Amazing hover machines

Hiller Flying Platform

Sometimes you don’t know you really need something until it is revealed to you. The Hiller Flying Platform, pictured above, is one such item. Despite it’s sci-fi appearance, this amazing hover machine was actually created way back in the 1950s. It is essentially powered by two large contra-rotating fans contained within special air ducts which ensure stability. As you can see in this 1957 test, the pilot steers the hover machine simply by leaning his body, like a flying Segway:

Regrettably, the flying platform’s limited speed of 16 mph (26 km/h) and low ‘service ceiling’ (the maximum height at which it could operate: 10m (32.8 ft)) led the US military to deem it impractical and it was never put into production. Two of the original prototypes survive: one at the Hiller Aviation Museum in San Carlos, California, the other at the National Air and Space Museum’s Udvar-Hazy Center in Chantilly, Virginia.

The concept of a one-man hover machine did not die, however. Williams International next picked up the gauntlet, creating the X-Jet. It was nicknamed ‘The Flying Pulpit’, but this was no Popemobile: powered by a cruise missile engine, it was capable of 60 mph (96 km/h), with a range of 30-45 minutes amd a service ceiling of 3,049 m (10,000 ft).

Williams X-Jet

This was obviously a far more versatile hover machine than the Hiller, but the military still did not think it worth having. Devastating. The reasons for that decision are still classified, hence the conspiracy talk in the following video. Still, you can put up with that to see the X-Jet in action, and at least take solace in the fact that it is possible to make such a vehicle.

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In the meantime, let the Jetman Yves Rossy show you how far the dream of personal flight has come.

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