Conventional wisdom is meant to be challenged, and some aviation projects have done just that. These challenging aircraft are both weird and wonderful – you’ll just have to see them to believe them. Here are our picks for the top three strangest aircraft to take to the skies.
Lockheed Martin P-791
The Lockheed Martin P-791 is an experimental hybrid airship, but no one would blame you for thinking it was a monstrous cloud. First flown in 2006, this super modern 120-foot-long, 21-foot-tall zeppelin is a prototype. Lockheed Martin is building a much larger version that is scheduled to take its first flight in 2017. All 300-foot-long, 78-foot-tall, and 21 tons of the full-size flying marshmallow will be used to deliver heavy cargo and people to remote locations.
If all continues to go well with the P-791 prototype, and a market emerges for it, Lockheed Martin is planning a future hybrid weighing 500 tons and measuring 800 feet long.
The Pregnant Guppy
When you have to transport a spaceship, you first need a gigantic ex-Boeing 377 stratocruiser. Then you transform it into an even more bloated cargo plane. This is what NASA did in 1960 to move all the parts of the Apollo moon mission from the west coast to the east coast. The resulting aircraft was so huge that it most-closely resembled a pregnant guppy. The Pregnant Guppy went on to inspire other oversized behemoths such as the Airbus Beluga and the Boeing Dreamlifter.
The Nemeth Parasol
Turns out aircraft wings haven’t always been in the shapes we’re used to seeing today. They have also been… round. Inventor and flight instructor Steven Nemeth designed the Parasol Plane in 1934 in Dayton, Ohio. Built with a conventional fuselage and propellers, it had one circular disc on the top. The plane – Nemeth claimed – could be flown by a novice and could land virtually anywhere. Indeed, during its famous test flight, newspaper accounts say Nemeth stalled the plane in midair and floated down to a soft landing. Only one Nemeth Parasol was ever made, and its mass production never got off the ground, so to speak. Yet with a round 15-foot wing, the Nemeth Parasol inspired other weird saucer-like aircraft such as the Flying Flapjack (and maybe a few UFO sightings too).
What are your picks for the weirdest and most wonderful aircraft?