The unknown history of the United States Air Force flying saucer

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What many crazy conspirators What they forget when talking about flying saucers is that humans have already had one that flies. Especially well known is the Canadian-American Avrocar. This prototype from the beginning of the Cold War is the demonstration that human ingenuity has no limits, which is why physics must impose them on us with its laws.

Photo of the avrocar prototype flying
Image of one of the "flights" of the technological demonstrator. Source: National Museum of the United States Air Force

In it period immediately after World War II All countries in the world jumped on the technology developed in Nazi Germany. Special attention was paid to aerospace research in which the difference between the Axis and the Allies was astonishing. The appearance of jet engines in the new scenario of competition between the United States and the Soviet Union completely changed aerial combat. The new propulsion systems were capable of improving in all aspects on their predecessors, the turbochargers. Although it is true, especially at the beginning, as with the adoption of any new technological device, it suffered from reliability problems.

Without going any further, the F-104, one of the first jet fighters developed by the United States Air Force was nicknamed the widow maker. The very high accident rate of this new device was what earned it its nickname.

F104 StarFighter Training
Image of the arrival of the first F-104 Starfighter to Spain. Source: Spanish Air and Space Army

In this period, more and more work began on helicopters, very versatile devices, as they allow you to land and take off vertically. Here appears the name of John Frost, lead designer of the project. His name appears linked in a very notable way to the first steps of supersonic flight in Great Britain. He was also the chief designer of the Avro Canada CF-100, Canada's first supersonic aircraft, once it moved to the second country in 1947.

It was after being separated from this plane after a series of delays and problems in the first units delivered it was transferred to special projects division. Still within the company and using its funds, he began to work on a vertical takeoff and landing device. (VTOL for its acronym in English). This would be powered by a jet engine and would employ the eCoanda effect to stay in the air.

This physical phenomenon is described as the tendency of fluids to be attracted to a surface whenever it is in their path. For example, when we put a ball in a stream of water we will see that it sticks to the obstacle. It does not bounce, but rather follows its shape and then recovers its trajectory approximately.

Photo C avrocar saucer
The prototype in its tests. Source: National Museum of the United States Air Force

The project went through numerous phases, the first within the company, but the The US Army soon became interested in him. Both the Air Force and the Army needed this type of aircraft. But really the project never came close to giving a real modell. However, a technological demonstrator was built. This already with the support of the Army that granted him the final designation and by which it is known today, Avro Canada VZ-9AV Avrocar. It is currently preserved in the United States Air Force Museum, attached to Wright-Patterson Air Force Base.

Avrocar comes out of a C 5
Image of the prototype being transported inside a C-5 Galaxy to its new home at the National Museum of the United States Air Force. Source: National Museum of the United States Air Force

Knowing that this is a museum piece today, and that this design was not pursued further, it is easy to assume the conclusions. The demonstrator turned out to be very impractical. In addition, helicopter designs were noticeably more flexible, as well as cheaper. Another serious problem that was found was the instability suffered by the device, making it practically undriveable. It was not even able to fly above a meter in height because its air cushion became too turbulent. After this all plans to make combat versions and even for supersonic flight were abandoned. Although 4.5 million dollars were spent, which would be more than forty today on the demonstration process.

Martin Morala Andres