Airplanes are graceful, elegant, magnificent marvels of engineering, most of the time. Throughout the ages, engineers have challenged conventional designs with some outstandingly bizarre aircraft. Despite their weirdness, many were used to advance aerodynamics, though some were created just to prove a point.
Vought V-173 "Flying Pancake"
[Image Source: Wikipedia]
The Vought V-173, or more appropriately known as the "Flying Pancake" is a surprisingly fast, yet ancient aircraft. In the 1940s, the U.S. Navy was looking for a small plane capable of quick deployment from tankers, cruisers, and other ships to counter Japanese aerial and submarine attacks.
The Vought V-173, or more appropriately known as the "Flying Pancake" is a surprisingly fast, yet ancient aircraft. Navy was looking for a small plane capable of quick deployment from tankers, cruisers, and other ships to counter Japanese aerial and submarine attacks.
Though the plane looks ridiculous, at the time the U.S. was desperate for a plane capable of short takeoffs and landings following the devastating attacks of Perl Harbor. However, by the time the plane reached the production stage, the war was already over.
The designer harles H. Zimmerman, an aerodynamicist at the National Advisory Committee for Aeronautic derived the idea from manta rays and their ability to easily glide through the water. The greatest benefit of the large uni-wing structure is its ability to use the entire body as a means to generate lift. The massive amount of lift generated allows the plane to perform a zero-roll takeoff with a 25-knot headwind. Essentially, the plane can hover over the deck of a ship, says National Air and Space Museum curator Russel Lee.
Convair Sea Dart
[Image Source: Wikipedia]
Typically, aircraft and water are not something any pilot wants to be in at the same time. Though that did not stop Convair from an attempt at merging the two. The Convair Sea Dart is a supersonic boat-plane hybrid, and it is incredibly dangerous.
Shortly after the U.S. Navy's take at cooking (the Flying Pankake) failed, it did not take them long before another attempt at an entirely new concept, seaplane fighters.
As Airforces around the world began to adopt the new delta-wing style, the U.S. Navy was skeptical that such a powerful plane could deploy from an aircraft carrier. Instead of landing or taking off from the ship, the Sea Dart can instead use the water as its runway, where it could then be loaded. However, following a fatal accident during a public demonstration, claiming the life of Charles Richbourg, the program was soon canceled.
Though the Sea Dart was quickly abandoned, it was the first and only seaplane to go supersonic.
Caproni Ca.60 Transaereo
[Image Source: Wikipedia]
Apparently, the U.S. Navy were not the only ones trying to cross-over air and sea. The Caproni Ca.60 Transaereo, or otherwise known as the Noviplano (nine-wing), was a prototype aircraft intended to become a 100-passenger transatlantic airliner. The awkward looking behemoth features eight engines totaling 3000 Hp and three sets triple wings! Allegedly, the plane could fly nearly 130 km/h over a range of 660 km.
Although, shortly after the aircraft took off for its maiden flight in 1921, it crashed. Though before hitting the water, the plane did manage to reach an altitude of 18 meters. Fortunately, the pilot survived the crash. Unsurprisingly, the Noviplano never took off again.
Goodyear GA-468 Inflatoplane
Blowing up a plane is never a good idea, especially when blowing it up involves filling giant balloons intended to inflate into a full-size aircraft. Though, that did not stop Goodyear from attempting a prototype anyways.
Surprisingly, the aircraft did take off. Despite its max payload of 100 kg, the Inflatoplane could cruise at a surprising 100 km/h over a range of nearly 600 km. Besides the two-cycle 40-hp Nelson engines and control cables, the plane was almost entirely made of rubber.
The plane functioned surprisingly well, though for some reason, flying an inflatable balloon did not appeal to many enthusiasts. In the end, only twelve Inflatoplanes were developed.
The World's Smallest Jet- The BD-5
FLS Microjet (flying) and BD-5 propeller model [Image Source: YouTube/Juan Jiménez]
Perhaps the most functional on this list is the BD-5, the world's smallest jet since 2004. First introduced by a small experimental aircraft and home-building kit distributor company by the name of Bede Aircraft in the 1970's, the plane quickly became an aviation sensation.
The plane is remarkably small, just a little over 5 meters in length. Do not be mistaken, though, despite its minute proportions the BD-5 can reach speeds of up to 515 km/h with a range of 370 km.
Though not many of the aircraft remain in service, one model, dubbed the FLS Microjet, continuously performs in airshows across the world. You may also recognize it from the James Bond movie, Octopussy.
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Written by Maverick Baker