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The life and death of France's 1950s 'beetle' aircraft

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During the 50s the French attempted to build a unique plane with a circular wing that could take off vertically, but the iconic-looking aircraft was ultimately a disaster.

Coléoptère beetle aircraft
Coléoptère beetle aircraft

In the 1950s Austrian engineer Helmut von Zborowski wanted to create a plane that could take off vertically in order to eliminate the need for a runway, so he designed an aircraft with a radical wing design — in addition to standard wings that jut out from the side, the design would utilize a round wing that surrounded the plane. Built by the French, the Coléoptère (french for beetle) struggled during initial tests — one engineer said that the initial controls were akin to "a bicyclist trying to keep his balance while he's stopped" — but eventually managed to both take off and hover in the air, though horizontal flight proved a challenge. It took nine tries (and several years) for the Coléoptère to achieve horizontal flight, but it was only a brief taste and the plane ended up catching fire, injuring the pilot. The program was ultimately scrapped, but you can read about the beetle's short life in more depth in Air & Space at the source link below.