Landing planes on rubber mats

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Did the Royal Navy experiment with landing aeroplanes on a big rubber mat, so that space used for the undercarriage could be used for fuel?

Yes. Cf. this interview with Don Engen, in the Smithsonian's Air and Space Magazine:

I was there [at the Empire Test Pilot School in Farnborough] one year, and in that year, we did some unusual things. One of the things that I did was to fly a Sea Vampire and land it wheels-up on a constructed rubber mat that was 144 feet long. They had a wire stretched across the front of it, and I would fly down the field with my tailhook 18 inches off the ground, catch the wire with my wheels up, and it would throw me onto this rubber mat, where I would stop.

-- that is, there was a 144 foot long rubber mat at one end of which was an arrester wire about 18 inches off the floor; the trick was to grab the wire with the hook on the back of the 'plane, flop on to the mat and hope for the best. We can probably tell how well this scheme worked by counting the navies which use it now....

Copyright (c) 2003 Chris Lightfoot. All rights reserved.