First there was the Chance Vought Umbrella Plane which failed miserably, without aerodynamic principles applied to the design at all. This was in 1911, when much was trial and error. Fortunately, Vought later redeemed themselves with the original F4U Corsair which changed the game over the Pacific, and then the F-8 Crusader and A-7 Corsair II.

Next there was the Pogo XFV VTOL (vertical take off and landing) aircraft developed by the famous Lockheed Skunk Works in 1951. They proved it could handle transition flight but was a scary plane to fly. Fast forward to 2005. After resolving issues that caused several fatal crashes, we have the V-22 Osprey which is now one very expensive troop transport with some estimates at $70.0M per copy.  There are the turbine versions too, such as the AV8-B Harrier and F-35  Lightning but, for now,  I’m recounting the story of  VTOL propeller aircraft. 

Technological change frequently builds on previous invention. To quote Sir Isaac Newton: “If I have seen further, it is by standing on the shoulders of giants.”

NASA continues the evolution with the one man electric “stealth”  version named the Puffin (i.e. quiet, not invisible to radar).  No one knows if it will really work but it mimics the Pogo concept without moving nacelles for transition flight along with the same landing characteristics. 

Hopefully this design will autorotate on engine failure .  (The Osprey cannot autorotate either). Otherwise it’s a very fast trip down. For obvious reason, ejection capability would be a bad idea. I’m still trying to understand if anyone would buy it. An electric engine will not allow a payload of more than the passenger and the “stealth” capability is lost once the blade tips reach max speed. It’s the propeller that makes most of the noise in a light airplane or helicopter with tip speeds approaching 500 mph.

 If it does work, I guarantee the pilot  will have one terrific crick in the neck. If it never leaves the drawing board, at least the animation was pretty good.


3 responses to “NASA’s New VTOL

  1. virgil xenophon

    As a child I was big on plastic model airplanes (Revell, Monogram, Airfix,etc.) and had prallel wires strung in a huge *V* across the ceiling of my room where I placed all my models athwart them so that they were all in V-formation and I could lay in my bed and contemplate them all. Others I put on shelves like the Lockheed Pogo and its Boeing counter-part (which you forgot–shame on you! 🙂 ) Must have had 30-40 in all….

  2. virgil xenophon

    *parallel*–too much Barbancourt in the coffee..

  3. virgil xenophon

    PPS:I’m inclined–given the past history of these things–to chalk it up to “another good idea that won’t work.”

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