Interesting Experimental Aircraft of America

Here’s a guest post by Chloe Trogden on some fascinating flight machines designed and constructed for experimental purposes by the US. I learnt quite a bit here.

Among helicopters and airplanes, there have been other fascinating flight machines designed and constructed for experimental purposes by the US, which sometimes led to actual production.

US X-Craft

In the United States, most prototype and test aircraft contain an “X” series name/designation; though, there are some without the “X” label. Of course, pre-production models are not always suitable for flight, and are usually intended to be an idea or inspiration - such as the following “X” series designs which were purely experimental:

Convair X-6

The idea of this model was an attempt to implement nuclear power into an aircraft. The engines would be nuclear-reactive, but were never created. The X-6 was involved in a series of experimental programs (from 1946-1961) funded by the US at a cost around $7 billion.

Osprey GP2 Osprey (Sea Skimmer/Osprey I)

Eut Tileston designed this machine which was designed as a single-seat flying boat to be only available to launch from water. It’s also known as the Pereira GP2 Osprey after the private builder which Tileston was in contract with, George Pereira. The Navy’s interest in the experimental version of the Osprey, the X-28, developed through a Naval Air Development Center study - which required the aircraft be capable of flight under VFR (visual flight rules), be lightweight, and cost less than $5,000. The Osprey met most requirements, but the program itself was cancelled.

US Non-X-Craft

Rather secret and internal projects are not given X-names, but most often code names or other titles. The following designed machines were not apart of any “X” series:

Boeing Bird of Prey

This aircraft was an attempt at stealth technology, apart of a black project (military/defense project) and developed by McDonnell Douglas and Boeing in the 1990s. It’s name was in reference to the Klingon Bird of Prey warship from Star Trek. A few features of its design included: being able to prevent the casting of its shadow, and to camouflage - changing its luminosity and color to match the surroundings; a commercial off-the-shelf turbofan engine and manual hydraulic controls; the ability to be aerodynamically stable enough to be flown without computer correction. The technology and materials of the Bird of Prey were later used on Boeing’s X-45 unmanned combat air vehicle.

AstroFlight Sunrise

Designed by Roland Boucher, this was the first aircraft to fly on solar power on November 4, 1974. It was to be powered by a single Samarium-cobal magnet electric motor, the first ever created in the world. In total, the Sunrise weighed only 22 lb, with a wing loading of 4 ounces per square foot. It made 28 flights before being destroyed when coming in too close of contact with a cumulus cloud, in effect having the disturbing turbulence brake the structure. The Sunrise II was created the year after.

Never-ending Creations

These are only a few aircraft from a long list of projects which the US experimented with. As there will always be a fascination with flight, there will always be extremely interesting ideas and creations that come with it.

About the Author:
Chloe Trogden specializes in research involving all forms of college grants. She has compiled thousands of resources including Alabama college grants and grants for black women, along with many others. She is currently attending UNC Chapel Hill and is entering her Junior year in the fall.

2 Responses


I love the Boeing Bird of Prey… that’s really cool.

Wayne Farley

I only learnt about these aircraft when I received the guest post. This just proves that we learn every day.

About Wayne Farley

I am Wayne, a career air traffic controller with over 30 years of industry experience. Engage me while I share my thoughts, experience, and news from around the aviation world. A post titled “13 Characteristics of an Air Traffic Controller” written in 2010 went viral and established me as the unofficial ambassador of ATC.

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