byrd, there's a company called Studio Ghibli which has put out a few films... I'm thinking there might be a future collaboration/opportunity for at least two columns, wherein I throw more money your direction [and a co-author credit] and you make me look brilliant.  Would you be interested in more work?  I'd run the whole thing through Uclue, so no worries there.

have you seen Porco Rosso and Castle in the Sky?




 10 Mar 2010 02:53 UTCWed 10 Mar 2010 - 2:53 am UTC 

Hi Mblind,

Many thanks for supplying me with the link. I'll be interested to see what kind of comments your posting might attract, so I'll be keeping an eye on it.

I confess I know little about anime or manga in general, which is why I had to research Emma before I could research the biplane. Such limited knowledge as I do have has primarily been gleaned from reading a small newsletter put out by an expatriate American and manga enthusiast in Japan by the name of Peter Payne. I happened to run across it once a few years ago and liked the way he wrote, so I kept reading it. The newsletter is here if you care to check it out: http://www.jbox.com/jlistmail_pg.html

But since I don't recall ever reading about Studio Ghibli, I'd never heard of it, nor seen the films you mention. However, I just looked them up and viewed the trailers and I'm going to have to see them now. They look marvelous. What fun!

Thank you very much for the offer of a possible future collaboration. I appreciate it and am certainly interested in more work. If you'd like to direct a question my way, you can make such a request either in the subject line or body of the question and the other researchers will respect it.

Thank you again for the opportunity to work on this question. I did enjoy it, as I do all things aviation! Hope to hear from you again in future then. Take care.




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