Jan 092013

A few months ago some news sites went buggo with the declassification of several reports on the Avro-Canada Project 1794, a late 1950’s effort to develop a VTOL supersonic “flying saucer.” See, for example, Wired wildly inaccurately titled: “Declassified at Last: Air Force’s Supersonic Flying Saucer Schematics,” which ignores the fact that this design had been declassified fifteen or more years ago… I got a report from the NASM in the mid/late 1990’s, and have seen it online for *years.* Heck, a year or two back I made available some Avro documents on the topic (to thunderous silence, I’ll add).

While a technical masterpiece, it suffered from one minor flaw… it didn’t work. The “Avrocar” test vehicle proved wholly incapable of flight… it could hover in ground effect, and slowly wobble about, but could not generate enough vertical thrust to lurch clear of the ground.

Anyway, a few months back the National Archives declassified a box of reports, the tech blogosphere went nuts, and very little actually got posted online, just retreads of what the National Archives put in a single blog post. So, here’s some more Project 1794 stuff.


 Posted by at 11:59 pm
  • Bob

    Your tax dollars at work.

  • philot

    Was this actually a problem of not having enough thrust, or controlling the thrust generated?

    They eventually got the wobbly goblin to fly by throwing enough computer power at it.

    • Anonymous

      A combo of “not enough thrust” and “not really understanding the system.” As with the later XFV-12, this was one of those things that looked great on paper, worked ok subscale… and pretty much failed utterly at full scale.

      And they found that some funky ground effects caused the jet exhaust to kinda glue the thing to the ground. Even if it had enough thrust to rise vertically in clear air, it simply couldn’t yank itself out of ground effect.

  • Bruce

    wasn’t this project silverbug?

    • Anonymous

      I believe Silver Bug was a subset of the whole Avro Saucer effort. SB was from 1955; these drawings were a little bit later.

  • Rick

    how much of the problems of these aircraft were due to instability issues that could not be managed in the day but are easily manageable with today’s digital fly-by-wire controls? I’d seen the smaller AVRO saucer appearing uncontrollable, if this one was also unstable as h3ll it would never have been given full thrust to try to take off even when tethered. put multiply redundant solid state gyros in, feeding them through a high speed bus to high precision servomotors at each of the control vanes (eliminate hydraulics), taking telemetry from each about engine performance and flap position realtime back to the central controller, and with some parameter tweeking I bet we could get this thing to fly well enough to scare foreign governments and conspiracy nuts for decades!

  • publiusr

    I’ve been reading a lot about the Magjet concept:
    I wonder if this technology may finally make the flying saucer work:


    One of the stunning videos I have ever seen was of the kinetic kill vehicle hovering over a net. It’s tough to hover something that small. I wonder if the brain box it uses is even better than some chopper style UAVs. Slave this to an electric jet, and I can’t help but wonder if fly-by-wire using a magjet would be more precise than with conventional gas turbine engines. The saucer design and the magjet function look to be grate mates.

    I might suggest small lift-off rockets just to break the ground effect. to give you the extra umph to get in the air.

    • Anonymous

      > the Magjet concept:

      At first glance a lot of that reads like gibberish. Let me know when they demonstrate.

      > One of the stunning videos I have ever seen was of the kinetic kill vehicle hovering over a net.

      Hell, that’s a couple decades old. Saw it – or something very like it – in the early 1990s, and it was a few years old at the time. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LC97wdQOmfI

      • publiusr

        I bet Carmack and company wishes they had that kind of fine control…

  • philot

    So Scott, did you have a heads up that Popular Mechanics was doing an article in the February 2013 issue or is this just synchronicity?

    • Anonymous

      Co-incidence, I imagine. Haven’t seen the Feb 13 PM; if it’s about Project 1794, it’s likely due to them being amazed at the recent release of diagrams similar to those that were released in the mid ’90’s.