The Land :: www.TheLandOnline.com

Nuts & Bolts

July 17, 2013

The government tested a flying saucer in 1956

In September of last year, a National Archives blog devoted to recently-declassified documents published a post about an intriguing set of records from the Aeronautical Systems Division of the US Air Force. During the 1950s, according to these documents, the USAF had contracted with a Canadian firm, Avro Aircraft Limited, to produce what can only be described as a flying saucer.

While the National Archives provided a few images from "Project 1794" last year, the entire report is now available online.

The report summarizes Avro's work on its initial contract with the USAF, which financed a feasibility study to test the systems and principles that would be necessary to create what Avro called "a flat vertical take-off and landing aircraft." The ship was to reach a top speed between Mach 3 and Mach 4, and be capable of flying at 100,000 feet and ranging 1,000 nautical miles.

The document contains several schematics detailing alternative solutions to some of the engineering problems that the flying saucer posed. Avro described 500 hours of wind-tunnel tests done with a scale model, and included photos of that process, graphs of their results, and assessments of remaining issues.

At the conclusion of the report, Avro asked for more than $3 million to complete testing and development. As Wired's Benjamin Plackett pointed out when the first saucer images were released last year, that wasn't so much money, by military standards (it would translate to about $26.6 million, today).

But the government decided to fund work on a smaller and less grand saucer prototype, the "Avrocar," instead. Like a helicopter (not yet available for combat use), this aircraft could hover near the ground, access tight spots, and help troops in need of reinforcement or resupply.

Plackett points to video of tests of the "Avrocar," in which the vehicle doesn't get more than a few feet off the ground. Pilots found it rocky and unstable in motion, even once it managed to rise further into the air.

In the end, the vision of a U.S. government flying saucer on any scale was scrapped. Avro closed its doors in 1962.

---

Onion contributes to Slate's history blog, The Vault.

1
Text Only
Nuts & Bolts
  • Expo takes precautions to prevent spread of virus
    An outbreak of a potentially deadly equine virus will mean some empty stalls at the upcoming Minnesota Horse Expo.

    April 14, 2014

  • CNHI papers honored for spot news, enterprise journalism

    Newspapers in Norman, Okla., Anderson, Ind., and Andover, Mass., are among those honored in the Best of CNHI 2013.

    April 3, 2014 1 Story

  • touch.jpg Divorce is on the rise, and it's the baby boomers' fault

    A new paper from demographers at the University of Minnesota found that the age-standardized divorce rate has actually risen by an astonishing 40 percent since 1980.

    April 3, 2014 1 Photo

  • Newborn.JPG Census: U.S. has fewest births since 1998

    The U.S. recorded the most deaths in its history and the fewest births since 1998, resulting in the lowest population gain from natural causes in 35 years, an analysis of 2013 Census Bureau estimates released Thursday shows.

    April 3, 2014 1 Photo

  • dog-sunglasses.jpg Do animals have a sense of humor?

    Right now, in a high-security research lab at Northwestern University's Falk Center for Molecular Therapeutics, scientists are tickling rats. Their goal? To develop a pharmaceutical-grade happiness pill. But their efforts might also produce some of the best evidence yet that humor isn't something experienced exclusively by human beings.

    April 3, 2014 1 Photo

  • VIDEO: X-Ray released of tree trimmer with chainsaw embedded in neck

    Not only did the tree trimmer who got a chainsaw caught in his neck survive, he climbed down the tree by himself after the accident.

     

     

    April 3, 2014

  • Screen shot 2014-02-20 at 4.23.54 PM.png Get ready for spring with these 3 apps for gardening

    Even if it's still cold out, it's almost time to start planning a spring garden. Whether you have a full backyard garden you eat from all summer or just a few tomatoes and herbs on the porch, these apps will have you make the most of your garden

    February 28, 2014 1 Photo

  • Data breach hits Target's profits, but that's only the tip of the iceberg

    In its first financial release since the December breach that enabled the theft of millions of customers' payment data, Target said profits fell 46 percent and that the breach had already cost the retailer $17 million. The final tally will be bigger, the company said, but it's unclear by how much.

    February 28, 2014

  • Dwindling Midwest high school grads spur college hunt

    A waning number of high school graduates from the Midwest is sparking a college hunt for freshman applicants, with the decline being felt as far away as Harvard and Emory universities.

    February 28, 2014

  • Six reasons childhood obesity has fallen so much

    A major new paper appearing in Wednesday's edition of the Journal of the American Medical Association finds that childhood obesity - age 2 to 5 - has fallen from 13.9 percent in 2003-04 to 8.4 percent in 2011-12.

    February 28, 2014

Featured Ads
Hyperlocal Search
Premier Guide
Find a business

Walking Fingers
Maps, Menus, Store hours, Coupons, and more...
Premier Guide
The Land's Twitter Feed