The Payen Pa 49 Katy was a pocket-sized prototype aircraft developed in France during the 1950s. It was remarkable for a number of reasons. Firstly it was small, very small. In fact it was the smallest jet-powered aircraft of its day. Secondly it had a delta-wing configuration – which wasn’t ground-breaking by the mid-fifties, but it was still unusual. And thirdly it was a truly tailless aircraft, having no separate horizontal stabilizer.
The aircraft was designed by Roland Payen, who was a pioneer of delta wing and tailess aircraft. Before the second world war he had built two previous aircraft, but the Payen Pa 49 Katy was his first post-war design.
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Feast your eyes on this! The AeroMobil flying car from Slovakia. The vehicle has been in development for no less than 20 years, but it’s only just recently got off the ground… So to speak. The AeroMobil’s designer, Stefan Klein, is currently working on version 3.0 of the vehicle. But the previous version, 2.5, has already been tested, both on the road and in the air.
The latest version is almost identical in configuration, but it has a much sleeker and more futuristic appearance. Its creators say the AeroMobil is perfectly suited to its dual role, making use of existing infrastructure created for automobiles and planes, and makes true door-to-door travel possible.
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The Antonov A-40 Krylya Tanka – which in Russian means “Tank Wings” – was a prototype aircraft/light tank combination developed by the Soviets during the dark days of the Second World War.
The Antonov A-40 was a glider, not a powered aircraft. The idea was that a large, powerful transport aircraft would tow the A-40 into the air and to the battlefield where it would glide down to the ground with the crew already aboard. Once on the ground, the wooden wings and tail booms would be quickly unbolted and the tank would operate like any other.
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The Dornier Do 31 was a West German experimental VTOL aircraft built in the late 1960s. To this day it is the only VTOL jet transport aircraft ever built. The aircraft was designed to meet a NATO requirement for a tactical support aircraft to work in conjunction with the EWR VJ 101 VTOL strike aircraft.
The origins of the Dornier Do 31 project began in the early 1960s when German air force top brass started to realise that their airfields were vulnerable to attack from Eastern Bloc forces and the Soviet Union. In an effort to counteract this weakness the Luftwaffe started looking at VTOL and STOVL options. The Dornier Do 31 was one of the results.
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The Savoia-Marchetti S.55 was a strange-looking double-hulled flying boat manufactured in Italy during the 1920s. The aircraft, despite its unusual configuration, soon began accumulating world records for speed, payload, altitude and range.
The passengers and/or cargo were carried in the two hulls of the aircraft, while the pilot and co-pilot sat in a central cockpit. The aircraft was powered by two Isotta-Fraschini Asso 750V engines, each producing 880 hp. The engines were mounted inline and back-to-back. One had a tractor propeller, the other a pusher propeller. The whole assembly was mounted above the aircraft on pylons and it was tilted upwards to create extra lift.
The Savoia-Marchetti S.55 first flew in the summer of 1924. By 1926 it was in full production, and in that same year the S.55P prototype set 14 world records. However the S.55 became most famous for its repeated trans-Atlantic crossings.
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The Convair NC-131H might look like one airplane violently eating another, but it is in fact a very useful one-of-a-kind aircraft which was used by the US Air Force as a “total in-flight simulator” – or TIFS for short. The Convair NC-131H was only retired in 2008, after decades of service.
The aircraft first flew in 1970. It was designed to allow pilots and engineers to study how different aircraft would fly – before moving on to building extremely costly prototypes. Originally a USAF C-131B transport aircraft, the NC-131H underwent extensive modifications. Its original piston engines were replaced by Allison 501-D22G turboprop engines with nearly twice the horsepower, but the most noticeable modifications were the second cockpit on the nose and the vertical fins on the wings.
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Despite its cartoonish proportions and unconventional layout, the Stipa-Caproni was a clever design which provided a crucial link between propeller-driven aircraft and jet-powered aircraft. The man behind the Stipa-Caproni prototype was an Italian engineer called Luigi Stipa. In 1932, after years of developing the aircraft in his head and on paper, he went to the Italian government in an attempt to persuede them to fund the building of an experimental aircraft which would validate his ideas. At the time the facist Italian government was keen to promote the latest technological achievements of the country, and they commissioned the Caproni aircraft company to build Stipa’s prototype.
The aircraft was called the Stipa-Caproni (or Caproni Stipa), and it was one of the more unusual aircraft designs of the time. It’s most recognisable feature was the hollow fuselage which had a propeller just inside the leading edge of the tube. However this was no ordinary tube. Stipa had spent much time calculating the best shape for the tunnel and the optimum propeller position and angle. It worked like a venturi tube, compressing the air flow from the propellor and engine exhaust before it exited the tunnel at the rear. Despite what it might look like, it actually made the engine more efficient.
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The Gloster Meteor F8 “Prone Pilot” was a bizarre proof-of-concept aircraft designed to explore the benefits, and drawbacks, of having a pilot in the prone position. The project was overseen by the RAF Institute of Aviation Medicine. By the 1950s, aviation experts already knew that pilots in the prone position could handle higher g-forces than if they were sat upright. And with combat aircraft rapidly becoming faster and faster, and the pilots having to cope with the ever higher g-force effects, the military was keen to try and find a solution.
The Gloster Meteor F8 “Prone Pilot” started life as an ordinary Gloster Meteor. It was the very last Meteor to be produced (Serial No. WK935) and it was immediatley modified by the manufacturers Armstrong-Whitworth as an in-house project. The standard cockpit was retained, and had fully functioning controls. However, up front a longer nose section was added and an extra canopy installed for the prone pilot. The forward cockpit had an unusual control layout – necessitated by the horizontal position of the pilot. The control column was offset to the right and the rudder pedals were reconfigured to suit the unconventional layout.
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The Soviet-built MiG-105, or to give it its full name, the Mikoyan-Gurevich MiG-105, was a manned prototype aircraft developed to explore the low-speed handling and landing characteristics of possible future orbital spaceplanes. The aircraft got its Russian nickname “Lapot” because it looked a bit like a flying shoe. Lapot is Russian slang for shoe.
Design work began on the MiG-105 in 1965, primarily as a response to the lifting body experimental aircraft being tested at NASA’s Dryden Flight Research Center in California. The MiG-105 project was also sometimes referred to as EPOS (Experimental Passenger Orbital Aircraft) and was part of the Soviet Union’s Spiral aerospace progam.
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The Martin Aircraft Company, based in Christchurch, New Zealand have just been issued a permit by the country’s aviation regulators which allows them to perform manned, low altitude test flights of the Martin Jetpack.
The Martin Jetpack is the culmination of 30 years of work by inventor Glenn Martin, who started out by fabricating designs in his garage. Things have moved on considerably from there, and the latest prototype (P12) of the Martin Jetpack looks more like something a big-budget government defence contractor might come up with.
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