Funny airplanes

I am an avid watcher of what one comic strip calls “The Testerone Channel”, a collective name for The History Channel, The Discovery Channel, and TLC. EVERY time one of these channels does a documentaty on the history of aviation, they run a film clip of funny airplanes crashing.
You know the one - among other things, it shows a plane with a wing that looks like a section of venetian blinds taxiing (?) until the wing collapses; a cart with an umbrella-like device hopping up and down until it falls over; a guy with wings and a tail attached to him jumping off a bridge and falling (not gliding) into the water; and another guy on ice skates lighting a rocket backpack-it lights, he flips over and people have to throw snow on him in an attempt to put out his smoldering butt.

My question is,where the hell this film come originally, who were these crackpots and why was this film made? It has the look of a newsreel from the 20’s ot 30’s and if so, was made after the general principals of aviation were known, so these yahoos should have known that their “flying machines” wouldn’t work. Any Ideas?

Excellent question! I sure wish I knew. I’ll be back if my hasty descent into web-research pans out.

Not a funny airplane, but a funny name. During WW2, the air force (or air corp… I don’t remember when the switch from USAAC to USAAF was made.) tested a canard-configured fighter called the “Ascender”. Being a canard design, I wonder if that was a double-entendre: “Ass-ender”, as in “ass-end first”?

I know exactly the footage the OP mentions. Every time I see it I have to ask, “What the hell were they thinking?”

WAG: Moving pictures having started in the late 1800’s (about 1895 or so), my guess is that there was enough time to get a few nuts… erm, inventors… on film before people started to figure out how to fly. Also, keep in mind that many of these pre-aviators weren’t necessarily reading the science journals, but were backyard inventors who thought they had it all figured out without knowing the true physics behind flight or even what little bit had been discovered so far. I’m not sure how common it was to document flight trials back then, but if the media thought that they had a chance to be the first to record a successful flight, they’d give it a shot even if the guy in question was on a bicycle with wings.

I’d love to know the answer, too, but before we giggle too much about the contraptions built 100 years ago:

There was a documentary special about the resurgence of lighter than air craft a few years ago. One thing several people have tried to do is marry the idea of a helicopter to that of an LTA craft. It’s an attractive idea to obtain a manueverable platform for aerial crane operations currently done by helicopter alone, using the LTA to provide extra lifting assistance.

They showed two failed attempts - one of them was a guy who had four large helicopters attached by means of a frame to an unmanned dirigible, with instrumentation to supposedly allow the four pilots to coordinate with each other to fly the monster. I don’t believe any of them got injured in the crash. It looked every bit as ludicrous falling apart as that “flying venetian blind” footage.

(the other one was something called, IIRC, the “helicrane”, which looked like a blimp that had mated with a VERY large “muffin fan”.)

It may have looked ridiculous, but there was a pilot in each of those four helicopters. One was killed and the other three seriously injured. You can see a brief accident report on the NSTB site. Can’t find any images though. Also found nothing on the “helicrane” - anyone have any info?

Anyway, the original question is interesting and still unanswered. Anyone? My first thought was that it was part of a movie. I know the same exact combination of footages was used in the 1965 movie “Those Magnificent Men In Their Flying Machines” but it’s probably older than that.

The footage is definately older than the 60’s movie. The filmmakers dug up the archival footage for comedic effect.

Before people had camcorders, and when news was on the radio instead of the then-nonexistent TV, people recorded images on film using small, wind-up or hand-cranked cameras. (Studios used larger rigs.) My guess is that people built their contraptions and then wanted to preserve them for posterity. They got a friend or family member to film them. (Note how close many of the cameras were to the contraptions.) Other projects may have been “news”, so larger cameras may have been provided by the local “newsreel” makers. The “flying venitian blind” has a decidedly different look than than the “parasol on a bedstead”.

The “flying venitian blind” is the Phillips 1904 Multiplane

That’s not the one I’m familiar with.

Elmer - you’re back! I’m thwilled to see you!

I’ve been searching in vain at several archival footage sites - maybe with the name of the plane, I’ll have better luck.

In a way, I’m sorry that bit of footage has become so familiar. It let’s us feel smugly superior without thinking about why they failed (or why our ideas would – though many who laugh the hardest have a perfectly simple answer to the latter: “It wouldn’t happen to me because I’d never build a flying machine.” Hardly satisfying

Sit down with some physics nuts, watch some of those videos, posing the questions “why did it fail?” and “Could we make that design work today” It is quite a fascinating exercise – you’ll probably catch yourself doing some wildly inappropriate physics. Quite the educational experience.

A few dramatic failures were primarily lack of modern materials. I can imagine some guy who can’t tie a bowline watching a 1900-assembled Boeing 747 pancake under its own weight while standing still on the apron and laughing: “what were they thinking?” However, it’s a perfectly good design

I’m bumping this thread becauce in the three years since I’ve been an active member of this forum (the OP was my very first post, btw), I have yet to find an answer to my original question: where the heck did that film of jalopy aircraft come from? Maybe this year’s crop of Dopers can give me some leads. Thanks.

LOL I was just wondering what that airplane was! I thought, “Hm. I know there’s a thread on it on SDMB.” When I saw this thread I was going to mention that it had been asked once… Then I saw that I had already replied!

Okay, I don’t have answers, but I do have leads.

Two major newsreel outfits were Movietone and (Hearst) Metrotone. (There were probably others, but I don’t know them.)

Google “Movietone” and you’ll find a very handy searchable British Movietone News website. (Don’t be fooled by the British part; they have American newsreel footage too.) FWIW, Movietone footage is available here in the States from .

The Metrotone archive is at UCLA. To my knowledge there is no online searchable database for them. Go to their website, email or call them with your search needs and a human being will respond.

Because you are not interested in buying any footage, it might pay to call these two sources up and level with them. Say that you --and dozens of your online geek pals – are wondering where that old flying machine footage came from. Does anybody there know? This is what reporters do all the time. Maybe you’ll get lucky and get transferred to Pops in the back room who knows where every frame of footage in the house came from (but who no one talks to ever since he developed that bladder problem). Another thing, it’s in their best interest to know, because, if it’s theirs, you can be sure that when it turns up on some high-profile broadcast the users will get a letter from the stock footage house’s legal department if they haven’t already paid for it.

Another route is to get a copy of the sourcebook called Footage. (Careful, it’s about as big as a phone book and cost about $100, as of a few years ago.) It is indexed, so you can see right off the bat who has old aviation footage. (There may even be a breakdown like “Aviation, Unsuccessful.”) Those sources may know where that wacky flying footage came from.

Could it be the Cygnet II?

No, that one looks more like a radar array. The one AtomicDog is asking about, or at least the one I think he is asking about, has the wings arranged as they are on this one (as posted by Elmer J. Fudd).

The one in question had a white fuselage. The footage was taken from the left-front quarter angle, and IIRC there were hangars in the background. The machine is rolling for takeoff, I believe accompanied by a bunch of men running with it, when the whole thing collapses in the middle.

The information you want may be in this thread.

When I was a kid, my dad checked out a 16mm film from the library called “Aeronautical Oddities” which is a compilation of the footage you’re talking about. A little googling shows that this is now available on VHS from NASA.

There were many more “multiplane” designs besides those done by Horatio Phillips. Here’s one with a fuselage:

That just doesn’t look like it could fly. It came from this page:

The “helicrane”:

As long as this thread is getting revived, I seem to remember that the aircraft I was thinking of had been permanently hangered in Tillamook, Oregon after a few trials. I can turn up this:

I’m pretty sure that’s the beast. I can’t find any pictures. The 4 helicopters plus blimp arrangement was called the Piasecki Heli-Stat:

Indeed, you are correct that there was a fatality and injuries when the thing fell apart. In Lakehurst, NJ. Yes, I know that there are large aeronautical test facilities there, but I can’t help having a sense of irony.

Going back to the OP, apart from the flying venetian blind, I would also like to know what the hopping umbrella was. I distinctly remember that footage, too. It probably IS on that NASA tape, btw. Thanks for the pointer.

Lots of images of odd early airplanes here:

You might even try writing to the guy maintaining the site … .