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Ryan X-13 "Vertijet"

a jet that took off and landed vertically but flew horizontally

In 1947 the United States Navy "hired" Ryan Aeronautical to explore the viability of jet-powered Vertical Take-Off and Landing (VTOL) aircraft. Ryan spent six years on the project before the Navy funding ran out in 1953. Research continued, however, thanks to new funding from the Air Force, and two prototypes were subsequently built and tested.

The first X-13 prototype flew conventionally on December 10, 1955, at Edwards Air Force Base, California. After the 7-minute flight, Ryan Chief Test Pilot Peter F. Girard reported that he had experienced serious control issues in all three axes. Those issues were fixed, setting up the next historic flight.

For its second flight the X-13 was outfitted with a vertical landing gear system composed of a tubular support structure and a quartet of small caster-type wheels. On May 28, 1956, at Edwards, Pete Girard tested the X-13's vertical hovering abilities. Although he was restricted to a maximum altitude of about 50 feet, Girard reported that the aircraft was relatively easy to fly and land. Subsequent test flights included practice hook landings wherein a 1-inch thick manila rope suspended between a pair of 50-foot towers was engaged.

The most historic flight of the X-13 (prototype 2) was made on April 11, 1957, again at Edwards. This time Girard took off vertically from a specially built trailer, ascended in hovering flight and transitioned to conventional flight, performed a series of standard flight maneuvers, transitioned the aircraft back into a vertical hover, descended, and engaged the suspension cable on the support trailer with the aircraft's nose hook, completing the first ever vertical-to-conventional-to-vertical flight.

X-13 Vertijet during its April 11, 1957 flight
X-13 Vertijet during its April 11, 1957 flight

Both X-13 aircraft would go on to successfully conduct additional flight testing and stage numerous flight demonstrations during the remainder of 1957. A combination of factors, including budgetary constraints and combat performance limitations, led to the project's demise, however, and the X-13 never made it to the production stage. The first X-13 prototype is now on display at the San Diego (California) Aerospace Museum; the second is in the Research and Development Gallery of the United States Air Force Museum at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base in Dayton, Ohio.

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This page was last updated on 12/28/2017.