Strange Vehicles: Dornier Do 31 VTOL jet transport


Dornier Do 31 VTOL aircraft

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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Martin Jetpack gets permit for manned flights


Martin Jetpack

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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Strange Vehicles: Vertol VZ-2


Vertol VZ-2

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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Boeing BV-347


Boeing BV-347

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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Strange Vehicles: Fairchild VZ-5


Fairchild VZ-5

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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Strange Vehicles: Curtiss-Wright VZ-7


Curtiss-Wright VZ-7

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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