This supersonic aircraft, built way back in the Forties, could really scoot! The experimental rocket plane topped out at 1,000 mph, becoming the first manned supersonic flight. On October 14, 1947, a sonic boom exploded over the skies of the Mojave Desert when the Bell X-1, piloted by Air Force Captain Chuck Yeager, hit Mach 1.06, breaking the sound barrier. The flight inspired jet fighter movies like The Right Stuff.
The experimental aircraft was designed to withstand 18x the force of gravity. A set of four rockets provided an engine that blasted out 6,000 lbs. of thrust for extreme acceleration. The Bell X-1 does not take off like regular planes, it was put into flight by dropping from the belly of a Boeing B-29 mother ship. It came together as a joint project between the National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics and the U.S. Army and Air Forces. Bell Aircraft built the project that proved aircraft could fly faster than the speed of sound. It was initially conceived of in 1944.
The Sikorsky S-76
A bad track record has not prevented this helicopter from being a very common aircraft that is often used for business. In fact, the Sikorsky S-76 is the very helicopter that went down, killing Kobe Bryant and eight others. While mechanical failure is not attributed to the crash, some point out that the S-76 was not equipped with a crash detecting system called a Terrain Awareness and Warning System.
In 2002, a mechanical failure smashed a Sikorsky S-76 into the North Sea, killing five and leaving six stranded at sea. Another fatal accident happened in 2005 when the helicopter crashed into the Baltic Sea just short of Tallinn, Estonia. This time it was the S-76’s main rotor forward actuator that was responsible for killing all 14 people on board. Again, in 2015, a Sikorsky S-76 crashed into a tree in Indonesia on March 21. The crew and four passengers survived. The cause of the crash was a mechanical failure involving the main rotor servo push rod connection.
The Lockheed Martin VH-71
The now-defunct Lockheed Martin VH-71 was supposed to be the presidential helicopter, but its mission failed miserably. After the Pentagon canceled the program, President Barack Obama described the problem saying it’s an “example of the procurement process gone amok.”
Translated: The $3.3 billion projects was way too expensive. An affordable program took its place to provide the Marine One presidential helicopter. Incidentally, Marine One had always been a Sikorsky aircraft, until the contract with Lockheed.
The Aerodrome A
Noted physicist Samuel Pierpont Langley tried his hand at aeronautics around the close of the 19th Century. He achieved the first unmanned flight of a heavier-than-air vessel on May 6, 1896, with his Aerodrome Number 5. It flew 3,300 feet at 25 mph.
With that success, the U.S. military fronted Langley $50,000 in 1898 to build a manned aircraft. He set to work on the Aerodrome A, what he called a “human-carrying” airplane, but the project was ill-fated. He tried to scale-up the unmanned models to human-carrying size. It was an aerodynamically impossible design and both of his attempts crashed upon takeoff in 1903. The Wright brothers won that race in December of that same year, nine days after Langley’s last try. However, the engine Langley designed was a 52.4 horsepower powerplant which was impressive and unheard of at the time.
The McDonnell XF-85 Goblin
This cute little guy was easy to fly, stable, and could recover from spins effortlessly. The McDonnell XF-85 Goblin was the smallest jet fighter ever built. But it wasn’t designed to land, and it could not takeoff from the ground. The Goblin was conceived as a fighter escort to large bombers as back up fighting power. To this end, it was stored in large bombers like the B-36 in case of an attack. The Goblin was then launched from the bomber's belly and dropped into combat.
The only problem was it didn’t work. The Goblin was easily lowered into flight from the mother ship, but issues arose when it was to be hooked and raised by a tether back into the ship. On a test flight, pilot Ed Schoch made three attempts to reconnect with the retractable tether. On the final try, the little jet fighter smashed into the tether so forcefully the plane was damaged and had to make an emergency skid landing. After seven attempts to re-tether produced just three results, the test program ended. One of the surviving two Goblins is interned at the U.S. Air Force Museum at Wright-Patterson air Force Base in Ohio.