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NASA AD-1 Oblique Wing Research Aircraft

A scissor-wing aircraft was an early attempt to solve transonic flight issues. It was promising enough that NASA revisited the idea 30 years down the road.

The AD-1, a one-off NASA plane explored the promise of reconfigurable wings for supersonic aircraft. It wasn’t a complete failure, though none were produced. Photo courtesy of NASA

One of the biggest challenges that stymied researchers and aerodynamicists in the 1940s through the 1950s was the so-called “sound barrier:” Nearing the speed of sound, aircraft of that era encountered heavy stick forces and airflow separation from the wing, and pilots sometimes lost control, usually with fatal results. Toward the end of World War II, German researchers and engineers were very close to a solution to this problem with modestly swept-wing aircraft, but their designs never left the drawing board. After the war, the Allies recovered the science and furthered their own research into swept-wing aircraft to easily (and controllably) exceed Mach 1.

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