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Coolest Failed Airplane Concepts

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A parade of good- and not so good- aviation ideas.

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Not every brilliant concept translates to a successful result.  Sometimes even bad ideas take a while to be proven as such. Throughout the history of aviation, some of the world’s greatest and craziest minds have had some colossal failures that somehow look really cool.

5 -The Cherry Blossom (Yokosuka MXY7 Ohka): Actually more of a flying bomb than a plane, the Japanese designed it during WWII, Cherry Blossoms were rocket powered kamakazee vehicles.  Many actually did see service, they were known for their speed and lack of effectiveness. Turns out, in order to be useful they had to be dropped in extremely close to targets. So close, most defenses were ready for them.  Still, a wacky design for a plane.

4 – Komet (Messerschmitt Me 163):The first prototypes of this tiny German rocket plane appeared in 1941.  By 1944 they had a fleet of 300 and achieved record breaking speeds of up to 1,123 km/h.  But being a rocket powered speedster meant the aircraft was prone to accidents and explosions. It was also known to be so fast that hitting a target was extremely difficult.  Dangerous and inaccurate spelled bad news for this futuristic design created for war.

3 - Hafner Rotabuggy: Only one of these hideous flying jeeps was ever built, because despite some small successes during test flights, it was prone to terrible vibration and the inability to fly at any significant heights.  Built by the British military during WWII, the idea was to fly in jeeps to the battle field. The result looks more like some failed attempt mate a jeep with a helicopter.  Luckily for us we have the internet, photos, and one surviving prototype to point and laugh at.

2 – The Flying Flapjack (Vought XF5U/V-173): Another internet favorite for its rotund pancake-like shape, this airplane looks bloated at first sight.  An early example of a plane design that is still being developed and used today, the goal of its American designers in the 1940′s was to achieve vertical takeoffs.  Eliminating the need for runways and large aircraft carriers.  Its circular shape was purposely chosen in attempt to make it more aerodynamic not unlike what later became the flying-wing design used by aircraft like the B-2 Stealth Bomber.  The original prototype of the Vought actually did fly, but the program never proved the success the aviation experts had hoped for and was shut down soon after.

1 – Spruce Goose (Hercules H-4): Some of us remember an early episode of the Simpsons where crazed nuclear tycoon Montgomery Burns tells his assistant that they can go for a ride in the “Spruce Moose”, a cartoon version of the massive boondoggle ship built by Howard Hughes in 1947. Hughes himself eventually went mad and one has to wonder if this monstrosity made of wood had something to do with it. With a wingspan of 97.54m, and weighing in at 180,000kg this flying boat actually only flew once for 1.6 kilometers just barely off the ground. After Hughes’ death it eventually found a home at the Evergreen Aviation & Space Museum in Oregon where people still flock to have a look.

Photo: StuSeeger / flickr

aviation history facts, me komet, aircraft carrier design history, history of aircraft design

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