Like us on Facebook
Follow us on Instagram
 

The most bizarre design concepts in aviation history

Ian Harvey

The dynamic field of aviation seems unlimited; new ideas are constantly being created, improved upon, and tested.

However, these aircraft with their unconventional purposes and forms push the boundaries of expectation.

10.McDonnell Douglas X-15 was first tested in 1959 and is a small rocket-like jet plane

Still unsurpassed in aircraft performance, the X-15 is a plane 51 feet long with two small wing stubs on each side. It is coated in nickel, which prevents it from burning up as it reaches altitudes of 100,000 feet.

X-15

X-15

Twice this plane flew so high that its missions qualified as space flights. It can reach six times the speed of sound and has the combined traits of high power, low lift, and high weight.

9.The Pivoting-winged NASA A1

This was designed in the 1980s to test the practicality of a wing that could pivot in flight. The wing was a single piece able to pivot so far that the right tip of the wing could sit beside the cockpit.

AD-1

AD-1

The reason behind the pivoting wing was to reduce airflow disturbance and make an airfoil that was more streamlined. The plane was able to fly many successful missions, but the military bigwigs were not convinced by its design; it never made it onto the production line.

8.Experimental American Jet Fighter, the Convair Sea Dart

This was an experimental seaplane designed to fly at supersonic speeds. The prototype had a waterproof hull and two hydrofoils.

 

F2Y Sea Dart

F2Y Sea Dart

The concept had to be retired from use after a fatal crash; it still stands, however, as the first seaplane to ever break the sound barrier.

7.Caproni Ca.60 Noviplano was a bizarre multi-wing plane from 1920

It is considered to be the first purpose-built transatlantic airliner and resembled a houseboat crossed with an airplane.

It had three sets of wings stacked in the front, the middle, and the back. It had no tail and looked very unwieldy. It measured 70 feet in length and was a huge 55 tons in weight.

 

Caproni Ca.60 experimental flying boat on Lake Maggiore, 1921.

Caproni Ca.60 experimental flying boat on Lake Maggiore, 1921.

It was able to lift off the ground but was unable to stay airborne. It crash-landed on its first flight, and then, mysteriously, the wreckage was destroyed in a fire overnight.  Nothing has ever been built like it again.

6.Prototype vertical take-off and landing aircraft the Vought V-173

It was developed in 1942 as a vertical landing and take-off aircraft that could be used on an aircraft carrier. It was also known as the “flying pancake” due to its flattened look.

 

The Vought V-173 “Flying Pancake” in flight

The Vought V-173 “Flying Pancake” in flight

The circular fuselage doubled as its wing.  Two engines supported huge propellers, which needed enormous landing struts to clear the ground. Due to a crash and limited investment, it never passed the prototype stage, but it did start the lineage that led to the Harrier Jump Jet.

5.Bell Helicopters developed the Aircobra

Usually a manufacturer of helicopters, Bell designed and built an aircraft for the Second World War.

It was highly maneuverable and had superior strike and combat skills.  The engine was located behind the cockpit, which created an unusual center of gravity.

 

P-39 Airacobra

P-39 Airacobra

Even though it was fast and had a high kill rate, many just fell out of the sky without being hit at all.  It was used by many military forces but was not able to be used for high altitude work.

4.Goodyear Tires entered the aircraft market with the Inflatoplane

In 1959 a more convenient airplane was needed, so the Goodyear Tire Company designed and created the Inflatoplane.

This plane was a made completely out of rubber except for the control cables and engine.  It could fit into a meter-long box and, using only a bicycle pump, could be inflated in 15 minutes.

 

Goodyear Inflatoplane

Goodyear Inflatoplane

The plane actually flew well, but it had a single flaw that caused the military to walk away from it.  A single shot from a rifle would easily puncture it and cause a dramatic failure.  It was thought to be so vulnerable that a child with a slingshot could bring it down.

3.First class spy plane that could reach the edges of space – the SR 71 Blackbird

This plane was developed prior to the widespread launching of satellites into orbit around the Earth.  It was a very alien-looking ship in its matte black coating. Its special, permeable fuel tanks leaked jet fuel until the heat from air friction – up to 900 degrees Fahrenheit – caused the components to expand and seal during flight.

SR-71 “Blackbird”

SR-71 “Blackbird”

 

The plane could reach speeds of 3,000 miles an hour, and the friction on the plane’s surface would cause it to glow red hot.

For protection, the pilot sat in an asbestos-insulated cockpit; this area had been known to reach temperatures of 572 degrees, and it wasn’t possible to land until the plane had cooled off sufficiently.

2.Blohm & Voss BV 141 has only one wing and a tail boom with an engine

This plane lacks the typical visual symmetry of other planes.  Made by German engineers for reconnaissance and light bombing work, it appears very unbalanced.

 

BV 141B Photo Credit

BV 141B Photo Credit

It has a single wing and an engine on the tail boom, with the cockpit directly beside it.  By putting the cockpit on the right-hand side of the engine, the torque was balanced out, helping the plane fly straight.

This design later inspired a sports plane, Toptenz reported.

1.The Grumman X23 or ‘Pogo’ had to take off vertically nose-first

The body of the Pogo was shaped like a normal aircraft, but unlike other planes, the nose rotor lifted it vertically.

This plane stood on its tail fins, and the huge rotors would drag the craft upwards like a rocket.

Pogo

Pogo

 

In flight

In flight

The pilot in the cockpit had to lie at a right angle to the ground.  After takeoff, the plane was supposed to level out and fly horizontally.

Read another story from us: Henry VIII’s bizarre-looking horned helmet was designed for use in parades rather than for combat

Although the test flights were successful, nothing further came from them.