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Bell XP-77 Lightweight Fighter Prototype

During the Second World War, aircraft development went into overdrive. Many, in fact most, of the new machines were at the cutting edge of aviation technology for the time. However some designs were born out of practicality and necessity. The Bell XP-77 was one such design. The brief for a simplified lightweight fighter aircraft, built using "non-strategic" materials was initiated by the USAAF in 1941. The idea was to create an interceptor aircraft which was very much modeled on the fast and agile air racers from the 1930s.

On May 16th 1942, the USAAF ordered 25 XP-77s for testing. The aircraft was to be a single engine, low-wing monoplane built primarily from wood. The neat bubble canopy provided excellent vision in all directions - except for directly forward, a fairly major error for a point-and-shoot fighter aircraft!

Saunders-Roe SR.A/1 'Squirt'

The Saunders-Roe SR.A/1, nicknamed ‘Squirt’, was a prototype flying boat fighter aircraft which was developed by the British shortly after the Second World War. The Saunders-Roe SR.A/1 was inspired by Japanese seaplane fighter aircraft such as the Nakajima A6M2-N and the Kawanishi N1K. These had proved to be effective and versatile during the intense island-hopping war in the Pacific theatre.

The primary disadvantage of seaplane fighters was their reduced maneuverability due to the flotation pontoons hanging from the bottom of the fuselage and wings. Saunders-Roe were largely able to overcome this by adapting the fuselage itself to become the floatation element of the design. In addition, by equipping the SR.A/1 with a jet engine instead of a propeller, the aircraft could sit lower in the water because it wasn’t necessary to create clearance for the spinning blades. Continue

Ryan X-13 Vertijet - Strange Vehicles

The Ryan X-13 Vertijet was an experimental aircraft designed to further explore the idea of VTOL (Vertical Take-Off and Landing) flight. The Ryan X-13 Vertijet was born out of a previous project conducted by Ryan at the behest of the United States Navy. Just after WWII the Navy had been studying the feasibility of submarine-based aircraft, and from 1947 to 1951 Ryan conducted a series of tethered flight tests with unmanned VTOL aircraft. Based on that project, in 1953, the company was awarded a USAAF contract to develop two prototypes of a full-size, manned VTOL aircraft – these aircraft were designated the X-13 Vertifan.

The chubby dimensions of the Ryan X-13 Vertijet meant it wasn’t the most beautiful aircraft the world had ever seen. It’s compact dimensions were necessary to keep the weight to a minimum. There was just enough room within the aircraft’s fuselage for a single seat cockpit, and a 10,000 lbf (45kN) Rolls-Royce Avon turbojet engine. The wings were mounted at the very peak of the fuselage, and they had a pronounced Delta-wing shape. The high position of the wings was intended to improve stability in horizontal flight. Continue

Australian-built Hoverbike - Strange Vehicles

The lure to join Darth Vader’s evil Imperial Empire must have been strong for riders of the Imperial Speeder Bike. Not only did these guys get the coolest helmets, they also got the coolest mode of transport. That’s almost enough to make you forget that your boss was an evil megalomaniac with respiratory problems.

An Australian inventor called Chris Malloy has spent the last two and a half years building his very own Imperial Speeder bike-like hoverbike in his garage at home. Oddly, the seed idea for his creation came from his helicopter instructor, who had likened the R22 helicopter to an airborne motorbike. Disagreeing with his instructors analogy, Malloy set about creating something that really was like an airborne motorcycle. Continue

Douglas X-3 Stiletto - Strange Vehicles

The x-plane programs have yielded some fairly unusual designs over the years, and the Douglas X-3 Stiletto was no exception. The X-3 Stiletto was a prototype aircraft designed to help designers and engineers better understand what sort of features an aircraft would need in order to fly at supersonic speeds, while also being capable of taking off and land under its own power.

The Douglas X-3 Stiletto’s design was revolutionary for its day. The stubby wings and long tapering fuselage weren’t pretty, and it looked nothing like the beautifully proportioned fighter aircraft of WWII. Instead, the odd shape of the X-3 Stiletto was designed for one thing. Speed. Continue

McDonnell XF-85 Goblin - Strange Aircraft

The McDonnell XF-85 Goblin was a prototype parasitic-fighter aircraft developed during the 1940s. The Goblin was designed to fulfill a USAAF request for an extremely compact single-seat fighter which could be carried aboard the Convair B-36 long-range bomber. Continue

AutoGyro Cavalon - Strange Aircraft
AutoGyro Cavalon
The Cavalon is an all-new model from the German aircraft manufacturer AutoGyro. It is also the company's first aircraft to offer side-by-side seating. Continue

Flynano microlight - Strange aircraft

The Flynano is a single-seat microlight which was designed and developed by Aki Suokas, an aviation consultant, flight designer and pilot. The Flynano has been in development for 10 years, and it recently made its world debut at the Aero 2011 show in Friedrichshafen, Germany. Continue

Sukhoi T4 - Strange aircraft

The Sukhoi T4 was a prototype Soviet aircraft which was designed to be a high-speed, high altitude bomber. Unfortunately it's immense cost, and disappointing performance meant that it never went into full production. Continue

Ryan XV-5 Vertifan - Strange Vehicles

The Ryan XV-5 Vertifan was a prototype aircraft developed by the US Army as part of a project designed to find a suitable battlefield surveilance aircraft. The project was later handed over to NASA where it helped further the development of V/STOL aircraft. Continue

The RSRA (Rotor Systems Research Aircraft) was produced by the Sikorsky Aircraft Company for NASA. The RSRA was a research vehicle which helped develop rotor-craft/fixed-wing hybrid aircraft. Continue

Sikorsky X2 - The Worlds Fastest Helicopter
The radically designed Sikorsky X2 has just claimed the unofficial title of the Worlds Fastest Helicopter with a maximum speed of 258 mph. And it's set to get better... Continue

Scaled Composites Proteus
The Proteus from specialist aircraft manufacturers Scaled Composites is an oddly shaped aircraft which was originally designed as a long-duration high-altitude aircraft. Continue

Swisscopter Dragonfly
The Dragonfly DF1 from Arizona, USA, based company Swisscopter is a one-man rocket powered helicopter. The technology allows for an extremely light and simple machine. Continue

X-36 Prototype Aircraft
The X-36 was an advanced prototype aircraft developed by NASA. The X-36 was designed to fly without the traditional tail surfaces common on most aircraft.

HiMAT (Highly Maneuverable Aircraft Technology)
The HiMAT was a subscale research aircraft flown by the NASA Dryden Research Center from 1979 to 1983.

Hiller X-18
The Hiller X-18 from 1959 was the first ever tilt-wing aircraft to fly. Its design precedes all VTOL (Vertical Take-Off and Landing) tilt-wing aircraft. The X-18 first flew in 1959.

The ConvAirCar was designed by the American Industrial designer Henry Dreyfuss in 1947 for the aviation company Consolidated-Vultee. As far as flying cars go the ConvAirCar was....

Mobula Ekranoplan Concept
The Mobula is a futuristic design for an ekranoplan capable of transporting up to 1000 passengers in complete luxury across the worlds oceans.

Terrafugia Transition
The Terrafugia Transition is a genuine flying car. The vehicle is a product of several MIT trained aeronautical engineers who also happen to be private pilots.

Challis Heliplane
The Challis Heliplane is a vehicle which uses the best features of helicopters and airplanes and wraps them up into one package. Currently in the prototype phase...

 ICON A5 Sport Aircraft

The ICON A5 is a lightweight aircraft designed specifically for sport pilots. Continue

 Airbus A350 BMW Designworks interior
Airbus A350 BMW Designworks interior
The Airbus A350 airliner is scheduled to enter service in 2010. At the 2006 Aircraft Interiors Expo in April, Airbus is due to show an interior designed by BMW. Continue

Space Elevator

Currently the only way to get anything into space is by using a rocket. Rockets are incredibly expensive and inherently dangerous. The concept of a space elevator is nothing new, but emerging materials and advancements in engineering mean the creation of such a vehicle may be not so far away. Transforming space in the same way the introduction of the railroad transformed the West... read more on the Space Elevator.

Image credit: Pat Rawling

More Airborne Vehicles

The Airbus A350 airliner gets an interior makeover courtesy of BMW Designworks. Continue

From the Wright Flyer to the Virgin Atlantic Globalflyer, a timeline of events in aviation and aerospace history. Continue

The man behind the Ansari X prize has created a new 'technology accelerating' competition, The Rocket Racing League

The Airbus Beluga super transport aircraft has the largest cargo hold of any civilian or military aircraft.

Concept aircraft. A selection of curious aircraft.

Micro Air Vehicles mimic seagulls wings...MORE

Double decker of the skies, Airbus A380...MORE

Honda's tentative steps skyward, the HondaJet... MORE

100 Million Dollar Space Ride... MORE

Aerospace Art Work

Spaceflight Encyclopedia

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The Archives

Record Breaking and Extreme Vehicles

Record breaking vehicles are some of the most important vehicles in the world. Information gathered from the advanced technology needed to make these extreme machines filters down to the common vehicles we see everyday:

Extreme Land Vehicles

Extreme Sea Vehicles
Extreme Air Vehicles

Beautiful and Ugly Machines

Sometimes a design can display an outstanding ability to attract or repulse.
In this new section we explore some of the most memorable - and unique - designs of all time in: Beautiful and ugly machines.

ideas on artificial intelligence

I'Robot Film promotionOver the past couple of decades, much work and progress have been made in the pursuit of creating artificial minds and life-like humanoid movement. Researchers from many different nations have experimented with recreating realistic human characteristics with some success...

Read more from this speculative article on artificial intelligence

ASIMO Honda's robot

What makes a great car?

What is the secret formula for creating an automotive icon. This short article identifies a few 'great cars' and attempts to decipher the connection.

What makes a great car?

Evolution of the bicycle

Just where did the bicycle - the humble manual version of the motorbike - come from?

Evolution of the bicycle

A brief history of car design from the 1950-1990s

Lamborghini MiuraThroughout the decades of car design there have been many events and technological advances that have helped bring about major design trend changes.

Read more on car design history

Advanced Helmet Design

No this isn't the Master Chief's helmet from X-Boxs' Halo. This is BMW's idea of what an off-road helmet should be. See this and other advanced helmet designs here.

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Buell, the motorcycle innovator
Motorcycle technology
Experiences of a novice biker
Interview with a car design student

Future car predictions

The future car - say a 2025 model - will be a very different beast to its present day grandfather. It will be packed with computers and safety devices ensuring that not even a stunt driver can crash.
Read more in this two part article:

The Future Car Predictions

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