10. Goodyear inflatable plane
The idea behind this inflatable machine was to evacuate stranded pilots from the battlefield. Goodyear introduced this innovation to the US military in 1956. The military was intrigued and ordered a prototype. It was really nothing more than a giant balloon in the shape of an airplane with an engine on it. The rest of the harness was made of a sturdy plastic (a type of rubberized nylon) that was specially developed for this. When deflated, this plane, along with its engine, could be packed in a box that could be transported in a wheelbarrow or ejected from another plane. This allowed stranded pilots to escape. Basically the plane worked,
9. The Stipa-Caproni
Also known as the ‘flying barrel’. It was the Italian Luigi Stipa who invented this device. After years of mathematical study, he came up with the ‘intubed propeller’. It was the aircraft manufacturer Caprioni who built the prototype in 1932. The aerodynamic test results were particularly good. But the plane’s speed was below par. Luigi continued to believe in his invention, but the Italian government canceled the project. They were more interested in speed and military applications. This invention has led to the further development of jet thrust in later (commercial) aircraft.
8. De Blohm and Voss BV 141
Bundesarchiv, Bild 183-2005-0725-526 & Bild 146-1980-117-01 CC-BY-SA 3.0
The strange thing about the Blohm and Voss BV 141, a German reconnaissance aircraft from WWII, is its asymmetrical shape. The observation cabin is not in the middle, behind the propellers, but on one of the wings. This way you have a beautiful view, without being bothered by the propeller! Ultimately, only 38 units of this type of aircraft were built. People continued to mistrust the asymmetrical design. Unjustly, because the plane was surprisingly stable.
7. The Hughes H4 Hercules (Spruce Goose)
War in 1942. The US military urgently needed large cargo planes that could transfer large numbers of American soldiers to the European mainland. Howard Hughes wanted to do his part and suggested developing the H4 Hercules. The largest plane ever, but also the largest flying boat ever. When he signed the contract with the US military, it stated that he could not use metal. This had become a scarce commodity due to the war. Hughes used wood. The plane eventually flew a few kilometers in 1947 (a good number of years too late). It is still the aircraft with the largest wing span that has ever flown.
6. Vought V-173/XF5U-1 or the Flying Pancake
This is one of the most special designs ever made. After Pearl Harbor, the Navy wanted an aircraft that could take off and land in a very small area. Vought was a well-known aircraft manufacturer who had previously developed the fighter jet the F4U Corsair. The new aircraft had no significant nose, takeoff or wings. The plane looked a bit like a pancake. The various prototypes that were developed seemed promising. The planes could take off at a very slow speed, and fly at a high speed. But in-flight vibrations destabilized the material from which the rig was made. By the time this problem was solved, the war was over, and so was the interest in this aircraft.
5. Bartini Beriev VVA 14
This giant was developed by the Soviets during the Cold War by an Italian, Bertini. The aircraft had to be able to take off (horizontally and vertically) from the water and from land, but also to be able to sail at great speed. We would now call it a hybrid device. The prototypes were built in the early 1970s. However, the company that was to supply the jet engines for the vertical take-off failed to deliver them. Due to Bertini’s death, development was stopped. Fans can see a prototype today at the air force museum in Moscow.
4. Konstantin Kalinin K-7
The Soviets tried to develop this plane in the 1930s. It had to serve as a cargo plane, but also had to be able to bomb. The K-7 would become the largest propeller-driven aircraft of its time with huge wings. It was designed by Konstantin Kalinin, a World War I pilot. He provided a mini cabin and terribly large wings and seven engines. Nineteen crew members were able to come along, as well as a huge number of bombs and soldiers (who had to sit in the wings). The prototypes flew, which was a miracle in itself, but too many vibrations were detected. The crash of the plane was a bad experience for the Soviets, who had just shown their new flying giant to the world. And the designer: he was executed.
3. Avro VZ9 Avrocar
A UFO! An experiment by Avro Canada and the US military. It seems that the inventors of this plane have been watching too much science fiction movies. The plane had to be able to fly very fast and very high. In the first tests, it did not meet its objectives at all. NASA continued to test in wind tunnels, but in the end it turned out that the original design was not at all satisfactory. A total redesign was needed. Meanwhile, 10 million dollars had already been spent on this animal. In the end it was decided to pull the plug on the project.
2. XF-85 Goblin
Long-range bombardment aircraft have long been crucial in warfare. They existed, but they weren’t good at defending against enemy planes. That’s why the US and the Soviet Union started developing ‘parasite’ aircraft. The idea was to hide these in the big bombing planes. They could then be released when enemy aircraft approached. And then reattach to the mother plane. The McDonell X-85 was such an experiment in the 1950s. A short egg-shaped body with a mass of machine guns. Breaking free was no problem. Attach again. The Goblin program was therefore discontinued.
1. Lun class Ekranoplane
Another huge Soviet experiment and a hybrid aircraft that was plane and ship at the same time. As an airplane it flew super fast (550 km/h) low over the water, ideal for attacking the American ships. Extensively equipped with firepower, rocket launchers, machine guns and cannons. Development continued during the Cold War. The aircraft turned out to be untraceable for radars because it flew so low. A real version of this aircraft flew in the 1980s and 1990s as a transport aircraft on the Black Sea. It can still be admired on the base of Kaspiyisk.
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