Most people are aware that the Wright brothers championed aviation and flight for humanity. This wasn’t a one-off success story for the gentlemen, however, as there were plenty of wonky designs which crash landed before the brothers achieved their soaring success. The Wright brothers’ efforts are just one example of a collection of failed aircraft designs, with the 50s and 60s being especially rife with silly aeronautical disasters. Let’s talk about some of the maddest ideas which failed to take off! The design of this plane was met with unanimous optimism. It was supposed to signify victory, the number 75 being borrowed from a French 75-mm gun which turned the tides of World War I. As for the “Eagle” part, this bird is synonymous with the United States. The plane borrowed various aspects from a variety of other already existing crafts, mixing them all together to create the Fisher. Sadly, this plane performed way under the standards of the planes it cannibalized.
The Douglas DC-10 was not a disaster, it was a tragedy. Its career in the air led to fifty-five crashes which caused numerous fatalities. The doors which swung out externally rather than internally were almost impossible to be shut correctly. One particular operation in 1972 saw the doors blasting open while the plane was sky-high, occurring once more in 1974. During 1979, a failed takeoff resulted in a wing of the Douglas falling off! Thankfully, this plane has been redesigned from the ground up for safer design and usage.
The Bell FM-1 Airacuda
Toward the late 30s the Airacuda was completed and unveiled, with plenty of experts believing it would be a soaring success thanks to its revolutionary modeling and qualities. A fantastic feature of the Airacuda was its arrangement of guns and engines, allowing it to act as a fighter jet when needed.
Overheating quickly became a fatal flaw in the Airacuda, however, with a shoddy gunner position escape route meaning that any poor soul who occupied that space could find themselves trapped in the event of an emergency. Further to its weaponry flaws, the entire cabin would become smoked out whenever someone actually used the weapons!
The Vought F7U Cutlass
The Cutlass is famous for its rarely seen structure, having been constructed with a pioneering tail and wing design. Other than its radical model, the Cutlass was plagued with irregularities. Despite being one seriously zippy airplane, it could not maintain its presence in the air for very long, nor could it match its counterparts’ altitudes.
Even more concerningly, the Cutlass could barely make it out of its sheath. The plane often didn’t make it past the runway, with around a quarter of takeoff attempts landing in the ditch.
The Convair NB-36
If you ever thought that replacing standard fuel engines with a nuclear reactor was a good idea, you need to read up on the Convair NB-36.
This plane was so dangerous, it needed supervision from another tailing plane every time it took to the skies, which occurred under fifty times before someone decided that this was all a terrible mistake.
The PZL M-15 Belphegor
Scarily named after one of the Princes of Hell, the Belphegor was the initial biplane every constructed in 1972 as a crop duster.
As it turned out, the price of its jet fuel far outweighed any agricultural profits it may have yielded.
The Wright Flyer
According to the Smithsonian’s opinion of the Wright Flyer, it was, “the first powered, heavier-than-air machine to achieve controlled, sustained flight with a pilot aboard.”
Not for long, however, as it could only be piloted for less than a minute, and that was if the pilot could even control the thing. The Wright Flyer was given four chances at flight on 17th December 1903, before being retired.
The Harrier Jump Jet
The Soviet Union having been motivated by the British Navy designed an aircraft named the Yakovlev Yak-38. Sadly, the communist model of the English aircraft failed to imitate its performance. On a sunny day, the Yakovlev didn’t last twenty minutes in the air.
On more appropriate weather, the Yakovlev could struggle up to 800 miles prior to having to make a shaky landing, and this was without being equipped with arms.
The Lockheed Martin VH-71
This plane was not a complete disaster, at least not in its potential. Lockheed Martin and Augusta Westland put their brilliant minds together to make this unfeasible wonder during 2002 in America.
The Marine Corps were so taken by the Lockheed Martin that they wanted the President to be transported by it! In the end it was its eventual price tag of a crazy $11.2 billion which clipped its wings.
The Bristol 188
The Bristol 188’s development suffered from the kind of development which was completely out of tune with its contemporary standards. The Bell X-1 was created by Chuck Yeager in 1947, inspiring many other people to replicate his model.
The English produced a rather shoddy imitation named the Bristol 188, which was sadly riddled with errors in design. Shockingly, its fuel tank would sprout leaks while flying and failed to ever even take flight unless it was speeding along at a ground speed of 300 mph!
During the turn of the 20th century, the genius scientist Samuel Pierpont cooked up an aircraft capable of flight lasting more than a mile. His efforts resulted in the initial piloted powered flight. The Aerodrome shook the entire aeronautical world by achieving a 52 hp radial alongside an impressive power-to-weight ratio.
These stats couldn’t keep it airborne, however, having crashed into the Potomac River on two occasions.
The McDonnell XF-85 Goblin
This type of plane was known as a “parasite fighter”. It was meant to be latched onto bigger aircraft and be deployed when its host plane came under attack.
Such a tiny plane was quickly outgunned and outmatched by any standard-sized fighter jet, however, and the parasite fighter line was quickly scrapped.
The Lockheed XFV-1 Salmon
Halfway through the 20th century, the American army became highly creative with its concepts, supported with a titanic budget which allowed for some of these novel ideas to come to life.
The Salmon’s trick was that it could take off vertically, as well as landing vertically, which then resulted in the engine collapsing and the plane being ruined. If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it!
The Grumman X-29
The American Airforce acquired the Grumman X-29 somewhere around the 80s. The forward-facing wings became a supposed way to improve its aerodynamic qualities and provide a slick appearance. Ironically, all these touches did was prohibit the X-29 from being able to fly correctly.
You’d expect that a combination of NASA, Air Force, Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency and Grumman efforts that this would be the ultimate aircraft. It wasn’t, and it was unflyable unless an astronomical computer accompanied it to virtually control it.
The Baade 152
Hailing from Germany, the Baade 152 emulated a bomber plane, fitted with features which would have suited one perfectly, while strangely being geared toward airline objectives.
The 152’s test run would be a tragic disaster, where everyone on board perished. This anomaly was scrapped in 1961, being the sole aircraft to be produced by East Germany.
The Rockwell XFV-12
No one can deny that developing aircraft during their early days were challenging.
However, by the time technology reached the 1970s one would expect that we’d reached a stage where leading airlines would know their tails from their wings. The Rockwell XFV-12 showed this hope to be misplaced. Despite being creatively designed, it thankfully never left the earth.
The Tupolev Tu-144
This plane was another disaster hailing from the 70s also aimed at being a supersonic airliner. Sadly, its test flight ended with a flaming accident for all the Paris Air Show attendees’ horror.
This aircraft was given over fifty test flights prior to being sealed away for all eternity.
The Dassault Balzac V
This is one of those concepts which sounds incredible when described but in reality, is nothing short of calamitous. When France caught onto the whole vertical takeoff fad, its brightest minds decided that they would attempt this idiotic novelty by ripping off the Mirage III.
Despite a pair of young pilots having perished during the initial test flight, the French weren’t going to give up, with the next attempt also plummeting. At least the pilot managed to eject before it was too late this time.
De Havilland Comet
It is a shame that the De Havilland Comet was such a failure in the end, as it did have some redeeming qualities, even if it did become the benchmark for aircraft failures.
Its designers gave it their all, but it still could not avoid being an explosive waste.
The Devil’s Hoverbike
The 50s, as mentioned before, were a highly novel and quirky time for American army engineering. Hoverboards were invented then, as the single-manned chopper airplane which supposedly would allow soldiers to glide behind enemy lines.
This may have been a cool design if any small misstep on the part of the pilot resulted in them being dismembered by the massive helicopter blades.
The Christmas Bullet
This was an original design from De. William Whitney Christmas, a man who turned out to be quite the psychopath. Dr. Christmas designed this aircraft assured that whoever piloted it was certainly doomed upon attaining a lethal altitude.
The plane did not need to reach such dizzying heights before it became a death trap, as its test flight pilot Cuthbert Mills met his untimely end due to the Bullet’s wings caving in. To make matter’s worse, Mills’ mother was in the audience!
The Messerschmitt Me 163 Komet
The Komet was fitted with a rocket booster to better intercept and destroy opposing aircraft. If that doesn’t sound terrifying enough, it could also reach 100 miles per hour in no time at all while leaving other planes in the dust. Well, all this would have been intimidating, if the Komet’s leaky fuel tank had been able to accommodate more fuel than three minute’s worth of flight!
This downfall in fuel tank design would be the Komet’s eventual downfall, taking many pilots lives with it.
Going back to the early days of aeronautics, the Noviplano was designed by legendary Italian engineer Caproni during the 20s.
Initially designed to safely fly a hundred passengers from Italy to America, the Caproni did not make it out of Italy. This colossal oddity was fitted with almost ten engines and wings, doomed to be a failure from the beginning.
The Blackburn Roc
The Blackburn Roc’s purpose was to act as a shield for other more vital planes when coming under enemy fire. Directly to the pilot’s rear were fitted four machineguns. This aircraft became immensely weighted to the point where its sluggishness defeated its purpose.
The Royal Navy banned its delivery and shut the project down. Throughout the entirety of World War 2, the Blackburn Roc solely defeated a single aircraft.
The Blackburn Botha
Throughout the greater World War II period, Blackburn suffered a series of humiliations, their next attempt following the Roc being another waste of effort. With a dual-engine system and fitted torpedoes, the Botha was a high-maintenance plane which required four pilots to be properly operated.
Such overloading disabled its torpedo armaments and caused it to crash on numerous occasions.
The Embraer EMB-120 Brasilia
Anyone who looks at this plane can’t help but think of it as bizarre. The Brasilia suffered from a shaky turboprop engine that horrifyingly fell to pieces midair, taking fourteen lives with it.
Despite having such a destructive track record and being considered to be one of the biggest mistakes in the history of passenger airlines, the Brasilia is incredibly still in operation as a freight plane!
The B. E. 9
The B. E. 9 came to life throughout World War I under the strict instruction of the British Royal Flying Corps. This plane was innovative in that its machinegun capabilities far outranged its counterparts, being a deadly force on paper. British engineers put a lot of attention into making the B. E. 9 a deadly plane, for both enemies and its pilots, who were completely exposed to enemy fire.
They were also positioned right by its propellers which could easily slice them into ribbons. It’s no surprise that one Royal Air Force brass member described the B. E. 9 as “an extremely dangerous machine from the passenger’s point of view.”
The Fairey Albacore
If you want to know whether the Albacore was a successful plane or not, you need only read British pilot’s opinions of it, who would much rather have flown its predecessor, the Swordfish.
In fact, World War II pilots were so afraid of getting into the Albacore’s cockpit that it quickly found a place in the scrap heap.
Returning to more modern planes, the Mikoyan-Gurevich-23 was a Soviet jet which pioneered the “look-down/shoot-down” type of radar system. Like with the Albacore and its pilots, however, Russian pilots far preferred the previous generation of this fighter jet.
This new iteration included a minuscule cockpit which hampered pilot visibility. Following the Cold War, the Mikoyan-Gurevich-23 headed for the aircraft graveyard, but its predecessor, the 21, continues to soar through the sky today!
This is one of the most hated planes those unfortunate enough to have had to fly one love to criticize. In fact, military personnel simply couldn’t believe that such a rickety and uncomfortable, poorly designed aircraft was still in operation in 2013! It was difficult even just trying to climb into the Yak-42, and once a pilot managed to squeeze themselves into the seat, it could, without warning, suddenly fold forward.
Then there was the rear stairway which never stopped rumbling during flight, seems to be about to fly off.
The Ilyushin II-62
Here we have a description of the Ilyushin II-62 by an anonymous pilot: “It still uses flight manual controls, no power assist to move those flight control surfaces,” he described. “If some ice gets in a hinge, it’s just your muscles that will break it loose.
It also has a history of failed thrust reversers and exploding engines that damage neighboring engines.”
The Brewster Buffalo
For an aircraft with such an unwieldy operation, the Brewster Buffalo was an internationally well-used monoplane – the first of its kind! When World War II began, the Brewster Buffalo saw much usage across the world.
However, following the end of the Second World War, its outdated and cumbersome maneuverability became untenable. It’s no wonder that its nickname was the “Flying Coffin!”
The Tupolev TU-144
Originating in Russia, the Tupolev TU-144 was intended for commercial usage with its space-age look and design. Despite being able to hit a speed of 1,200 mph in no time at all, the plane was also completely unpredictable when it came to its performance, being highly prone to calamity. This meant that would-be passengers skirted around the turbojet.
Further, the TU-144 was monstrously loud to the point where people couldn’t hear each other speak onboard. The TU-144 saw its last voyage in 1978 where tank valve failures marked its end.
The ATR 72
Prior to being laid to rest by American Eagle, Alex Murel strongly warned pilots not to fly the ATR 82, which he rightly regarded as ancient in its design and that the entire collection was starting to crumble.
He sympathized with how feasible turboprops were when it came to special operations, however, the outdated technology was putting a massive strain on the planes. Out of 508 models, 11 crashed, leading to nearly 200 people losing their lives.
The Heinkel He-162
There’s a good reason why the Heinkel He-162 broke records when it came to its modeling and production time (90 days). It was created with wooden sections glued together and piloted by teenagers!
This was the type of aircraft which required a delicate touch, but even the most sensitive pilots could not make it through a wooden plane falling to pieces when its adhesive was stripped by poor weather conditions. Thankfully, this plane only saw action for four months, retiring in May 1945.
The Fairey Battle
The British Royal Air Force banked a lot of its fortunes on the Rolls-Royce Merlin piston-engine aircraft when it was created in the 1930s. The Fairey Battle turned out to be catastrophically sluggish and weighty to be considered a military asset.
Within seven days of operation, around a hundred Fairey Battles were picked off by the enemy fire. By 1950, the Royal Air Force decommissioned the big boy.
The Douglas TBD Devastator
Some of the less successful planes in engineering history had passible mistakes.
Not the Douglas TBD Devastator, however, whose technical conditions for firing torpedoes were so ridiculous (completely straight flight at a speed of 115 mph) that it became a sitting duck.
The LWS-6 Zubr
Not every plane which has a terrible appearance actually flies badly, just how not every sleek looking exterior is an aeronautical wonder. In the case of the LWS-6 Zubr, however, its hideous barn house-like design matches its awful performance.
Making an appearance just prior to the commencement of World War II, the LWS-6 Zubr was pragmatically reserved for training drills. A handful of the beasts were repossessed by Russian soldiers when the Eastern bloc took Poland.
The Saab 340
Despite this proudly Swedish aircraft still being in operation nowadays, there are so many former passengers of the Saab 340 who swear that it is an absolute horribly painful racket being aboard ever created.
The engine is just phenomenally deafening, which is odd given how polite and reserved Swedish people are!
In some cases, an airplane can crash various times, causing hundreds of deaths, and still be in operation! The MD-80 is one such terribly designed aircraft that is sluggish, unfeasible and highly cramped.
These downfalls have not stopped Delta or American Airlines from scrapping the airborne terror!
The Bombardier Dash 8
Propellers can be horribly noisy if the mental health of passengers is not considered when installing them onto a plane. The Bombardier Dash 8 is another commercially used passenger plane which experts believe should be recycled.
When crosswinds hit the shaky plane, its passengers become terrified at how the parts rattle. Then there is its weight capacity, with passengers having to transfer their luggage to other planes if its small capacity becomes overloaded, which generally occurs.
Returning to the zany World War II era of German airplane “ingenuity”, the ME-163 Komet was another innovative and potentially incredible aircraft whose crazy speed outdid all other military planes of the time.
Sadly, as with many of these ultra-lightweight, super-fast designs, its creators failed to grasp just how much fuel the ME-163 required. Its minuscule fuel tank would be drained in less than three minutes, almost instantly becoming an easy target.
The infamous Hindenburg which needs no introduction. Its doomed fiery disaster is one of modern history’s most memorable calamities. While approaching a landing strip in New Jersey, the Hindenburg suddenly went up in flames and came crashing down to the ground while a huge crowd watched, including cameramen.
The fire was sparked thanks to an electrostatic discharge, which then combusted the zeppelin’s gas.
The British B. E. – 2
Some airplanes are doomed from the moment they come out of the factory, with the British B. E. – 2’s pilots struggling to even control the clumsy creation. Its engine was also a mess, and the gunner seat was positioned in front of the pilot’s, making navigation exceedingly difficult.
They also proved to be easy targets, being shot out the sky like birds during World War I.
Although the Starship was expected to be mind-blowing, it turned out to be quite comical. The turboprop engines and carbon-composite design made the Starship appear like a streamlined perfection. Incredibly, it wasn’t anything but a sluggish and uncontrollable.
By the end of the 80s, 53 Starships were put up for sale, with only a few buyers coming through.
The Hiller VZ-1
The Hiller VZ-1 is another aircraft design which didn’t even seem like a good idea on paper, let alone during its test run. The idea behind the Hiller VZ-1 was ridiculous to begin with: take out all the gears and allow the pilot to navigate the thing using their bodyweight.
Thankfully for such pilots, this crazy aircraft’s max speed was just 16 mph! As expected, no one was impressed during its test flight.
The Flying Dorito
This aircraft might look like something out of an anime or video game, but the Pentagon believed it was a concept worthy enough to throw a lot of money into during the 80s. The radar system on the Flying Dorito was faulty and besides its designers believing that its composite materials were something to brag about, this implementation wasn’t anything novel.
Thankfully, the Department of Defense stopped its production in its tracks in 1991 when they discovered that its estimated production cost would be around $165 million, and Dick Cheney gave it the ax.
The U.S. Airforce titan was the hugest aircraft within the country prior to the Spruce Goose’s hatching. The XB 15 was so enormous that passengers could easily disappear within it. This aircraft’s size was so overambitious that they couldn’t find engines capable enough to allow it to fly faster than 200 mph.
The XB 15 was never developed further and was solely ever employed as a cargo plane during the Second World War.