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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Ever seen what it looks like to have an airplane narrowly miss you while travelling at 200 mph? Want to? Then do yourself a favor and watch the video below.
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No this isn’t a photoshop, this really is a CH-47 Chinook helicopter with a massive set of wings. The aircraft was a prototype developed for the U.S. Army to test various ideas and components for future heavy lift helicopters. Most obvious is the addition of the large set of hydraulic wings which could be rotated through 90 degrees. The wings were put in their vertical position for hovering and low speed maneuvers. At higher speed the wings provided additional lift, reducing fuel consumption, and they also gave the aircraft more stable flight characteristics. The wings were fully removable, and the aircraft was extensively tested both with and without them fitted.
However it wasn’t just the extra wings which set the BV-347 apart from the standard Chinook. It had a lengthened fuselage, retractable landing gear, longer rotor blades, and a higher aft pylon. But perhaps the BV-347′s most bizarre modification was a retractable gondola which was fitted within the helicopter’s fuselage. This compartment was equipped with a set of flight controls and could be lowered down allowing a third pilot to fly the aircraft while facing towards the rear!
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The Hughes XH-17 “Flying Crane” was a prototype heavy-lift helicopter developed during the 1950s. The design wasn’t actually an original Hughes project. Initially the project was developed by Kellett Aircraft Corporation to fulfill a 1946 US Army requirement for an extremely large helicopter capable of lifting up to 10,000 lbs (4,536 kgs), at a speed of 64 mph (105 km/h), over a range of 100 miles (160 km). However Kellett ran into financial difficulties during the preliminary development of the aircraft, and in 1948 they sold the rights and partially completed prototype to Hughes. Several members of the original design team were hired by Hughes to help make sure the project stayed on track.
The test rig was completed in 1949, and in order to speed up construction numerous elements had been poached from existing aircraft. The two-seat cockpit came from a Waco CG-15, the undercarriage was made up from North American B-25 and Douglas C-54 parts, and the fuel tank came from a Boeing B-29 bomb bay tank. The XH-17 employed an unusual gas-turbine and rotor-tip combustion combination to provide power to spin the gigantic rotors. Two General Electric gas generators – modified J35 turbojets – sent compressed air to the rotor tips where fuel was added and then burned to provide the equivalent of 3,480 horsepower.
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The Boeing Vertol XCH-62 was a prototype heavy-lift helicopter which never really took off. Either figuratively or literally. It was designed for the US Army in the early ’70s. Mainly because the US military were a little envious of the Soviet heavy-lift helicopters – such as the Mil Mi-26 – which could carry a considerably heavier payload than the Boeing CH-47 Chinook – the United States’ largest helicopter, both then and now.
The contract for the XCH-62 prototype was awarded in 1973. The rotor diameter was to be a colossal 28 meters (92 ft) – slightly longer than its fuselage length of 27.2 meters (89 feet 3 inches). Its widely-spaced landing gear would allow it to straddle heavy cargoes such as armored vehicles, and still carry twelve troops within its slender fuselage.
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The Fairchild VZ-5 was one of the many weird and wonderful experimental aircraft developed during the 1950s which never really took off (figuratively speaking). The VZ-5 was a high-wing monoplane with a fixed tricycle undercarriage. The single pilot sat in an open cockpit at the extreme front of the aircraft. Despite having four propellers, two on each wing, the VZ-5 only had one engine, a GE turboshaft which produced 1,032 horsepower.
The Fairchild VZ-5′s real party trick was its highly adjustable wing. The wing had conventional trailing flaps and ailerons which would have allowed the VZ-5 to fly exactly like a conventional aircraft once airborne. However for take-off and landings the rear two-thirds of the wing could be angled downward to direct the thrust towards the ground and provide vertical lift. To assist the aircraft during take-off the VZ-5 could be angled backwards so it sat on a rear skid. Once in the air two small rotors mounted on the rear stabilizer allowed the pilot to control the aircraft’s pitch.
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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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