Why Canada’s Flying Saucer Failed


This episode of Real Engineering is brought
to you by Audible. Get your first audiobook for free at audible dot com slash real engineering. Music An extensive program of research and development
in the field of disk flight, which was started in 1952 is being conducted by Avro Aircraft
Limited at Malton, Ontario. Early studies on behalf of the United States Airforce proved
the feasibility of a circular planform vertical take-off aircraft utilizing a system of peripheral
jets for propulsion, stabilization and control. What you are witnessing is one of the most
bizarre technologies of the mid 20th century. The year was 1960. The Cold War was looming
over America and within 5 years American troops will be entering Vietnam. Many of them by
helicopter. The helicopter’s role was clear. A vertical take-off vehicle capable of rapidly
deploying behind enemy lines with the need for runways. It could carry both men and weapons
and serve a multitude of roll’s, but it’s speed and maneuverability left it vulnerable
to attack and it could not intercept enemy planes. The Avrocar was envisioned as a solution.
A new type of airframe that could fulfill both the role of a helicopter and a supersonic
jet fighter. And it all began life as Project 1794 [1]
with the goal of creating a vertical take off and landing aircraft capable of flying
at three times the speed of sound with a service ceiling of 100,000 feet. This all sounds like it was born from the
imagination of alien conspiracy theorists, but the design was perfectly logical in the
mind of John Frost, a renowned and respected design engineer. John’s concept for the Avrocar was seeded
from his experimentation with combining two physical phenomena. The Coanda Effect and
Ground Effect. The coanda effect is simply the tendency of
a fluid to follow the curve of convex shapes.[2] Modern planes like the C-17 take advantage
of the effect with flaps which can descend into the exhaust flow of the engines during
landings. This would redirect some of the exhaust downwards to provide additional lift,
allowing the C-17 to slow it’s approach speed and land on shorter runways. [2] Most online publications on this vehicle overstate
the importance of the Coanda Effect, and in some cases completely confuse it for ground
effect. While there are many test videos of John Frost experimenting with the effect with
small prototypes, the effect does not get a single mention in the initial secret white
paper, where early designs were presented. There were multiple concepts drawn up for
the Avrocar, but they all centred around on basic idea. Direct high pressure air 360 degrees
outwards and use shutters and control surfaces to redirect it for control. The coanda effect
was not a feature for these kind of devices. The initial blue sky design called for a completely
novel engine layout which would not use conventional jet engines for power. Instead there would
be one large diameter engine surrounding the pilot. With the compressor stage mounted on
the inner diameter, the turbine mounted on the outer diameter with a combustion chamber
in between. A major change from typical jet engines which have these stages mounted sequentially
over a common axel. This new engine would be an ideal use of space.
With fuel tanks mounted in a ring around the pilot, which presented a massive fire hazard,
but did keep the centre of gravity as close to the centre of pressure as possible. However, designing an entirely novel engine
for the prototype would have been far two costly, so a compromise design was created
for the early prototype designs. Commercially available turbo jets would be
mounted radially around the disk in a repeating pattern. This created a radially symmetric
design, that would allow for repeating sections identical in construction. This was a huge
advantage of the flying disk design as it would reduce the number of parts needed thanks
to the radially symmetric design resulting in repeating parts. This would drastically
reduce manufacturing costs. These turbojet engines would be mounted around
a central turbine. The outlet pressure of these turbojets would drive this turbine in
the middle section, and it’s remaining kinetic energy would be used to provide lift by exhausting
it directly downwards. Meanwhile the rotation of this turbine was
powering two impeller levels mounted above and below the turbine. These centrifugal impellers
would draw air from intakes above and below the disk and accelerate it radially outwards
through ducts. Some of this air would be redirected back into the inlet of the turbojet engines
to maintain a constant ram pressure, which is the pressure we typically associate at
the inlet of a jet engine as an aircraft forces itself through the air. For this design I don’t see much of the
coanda effect being used as the air has no other option than to exhaust in the direction
the shutters allow them to. This was the general concept behind the Avrocar,
but the two prototypes that were actually built were much lower in spec. With 3 turbojet
engines instead of 6. Here they were mounted tangentially, rather than perpendicularly
to the inner turbine which would drive the inner turborotor, which would work similarly
to the F-35’s direct lift rotor by directing some of this air directly downwards, however
it differs from the F-35 as some of that air was expelled outwards. For these prototypes the coanda effect may
have played a larger role, as some air was directed over the outer surface of the aircraft. However, this prototype was underpowered.
With a huge amount of energy lost through friction drag in the ducting system and through
powering the turborotor. Using a geared drive system, similar to the F-35 would result in
far less friction and energy loss. This prototype relied completely on the lift
boosting effects of ground effect to achieve lift off. Ground Effect is simply a boost
in lift when an aircraft is close enough to the ground to create a high pressure cushion
of air between the vehicle and the ground. [Reference Image 1] But this created some issues for the prototype.
Here you can see John Frost, maybe unintentionally, demonstrating the first with his early tests.
He lifts the prototype out of the ground effect zone where it no longer has enough lift to
keep it aloft and then let’s go, allowing the scale model to drop back into the ground
effect zone where the high pressure air acts like a bouncy castle. The vehicle begins to
bob up and down until the motion has finally been dampened out. This is a bobbing motion can be an annoyance,
but a far larger issue was an aerodynamic instability the designers of the avrocar dubbed
hub-capping that it could cause. [3] It was named after the motion a hubcap, or
any circular shape, would make as it rotated around it’s rim. You can see the pilots
of the Avrocar struggling to control the vehicle in most of the archival footage of it’s
testing. They likened it to trying to balance on a beach ball. A constant physically and
demanding task. This was again caused by how ground effect
interacted with the aircraft at various altitudes. Ground effect means that lift rises the closer
to the ground you are, but this causes issues with aerodynamic stability when the Avrocar
was tilted. Here the right side of the vehicle comes closer to the ground and the left moves
further away. This causes the center of pressure to shift to the right as the lift shifts to
the right, this however did not act as a restoring force to keep the avrocar level, as the vehicle
needed to keep its nose down in order to move forward which shifted it’s centre of weight
forward. Instead it resulted in the avrocar swinging around it’s pitch and roll axis
in that hubcapping motion. Over the next year the team worked on fixing
this issue. The turbofan itself was intended to provide stabilization. [4] The turbofan
would desire to remain in a horizontal position through gyroscopic action. So the engineers
developed a system where they could couple this action to the controls at the outer rim
of the aircraft. They did this by mounting the turbofan to a gimbal, allowing the avrocar
to freely rotate around the turbofan. If the avrocar deviated form the horizontal position
it would cause linkages connected to the gimbal system to move and shift the control surfaces
to correct the tilt. As clever as this system was, before the age of fly by wire technology,
it could not compensate for the inherent instability of the aircraft. The prototype was modified over the testing
period with different control mechanisms, but none of them could solve this instability
problem. They gyroscopic effects were having negative
effects elsewhere too. The Avrocar took 5 seconds to rotate 90 degrees counterclockwise,
which is too long to begin with, but it took over twice as long at 11 seconds to turn it
clockwise against the rotation of the turborotor. John Frost attempted to address some of the
problems in 1961. Designing this variation of the Avrocar which included a wing and a
tail to provide lateral and pitch stability, while moving the cockpit to the front of the
vehicle. Ultimately he was too late. The design was
ditched as it was simply converging into a plane with VTOL capabilities which were in
research at that time. Like the Harrier Jump Jet which would fly it’s first flight in
1967 and enter service in 1969. Today we can see aspects of it’s design
being used in the F-35 with the turborotor, while instability issues with hovering in
ground effect are barely an issue for this aircraft with advanced computer control reacting
to wobbles before the pilot has time to even notice them. Who knows, if the design was revisited today
the flying saucer could truly exit the realm of science fiction. After all, most of science
fiction is based on true science potential. We can learn a lot about science through the
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pleasure. As always, thanks for watching and thank you
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100 thoughts on “Why Canada’s Flying Saucer Failed”

  1. Getting a $20 giftcard for finishing the We Are Legion is a serious deal! Get the first book for free by signing up to https://Audible.com/realengineering

  2. Is it really a combination of a helicopter and a fighter jet? It seems to lack the troop-carrying capacities of a helicopter, but I can't really make out much more from this video.

  3. Because it was all canucked up? No, the hoser was loose? Maybe Trudeau spilled his blackface makeup in the engine compartment, ayy?

  4. Nice of them to mention the Harrier but that was developed from another VTOl aircraft the Kestrel P.1127 which had it's first flight in 1960. This flying saucer was behind the times before it was even developed.

  5. Simple answer: Power-to-weight ratio. Longer answer: power-to-weight ration, technological and materials limitations, insufficient computers, sky-high expectations by an end customer with close deadlines.

  6. It was a stupid idea from the stupid era of the stupid flying saucers craze.
    At least they tested some VTOL technology with that piece of crap.

  7. Others were developing hovercraft, but all had bilateral rather than radial symmetry. It seemed clear that the best design for a vehicle would be one which would be able to turn and then move quickly and accurately along one direction which is a bilaterally symmetrical vehicle. Sometimes funding at the time of the arms race went into bizarre ideas. The U.S. Navy was getting atomic powered submarines and aircraft carriers, so the Army wanted portable nuclear power plants, so the Air Force not wanting to be left out wanted to develop nuclear powered planes which wouldn't need to be refueled. None of the scientists and engineers on the project thought a safe one could be built, but some science and technology was developed which later was used in sane projects.

  8. 40~50 years ago? Internet were launched around that time frames, right? I think the said UFO should be able to fly smoothly by now but without info… ^^

  9. I think there are obvious better solutions. I think the reason they tried this was simply because it looks badass and they really really wanted it

  10. I can already understand why its failed from start..

    -uses collander effect which cannot take off
    -one man pilot maximum which defeats the purpose of troop carrier with heli
    -too expansive

  11. It's a shame that the Avro Arrow was shut down before it was fully realized. That plane was decades ahead of it's time, but due to U.S. interferance and political gains Canada's conservative government shut it down. I would love to see an episode on this marvel of engineering. The closing of its doors also gave NASA the boost to get to the moon, the reporting of which Americans never hear about.

  12. The flying saucer was just shy, maybe if it were filmed with a low resolution camera and with a blurred image, it would still be flying around today.

  13. Thanks for this forgotten page from Canadian aviation history. Even if it was a failure. Oh, and please, please, please don't do one on the Avro Arrow — there has been far too much written on this.

  14. Anyone remembers the 2-part TV movie about the Avro Arrow with Dan Aykroyd I believe? Saw it like 20 years ago as a kid and remember it being awesome but I'm afraid of re-watching it as an adult 🙂

  15. I think you say the same thing twice back to back

    https://youtu.be/85aFTVijEc8?t=255
    https://youtu.be/85aFTVijEc8?t=259

  16. I believe you could fly a saucer without any energy of fuels here on earth by using the magnetic fields from the stars throughout the galaxy including our sun which is very recently being realised of the suns different rays not necessarily the solar but more from the fields we have only learnt a fraction of what we know about our sun and it won’t be long until it’s identified how to use these fields of energy and without a doubt in my belief our ancient ancestors were from outer space

  17. If aliens are so damned advanced, traveling faster than light…perhaps intra-dimensional, how come they keep crashing into our planet???

  18. This wasn't a 'flying saucer" it was a hover car to be used by a small ground unit to cover large areas quickly. Supposed to hold 3-4 people. Kind of like a hover jeep. To think this is anything else is stupid.

  19. I JUST finished a project on the Avro arrow, and I included the Avro car. I needed this information a week ago! Lol.

  20. Interesting concept, but not sure why anyone would think something like this would be more manoeuvrable than a helicopter.

  21. I've always wondered how they got the funding for that thing. Yeah… it was cool and fun but that's not normally on the military's list of requirements. Wasn't it obvious that something like that would never go mach 3 at 100 thousand feet? On the fun and cool side though… I'd LOVE to see someone create one again with fly by wire technology. It would be cool to see one flying purposely.

  22. As one who lives in Canada I know about this, and also about how we are the only country on earth with an OFFICIAL Alien Spaceship Landing Pad. I’m starting to think that maybe Canada is the real keeper of the aliens…

  23. Notice the title of this clip, "Why Canada's Flying Saucer Failed". So the U.S.'s version succeeded?

    Also, I want my own mini Millennium Falcon, so I can go to a galaxy far, far away!

  24. The original engine with the blades around the pilot would have a much stronger gyroscope affect. If there was enough money thrown at it we could probably make a saucer that actually flies.

  25. Wait. Did we just confirm that flying saucers are real? So. It's been military shit that we've been seeing around the world. Meh. Makes sense. Too bad it's not aliens. 🙄

  26. On behalf of the U.S airforce, says that under the first minute.. farmed out to Canada.. not Canadian owned.. sub contracted to Canadian company.. U.S owned, U.S fail… this was made to fail.. to mislead, to make a failed attempt.. project bluebook written all over it.
    Because John Searl says his attempt worked.. they ??? swooped in and confiscated everything.

  27. Needing an exhaust-driven internal peripheral gyroscopic ring to stabilize the fuselage, as the original would have done with its' engine?

  28. What is it with aviation and circles, I want helicopter with rotors that spin square (A̶n̶d̶ ̶T̶i̶d̶d̶i̶e̶s̶)

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