20 Weird Airplanes That Actually Flew

The path to a functional flying automobile has been a rocky one, but the days of strapping wings onto a Pinto are a thing of the past.

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A wise-ish man sporting harem pants once said, “I always believe that the sky is the beginning of the limit.” Sure, the prancing philosopher in question is MC Hammer, but his observation might be shared by some of the individuals who are currently trying or have already attempted to get humankind safely airborne in a vehicle that can also deliver us to the grocery store via the traditional method-driving the family car.

Source: Howcheng / Wikimedia

In 1485, Leonardo DaVinci had his weird bicycle-with-wheels flying contraption that never quite took off. It would take more than 400 additional years until the Wright brothers were successfully, briefly, able to put air between themselves and the ground with a flying machine, the precursor to today’s jets and tomorrow’s jetpacks and interplanetary exploring vehicles.

Source: Florida Memory / Flickr

In those intervening years, there were scores of ideas and dreams and sketches of concepts that would make gravity-trapped people soar.

Here’s a look at 20 machines that are the aeronautic equivalent of bumblebees: They don’t look like they should be able to fly, but they do:

The Aerodyne looks kind of like a jet’s propeller intake on one side and its tail on the other. Developed by Alexander Lippisch, a refugee from Hitler’s Germany who fled to the United States, the vehicle relied on two coaxial propellers for lift.
Source: Rex Research

The HZ-1 Aerocycle. Source: Wiki Commons

The HZ-1 Aerocycle , designed during the 1950s by de Lackner Helicopters to fly recon missions for the U.S. Army during the Cold War. It’s like a podium with four individual helicopters keeping it afloat or an aerial scooter. But it worked. (Sources: Wikipedia , Aviastar )

Kaman K-16 is tested at the Ames Research Center.