Ever since those crafty Wright brothers took to the sky (or at least 20 feet above the ground) for 12 seconds in 1903, there’s been a non-stop idea mill whirring around with how to improve Orville and Wilburs’ achievement of first flight. Today’s aviation world has seen a shift to the development of electric aviation, one with good intentions meant to curb our current reliance on environmentally unfriendly fuels to power manned flight. Looking at the designs of potential future airplanes and current battery-powered experimental prototypes, you could be forgiven for wondering exactly how some of these machines would (or did) stay airborne.
But as has been proven time again over the course of history, looks aren’t everything. Aeronautical engineer Charles Zimmerman’s Vought V-173 deserved its nickname: the flying pancake. In the early 1940s it was a machine that had never been seen before, at least when it came to cutting-edge mechanical invention that was intended for flight. No traditional wings? Check. A pilot that was laying down? Roger that. Despite backing from the U.S. Navy and approximately 200 test flights, by 1947 the development of this syrup-less pancake was scrapped entirely.
Then there’s the proof for those who support the looks are everything argument. Or at the very least they can be used to positively predict an outcome. The YHO-2, aka the Aerocycle, was meant to bring an easy-to-use craft to the battlefield. Any soldier would be able to pilot the outboard motor-powered Aerocycle after only 20 minutes of training – in theory. Whether or not the safety harness that prevented the soldier from falling into the spinning blades inches below his feet boosted confidence in the ability to safely maneuver the Aerocycle is unknown. Despite promising early test results in 1954, by 1956 two test flight crashes had occurred and the YHO-2 was officially deemed too unsafe to fly for inexperienced pilots.
Story by Jay Moon