CullmanTimes.com - Cullman, Alabama

Lifestyle

July 12, 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
Lifestyle
  • BRIA Pet of the week: Bria needs a forever home

    April 15, 2014 1 Photo

  • HP historic schools 1 Holly Pond’s historic schools

    Anyone who has ever traveled through the countryside in and around Holly Pond knows why a settlement was built there.

    April 13, 2014 5 Photos

  • SOUTHERN STYLE: City kid walking

    I may sound like a farm kid, and in truth, I did spend a lot of time on my grandparents’ Landersville farm, but I wasn’t a farm kid — I was a city kid.

    April 13, 2014

  • HUCKABEE Pet of the week: Huckabee needs a forever home

    April 11, 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 11, 2014

  • VIDEO: CBS taps Colbert as Letterman’s Late Show successor

    Bloomberg’s Jon Erlichman reports that CBS has announced Stephen Colbert as its choice to replace the retiring David Letterman as host of “The Late Show” on Bloomberg Television’s “Lunch Money.”

     

    April 10, 2014

  • 2 pics.jpg Accomplished vocalists to perform at Wallace State April 22

    Two amazing vocalists will perform on Tuesday, April 22 at Wallace State Community College as part of the college’s annual Arts in April celebration.
    Mezzo-soprano Maggie Gill and Tenor Shane Bloemetjie will each sing a selection of operatic and/or musical theater tunes as they perform, accompanied on piano by Mike Sparks, chair of the WSCC’s humanities department and a music instructor at the college. They will be performing arias by Donizetti, Verdi and Puccini, and songs by George Gershwin, Stephen Sondheim and others.
     

    April 10, 2014 2 Photos

  • Food page EASTER DINING: Decorating for the Easter table

    Easter is just around the corner and just happens to be one of my favorite holidays.

    April 10, 2014 2 Photos

  • WSCC Vest to perform.jpg Award-winning pianist to perform April 15 at Wallace State

    Lovers of classical piano can hear one of the best pianists in the state on Tuesday, April 15, as Katherine Vest is set to perform at Wallace State Community College.
    Vest is a junior piano performance major at Samford University and studies with Ron Shinn. She recently earned first place in the Alabama Federated Music Clubs Auditions and she previously won first prize in the Alabama Music Teacher’s Association and Birmingham Music Club auditions. At Samford, she is a recipient of the Miller-Shepherd scholarship for outstanding piano students.
     

    April 9, 2014 1 Photo

  • CANDYLAND Pet of the week: Candyland needs a forever home

    Cullman County Animal Shelter Adoption hours are 9 – 3:30 p.m. Monday through Friday at the shelter.

    April 9, 2014 1 Photo