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This Incredible Plane: Goodyear Inflatoplane

It wasn’t as bad an idea as you’d think.

Goodyear Inflatoplane
The Goodyear Inflatoplane. Designed as a lightweight, portable solution for personal extraction situations, the concept lost out to helicopters, though not because it wasn’t promising.

In the 1950s, the U.S. Army contracted Goodyear to design an inflatable small aircraft for surveillance, aerial reconnaissance and do-it-yourself rescues. The rescue scenario involved airdropping a deflated (containerized) plane to stranded pilots so they could pump it up and fly themselves out.

The idea of an inflatable plane wasn’t entirely new. Taylor McDaniel patented his inflatable glider in 1931 to prevent crash fatalities. Confident of his design, McDaniel had his test pilot, Joe Bergling, intentionally crash the glider during a demonstration flight for the press.  To the stunned amazement of the crowd, Bergling walked away unharmed with a celebratory wave of his arms. The Russians and the British also explored, and then ditched, inflatable aircraft prototypes. While novel, these designs were too wobbly and structurally unstable in flight. 

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