Tuesday, December 27, 2011

A piece of aviation history is up for grabs

I've no idea how it survived, but a relic of Cold War aviation and the second generation of stealth aircraft is up for auction. It appears to be the only surviving canopy from the McDonnell Douglas/General Dynamics A-12 Avenger II strike aircraft program.

The Avenger II was under development for the US Navy and US Marine Corps from 1983-1991 before being cancelled. The aircraft never flew.

Stephen Trimble reports:

Seth Kettleman makes a living buying and selling surplus aircraft machinery on the web. In late November, a strange item popped up on GovDeals.com: an A-12 Avenger II fighter canopy. Kettleman had never heard of the A-12, but he was intrigued so he started Googling. He read that the highly classified A-12 had been canceled in 1991. He also read that the A-12 was canceled before McDonnell Douglas and General Dynamics assembled the first aircraft.

Kettleman decided it was worth a gamble, and won an online auction with a $2,300 bid.

. . .

Kettleman says: "The canopy has now been verified as authentic. It was a production unit for the A-12 Avenger II manufactured by McAir (Division of McDonnell Douglas).

The canopy must have a hundred or so individual serial numbers and manufacturing data marked on it. These numbers and individual pieces have been verified as authentic parts from the program."

Kettleman's canopy is now for sale on eBay.

There's more at the link.

Kettleman hopes to get over $600,000 for the canopy, which seems unlikely to me; but he'll probably get a lot more than his initial investment. In fact, given that this is an actual canopy assembly and not just a mockup, I imagine that Chinese and/or Russian aerospace companies might be willing to pay quite a bit to get their hands on it, in order to evaluate its stealth components and technology. One assumes there are export restrictions in place to prevent that, but who knows? They might be able to buy it through a local individual or company, then examine it within the borders of the USA, which would, of course, be entirely legal.

You can see how the canopy would have looked on the aircraft in this artist's impression of the A-12 in flight.

(Image courtesy of Wikipedia)

I'm amazed that any piece of the aircraft has survived this long. I wonder how many other bits and pieces of the A-12 might be found if one looked long and hard enough?



tweell said...

That project was a huge mess. I remember reading about the new plane we were going to get, then finding out that it was terminated. Interesting that it's still in the courts, seeing that it was canceled 20 years ago.

Parklake guy said...

A 12 was also the precursor of the SR71 Blackbird. I was working for an areospace supplier in spare parts negotiations and was told to get a Top Secret clearance. No big deal; had one in the Navy. Asked why and was told I could figure out how many were made. Hadn't thought of that till then, then figured it out.

Peter said...

@Parklake Guy: That was a different A-12. There have been no less than 5 aircraft with that designation:


The A-12 Avenger II was the most recent of them, AFAIK.

The Raving Prophet said...

It was the YF-12 that was the predecessor to the SR-71 (extra points if you can give the story as to why it isn't called the RS-71).

I live in the metro area that used to be the home for McDonnell Douglas (since absorbed by Boeing); I remember the big deal when the A-12 program bought it. It was the beginning of a series of failures to get contracts for the 5th generation aircraft for that particular bunch.

Anonymous said...

FYI, if the canopy contains ITAR (Internation Traffic in Arms Regulations) controlled information, it would NOT be legal for a foreign person or entity to buy the canopy and view it in the United States. Transfer of ITAR information or items to a foreign person is considered an export regardless of where it occurs, and would expose the person who provided access to hefty fines and likely jail time.