The aerospace industry soared over the last century. aircraft made traveling across the world a reasonable reality. In 2016, U.S. airlines nearly eclipsed $660 billion in revenue passenger miles. As far as transportation goes, air travel is the king of convenience. Convenience is in high demand, so it’s no surprise there’s money in the aerospace industry. Money that many sought and still seek to get their hands on. Whether the motivation is economic in nature, for a functional purpose, or in the pursuit of glory, humanity has manufactured countless creative aircraft. We’ve compiled a list some of the world’s most ambitious aircraft. They may shock you. Are these planes mechanical masterpieces or duds? You decide.
Airbus A300-600ST Beluga
The Airbus Beluga is the ultimate oversized cargo plane carrier. This super transporter attracted its name because of its likeness to the beluga whale. The Beluga’s design enables it to carry other Airbus aircraft components with its 37.7 metre cabin height. Two pilots and one loadmaster ship these aircraft parts from different production sites across Europe to the final assembly lines in France and Germany. In 1994, the first A300-600ST Beluga flew.
In 1995, the European Aviation Safety Agency officially approved the Beluga for service. Four more Beluga’s were created at rate of one per year. Even after two decades, the fleet of five remains in operation. In 2014, Airbus revealed its future plans. The company plans on the addition of five new A330-based BelugaXL aircraft to the overall fleet. These significantly larger aircraft are projected for active service in mid-2019.
Scaled Composites Proteus
Scaled Composites’ aircraft is named after the mythological Greek god – Proteus. The aircraft flew for the first time publically in 1998. The Proteus is an aircraft that adapts to a variety of missions. The Proteus is a high-altitude telecommunication relay aircraft with abilities including atmospheric research, commercial imaging, and surveillance.
The Proteus contained either two pilots in a pressurized cabin or remotely controlled from the ground. In 1999, NASA’s Environmental Research Aircraft and Sensor Technology program welcomed the Proteus. This NASA initiative utilized remotely operated unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) technologies for civil use. In 2000, the Proteus set three world records:
- reached an altitude of 63,245 feet,
- continued horizontal flight for 62,385 feet
- carried a 2,200 lb payload to an altitude of 55,994 feet.
The Luftwaffe, the aerial branch of the German military, produced the Heinkel He-162. Heinkel also called this plane the Sparrow. The Sparrow, a jet-powered fighter aircraft, entered the Volksjäger, an Emergency Fighter Program competition for a lightweight fast combat interceptor. The He-162 proposal won the competition.
This aircraft’s prototype contained mostly wood. The German military prioritized valuable metals for other aircraft. The Sparrow first spread its wings and left its nest in December 1944. The He-162 recorded the highest speed of all axis and ally first generation jet fighters. The Sparrow reached a maximum speed of 522 mph at sea-level and 553 mph in short burst enhanced thrusts. Many of the 320 Sparrows made reside in museums.
Aviation Traders created the ATL-98 Carvair as an air ferry to transport passengers and their cars between the United Kingdom and Europe’s mainland. The plane contained a maximum seating of 85 passengers or 22 passengers and five cars. The Carvair flew off the runway for the first time in 1961.
The Carvair maxed its speed at 250 mph and carried a maximum payload of 19,335 lb. The aircraft even made a cameo appearance in James Bond’s 1964 blockbuster film, Goldfinger. The Carvair brought the film’s villain and his car to Geneva. Aviation Traders completed its last Carvair in 1968. Out of the 21 Carvairs created, eight were demolished in crashes.
Aero Spaceline’s B377PG is known as the Pregnant Guppy because of its bloated appearance. Aero Spaceline built the Pregnant Guppy in the United States. It flew for the first time in 1962. The Pregnant Guppy was manufactured to meet the cargo transporting needs of NASA to fulfill their missions. This plane shipped large rocket stages to contractor facilities.
The Guppy assisted NASA in reaching launch schedules beginning with the Apollo Program moon missions. Before air transport, boats were the only means of moving rocket stages. The Guppy sliced months off of NASA’s schedules. The Guppy helped Aero Spacelines fly over two million miles for NASA’s Apollo, Gemini, and Skylab programs. Aero Spacelines capitalized on its need in the marketplace by developed a larger new aircraft model to succeed the Pregnant Guppy. In 1965, the Super Guppy took flight. Aero Spacelines’ Guppy planes inspired the future design of the Airbus Beluga.
The EL/M-2075 Phalcon is the technology within this aircraft’s special nose. The Israeli Aircraft Industries (IAL) and Elta Electronics Industries developed this nose, an early warning command and control radar system. Its purpose is the collection of information and surveillance for air superiority. The Phalcon system primarily attached to a Boeing 707 airframe.
The Phalcon’s radar system provides early airborne warnings of enemy aircraft, ships, and vehicles. Its system operates with 360 degree coverage and can track targets hundreds of kilometres away.
In 1993, The Phalcon went public. In 1994, Chile purchased a Phalcon system and called its plane the Condor. The United States thwarted China’s attempt at buying this system through political pressure in 2000.
In 2004, India bought three Phalcon radars for a total of $1.1 billion.
At the end of the Cold War, the United States proposed a joint fighter project to revamp the Department of Defence’s military aircraft. The 1993’s Common Affordable Lightweight Fighter Project featured several companies competing for the best stealth attack aircraft design.
Lockheed Martin’s F-35 and Boeing’s X-32 were the two finalists. The Unites States government afforded both companies $750 million to manufacture their designs. The prototypes from both companies performed at similar levels, but Boeing’s X-32 was criticized for its appearance and inability to hover.
Lockheed Martin won the competition and received the $200 billion dollar contract with the Department of Defence. Boeing built two prototypes, one for take-off and the other for supersonic demonstrations. Boeing planned to combine these two versions into one, but many felt that decision cost them the competition. After the loss, the X-32 prototypes faded into obscurity. They’re now mounted as relics in museums. Boeing believes this endeavour wasn’t a complete waste. They claim it was an investment that cultivated technology they implemented in other projects.
Dornier Do 31
Dornier created the Do 31 in West Germany. The plane was a jet transport with vertical take-off and landing functions.
In the midst of the Cold War, the German Air force feared its airfields were susceptible to attack from socialist states. The Do 31 was constructed in compliance to the North American Treaty Organization (NATO) regulations. Dornier programmed the Do 31 for tactical support and transport utilizing its vertical take-off in emergencies.
The plane hit the skies in 1967. The Do 31 reached a maximum speed of 452 mph. The German Air Force cancelled the project three years later due to technical problems and a lack of funding.
Handley Page Victor
The Handley Page Aircraft Company, the United Kingdom’s first publicly traded aircraft manufacturer produced the Victor. This jet-powered strategic bomber is connected to the British atomic weapons programme for nuclear deterrence. The Victor joined as the Royal Air Force’s third and final member of the V-Bombers. The V-Bombers were a collection of aircraft capable of dropping nuclear weapons introduced through the 1950s. The Handley Page Victor, the Vickers Valiant, and the Avro Vulcan provided accurate bombing over long ranges. Handley Page created the Victor in three tiers: a bomber, reconnaissance, and tanker aircraft forms. As a bomber, the aircraft could be armed with an array of 34 – 1,000 lb bombs. The Victor equip radars, cameras, and other sensors to accomplish its objectives. In 1982, the Royal Air Force discontinued the Victor and other V-Bombers as weapons platforms.
NASA Hyper III
NASA internally manufactured their Hyper III at the Flight Research Center in California This low-cost remotely piloted vehicle helped NASA’s M2 lifting body program. A program designed for the production of aircraft where the entire body produces lift. This contrasts fixed wing planes where only the wings provide lift. The Hyper III’s flat bottoms and sides gave it a distinct look. I see it as a beefed up mechanical paper airplane. In 1969, a helicopter carried the Hyper III 10,000 feet for its only flight. After the cable released from the helicopter, NASA research pilot Milt Thompson operated the aircraft through radio control before Dick Fischer took over for the final approach. The Hyper III glided five kilometres for three minutes then slid into its landing. Its landing almost reinforces my paper airplane origin theory. NASA’s Flight Research Centre cancelled the Hyper III. Even with this low-cost aircraft, the funding dried up.
De Lackner HZ-1 Aerocycle
Let’s be honest, if it wasn’t for those dual propellers that look like they’d slice us up, we’d probably want one of these. Charles H. Zimmerman, yes, the man behind the Flying Pancake, laid the foundation for the Aerocycle through his system of rotorcraft control. The United States Army aimed this aircraft as a personal helicopter for infantrymen. The Army believed that soldiers, with no former experience, could learn to operate the Aerocycle in 20 minutes or less. The Army changed their minds on the Aerocycle’s difficulty level after a couple crashes. The Army abandoned the project. Out of the 12 Aerocycles made, only one survives. The Army exhibits the Aerocycle at its Transportation Museum in Virginia.
NASA constructed the Ames-Dryden (AD-1) as a flight test program between 1979 and 1982. Alongside the Hyper III, NASA tested the Ames-Dryden at their Flight Research Center in California.
The AD-1’s wing, known as the Scissor Wing, pivoted 60 degrees for greater high-speed functioning. The design of one wing forward and the one back provided less drag when flying. The designers limited the aircraft to a max speed of around 170 mph for safety reasons.
NASA evaluated the AD-1 in investigation of the oblique wing concept. The flying of this subsonic jet-powered aircraft proved the validity of the oblique wing design. The AD-1 conducted 79 flights for research purposes. The aircraft was not without its weaknesses.
The AD-1 experienced poor handling under certain conditions and angles. A common belief is that the aircraft’s fibreglass structure stiffened the wing contributing to its handling woes. Like many of the aircraft on this list, the AD-1 exhibits itself at a museum.
NASA picked McDonnell Douglas’ and later Boeing’s X-36 for a specific project. The project focused on fighter aircraft agility research. The X-36’s sleek design was primarily meant for one thing – warfare. In 1997, NASA’s project team assessed and proved the tailless fighter design is a viable military option. The X-36 completed 31 flights via remote control. Its advanced technology improved mobility and ultimately survivability. The X-36 project surpassed all expectations. $21 million of funding covered the manufacturing of the aircraft and the project requirements. After a successful test program, the X-36 retired and there’s no evidence that NASA or any other organization is developing the X-36 or any similar design.
McDonnell XF-85 Goblin
The McDonnell Aircraft Corporation constructed the XF-85 Goblin. McDonnell designed the Goblin as the world’s smallest jet-propelled fighter. The plane was known as a parasite because bombers carried and released it when under attack. This aircraft is distinguished by its egg shaped body. The Goblin launched off of a Convair B-36 bomber for the first time in 1948. The aircraft’s potential captured designers imaginations. Its 1949 cancellation brought the Goblin back to reality. The aircraft simply couldn’t compete offensively with opposing fighters and its docking difficulties burdened pilots. The Goblin program cost $3.1 million. In its short lifespan, the Goblin expanded the knowledge of parasite fighter aircraft concepts.
Sikorsky S-72 X-Wing
Sikorsky Aircraft Corporation, a helicopter manufacturer, developed the S-72 for NASA. This hybrid aircraft is half helicopter half fixed wing plane. NASA and the United States Army’s Rotar System Research Aircraft (RSRA) project evaluated helicopter rotor attributes. NASA and the US Army desired a four-bladed rotor added to the system. The program failed. The Naval Ship Research and Development Center engineers designed the X-wing, a concept integrating helicopter hovering and winged aircraft high speed. The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) funded this vertical take-off aircraft . Sikorsky captured a contract and customized a S-72 with the X-Wing concept. Sikorsky built the prototype in 1986. The Sikorsky X-Wing never flew. In 1988, DARPA officially cancelled the X-Wing project.
Snecma Flying Coléoptère (C-450)
The French company Snecma established the Coléoptère (C-450), meaning beetle. Like a beetle, the design intended for vertical take-off and landing. To me, this aircraft’s appearance resembles a stocky rocket. Auguste Morel, the pilot, propelled the C-450 off the ground in 1959. The aircraft rolled uncontrollably and fell. Morel’s flying skills stabilized the aircraft and avoided disaster. On the ninth flight, a lack of visual awareness and poor instrumentation hindered Morel. The aircraft inclined too slowly. The C-450 couldn’t maintain altitude. Morel lost control. Morel ejected. The C-450 crashed. Morel survived. He suffered severe injuries that ended his racing career. After the incident, C-450 lost all funding for a new prototype.
Avro Canada VZ-9 Avrocar
Doesn’t this look like the stereotypical UFO? Is it surprising that the United States military shrouded this project in secrecy? This wasn’t an alien UFO, this flying object is identified. Avro Canada developed the Avrocar for their southern neighbours in the early years of the Cold War. The pilot controlled this vertical take-off and landing aircraft through a side-mounted control stick. The Air Force tested the Avrocar’s flying ability in 1959. The nozzle system proved ineffective. Developers redesigned the aircraft to no avail. The ring under the flap interfered with the engine thrust and minimized power. The Avrocar project cost $10 million. Avrocar’s funding expired. Further aircraft adaptations stopped. The United States military cancelled the Avrocar in 1961. Or did they? Maybe that’s what they want us to believe. No, I’m kidding, it’s retired. The Avrocar visited many museums before finally lodging at the Presidential Aircraft Gallery.
Dornier created the Aerodyne for the Federal German Minister of Defence. Remote controls operated this wingless vertical take-off and landing aircraft. Alexander Lippisch, an aeronautical engineer and pioneer of aerodynamics, originated the Aerodyne. Lippisch envisioned the aircraft as a land or ship air reconnaissance drone. On September 18th, 1972, the Aerodyne succeeded in its hovering-flight test. An operator could control the Aerodyne in hovering and full forward flight across the entire test range. On November 30th, 1972, the Aerodyne failed to secure future development. The West German Air Force lacked interest in the Aerodyne and the development of manned helicopters.
Luigi Stipa conceived this experimental Italian aircraft concept. Stipa partnered with Caproni who constructed it. This aircraft has been called the Flying Barrel because of the shape of its body. A entire body converted into a duct fan. In 1932, the Stipa-Caproni lifted off the ground for the first time. The aircraft flew, but not optimally. Its design created aerodynamic drag that hindered engine efficiency. The Italian Royal Air Force rejected continued development of the Stipa-Caproni. The Flying Barrel wasn’t a complete failure. The Stipa-Caproni’s design furthered the development of jet propulsion, reaction engines that quickly discharge fluid to thrust forward.
The Vought V-173 is more affectionately known as the Flying Pancake. The Flying Pancake’s is an American experimental aircraft with an all-wing body design and dual piston engines. The United States Navy funded Charles H. Zimmerman’s design with the manufacturing company Vought. The Flying Pancake delayed its flight date for months because of excessive vibration problems with its gearbox. The aircraft did fly in 1942. By the end of 1943, the Flying Pancake flew 190 times. Connecticut locals reported Unidentified Flying Object (UFO) sightings during the time of the Flying Pancake’s flights. Can you blame them? In 1947, the Flying Pancake retired from the skies. It logged in 131.8 hours of total flight time.
North American F-82 Twin Mustang
This seems like the Siamese twins of aircraft. The United States Air Force designed the piston engine F-82 Twin Mustang as a long range escort for bombing missions. The Twin Mustang is essentially two P-51 Mustangs combined together. The Air Force conceived the aircraft concept during World War II, but didn’t complete its development until after the war concluded. The Air Force used some radar-equipped Twin Mustangs as all-weather interceptors. The Twin Mustangs gunned down the first three North Korean aircraft for the United States in the Korean War. The United States built 272 Twin Mustangs at a cost of $215,154 per aircraft. The Twin Mustang retired in 1953.
Beriev Be-200 Altair
The Beriev Aircraft Company built the Be-200. This Russian aircraft can take-off and land on water. Beriev designed the Be-200 for a variety of reasons. Beriev packaged the Be-200 as search and rescue, patrol, fire-fighting, and transporter aircraft. The Be-200 contains a capacity of 12 tonnes of water or 72 passengers. September 24, 1998, the Be-200 lifted off the runway. Beriev introduced the Be-200 for commercial purpose on July 31, 2003. The Be-200 successfully carried out its various functions. In 2016, two Be-200s snuffed out a forest fire in Portugal from damaging two settlements. The aircraft inspired many variants that are used around the world. The Be-200 still operates today.
The Grumman Aircraft Corporation constructed two X-29s. NASA evaluated the X-29 at its Flight Research Facility. The X-29 research project examined high angle attack characteristics and advanced technologies. In 1984, NASA conducted X-29’s test flight. From 422 research missions, NASA learned that forward-swept wings and movable canards provided pilots terrific control reactions for a 45 degree angle of attack. The aircraft reached a top altitude of 50,000 feet. The X-29 didn’t meet all projections. It didn’t reduce the aerodynamic drag as expected. The first X-29 prototype is exhibited at the National Museum of the Air Force in Ohio. The second is shown at NASA’s Flight Research Center.
Scaled Composites White Knight Two
Scaled Composites created the White Knight Two carrier airplane in 2007. The wing connecting the two plane bodies is not just for style. The wing carries the SpaceShipTwo suborbital spacecraft. Virgin Galactic, a Sir Richard Branson company, produced the ambitious SpaceShipTwo project for space tourism. When the White Knight Two rises to the right altitude and releases the SpaceShipTwo. The SpaceShipTwo’s rocket engines then launch it into space. At the time of this writing, the SpaceShipTwo hasn’t succeeded in reaching space yet. SpaceShipTwo’s older sibling, the VSS Enterprise, crashed during a 2014 test flight. The White Knight Two airplane carrier is also called VMS Eve, the name of Sir Richard Branson’s mother. The aircraft possesses a wing span of 43 metres. The White Knight Two carries a payload of 37,000 lb.
Rutan Model 202 Boomerang
Burt Rutan conceptualized and constructed the Boomerang. Rutan introduced the Boomerang in 1996. The Boomerang is one of several twin-bodied aircraft on this list. Rutan designed for this multi-engine aircraft to survive a failure of one of its engines. A distinct aspect of this aircraft is the different sized bodies. Its asymmetrical thrust helps pilot handle the plane if an engine shuts down. Ray and Neil Morrow established an air taxi company with an altered Boomerang inspired design. The Boomerang holds one pilot, and four passengers with a cabin payload of 1000 lb. The maximum take-off weight is 4,189 lb. The maximum speed is 311 mph.
Caproni Ca.60 Transaereo
I’ve imagined the thought process on this design. Boats are popular. Planes are popular. The two designed together is destined for greatness. The boat-plane is the future. Well, judging by this picture, seems more like the past. Gianni Caproni patented the concept of the aircraft in 1919. He envisioned an aircraft transporting a hundred people domestically or even internationally. Caproni believed his boat-plane’s multi-engines would help prevent accidents. He heavily publicized his aircraft. In 1921, The Transaereo flew for the first time. A short and successful flight. In the second flight, the Transaereo’s tail detached in midair. The boat-plane nosedived. The press snapped photos of the wreck. In a moment, Caproni’s future of aviation concept smashed into Italy’s Lake Maggiore. Caproni insisted on the preservation of Transaereo’s remains. The boat-plane’s fragments exhibit the past at the Volandia aviation museum.
Blohm & Voss BV 141
Richard Vogt, a German engineer, designed the BV 141. Blohm & Voss manufactured it. The German Air Ministry operated this reconnaissance aircraft during World War II. The BV 141’s asymmetrical structure distinguishes it from most aircraft. The BV 141 flew in 1938. With a crew of three, the aircraft maxed its speed at 229 mph at sea level and 272 mph at 5,000 metres above sea level. Surprisingly, the BV 141 spread its weight very well in flight which benefitted overall handling. The German Air Ministry ordered 500 of these aircraft, before cancelling the order shortly after. No BV 141 aircraft exist today.
Douglas X-3 Stiletto
The Douglas Aircraft Company constructed the X-3 Stiletto. This sleek and pointed tapered nose aircraft implemented the first use of titanium in its structure. The Stiletto design tested whether the aircraft could take-off, reach a high-altitude, speed at Mach 2, and land all on its own power. In 1952, the Stiletto flew at the Edwards Air Force Base in California. The flight lasted around twenty minutes. Bill Bridgeman, the original pilot, operated this aircraft for a total of 29 flights. These tests labelled the Stiletto extremely underpowered and hard to handle. The Stiletto didn’t provide aerodynamic success as planned, but it did add knowledge used in other aircraft like the Lockheed F-104 Starfighter. The Stiletto resides in the United States Air Force Museum.
Miles M.39B Libellula
Miles Aircraft Limited developed the tandem wing M.39B Libellula. This fast British bomber flew in 1943. The Libellula design enhanced the pilot’s vision for landing on aircraft carriers. Miles Aircraft Limited developed its rear wing higher than the front wings to minimize downwash. This one manned aircraft possessed over a 37 foot wingspan, a gross weight of 2,800 lb, and twin engines. In 1944, the Libellula crashed twice. The M. 39B Libellula wasn’t the first prototype built. Unlike its predecessor, the M. 39, The Libellula demonstrated no major handling problems. Despite its improvements, the Ministry of Aircraft Production cancelled the project and dismantled the M.39 B Libellula.
The United States Army Air Corps requested a bomber that carried 10,000 lb of bombs with a maximum speed of 450 mph. The United States wanted an aircraft capable of bombing Nazi-controlled Europe if Britain fell. The Northrop Corporation produced the XB-35 and answered the United States government’s call. The aircraft production begin in 1942. In 1946, the Northrop flew for fourty-five minutes. This heavy bomber aircraft leveraged its crafty flying wing design to reduce drag and limit structural weight for flying efficiency. In 1949, the United States cancelled the development of the XB-35. The government listed technical reasons for the decision. Jack Northrop, founder of the Northrop Corporation, alleged that the cancellation was political. Northrop accused Secretary of the Air Force, Stuart Symington, of coercion. Northrop claimed Symington pushed a merger with Convair on him and Northrop’s refused. Northrop believes that refusal caused the cancellation. Others felt that the problems with the contra-rotating propellers’ shaft and Jack Northrop’s independent style conflicting with Washington’s politics led to XB-35’s abandonment. Shortly after leaving office, Symington accepted the President position at Convair.
Bartini Beriev VVA-14
Robert Bartini, an Italian aircraft designer, partnered with Beriev Design Bureau, and generated the VVA-14. Bartini and Beriev developed this aircraft in the 1970’s Soviet Union, another creative aircraft from this list forged in the Cold War. The VVA-14 is a vertical take-off amphibious aircraft. Bartini designed the aircraft to ascend from water, reach high altitudes, and fly fast. The VVA-14’s ability to hover and swoop just above the sea through its aerodynamic ground effect was an important trait. Its importance is found in the aircraft original purpose. Bartini created this aircraft in answer to the Soviet Union’s efforts to combat the perceived threat of the United States and its allies. Bartini designed the VVA-14 to identify and destroy United States Navy nuclear missile carrying submarines. The three person crew accessed the aircraft search-and-aim system for high percentage detection and dismantling capabilities. In 1974, Bartini died. Bartini’s death hindered the progression of his aircraft. The VVA-14 participated in 107 flights that totalled 103 hours before retirement. The aircraft rests at the Russian Federation Central Air Force Museum.
The Glen L. Martin produced the XB-51 for the United States Army Air Force. They designed this three jet engine aircraft for low-level bombing and close tactical support. The XB-51 possessed a length of 85 feet, a wingspan of 53 feet, and an overall weight of 59,467 lb when fully loaded. The XB-51’s wing and body shape afforded the aircraft the nickname the Flying Cigar. A name almost as compelling the Vought V-173’s Flying Pancake. A crew of two controlled the Flying Cigar, a driver and a radio operator. The aircraft flew in 1949. The Flying Cigar performed great at low-levels, but its endurance and poor tight turns proved its undoing. In 1952, the Air Force ended the XB-51 project. The aircraft didn’t officially retire until 1956. Pilots crashed the only two Flying Cigars built. No museum duty for the XB-51, an aircraft greatest honour in retirement.
The Lockheed Corporation assembled the XFV in the 1950’s. This aircraft is sometimes referred to as the Salmon. I mean, If we’re going to name aircraft after inanimate objects like cigars and pancakes, why not a fish? This name derived not from appearance but rather from the chief test pilot – Herman Salmon. Lockheed developed the Salmon as a tailsitter prototype, an aircraft with vertical take-off and landing from its tail. This experimental aircraft participated in 32 flights. The Salmon flew, but not as expected. It never performed a vertical take-off or landing aside from an accidental hop. Additionally, the Salmon couldn’t compete in speed with its fighter contemporaries. This aircraft’s high-learning curve for pilots influenced its cancellation. Museums exhibit both Salmon prototypes.
NASA designed the HL-10. The Northrop Corporation manufactured it. The name represents its horizontal landing and being the 10th design studied by NASA engineers. The concept tested safe manoeuvring and re-entry from space landing. In 1966, the HL-10 flew. The HL-10 glided the first 11 drops, not using its XLR-11 rocket engine. The aircraft soared when the rocket engines activated. In 37 flights, the HL-10 reached 1,228 mph and eclipsed an altitude 90,030 feet above ground. NASA ultimately rejected the HL-10 despite its flight success. Designers leaned towards delta wing aircraft, wings shaped like triangles, over the fixed winged HL-10. The HL-10 displays at NASA’s Flight Research Center.
The Nemeth Parasol
Steven P. Nemeth, an inventor and former flight instructor, designed the Parasol. Students at the Miami University manufactured Nemeth’s design. The Parasol is the first circular winged aircraft. In 1934, the Parasol launched into the air for its first flight. Onlookers labelled the aircraft a flying umbrella. Nemeth piloted the Parasol at speeds of 135 mph. In midair, Nemeth intentionally extinguished the motor. The Parasol’s circular wings balanced the aircraft. The Parasol gently parachuted nearly vertically. The aircraft succeeded in its flight trials. One redesign improved the only Parasol prototype before the project halted. There’s limited information on why supporters abandoned the Parasol.
Lockheed Martin P-791
Lockheed Martin produced the P-791. This modern airship built on prior boat-ship designs like the previously mentioned, Caproni Ca.60 Transaereo, for hybrid large transport aircraft. The P-791 airship participated in the United States Army’s Long Endurance Multi-Intelligence Vehicle competition. The P-791 lost to a Northrop Grumman developed aircraft. January 31, 2006, the P-791 swam the sky in its first flight at the United States Air Force Plant 42 in California. The technology the P-791 displayed innovated a new design, the LMH-1 Hybrid Aircraft. Hybrid Enterprises partnered with Lockheed to market it in 2014. In 2016, Straightline Aviation agreed in terms for 12 LMH-1 Hybrids for $420 million.
H-4 Hercules 2
The Hughes Aircraft Company designed and manufactured the H-4 Hercules. Critics named this aircraft the Spruce Goose because of its wood composition. The perception from these two names couldn’t contrast more. We’ll stick with Hercules. Hercules’s 320 feet wing span is the most for any flown aircraft. Hughes prepared the Hercules as a transport carrier between the Atlantic Ocean during World War II. Hercules missed the war. The wartime rations limited aluminum so Hughes built Hercules primarily of birch. In 1947, the aircraft flew for the one and only time. The flight lasted 26 seconds. Maybe Hercules really is the Spruce Goose. Hercules rests at the Evergreen Aviation & Space Museum in Oregon.
The Goodyear Inflatoplane
The Goodyear Aircraft Company, a branch of the Goodyear Tire and Rubber Company, created this inflatable aircraft for the United States Army. Goodyear completed a single-seat and a two-seat version. The Inflatoplane’s surface comprised of two rubber materials attached by nylon threads. It took less air to inflate this aircraft for minimal operation than to fill a single car tire. On February 13, 1956, the Inflatoplane first flew. One flight, Army aviator Lt. Wallace piloted the Inflatoplane. In flight, a control cable detached and a wing shifted up against the propeller. Air released from the plane. An aluminum wing smashed Wallace in the head. The aircraft descended into a shallow lake. Neither Wallace nor the aircraft survived. The Army officially cancelled the project in 1973. Two of the 12 Inflatoplanes built showcase at museums.
Messerschmitt Me-163 Komet
Alexander Lippisch designed the Me-163 Komet. This is not the first Lippisch developed aircraft on this list. Messerschmitt manufactured this German rocket-powered fighter. The Komet was the first aircraft piloted over 621 mph in level flight. The aircraft assumed a defensive interceptor role in aerial combat. In 1941, the Komet first flew. Messerschmitt officially unveiled it in 1944. Messerschmitt built 370 Komets in total. In July 1944, the Komet zoomed 700 mph. In 1945, Komet production halted. Only highly-skilled pilots successfully gunned down the aircraft’s targets. The German Air Force lost faith in the Komet’s effectiveness. After the war, the Allies plundered the remaining Komets. At least 10 of the surviving aircraft, alongside an array of replicas display history in museums around the world.
Douglas XB-42 Mixmaster
The Douglas Aircraft Company developed the XB-42 Mixmaster. This aircraft is an experimental bomber with a high max speed of 410 mph. Initially, this project was private before Douglas Aircraft Company proposed it to the United States Army Air Forces. The two parties signed a contract for the testing of two prototypes. The Mixmaster, armed with machine guns, firing turrets, and a capacity for 8,000 lb of bombs, performed well in its first flight in 1944. Further testing identified faulty engine cooling among other problems. After World War II, the Air Force felt less military urgency. The Mixmaster development stalled. In 1948, the Air Force officially cancelled the Mixmaster aircraft.
Bell Rocket Belt
North American X-15
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