As it turns out, humans have made some pretty strange aircraft over the years.
From inflatable planes to flying pancakes, here is a roundup of the most terrifying, insane, and experimental aircraft to take to the skies.
The HZ1 Aerocycle
Somebody take a picture. This is crazy
It takes a very brave man to look at this contraption and decide to hop aboard.
I have a great idea! We build a helicopter, but let’s put the dangerous rotating blades below the pilot.
The idea behind the Aerocycle was to develop a cheap helicopter for wartime so that our boys could easily zip around and spy on the enemies. This deathtrap was designed to be controlled entirely by shifting the body’s weight around. However, this was no Segue. Its maneuverability was crap.
But, that wasn’t the reason why this project was eventually scrapped; apparently the two rotating blades had a bad habit of crashing into each other and exploding…
The Lockheed XFV “Salmon”
This should work…
Total flights: 32
Number of pants pissed: 32
The Lockheed SVX “Salmon” was designed as a plane that could take off and land vertically.
The US Navy couldn’t afford to put large expensive air craft carriers in every fleet, so a plane with vertical take off capabilities would help expand the Navy’s air support, while also looking badass.
There was just one problem… the Salmon were terrifying to land.
Test flights were successful in getting the plane to launch and hover vertically over the landing site, but few pilots were willing to try this out in the first place and even fewer were willing to try it again.
Lockheed drew up plans to redevelop the “Salmon” to not be so awful, but those plans were eventually scrapped when everyone realized that the plane would be too slow to fare well in combat.
Convair F-2Y Sea Dart
Take that Chitty Chitty Bang Bang.
The Convair F-27 Sea Dart remains to this day the only sea plane to ever break the sound barrier. It was awesome.
This plane was developed because there was no safe way to launch a supersonic plane from an aircraft carrier. So, “Who needs a boat?” they said. Let’s design a sea plane that can launch and land safely on the water.
Speaking of, let’s watch this baby in action:
As awesome as it was, the plane failed in the safety department at the worst possible moment.
During a demonstration for naval officials and the press in 1954, the plane disintegrated in midair, killing it’s test pilot and generally freaking everyone out.
It was found that the pilot exceeded the limitations of the plane’s frame, but apparently seeing a man disintegrate sticks with you because after the failed demonstration the Sea Dart was kept out of production.
The Caponi Ca 60
If only we could fit some more wings on here…
An oldie but a goodie, at least until it crashed and burned… literally.
This “plane” was created back when aviation was new and everyone was still trying to figure out the whole physics thing. The Caponi came from an idea that more wings would mean that bigger things could fly. You know, because bigger birds have more wings, right?
Sure, things may have ended badly, but this weird plane did manage to get 60 feet in the air before beginning its first and last descent.
Amazingly, the pilot escaped the wreckage unharmed. Onlookers claim he just kept saying “nope!” over and over again.
The Vought V173 Flying Pancake
You haven’t lived til you’ve flown a pancake.
This Vought V173 was designed by Charles Zimmerman and while it may look like it would never leave the ground, it actually managed to fly 190 test flights over Connecticut.
It also became the subject of numerous “flying saucer” sightings as people wondered what the hell that was up there in the sky.
Despite being designed in the 1940’s, this plane was able to accomplish a near vertical take-off and landing, was remarkably easy to maneuver and found to be almost indestructible.
When the brakes locked up on a landing the plane actually flipped over onto its back, but neither the pilot nor the plane suffered any damage. It was, as they say, a freebie.
The Goodyear Inflatoplane
Let’s make a plane that is as durable as a… balloon.
At first glance this plane does not seem all that strange, but one look at the name “inflatoplane” and you can probably guess what makes this aircraft so extraordinary.
The Inflatoplane was created by Goodyear during the WWII era and was able to fly quite capably. It could be inflated by a single soldier and take off in less than 300 ft.
However, the plane had one very big problem; it was… inflatable.
And as it turns out, inflatable objects are also pretty fragile.
If you are planning a peaceful joy ride, an inflatable plane might be cool. However, this plane was ordered by the military for use in wartime. It was as fragile as a balloon and things like bullets, which admittedly are quite rare during war, could easily bring it down.
The Hiller X-18
What do we do with this?
The Hiller x-18 was conceived in 1955 and had its first flight in 1959. This plane was the testing ground for tilt-wing and vertical takeoff and landing planes. The plane had 20 successful flights but it was discovered that the wings had difficulty rotating when there were high winds.
Regardless, the ideas that were pioneered by this plane continued to be researched and developed for a number of years. This cargo plane may look like a very strange aircraft when the wings are at full tilt but it featured technology that would lead to some pretty cool stuff.
For example, the XC 142 evolved directly from the Hiller X-18. You can watch a video showing it in action here.
This unique creation definitely belongs on any list of strange aircraft. It was designed in 1958 as a “flying jeep” for the U.S. Army.
The aircraft was reportedly easy to fly and featured four propellers that were attached on both sides of the fuselage. While it was able to perform the tasks requested, it was not able to meet the Army’s standards and was therefore discontinued.
We can only imagine that this aircraft would likely have similar problems to the inflatable plane and the Aerocycle due to the pilot being so exposed. You’d think the Army would stop ordering aircraft with no protection, but… no.
It’s the hotel-o-copter.
You gotta give it to the Russians. That is one big helicopter.
Even though there were only two prototypes of this plane built in the late 1960s, it remains to this day as the largest helicopter ever created. The helicopter raised eyebrows among engineers when it was first unveiled, and it was issued a number of awards and is the holder of several world records.
By the time the helicopter was ready for production, more efficient alternatives had been developed, and the project was discontinued.
North American X-15
I said faster!!
This plane was so fast, it had to take off from another plane going full speed.
The X-15 is little more than a rocket with a cockpit just large enough for a pilot. It was developed in the 1960s and broke all kinds of speed and altitude records. It was even able to reach the edge of space, bringing back valuable research information for scientists at NASA.
It is also one of the few aircraft that was able to bring its pilots more than 50 miles high, earning them astronaut status. Sweet.
Here is some video footage: