The V-173 “Flying Pancake,” did it stack up?
Aerodynamics are a funny thing. In the 1930s, flight was only three decades old. People who had never seen a man fly let alone an aircraft at one time were still very much alive, in fact only middle aged. As new as the concept was, aviation was rapidly evolving, and what the “traditional” shape and form of what an aircraft was constantly changed. There were many brilliant minds attempting different techniques and technology to “make a better mousetrap,” as they say.
This was the life’s work of a man named Charles Zimmerman. He ran on a principle of the “discoid” flying surface, or placing the propellers at the end of the wings and using the body for lift, you could get rid of the drag-inducing nonsense known as “wings,” kind of. The V-173, built by Vought, could achieve a vertical take off in a strong headwind. This appealed to the Navy, who wanted a plane with a slow take off and landing speed for work on aircraft carriers.
Important moments of the project: it did land upside down on one occasion, but the pilot survived unscathed, and Charles Lindbergh who was watching was impressed enough to fly the thing himself, which he praised. They did see-‘er-up, and it was repaired. The pilots who flew it noted its unwillingness to stall completely or enter a spin. In fact, they said that its steep decline in speed during turns enabled fancy dog fighting tactics. In a word it indeed did break-fast.
You can find a solid history of this curiosity here:
Wonderful in-flight footage:
The model: Special Hobby 1/48th scale kit. The cockpit had to be completely redone, as OOB it is completely spurious. The aircraft still survives completely restored, so there are a wealth of photos online (kind of confusing how you can get it wrong then). The V-173 had these gigantic wooden props, and they are very prominent. I had this bright idea to use wood grain decals, which was not fun. Each blade has 7 coats of paint and three decals each. It took me two weeks of a few hours a night to complete. On top of that, the grain is not dark enough (the real thing had richer wood color). Next time, I will try oil paints, yeesh.
Thanks for looking.
6 additional images. Click to enlarge.