Usually when skydiving it’s the jumpers who have a wild ride, not the people left in the airplane. However in this instance its the guys who didn’t hurl themselves from a perfectly good aircraft who get the real adrenaline rush.
The video is the work of one very skilled pilot, and one very trusting co-pilot.
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Burt Rutan, founder of Scaled Composites and all-round aeronautical genius/madman, is well known for designing aircraft which look almost incapable of flight, but somehow manage to perform as good – and usually better than – comparable more conventional aircraft. The 202 Boomerang from 1996 is probably one of the best examples of this.
The Rutan Boomerang was designed around the specifications of the Beechcraft Baron 58, a conventional twin-engined civilian light aircraft. However the asymetrical design of the Boomerang allowed it to fly faster and have a greater range than the Baron. Even though both aircraft used the same engines and could carry the same number of passengers.
Aside from the obvious, the Rutan Boomerang features a number of odd design choices. The left wing is nearly 5-foot longer than the right wing, however the rignt engine produces 10 horsepower more than the left! In addition the left side engine – mounted on the separate boom – is positioned 5-foot further back than the right-side engine.
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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.
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The MIG 15-2 Concept is the work of talented Dutch designer Sabino Leerentveld. You may have seen his work before in the form of the beautifully brutal Lamborghini LMP-F concept from last year. This time around he’s come up with something even more outrageous in the form of a retro-futuristic single seat racer which was (accidentally) inspired by Russian fighter aircraft like the MIG 15 and 17.
The MIG 15-2 concept has the appearance of a salt-flat drop-tank racer, but with a few added extras and slightly more sophistication. The sealed cockpit has room for one, and by the looks of it even then it would be tight! Mounted up front looks to be a V12 engine of unknown provenance. The engine is fed copious amounts of fresh air by the gaping circular intake at the front of the car, which quite clearly is a feature shared with the MIG 15 aircraft.
This circular cross-section is continued along the entire length of the car, culminating in another circular opening which mirrors that found at the front.
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It might come as some surprise that Chrysler briefly flirted with the world of prototype military aircraft. But in 1959 they did just that. The Chrysler VZ-6 “Flying Jeep” was a proposal for a light aerial utility vehicle which it was hoped could perform some of the functions of the trusty Jeep, while at the same time having the advantage of being able to fly over obstacles or difficult terrain.
The project was initated in 1956 when the US Army put out a brief calling for such a vehicle. Out of the many design proposals the army recieved, three were accepted for further development, the Chrysler VZ-6 being one of them. Two prototypes of the VZ-6 were ordered for testing in 1958.
The Chrysler VZ-6 featured two downward-facing propellers, one in front of, and one behind the pilot. The Pilot was offset to the left of the aircraft and next to him was the single 500-horsepower engine. Rubber skirts around the outside of the vehicle’s bottom edge helped increase the propeller-generated lift. Forward propulsion resulted from lowering the VZ-6′s nose and using duct-mounted vanes to deflect some of the airflow to the rear. The VZ-6 was never meant to fly at the sort of altitudes of conventional aircraft, in fact its cruising altitude was somewhere between 1.5 and 4 metres (5 – 13 feet).
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Most military aircraft have a sleek, menacing, and purposeful appearance. Usually, despite their lethal nature, they “look good”. Not so the Curtiss-Wright VZ-7. It looks more like somone’s first attempt at metal work, and it most certainly doesn’t look capable of flight. But it could fly, and it did fly.
The Curtiss-Wright VZ-7 was a VTOL aircraft designed to act as a “flying jeep”. Two prototypes were constructed and delivered to the US Army in 1958.
It was a rather rickety affair. It consisted of a central fuselage which housed the 430 horsepower Turbomeca Artouste IIB turboshaft engine. At the front was a single seat for the pilot. Four propellers, two either side of the fuselage provided lift and thrust for the aircraft. Originally the propellers each had their own small shroud, but these were later removed.
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The Curtiss-Wright XP-55 Ascender prototype was born out of a United States Army Air Corps request for a higher-performance, more heavily armed fighter with improved pilot visibility over existing aircraft. The brief specifically allowed, and suited, unconventional designs. And if the XP-55 Ascender was one thing, it was unconventional.
The Curtiss Wright XP-55 Ascender featured highly-swept wings, a canard configuration and a pusher propeller. Because of the lack of a conventional tail the rudders were located on the wingtips. The elevator function was handled by the carnards. One of the XP-55 Ascender’s most unusual features was the propeller jettison lever inside the cockpit. This allowed the pilot to release the propeller from the aircraft before bailing out, ensuring he wasn’t chopped to pieces during his escape.
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In case you’re unaware NASA last week pulled off an audacious mission and landed a giant rover on the red planet. Curiosity, the integral part of a 2.5 billion dollar project, will roam the martian surface. Its primary mission is to evaluate the “habitability” of the planet, and discover if Mars was, or still is, capable of supporting life.
Well Nissan has rather cleverly managed to jump onto this extraterrestrial bandwagon by producing a simple but clever little infographic which shows the cost of driving the 352 million miles between Earth and Mars.
Not surprisingly Nissan comes out on top in their bizzare fuel economy comparison test, which pits the 2013 Nissan Altima against seven of its competitors. Based on gasoline prices of $3.645 per gallon it would cost a mere $33.7 million to get there. If you took the Nissan that is. And you were somehow able to escape Earth’s gravity, produce oxygen, feed yourself, store the fuel, run the engine in a vacuum etc. etc.
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The Northrop XP-56 was an experimental single-seat aircraft with an unusual configuration. The project was born out of an earlier prototype model called the Northrop N2B. It was designed around the Pratt & Whitney X-1800 engine and had a pusher configuration with dual contra-rotating propellers. The US Army commissioned Northrop to begin design work on 22 June 1940, and after reviewing the blueprints the Army placed an order for a prototype in September 1940.
Problems beset the XP-56 from the outset. Firstly Pratt & Whitney decided to discontinue the X-1800 engine, meaning Northrop had to adjust the design to accommodate a more powerful, but also larger and heavier substitute. The alteration also delayed the construction by a full five months.
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The McDonnell XP-67, otherwise known as the “Bat” or “Moonbat”, was a ambitious prototype for a twin-engine, long range, single-seat interceptor for the USAAF. The XP-67 prototype was the product of a 1940 US Army Air Corps request for a high-altitude, long range aircraft designed to take out enemy bombers. At the time McDonnell were a fairly new aerospace parts manufacturer keen to develop their own aircraft. In all 23 manufacturers submitted proposals to the Air Corps, and out of those 23 McDonnell’s design came a disappointing 21st. However, despite their low ranking, the military had been impressed by the company’s efforts to produce a radical and innovative design and they awarded them a $3,000 contract to re-engineer the aircraft.
McDonnell went away and subsequently redesigned the aircraft two more times before the USAAC gave the aircraft its approval for further development. In 1941 the company secured a $1,508,596 contract, plus an $86,315 fee, for two prototypes, a wind tunnel model, and related engineering data. The XP-67 was born.
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