Sunday, April 09, 2006

The Very Strange History Of Unconventional Aircraft

The American public has funded some very strange aircraft research. Some have actually flown like the stealth designs. Some may think that the "flying wing" design of the stealth bomber was the first strangely designed aircraft of this sort. But during WWII both the U.S. and Germany began to experiment with secret designs that are best described as being like a "flying wing".

In 1941, funds were given to Northrop to experiment with new designs. One strange design was the XB-35, a flying wing type plane that was not ready for testing until 1946. But by this date, with only four propellor driven engines, it was already outdated with jet engined aircraft under developmemt. Despite a large program to develop this unorthodox design, only two of these were built and by 1949 instead of ending up in a aircraft museum, both were unfortunately scrapped, a sad end to this strange design.

In the 1953 SciFi film, THE WAR OF THE WORLD'S, some newsreel footage is seen of one of these strangely designed aircraft that were already obsolete by time the two prototypes were completed.

But an even stranger story exists about the German flying wing. There was reportedly a top secret German program to develop a three man flying wing bomber to fly nonstop from Germany to the U.S. and drop the atomic bomb on New York City, to force the U.S. to sign a "peace treaty" with Germany that would allow them to keep parts of Europe they captured during the war. But development problems and heavy allied bombing prevented both the secret German flying wing aircraft and the German atomic bomb.

In the case of the stealth bomber, the design is at least invisible to radar, although it has a strange shape that looks like something out of a BATMAN movie or comic. But in the case of the American and German flying wing designs, a good question has to be why both designs were even considered.

In the history of strange aircraft, few are as strange as the flying wing designs. Not since the preWright Brothers days was so much effort put into strange designs of flying machines. And like the preWright Brothers days, these strange designs were largely a complete failure and a waste of time and money.

Thomas Edison once said after 100 experiments had failed to invent the light bulb, that he found "100 ways" it didn't work. The Reagan era "Star Wars" type tests found nearly $100 billion in ways that these weapons did not work. And strange aircraft experiments like the flying wing design are more examples of the sheer effort put into strange designs when more conventional designs were proven to work. Why all this effort? Good question.


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