Saturday, January 10, 2015

Strangely-shaped Aircraft: M2-F1, HiMAT and X-36

It's pretty amazing what kinds of things can get airborne with enough engines, wings, effort, determination and sheer creativity. There are many wild designs in the world of aviation, and this and the following posts will detail some of them.

The M2-F1

The M2-F1 lifting body was designed by NASA to research tow-powered gliding airplanes for the future. The first tests were performed at Rogers Dry Lake where the plane, or "flying bathtub", as it was called, was towed by a Pontiac Catalina and later by a hot tod for increased performance. The plane climbed above 20 feet and glided for about 20 seconds before the tow line was cut. However, this short duration allowed a lot of data to be gathered for larger, higher flying air crafts to be constructed. (Right): The M2-F1 in flight.

The HiMAT (Highly Manoeuvrable Aircraft Technology) was an experimental aircraft built by Rockwell in 1979 for NASA and the US Air Force. It was a scaled down remote-operated aircraft built to explore new technologies for future fighters with greater speed, manoeuvrability and power. As you can see, the HiMAT has many tail-like protrusions on the body and the nose sits almost on top of the main jet engine which powers the plane. (Left): The HiMAT in flight.

McDonnell Douglas X-36

The McDonnell Douglas X-36 aircraft was a scale model prototype jet aircraft built to test the flying ability of a tailless aircraft. It was built in 1997 and was operated remotely from the ground. The craft was very unstable, requiring an advanced fly-by-wire system to keep it stable. it completed 31 successful flights, and was reported to have very good manoeuvrability and was quite a good idea for a fighter plane. The company later merged with Boeing, so the plane is sometimes referred to as the Boeing X-36 experimental aircraft. However, despite the exceptional test results from the planes many flights, no developments have been reported concerning it as of 2010. (Left): The X-26 in flight.

If you want to see more strangely-shaped planes, follow any of the links below:

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