What makes an aircraft unique? Well, having features that other aircraft don’t is one way to stand out from the crowd. Coming from certain time periods when flight wasn’t as common as it is today is another way for an aircraft to be unique. Though some readers could probably guess a few of the planes on this list, we still want to talk about our favorite unique aircrafts throughout history, a couple of which will probably surprise you. In no particular order, here are the five.
Have you ever heard of the Nemuth Parasol? Well, this unique aircraft built by students of Miami University came into existence back in 1934, during the sort of golden age of aviation when people knew they could fly, but were still trying to figure out the best way to design aircraft. This machine looks every bit the same as a traditional plane, except that it has no wings, at least not in the traditional sense. While the design was functional, the Parasol looks like something out of a science fiction book even today, in 2016.
The McDonnell XF-85 Goblin looks like a very primitive space shuttle, which is kind of funny when you consider it wasn’t supposed to launch from the ground at all. These big, fat planes without landing gear were designed after WWII to be a special kind of fighter plane that would drop out of larger planes, much in the same way bombers drop their payloads. The Goblin was scrapped in 1949 along with all the other “parasite” fighters like it because they just weren’t feasible.
If you haven’t heard of the Spruce Goose then you must be just as much of a shut-in as the plane’s inventor, Howard Hughes. This humongous plane, also known as the H-4 Hercules 2, featured an unreasonably heavy wooden frame which prevented it from flying very much at all. Only one was ever made and aviators everywhere consider it a catastrophic failure in aircraft design. Still, you can find it at the Evergreen Aviation and Space Museum in Oregon if you want to check it out.
Goodyear is known for its tires and blimps, but did you know they also designed a plane for the US Air Force back in the 1950s? By applying the same design concepts they used to create blimps, the tire producer actually made the world’s first fully functional, inflatable plane. However, it features the same weakness which had caused other inflated aircraft to phase out around that time, which was the fact it could be popped like a balloon and brought down with very little effort. Still, nice try.
This last unique aircraft may just be the inspiration for the drones and quadcopters that civilian and military personnel alike have available to them today. De Lackner HZ-1 Aerocycle was a stand-up aircraft meant to be piloted by a single person. The device was intended for use in reconnaissance missions, but it never really got off the ground, so to speak. Now, fast forward to today, where we have unmanned aircraft that look an awful lot like this freaky flyer from the fifties.