Bizarre Prototype Aircraft and Abandoned Concept Planes
Not every aircraft designed is destined for greatness. Some prototypes are fairly capable, though were ultimately outdone by competitor planes or rendered obsolete before they could be used. Other concepts were simply weird, featuring bizarre designs that were inherently flawed, causing the ideas to be scrapped due to a lack of functionality.
Ultimately, all of these prototypes and concepts were created. They mostly feature odd designs, and many were inherently flawed, leading them to be abandoned in favor of more capable aircraft. Others had potential but were outdone by a competitor or just became obsolete before there was a need for their capabilities.
In the early 1990s, the US Air Force was working on high-altitude drones for reconnaissance. The RQ-3 Darkstar was reasonably stealthy, but the short length created issues with longitudinal stability.
Ultimately, the program was terminated, but some of the technology did make its way into the RQ-170.
The X-32 was one of two designs that made it to the final phase of the Joint Strike Fighter program.
While it’s range and acceleration were outstanding, one of the most iconic features of the craft was the smile-like design of the front end.
In the end, the other design, the X-35, was selected, and the X-32 was abandoned.
Designed as a medium bomber in 1944, the odd-looking XB-42 Mixmaster featured a contra-rotating propeller on the tail. The plane could reach speeds upwards of 400 mph, but there wasn’t a need for a bomber of that size at the time.
When jet power was introduced, the design became obsolete.
During the cold war, a focus on vertical takeoff and landing (VTOL) capabilities led to the creation of the XC-142. Tilting wings equipped with four turboprop engines gave it takeoff and landing options similar to a helicopter. However, excess vibration and a lack of interest led to the demise of the X-142 in 1966.
The wing design of the XP-79 lead it to be incredibly unstable. Plus, the pilot had to be in the prone position to fly the craft, leading many to lose interest in the plane quickly.
While the YB-35 did have some strengths, including structural durability and less drag, it lacked longitudinal stability due to its short design, and the tale structure made that even worse. Additionally, there were issues with the engines, causing the Air Force to head in another direction.
The YB-49 was essentially a jet-powered update of the YB-35. However, the stability issues weren’t entirely corrected and the aircraft lacked the necessary range.
When the Air Force selected the B-47 Stratojet in 1953, the YB-49 was scrapped.