Time for a look at strange airplanes. Every month I try to look back and find a unique design, or prototype, to share with you and this week it is the 450-01 Coléoptère. Developed by Snecma in 1959 this experimental craft was as ugly as it was unique.
Following tests of the Atar Volant, which have proved the ability of a vertically-mounted turbojet to raise a VTOL aircraft safely from the ground, of accelerating it in vertical flight to a speed where it can become airborne like a conventional aircraft, and of returning it to the ground in a vertical descent, SNECMA built a prototype research aircraft around this type of power plant. Powerplant was the 8,157 lb (3,700 kg) s.t SNECMA Atar 101 E.5V fitted with jet deflection nozzle, integral tanks had a total capacity of 1,543 lb (700 kg) of fuel.
Known as the C.450-01 Coléoptère, this prototype was basically similar to the C.400 P.3, with a tilting ejection seat inside an enclosed cockpit, but was fitted with an annular wing to permit transition into horizontal flight. The airframe was built by the Nord company in its Chatillon-sous-Bagneux works.
Directional control at take-off and landing was by pneumatic deflection of the main jet efflux, directional control during normal horizontal flight was by four swiveling fins equally spaced around the rear end of the annular wing, while transitions from vertical to horizontal attitudes were eased by the use of two small retractable fins mounted on the sides of the fuselage nose.
Piloted by Auguste Morel, the C.450-01 made its first free vertical flight on May 6, 1959 at Melun-Villaroche. During the ninth flight on 25 July 1959, the pilot was making a transition from vertical to horizontal and achieved very limited tilting when flight control was lost at a very low altitude, reports vary from 49 to 246 ft (15 to 75 m). Morel ejected but was severely wounded, the crash marked the end of the “flying engine” program and the end of Morel’s test pilot career.
Span over fins: 14 ft 9.6 in (4.51 m)
Length: 26 ft 3.8 in (8.02 m)
Outside diameter: 10 ft 6 in (3.20 m)
Height: 7 ft 7.7 in (2.33 m)
Loaded weight: 6,614 lb (3000 kg)
Have a good weekend, enjoy the video below, and take care/fly safe.
July 7, 2023