Posts Tagged ‘Piasecki Airgeep’

More on the Coeloptere, the Piasecki Airgeep and the Avrocar

December 29, 2015

Last week I posted up a few pieces on three very unusual aircraft, the French VTOL Coeloptere, the Piasecki airgeep – a type of hovercraft designed in the late 1950s, and the flying saucer-like Avrocar. Here are a few more pictures of them I found in The World’s Strangest Aircraft: A Collection of Weird and Wonderful Flying Machines, by Michael Taylor (New York: Barnes & Noble 2000).

The Avrocar

AVrocar 2

Here’s a video of the Avrocar in flight.

The Avrocar wasn’t the first plane that had a circular design. Almost right at the very beginning of aircraft development in the 20th century inventors were experimenting with circular wing designs. In 1911 Cedric Lee and G. Tilghman Richards in Britain brought out a biplane with annular (ring-shaped) wings. This was unsuccessful, but they continued experimenting, and produced a successful glider. This was another biplane, which shared elements of the earlier plane. The upper wing was semi-circular, while the lower wing was ring-shaped. This flew in 1912. Tests in wind tunnels showed that the aircraft with annular wings were more stable, and needed a shorter wingspan than more conventional designs.

The two then produced a monoplane, whose wings were a 22 ft ring. This seated two people, and was driven by a 80 horsepower Gnome engine. This first flew in 1913. Unfortunately, it proved tail heavy, and stalled during flight. Fortunately, the plane and its pilots were saved from death by being caught on nearby telegraph poles. The plane was salvaged, repaired and suitably modified, and returned to the air. It proved very airworthy, and made a series of flights up to the outbreak of the First World War. The two began work building further annular monoplanes, in 1914, but the design was unpopular didn’t catch on.

Lee and Richards’ Annular Wing Monoplane

Annular Wing Monoplane

The Piasecki Airgeep

Piasecki Airgeep 2

The Coeloptere

This is a cutaway diagram of the structure of the French Coeloptere, another annular wing design which unfortunately proved to be unviable.

Coleoptere Drawing

These are only just four of the many weird aircraft that have been designed over the years. They show the immense inventiveness of the aircraft engineers and pioneering inventors, even if some of them proved unworkable in practice.

Piasecki Airgeep In Flight

December 9, 2015

Last week I blogged about a firm that has developed a hoverbike, and the similarity between that vehicle and the Piasecki Airgeep developed by the US army in the 1950s. I found this fascinating photo of the Airgeep in flight on 1000 Natural Shocks. It’s at Warning: over 18s only.

Here’s the photo.

Airgeep Photo

Hoverbikes to Appear in 2017?

November 30, 2015

This is another fascinating piece of technology news from Youtube. It’s on the hoverbike that’s been produced by the Aerofex company, and which may be on the market in 2017. According to the video it has two rotors, can fly up to ten feet off the ground and stay in the air for an hour and a quarter. The downside is that if you want one, it’s going to cost $85,000. Here’s the video.

It reminds me very much of the Piasecki ZV-8- Airgeep, which was designed for use by the American army. A model kit of this was produced in the 1990s by Glencoe Models, of Northboro, Massachusetts. According to the background information given with the kit,

The Piasecki ZV-8_ or 59L VTOL Airgeep was designed for the army to increase mobility by combining the versatility of an all-terrain ground vehicle with the benefits of a small helicopter. The first flight was on October 12, 1958. Some of its capabilities were to include the ability to fly at speeds up to 150 miles per hour, and to fly unhindered over water or mountains. Actual top speed was closer to 70 miles per hour with a maximum cruising range of 75 miles. General dimensions were 24 ft. 6 in. long and 9 ft. wide. Having a very low profile and a significant amount of speed combined with its ability to fly low along the ground would have made it an elusive target.

Power for the Airgeep comes from two flat opposed six cylinder Lycoming engines. Rated at 180 horsepower each, the 0-360-A2A piston engines are housed in the fuselage and turn the two large propellers via drive shafts. To aid in stability the front propeller turns clockwise and the rear turns counter-clockwise. Directional vane below the props control side to side and forward-reverse motions.

Protection from minor contact with immovable objects is taken care of by the large inflatable bumpers at both ends. The perimeter of the duct area is also shielded to protect the crew in case of detachment of one of the propeller blades.

Today the Piasecki ZV-8_ or 59L Airgeep resides at the United States Army Transportation Museum in Fort Eustis, Virginia.

Piasecki Airgeep

Airborne bikes have appeared in a number of SF movies since the appearance of the Speeders in the Star Wars films. By far the best known are probably the Speeder bikes used by the imperial storm troopers in the third of the original movies, Return of the Jedi. Similar vehicles also appear in the third Riddick film, simple called after its hero, Riddick, where they’re ridden by a posse of interplanetary bounty hunters sent to catch or kill him. Unlike the Star Wars Speeder bikes, the ‘hogs’ used in Riddick seem to be propelled not by some kind of anti-gravity field, but by something more like a downward-facing jet.

It’ll also be interesting to see if this does actually go into production. Some of us can still remember the one-man helicopter that was due to come on the market for about the same amount of money. One even appeared in one of the Spy Kids films, as I recall. In practice, however, that scheme was a failure. They never managed to get it stable, and its press release got into the ‘Funny Old World’ column in Private Eye. The machine went on sale, but as it was lethally unfit to fly, purchasers were legally forbidden to try doing so, on the grounds they’d kill themselves. And that was the end of that dream of single-person flight.

If these pics are to be believe, though, it looks like they’ve solved that problem. I hope it comes out. Like most people, I could never afford one, but it looks a cool way to travel.