Ask any 6-year-old kid to draw an airplane, and he can do it -- it's a couple of wings and a couple of fins attached to a long thing in the middle. The engines are either on the wings, or stuck to the fuselage. Even the most space-age fighter aircraft don't stray far from that template.
But aircraft designers can think outside the box just like everybody else. And what's most surprising of all is that all of the insane designs below actually flew, with varying degrees of success.
8De Lackner HZ-1 Aerocycle
Oh, bullshit. That thing looks less plausible than 80 percent of Inspector Gadget's inventory. But yes, it was real, and yes, it flew.
In the 1950s, the American soldier needed to get across a battlefield, but also needed to avoid things like mines, which vehicles have a nasty habit of detonating. The aerocycle seemed perfect for the job, regardless of how stupid it looked. It was basically an open air, stand-up helicopter crossed with a Segway.
It looks like something Johnny Quest should be riding.
And we didn't just throw out that Segway comparison at random -- operators would steer this contraption by "shifting their weight." Oh, and it was amphibious, too. Amazingly, things looked great in development, with Army brass saying the aerocycle was the modern equivalent of cavalry horses. And while having a battalion of flying soldiers riding open, whirling blades into battle sounds awesome, it was sadly not meant to be.
On the plus side, the fate of this aerocycle's pilot lead to the invention of salsa.
They started testing untrained men on the aerocycle prototypes, figuring the intuitive controls would be like riding a bike. And it actually was like riding a bike, in that you have to crash a bunch before you finally figure it out (it didn't help that the craft would pitch wildly in windy conditions). Even testing for the device's parachute went badly. Out of the dozen built, only one survived until the end of the project in 1957. And you know what? We still kind of want one.
This thing was made for beer and aquatic Frisbee golf.
In 1943, the Brits needed two things: a way to get vehicles quickly out of firefights, and a way to deploy vehicles so they aren't an easy target. British engineers thought, You would need a Jeep-like helicopter to do that! Thus, the Hafner Rotabuggy was born.
No, we didn't just run an old G.I. Joe cartoon through a black and white filter.
Despite an outlandish design that was eccentric even by British standards, testing went fairly well with both the flying and driving aspects (despite problems like difficulty flying in high-wind speeds and, we imagine, the temptation to turn on the rotors while on the ground to try to plow through enemy infantry like a lawnmower). Hafner was just about to score a major contract in late 1944, but other more conventional aircraft soon proved to be much better for carrying armored vehicles than, say, a ridiculous flying Jeep. The contract was canceled, but the Rotabuggy lives on in museums, and in the dreams of every reader who is right now imagining chopping their way through a zombie apocalypse in one of them.
When you get bored, you just fly away.