Back in the ’50s, when every other day a new type of aircraft was taking to the skies, the Vertol VZ-2 arrived on the scene. It was a bizarre blend of helicopter and conventional aircraft. It was built in 1957 by Vertol, with the money for the project coming from a U.S. Army contract. From the start the program was guided by the Army’s desire to explore the tilt-wing VTOL principle within the shortest possible time and at minimum cost. Consequently, every effort was made to simplify the program and to reduce cost.
In order to speed things up and keep it cheap, it was decided that the aircraft should be as small as was realistically possible. And in order to keep technical unknowns to a minimum, where possible standard and existing parts and equipment was used.
The cockpit controls, which consisted of stick, rudder pedals, and collective pitch lever, were typical of those found in helicopters.
During the earlier phases of development, full scale propeller tests were performed in the 40 foot by 80 foot wind tunnel at NASA’s Ames Research Center, Moffet Field, California. Prior to the first hover flight on 13 August 1957. After a series of tiedown tests, taxi tests and hover flights it was decided that although there were some minor problem areas, no modifications were needed before full flights which commenced on 7 January 1958. The first in-flight conversion from hover to normal flight was on 15 July 1958.
Thoughout its life the VZ-2 underwent a series of modifications an improvements designed to improve its performance and flight characteristics.
By the time testing of the VZ-2 ended in 1965 it had completed 450 flights, including 34 full transitions. Thankfully at the end of the program the VZ-2 wasn’t scrapped. Instead it was preserved by the National Air and Space Museum where it is currently in storage.