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World’s Fastest Four-Engined
Piston-Powered Aircraft

by Mike Machat


 S u m m a r y

Title and Author:

World’s Fastest Four-Engined Piston-Powered Aircraft: Story of the Republic XR-12 Rainbow


Hard Cover, 143 pages




USD$32.95 from Specialty Press

Review Type:

First Read


Not only a detailed look at the development of the XR-12 but also the story of its rival, the Hughes XF-11. Also covers the history of republic Aviation and provides a “what-if” glimpse of what might have become of production R-12 and RC-2 aircraft.


None specifically noted


More suited to the aviation historian and enthusiast, but still a useful reference if you wish to break out an Anigrand XR-12 Rainbow

Reviewed by Ken Bowes

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World’s fastest four-engine piston-powered aircraft is an epithet by which the Republic XR-12 reconnaissance aircraft has become known. An interesting aircraft that has its developmental roots in a USAAF requirement for a high-altitude long-range photoreconnaissance aircraft; the R-12 was Republic’s solution. It was considered cutting edge when first developed, but by the time it entered testing in 1946 was already looking obsolete. In the end the RB-29 and RB-50 were chosen by the USAAF and both the military and proposed civilian variants never progressed beyond prototype stage. Noted aviation author Mike Machet has chosen the XR-12 as the subject of this, his most recent book. While this book is not intended specifically as a modelling reference and lacking scale plans, it  covers the subject in more than sufficient detail to answer most questions on configuration and other issues, especially if a modeller plans to build Anigrand’s 1/144 scale resin kit.

This book may seem to have very narrow and esoteric subject but between the covers it offers the aviation enthusiast a smorgasbord, from the forward by Colonel Jack Broughton to the beautifully rendered “what-if” colour profiles that close out the volume. The reader is treated to a history of how Republic emerged from the efforts of aviation pioneer Alexander Seversky, its development at the Farmingdale site, transition to World War Two production era and into the post-war period of production of Thunderjets and Thunderchiefs. The real meat of this book though are the chapters on the design and development of the subject XR-12 and interestingly the rival Hughes XF-11, perhaps better known in recent times for the spectacular crash sequence from the Howard Hughes biopic “The Aviator”. Both types are covered in detail from structure to power plant, equipment and capability.


  • XR-12 Book Review by Ken Bowes: Image
  • XR-12 Book Review by Ken Bowes: Image
  • XR-12 Book Review by Ken Bowes: Image
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The remaining chapters look at the proposed RC-2 Rainbow commercial transport that for a time looked to offer Republic a financial lifeline until ultimately falling at the hurdles of post-war surplus transports and the advent of the all jet Boeing 707. Whilst it has to be said that this book is clearly not intended for modelers, it covers some interesting ground from social, political and technological perspectives. As many modelers are also indeed aviation enthusiasts, it would not be far wrong to say that anyone with a passing interest in the history of experimental types that offered so much and ended up delivering so little would get something of interest out of this book. For modeller’s, there is of course the Anigrand kit in 1/144 scale mentioned earlier and anyone building this kit will find this book a very useful reference.

Thanks to Specialty Press for the sample

Review Copyright 2011 by Ken Bowes
This Page Created on 8 September, 2011
Last updated 8 September, 2011

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