Ugliest Airplane Ever Built Predicted The Future

The airplane that many called “the flying barrel” is also widely considered the ugliest plane ever built. However, [Dark Skies] in the video you can see below argues that the Stipa-Caproni was the direct predecessor of the turbofan engine. Either way, it is an interesting and unique part of aviation history.

The plane was built in the days when inventors were experimenting with many different ways to improve aircraft utility and performance. In this case, the inventor built an “intubated propellor” which used a prop to draw air through a venturi tube in an effort to improve engine efficiency. The 570kg vehicle had a wingspan of just over 14 meters and was a bit more than 6 meters long. It could reach about 72 knots and climb to over 3 km.

Caproni was known for making odd planes, including one with nine wings. We couldn’t help but think that the Stipa-Caproni looks like something you’d see in a cartoon, perhaps flown by an animal character. It had both positive and negative features.

The plane was quiet and stable. But it was difficult to take off and land and suffered from drag problems. While there was great interest in the design, but no more planes using the principles in the aircraft were built. However, the Kort nozzle, is a very similar idea used in some maritime applications. Stipa also believed that turbofan jet engines were stolen from his invention, a position that isn’t totally far-fetched.

We’d love to see an RC version of the plane with modern flight controls.

31 thoughts on “Ugliest Airplane Ever Built Predicted The Future

  1. “We’d love to see an RC version of the plane with modern flight controls.”
    Well, the first RC “jet” models used ducted fans to hide the propellers. (~40 years ago)

  2. A fascinating mix of units. Wing span in meters like a class of competition sail plane, length in meters, speed in nautical miles per hour, and altitude in kilometers. (International standards for altitude are feet or flight levels, which are multiples of 500 feet. Gliders in Europe usually use meters and rate-of-climb in m/s instead of ft/min.)

    Anyway, I am sure the Russians have made many uglier airplanes and the Italians place second. Germany also had some very ugly designs in that 1930 to 45 time frame. Germany might win with a little research.

    1. Nah, doesn’t seem that special to me. The FCU of the A320 has a button “METRIC ALT” to display the altitude target in meters on the ECAM. If pressed I have the same configuration of units: nautical miles per hour are still useful because they translate nicely to the latitude/longitude grid and of course a european plane measures its wingspans in meters ;)

  3. I don’t know if he has improved in the last year (And I didn’t watch the embedded video) but the guy running the Dark Skies and other ‘Dark’ channels on YouTube does very poor research and uses sometimes very wrong and misleading data in his videos. I wouldn’t rely on any of his videos to be truthful. I stopped watching his videos because he kept posting videos of relatively known topics with gross errors.

    1. True. And in this case he is also not correct. Turbofan? No, this is a ducted prop. A turbofan has a much higher disk coverage than a prop the fan in turbo fan and it is turned by a gas turbine engine, the turbo in turbofan.

    1. The British automotive writer LKJ Setright once wrote about the advent of early turbocharged engines, and talked about how as the turbocharger got larger and the power output increased, at some point it made more sense to just use the turbocharger as the propulsive source, and the piston engine as a hot air generator, and then hey you’d invented the jet engine by mistake. He was specifically talking about the development of turbocompound engines, where the turbine was mechanically connected to the crankshaft and was a power recovery system rather than just a system for compressing air. But it was interesting to think about how there’s a continuum between a piston engine and a jet engine and you can build a running, useful engine at any point along that continuum.

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