Weatherford Democrat

Online Only

July 13, 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
Online Only
  • To sleep well, you may need to adjust what you eat and when

    Sleep.  Oh, to sleep.  A good night's sleep is often a struggle for more than half of American adults.  And for occasional insomnia, there are good reasons to avoid using medications, whether over-the-counter or prescription.

    April 16, 2014

  • Doctors to rate cost effectiveness of expensive cancer drugs

    The world's largest organization of cancer doctors plans to rate the cost effectiveness of expensive oncology drugs, and will urge physicians to use the ratings to discuss the costs with their patients.

    April 16, 2014

  • portraitoflotte.jpg VIDEO: From infant to teen in four minutes

    Dutch filmmaker Frans Hofmeester’s time lapse video of his daughter, Lotte — created by filming her every week from her birth until she turned 14 — has become a viral sensation.

    April 16, 2014 1 Photo

  • Screen Shot 2014-04-16 at 12.51.22 PM.png VIDEO: Toddler climbs into vending machine

    A child is safe after climbing into and getting stuck inside a claw crane machine at a Lincoln, Neb., bowling alley Monday.

    April 16, 2014 1 Photo

  • Victimized by the 'marriage penalty'

    In a few short months, I'll pass the milestone that every little girl dreams of: the day she swears - before family and God, in sickness and in health, all in the name of love - that she's willing to pay a much higher tax rate.

    April 15, 2014

  • E-Cigarettes target youth with festivals, lawmakers say

    The findings, in a survey released Monday by members of Congress, should prod U.S. regulators to curb the industry, the lawmakers said. While e-cigarettes currently are unregulated, the Food and Drug Administration is working on a plan that would extend its tobacco oversight to the products.

    April 15, 2014

  • bomb1 VIDEO: A year after marathon bombing, Boston remains strong

    The City of Boston came together Tuesday to honor those who were injured and lost their lives at the Boston Marathon on the one-year anniversary of the bombing. While the day was sure to be emotional, those affected by last year's race are showing they won't let the tragedy keep them down.

    April 15, 2014 1 Photo

  • Screen Shot 2014-04-09 at 4.02.29 PM.png VIDEO: Nebraska prom mishap goes viral

    A group of 22 high school students from Pierce, Neb., all decked out in prom finery, took an unplanned dip in a four-foot-deep pond when the bridge they were posing on for pictures gave way. Photos from the incident have gone viral on social media.

    April 12, 2014 1 Photo

  • Stepping forward: The real Colbert

    Letterman changed the late-night TV game between his run on NBC's "Late Night" and starting the "Late Show" franchise in 1993. And while it's tough to replace a pop-culture icon, Colbert, in terms of pedigree and sense of humor, makes the most sense.

    April 12, 2014

  • taylor.armerding.jpg Obama's equal pay exaggeration leads us all into danger

    The president's claims of national shame over gender-based pay inequity spring from distorted calculations, as well as some convenient political math.

    April 12, 2014 1 Photo

Must Read
Top News
House Ads
AP Video