Hey Dave, I came across these very rare photos of the Mystery XA-13 ½ that was tested at Wright field in 1932. This top secret project was submitted to the Army Air Corps by the cash strapped manufacturer in the hopes of garnering at least a limited production contract in the midst of the depression. It arrived at Wright in March and was immediately moved to an isolated area of the field to avoid curious onlookers. In the weeks to come, it was pushed through an accelerated test flight program that revealed remarkable performance. In May, minor teething troubles with the experimental inverted V-12 engine caused a bizarre runway mishap. The prototype aircraft was flipped on its back, which resulted in a delay in the flight test program. It was during this hiatus that the scandal involving the company's charismatic CEO, Cyrus B. Mystery, broke in the newspapers. He was accused of attempting to bribe several Bolivian export officials in order to expedite a large shipment of balsa. It was later revealed that he was stockpiling balsa in anticipation of a production order for his advanced attack aircraft. In the face of the adverse publicity and the severe budget cuts brought on by a congress moving further into isolationism, the Air Corps was forced to turn down this very promising, if unconventional design. Mr. Mystery fled the country to avoid prosecution and took up residence in Peru, where he was able to build a limited number of A-13 ½ aircraft for sale to various foreign governments. At the start of the war in Europe, he offered to return to the US and turn his considerable aeronautical design skills to the war effort, but he was rebuffed when it was discovered that he was a Republican. The French government recognized a designer capable of building aircraft that met their aesthetic standards and entered negotiations with his new company, Aeroplano del Andale. These negotiations were still underway when France collapsed in 1940. Discouraged with the aircraft business, he then turned his talents to the production of automated llama milking equipment and married a Peruvian divorce, the former Mrs. Acomplit Juarez. They had seventeen children and lived comfortably in the countryside. He died in Lima in 1976 at age 84.
I thought you would like to know. - Rich Weber aka Wingnut
I read your brief history of the A-13 ½ project and subsequent production by Aeroplano del Andele with great interest. I would like to offer some additional information in the interest of furthering solid aviation historical research.
Your assertion that the French government did not take delivery
of any Mystery aircraft before the 1940 collapse is not quite the whole story.
While it is true that the production contract was not yet signed, there were several
pre production aircraft shipped overseas for test purposes.
I was a fitter with No. 23 Squadron RAF in 1939. Several
of us were sent to Brest to help unload squadron stores and begin erecting equipment. It
was while I was
there that I saw the Mystery Tailless for the first time.
Our workshop area had been set up inside the Aeronavale base near the docks. A Bolivian freighter was being unloaded right next to our own so it was hard to miss the excitement when these unusual aircraft were unloaded and assembled. While I cannot say for certain how many were in the shipment, I distinctly remember seeing at least four large crates bearing the AdA logo. One was completely assembled and moved to the adjoining airfield during my brief stay. We were not permitted to have cameras, but one of the chaps on the freighter was able to capture a few images. I met up with him in town while on a pass and was able to negotiate a trade for them. It seems he was on his first trip and had no idea how easy it was to obtain postcards of that sort. I've enclosed copies of the photos for your perusal.Very truly yours, Smedley Undershot, Great Whacking, Lancs, UK
So there you have it. Another interesting facet of the history of this remarkable aircraft is brought to light.
In related news, my LTR-14 suffered the same fate at that contest. No doubt about that one as the following week we found a shredded piece of the fuselage. I think it was in one of the big trees in the middle of the campus and the storm finished it off. Had a lot of fun with that one too. It was a tough day for my Easybuilt fleet! Oh well, gives me something to add to the build list for this winter. - Rich Weber aka Wingnut
Dave, I have come across a further episode in the career of this mysterious machine. It appears that after the fall of France in 1940 the aircraft that Rich Weber heard about escaped to England flown by a couple of brave matelotsand, was sent to Westlands ay Yeovill where they were experimenting with a Tandem winged version of the Lysander called the Wendover, also a high aspect wing version, The Mystery ship was obviously right up their street. They looked at and decided to re engine it with a RR Kestrel from a Hawker Hart and replace the rear gun, by this time a rather unreliable French Darne gun, with the turret from a Blenheim with a Vickers K gun. This mod was trialed in parallel with the Wendover as a beach straffer against the expected invasion across the Channel. This of course never came, so this interesting airframe languished in obscurity. Its later history is still unsure, but rumors exist that it was shipped to Russia and possibly re engined again with a radial engine. Time will tell. Regards Lindsey.
Just when all was appearing to be too quiet, spirits were low...
An undercover spy working for the Easy Built Models Company has secured photos of a diabolical effort by the Third Reich. We have not determined the whereabouts of Bill Barnes and are concerned for his safety. Don Morris appears to be in cahoots with the perpetrators and is taunting us with these images we have posted at the website. In the top photos is the plane we have all come to know and love but the bottom photo clearly shows that Morris has either assisted the Germans in the construction of their own Silver Lancer replica or have repainted Barne's captured plane. We can only hope that this is a hollow threat to terrorize us, that their craft cannot fly and that Bill will be found safe and alive.(Click link to see photos) pd02.htm
This is a call to the FAC to prepare yourselves. I suspect that there may be others in the ranks of the FAC that are sympathetic to the Reich and are collaborating against us. We have heard of plans for a battle at the Geneseo airfield some time in July. Please do what you can...build, fly, win... - Dave
I was lead into this project by a footnote in an article in an obscure French aviation magazine from the 30s. It mentioned that several "unusual types" were included in a shipment of aircraft from the Bellanca Aircraft Company to the Spanish government in late 1937. The largest part of the order consisted of twenty two Bellanca 28-90 high performance monoplanes. It was routed through a phony Greek flying school to avoid the US arms embargo on the combatants in Spain. When the US State Department got wind of the deal, they stopped the shipment as quickly as they could. The crates containing the Mystery Tailless and another, allegedly even stranger aircraft had already sailed. The documents were forged so it is impossible to be sure of where they landed, but the most probable route was through Sweden and then Le Harve. Service with the Republican Air Force is not well documented. What is known is that it was captured intact during the Battle of the Ebro when the pilot became disoriented in poor weather and landed at a Nationalist airfield. The aircraft was quickly repainted and put into service with a close support unit of the Kondor Legion. Its performance was superior to the He 51s flown by that unit and it was found that it tended to confuse anti aircraft gunners because they couldn't be sure which way it was going. After the defeat of the government forces, it continued in service for some months, but there is no record of its eventual fate. Perhaps further research will turn up more information.