Love or hate their designs, the French can certainly be innovative. Ivan Makhonine, a Russian expatriate conceived the idea of the telescopic wing. The wing outer panel telescoping into the inner panel to reduce span and wing area for high speed flight and being extended for economic cruise and landing. His first design was the MAK-10 first flown 11 August 1931 proving the concept but being severely underpowered. The sliding wing was pneumatically powered and a standby manual system was provided. French Government support carried the test programme a further stage culminating in the MAK-101 of 1935. This machine achieving 233mph with the outer wing panel retracted.
The concept attracted another Frenchman, Charles Gourdou, who designed in 1937 what could have been the world's first variable-geometry single-seat fighter. The Gourdou G-11 C1.
Shot at 2007-06-24
Estimated top speed was 422mph utilising a Hispano-Suiza 12Y-51 of 1,050hp. In the end Gourdou was forced to concede that the Makhonine scheme was impracticable for such a small aircraft and the project was dropped.
Meanwhile the MAK-101 continued to fly in France during the war, but under the ever watchful eye of the RLM. In 1941 the RLM decided that the MAK-101 would be more useful at the Rechlin test centre. It would need to be ferried there. Makhonine shrewdly requested one more test flight before being ferried. In true 'resistance style' the selected pilot deliberately crashed the aircraft, causing sufficient damage to deny the Germans the MAK-101.
Post war. Makhonine's work culminated into his final design, the MAK-123.
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The MAK-123, which first flew in 1947 was unique in being a four-seater with all occupants sitting in tandem. The aircraft displayed no vices or untoward characteristics proving the concept. The extension-retraction system worked perfectly, powered by a quarter horse-power motor. Indeed, so well did the MAK-101 perform during its flight test, the pilot put the nose down at 13,125ft, cut the engine, extended the outer wing panels, and succeeded in gliding for one hour!
Unfortunately Makhonine's telescoping wing concept came to an ignominious end during a flight when the engine failed, necessitating a forced landing into a potato patch.