VZ-9 Avrocar

The VZ-9 Avrocar was basically a VTOL aircraft developed by Avro Aircraft Ltd. (Canada) as part of a top secret U.S. military project carried out in the early years of the Cold War. It’s designed to use the Coanda effect to provide lift and thrust from a single “turborotor” blowing exhaust out the rim of the disk-shaped aircraft to provide anticipated VTOL-like performance. In the air, it would have resembled a flying saucer. Continue reading for more interesting facts.

5. Originally Designed to Be Like Fighter Jet

Flying Saucer Avrocar

Originally designed as a fighter-like aircraft capable of very high speeds and altitudes, the project was repeatedly scaled back over time and the U.S. Air Force eventually abandoned it. Development was then taken up by the U.S. Army for a tactical combat aircraft requirement, a sort of high-performance helicopter.

4. Had Same Shape as Frisbee

Flying Saucer Avrocar

The Avrocar was a disk-shaped aircraft with the same basic shape as a frisbee, the upper surface of the disk being fairly curved, and the bottom much less so. The disk was 18 feet (5.5 m) in diameter and 3.5 feet (1.1 m) thick. The main structural truss was a large equilateral triangle, to which the various components were attached.

3. Piloted with Single Side-Mounted Control Stick

Flying Saucer Avrocar

Pilot control was entirely through a single side-mounted control stick. Pitch and roll were controlled through conventional fore-aft and side-to-side motions, while yaw could be controlled by twisting the stick. No mechanical linkages were used, the stick instead controlled the flow of high pressure air around the craft, which either directly attached to various control surfaces, or indirectly through local cable linkages to replace controls that were intended to be cable-actuated.

2. Manned by Crew of Two

Flying Saucer Avrocar

The vehicle was manned by a crew of two, positioned in separate cockpits squeezed into empty areas in the airframe. In practice, only one pilot was usually on board during testing; a number of flights were made with an observer in the second cockpit. Until control problems were completely solved, the Avro test pilots acquired a “touch” for the extremely sensitive control inputs and Avro Aircraft Chief Development Test Pilot Potocki was eventually able to demonstrate a “hands-off” flight.

1. Only Two Avrocars Were Produced

Only two Avrocars were ever produced and because the U.S. military had paid for the work, they reverted to U.S. ownership at the end of the program. The second example, S/N 59-4975, utilized for “flight” testing, returned to Canada briefly for display in Montreal at the Man and His World Exhibition (1968); after a lengthy period of outdoor display, it is now under restoration at the U.S. Army Transportation Museum in Fort Eustis, Virginia.