Wednesday, March 14, 2012

A Bevy of Earthly Saucers

A Bevy of Earthly Saucers
By Manuel Carballal
(Translated by Scott Corrales)

by Manuel Carballal - In Memory of Andreas Faber Kaiser
ISBN: 84-89047-23-5

Aside from turbine-driven, prop-driven, and saucers motivated by other means of propulsion, terrestrial aeronautics have given rise to other kinds of disc-shaped aircraft.

As early as 1925, according to Revista de Aeronautica y Astronáutica (Number 413, April 1975), Soviet designers had developed a glider with a semicircular wing (more practical than a circular wing) resembling a giant letter "D" with an enormous rudder in the aft section, which also doubled as an elevating plane throughout the rear perimeter. This device is known as Tscharanowsky's "Parabola" glider, which can be seen at the Leningrad (St. Petersburg) Aviation Museum, and is one of the first designs of this type, a spectacular example of Russian enthusiasm for gliding.

The Parabola was nothing more than the forerunner for other flying saucers built by the Soviets throughout history.

Many years later, in December 1992, the "Rossiya" was unrolled before the public. The "Rossiya" is the first in a series of colossal, oval-shaped dirigibles developed through Project Thermoplane, a scientific endeavor sponsored by the Moscow Aeronautical Institute, which hopes to build a fleet of more than a hundred such dirigibles before 1995, all in the shape of a flying saucer.

The "Russian UFO," as the scientific press immediately dubbed the object, is an enormous flying saucer two hundred meters in diameter and seventy meters high. Its skeleton resembles that of the old German Zeppelins, but it incorporates the latest technological advances, which have enabled complete control of the dirigible in the face of meteorological uncertainty. Thanks to two low-speed embedded propellers connected to motors, the "UFO" is never out of control.

The Rossiya, like subsequent saucers belonging to Project Thermoplane, can cover a distance of 5000 kilometers without any need for refueling. According to Commander Ishkov, director of Project Thermoplane: "... thanks to its enormous cargo capacity, these dirigibles constitute the most efficient and economical means of transportation for conveying large loads to inhospitable and remote regions. With projects such as this, we are hoping to turn the old Soviet war machine into a new field for civilian and social applications. "

According to calculations made by aeronautical engineers in Moscow, the kerosene-powered "flying saucer" is 20 to 24 times more efficient and economical than modern helicopters, five or seven times better than airplanes, and two or three times better than any surface transportation.

With a 600-ton cargo capacity, the Rossiya's kerosene-fueled engines can reach speeds of 220 KMH, although its mean cruising speed is 150 KMH. Border surveillance figures prominently among its applications, since a radar contained in the "Russian UFO" guarantees a coverage six times greater than that of a conventional coast guard vessel. It also has much greater freedom, enabling it to cover a surveillance area of 450,000 times that of a ship in the same period of time.

The result of Soviet lab research making use of the ALA-40s, small minisaucers tested at the Aeronautical Institute since 1989, led to the public appearance of the Rossiya. What doubt could there possibly be that any Russian citizen witnessing the slow flight of a 200 meter wide flying saucer would swear to his or her grave that they'd run into an alien vessel?

Alien "Blimps"

In 1782, Charles and the Robert brothers, and Montgolfier in 1783, launched their first experimental balloons in the dawn of the history of dirigibles.

The prototypes of these aeronautical pioneers would be seen today as amusing toys (Montgolfier's balloon, for example, was "manned" by a ram, a rooster, and a duck, soberly nestled in the balloon's gondola. Nonetheless, the effect that these early UFOs had upon the witnesses was humorous only to historians.

The balloons were perceived by farmers, albeit living scant miles from Paris, as "creatures from another world." In the first case (the Charles/Robert balloon of 1782), the locals demanded the attendance of a priest, and considering this not to be sufficient, an enraged man reached for his shotgun and engaged in a firefight with the "flying monster." In the second case (Montgolfier, 1783), the abbé arrived in time to perform an exorcism on those mysterious creatures who had descended from the skies.

The fact is that in spite of not having the mechanical trappings of the "circular airplanes," certain kinds of dirigibles and balloons have caused more than one case of confusion among untrained observers throughout history.

Nearer to home, in the morning of the September 6-7, 1993, the air traffic controllers from the Alvedro Airport Control Tower (Corunna, Spain) received a number of phone calls from people who declared having seen a strange object. The citizens of Corunna and other localities within that province, such as Malpica, claimed to see a spindle-shaped object surrounded by lights.

I later learned that in other towns to the east, in the province of Lugo to be exact, the very same object had been observed a few minutes earlier.

As we have done on so many occasions, we started the investigations by questioning the witnesses, consulting the Provincial Meteorological Observatory, the Labacolla Control Tower (Santiago de Compostela, Spain), etc. The weather balloon launched that evening had already detonated, and there was no reported aerial traffic over the area at the time-- yet the solution to the riddle bore no relation whatsoever to either airplanes or weather balloons.

The spindle-shaped UFO seen on September 7th was a promotional blimp headed out of Oviedo, bearing a gaudy illuminated sign for the Credit Lyonnais bank.

Perhaps something similar to this happened between November 1896 and May 1897 in the United States, where a genuine wave of "airship" sightings took place. In spite of the fact that distinguished ufologists such as John Keel, Jerome Clark, or Jacques Vallée have collected earlier and later cases, the most widely held opinion is that the Airship Mystery began in November 1896, when the residents of Sacramento, California, witnessed a light moving in the night sky. Similar observations were made throughout California during the same month, and others were made farther north, in Washington State and in Canada.

A dark shape could sometimes be seen under the light. It was cigar-shaped, barrel-shaped, or egg-shaped. The object always moved quite slowly, as if it were being impelled by the wind.

Witness descriptions of the "airships," which were even published in the newspapers of the time, are strongly reminiscent of the great rigid dirigibles and the sophisticated hybrid dirigibles (which combined aerostatic pressure with aerodynamics) that would become known in later years.

Even though European aeronautic designers were relatively advanced in the construction of dirigibles, this was not the case in the U.S., at least officially. The first attempts at making and guiding aerostatic balloons came about shortly after their appearance in 1783. In fact, the following year, Blanchard attempted to solve the problem by means of beating wings and a rudder. The concept of the airscrew, known to the Chinese for centuries, appeared in Europe around this time, but it would be necessary to await the birth of a suitable engine.

In 1852, Henri Giffard made a trial voyage in a tapered balloon propelled by a three-horsepower steam engine. This dirigible, which moved at some 10 KMH, proved itself somewhat responsive to the rudder, but was unable to return to the starting point (a classic maneuverability test), due to any stray wind it should happen to encounter.

On August 9, 1884, French captains Charles Renard and Arthur Krebs achieved the first substantial flight in a closed circuit (7. 6 kilometers) at Calais with their dirigible La France, fitted with a 9 horsepower electric engine fed by tubular chloro-chromic batteries. As a result of this feat, La France is considered to be the first true dirigible in history, in spite of its electric motor, which had no future. La France's gondola and propeller are preserved in the Musée de l'Air at Meudon (Paris). The fact of the matter is that the shape of this early dirigible recalls some of the descriptions of the American "airships."

But if aeronautics was developing in Europe, then who was piloting the mysterious aircraft seen in the U.S.? Also, some of the maneuverability details provided by airship witnesses were quite far removed from the clumsy designs of the European dirigibles.

Some witnesses, such as former senator W. Harris, managed to engage "airship occupants" in relaxed conversation (on April 22, 1897 in this instance) and even went aboard. But their nationality was never made clear.

The behavior of these airships was similar to that of UFOs on many occasions. Thus we have "abduction" episodes, landings, cattle theft, etc. In 1892 H.G. Wells was inspired by this wave to write The War of the Worlds, the renowned book in which Martians invade the Earth.

Meanwhile, Jules Verne, always one step ahead of history, had published his novel Robur the Conqueror in 1886. In this book, an ambitious character aimed to control the planet by means of curious aerial vehicles with propellers and cylindrical anchors, which resembled the craft which would be seen over American skies ten years later. This work of fiction anticipated events to the extent that the design of the airship "Albatross" on the book cover was identical to some of the sketches which would appear in American newspapers a decade later, during the strange wave.

In a paragraph from this book, we have Robur the Conqueror saying: "My machine shall never be French, nor German, nor Austrian, nor Russian, nor British, nor American. This invention is mine and I shall use it as I please. With it, I shall be master of the whole world. It is useless for humanity to resist me under any circumstances."

A year after Jules Verne's death, his editor published a sequel, Master of the World, where airships play a critical role yet again.

I invite the reader to reflect upon this little known aspect of the UFO phenomenon, since those strange "airships" from the late 19th century were perhaps more closely related to our contemporary UFOs than we know.

21st Century Aerostats

Modern dirigible and aerostat designs bear little resemblance to the historic devices of Count von Zeppelin or the ill-fated Hindenburg. The new airships, in many instances, rub shoulders with futuristic designs and technology not far removed from that of "flying saucers."

The Revista de Aeronáutica y Astronáutica published in its September 1985 issue an entire dossier on dirigibles. This dossier contained some of the most innovative designs on record, with a variety of incredible shapes, all of them easily identifiable as UFOs.

Naturally, all those designs form part of hybrid dirigibles, which manage to remain airborne by the combined use of aerostatic and aerodynamic pressure. Vehicles which underwent little or no development in the past (as far as we know) have currently emerged as a new concept with a promising future. They combine dirigible technologies with others, such as rotating wing vehicles (autogiros, etc.).

The basic role played by these hybrid vehicles would be to cover the requirement of lifting and transporting large loads, including to places lacking a support infrastructure on the ground, at a reasonable cost and with no need of special support. Short-term development studies foresee lift/load capabilities of over 150 metric tons--weights far beyond the ability of helicopters to handle, and unreasonably costly for these due to their refueling limitations.

Studies undertaken by NASA and Goodyear Aerospace have indicated mean savings of about 45% in the total cost of a number of construction projects through the use of cargo lifting and transportation systems belonging to the hybrid dirigible class.

Programs aimed at achieving the full operational capacity of these vehicles have been undertaken since 1980 in the U.S., Canada (the "Cyclocrane", patented by D.C. Associates), France (the "Helicostat," under the supervision of ONERA and SNAIS), and Japan (programs contracted by the Ministry of International Markets and Industry), etc. Some South American nations have also evinced an interest in this kind of vehicle.

A type of mission in which the "hybrids" compete with the modern conventional dirigibles is in the ferrying of cargo or passengers to hard-to-reach areas. These vehicles can make use of aerostatic or aerodynamic support, and the rotors adopt lenticular or discoidal shapes to provide this increased support.

Based on economic analysis studies promoted by the Canadian Ministry of Transportation, it seems that huge savings in transportation to remote areas could be obtained through the use of hybrid VTOL (vertical take-off and landing) vehicles. These savings could be considerably increased, since the building of highways and/or railways would no longer be necessary, nor would their rebuilding if they should be damaged by climatological or other causes. In this way, the costs created by having to overcome natural obstacles (such as rivers and canyons) would be eliminated, since no time would be wasted in unloading men and equipment. The available working season would thus be extended in spite of snow, rain, etc.

To cover the kind of mission mentioned above, a number of studies have been undertaken, mostly in the United Kingdom (large metal-covered dirigibles 130,000 m3 in size with elliptical hulls), and Japan (transportation of power-generating equipment to hard-to-reach areas in the islands, supplying the populations found on the numerous islets, etc.) Some African and South American nations--particularly Brazil--have taken an interest in this kind of application, although the results of their studies have not become widely known.

The economic and tactical possibilities of hybrid dirigibles will grant them in the future--maybe even now--a major aeronautical role. But, as is customary, the veil of silence which enshrouds the most state-of-the-art experiments keeps us from learning about the current situation.

Nonetheless, we are aware that some dirigibles are genuine flying saucers, and that airships with a futuristic design can be considered true "earthly UFOs," such as the Vanguard Donut, the Havill Parawing, the All-American Aerocrane, and others.

The dossier on dirigibles put out by the official magazine of the Spanish Air Force which I mentioned earlier, included a photo of one of these innovative hybrid dirigibles. It is a Van Dusen design from Canada. The photo shows a spherical body resting upon a gondola which houses the controls, cargo and fuel. The sphere, filled with helium, can rotate on its axis, producing an added elevating force through the well-known Magnus effect, thus augmenting its airborne capability. The engines mounted on the ends of the rotational axis can spin from 0 to 90 to provide thrust during take-off. This is the classic VTOL hybrid, and I can assure the reader that any observer making a casual sighting of Van Dusen's dirigible would think it far removed from any conventional terrestrial vehicle.

The Revista de Aeronáutica y Astronáutica published in 1981 a news item that went largely unnoticed by most ufologists (with exceptions, such as the late Andreas Faber Kaiser). It concerned the approval given by a British company to the Thermo Skyship project in February 1980.

The Thermo Skyship is a hybrid dirigible with VTOL capability in the shape of a perfect flying saucer. Using liquid hydrogen for its fuel, the airship is covered in carbon fibers and uses helium (due to its light weight) to enable its lifting force.

The same issue of the magazine stated that in August of that year, flight testing of a new flying machine resembling a discoidal UFO had taken place at Edwards Air Force base in California by the NASA Research Center. The device transformed solar power into electricity, which would in turn power a small propeller installed in the vehicle's tail, thus eliminating intermediary batteries.

A Gallery of Earthly UFOs

The list of strange aeronautical artifacts which could be confused with UFOs is practically endless.

Who hasn't heard about eccentric millionaire Malcolm Forbes? His passion for the subject made him build balloons and aerostats in the most dissimilar shapes year after year. From the Kinkakuji Temple to Columbus's caravelle the Santa María, Forbes' balloons have adopted the most capricious shapes. And, of course, he has also built balloons in the shape of a flying saucer, complete with a smiling alien looking out of a porthole.

As far as military technology is concerned, there are numerous unmanned vehicles used for surveillance or espionage which have adopted evocative shapes. An account of all of them, however, would be much too long.

Nonetheless, there exist other kinds of UFOs capable of executing strange maneuvers, achieving breathtaking speeds, and with a more or less triangular appearance, which have been observed by qualified witnesses all around the planet. Many of these craft are directly linked to secret military technology.