Friday, May 4, 2012

Weird Friday - Weird Vehicles Part 2

This week's special Friday edition of Weird Wednesday features another excursion into the Weird Vehicle Garage (check out Weird Vehicles Part-1) - not to be confused with the Mythik Garage, which is slowly being filled with cars from the stories of Mythik Imagination; but that is a tale for another day.

Top Speed: 70mph Land - 10 knots Sea

First up is the Surface Orbiter. Made from a 1958 milk tanker (there are such things as milk tankers??) the Surface Orbiter is designed to circumnavigate the globe. Self sufficient and capable of traveling over land and sea, it has ventured over 33,000 miles on land and 3,000 miles at sea in the quest to travel around the world.

It took four years and 14,000 hours to build, and was able to travel through 28 countries and two continents before the around-the-world quest was cut short due to lack of funding. It kind of reminds me of the Landmaster from Damnation Alley.

Next up, from the "What Were They Thinking??" part of the Garage is the Goodyear Inflatoplane:
Top Speed: Umm, don't want to find out
If you're in the army and want to fly over enemy territory, what better way than in an inflatable plane, right? Developed in the 1950's and 60's, the idea was to have a lightweight, easy to transport plane used for observation. Unfortunately, it had a fatal crash during a test flight when the propeller chopped up one of the wings, and it deflated. The Inflatoplane makes my idea of a personal dirigible seem sane.

Finally, we have the Northrop M2-F2 Lifting Body:
Top Speed: Probably classified...
If it looks kind of familiar, it may be because you remember it from the opening of every episode of The Six Million Dollar Man. This is the ship Colonel Steve Austin crashed, which caused him to be "...a man barely alive." I've always thought this was one of the coolest looking spaceships, even if in reality it wasn't really a spaceship. The TV series actually used real-life footage of the M2-F2 and another Lifting Body ship, the HL-10.

The cool thing about these aircraft is that they don't have wings. The whole body of the ship is essentially the wing, which was (and still is) a pretty radical idea. The problem was, aside from the cool looks, it could be very unstable. The M2-F2 was subject to something called "Pilot Induced Oscillation" and crashed in spectacular fashion. It was footage of this crash that was on the $6M Man open and actually inspired the novel Cyborg that the TV series was based on. Luckily the real-life pilot survived, although seriously injured.

In a "more things change, the more they stay the same" kind of way, this same Lifting Body concept is now being used by the Dream Chaser Space System, which is on the verge of being the next (and possibly only) alternative to Soyuz for getting astronauts to the International Space Station, now that NASA is out of the picture.

There's more in the Weird Garage, but this will do for now. So, who wants to go for a ride in the Inflatoplane?


  1. Who would think an inflatable plane could tear? :P

  2. haha, yep! Bring your bicycle tube repair kit ;)