(from Time Magazine, May 31,1954)
The U.S. Air Force, which has batted
down many a flying-saucer report, has long wished (in private) that it
could build one. By last week, the Air Force was prepared to invest
heavily to make hallucination come true. Air Force men have inspected a
Canadian mockup saucer, approved a more advanced design, and hope
within three years to have a prototype that can take off straight up,
hover in midair, and fly at mach 2.5 [nearly 2,000 m.p.h. at sea
level]. Its designer: John C. M. Frost, 35, a tall, shy Briton with
a passion for flowers and flying saucers.
The Coanda Effect. Frost, who lives in Toronto with his wife and son,
helped to design wartime gliders, later the Vampire jet and DH-108
tailless jet. As chief design engineer for special projects at A.V. Roe
Canada. Ltd. (part of Britain’s famed Hawker-Siddeley aircraft group),
he worked on Canada’s first home-built jet fighter, the CF-100.
Meanwhile, in a top-secret screened area at Avro’s Maiton plant, he
designed flying saucers—at least one 40-ft. mockup, with a flattened
end and spindly undercarriage. This model, quickly nicknamed he
“Praying Mantis,” was designed to take off at a 40° angle
after a short run.
But Frost wanted a vertical take-off—which is quite a trick. Even such
a powerful jet engine as Pratt & Whitney’s J-57, with about 10,000
Ibs. of thrust, can barely lift its own weight vertically. After
countless wind-tunnel tests, Frost finally found what he thinks is a
solution in an aerodynamic principle known as “the Coanda
Rumanian-born Henri Coanda, 68, a successful inventor who
lives in Paris, designed a primitive turbine-engine plane in 1909 and a
scale-model saucer in 1947.
But his great contribution to the art of making flying saucers was the
principle he discovered in 1937: curving one side of a nozzle will
deflect a jet blast to follow the curved side.
The Russians Ahead? Around the Coanda effect, Avro’s Frost created a
startling design shaped like a saucer, 40 ft.
in diameter, with a squat jet engine in the middle and a bubble cockpit
perched above. From the engine’s 35 burner tubes blasts would radiate
to 180 exhaust ports all around the saucer’s edge. To apply the Coanda
effect the pilot needs some kind of movable control over one lip of
each exhaust. To take off he would set these controls to deflect the
blasts downward. The downblasts
carry along with them more air from above the plane than
from below it. This decreases air pressure on the top, causing the
saucer to rise.
If he rises as he is supposed to, the pilot would then reset the exhaust
controls for normal jet flight. He could fly in any direction by
choosing the appropriate set of burners in his circular power plant.
So that he would always be facing forward, the cockpit would rotate
automatically as the craft changed direction.
Fantastic as Frost’s saucer sounds, it may not be the first. The USAF’s
willingness to spend money on saucer-plane experiments results from a
growing belief that the Soviet Air Force may be ahead of the U.S. in