What aircraft could this have been?

I saw two identical aircraft flying about 30 seconds apart, and they were very odd looking - what could they have been? I took cellphone pictures but they’re so tiny in the pictures I can’t really make anything out.

They looked more like helicopters flying backwards, sans rotors, than anything else. They were near the horizon so my sightline was almost horizontal. The leading end had what looked like a vertical stabilizer that leaned forward, and the body was narrow immediately after the vertical part and gradually widened for about half the length of the craft. Then they got much bigger, and a little complicated looking, like there were separate body parts I couldn’t quite resolve. Overall the shape of the body was very much like a helicopter whose tail includes a tall backswept vertical panel, except they were traveling the wrong way. But there wasn’t a helicopter rotor above them, it was just the body that looked like this.

Very oddly, the leading end had a propeller, seemingly toward the top of the vertical panel, and it was very large and turned slowly enough that I could see the rotation and catch glimpses of the blades. I got the impression that the blades were not linear, but were curved - however, this was very much at the limit of my resolution as well as my ability to see a moving shape, so this claim is very shaky. I also thought they were an odd combination of large in size and slow moving, though I don’t know the distance – but the size to speed ratio shouldn’t change with distance, I just don’t know if they were distant and huge and moving at average speed, or close and slow and of average size.

Aircraft that travel in groups and are funny looking tend to be military, I think, but I have no other particular idea what they were. I think the things in Dr. Seuss books were fictional.

Any ideas???

Are you sure they had propellers? Harriers look like jets but can maneuver like helicopters. They’re also ungodly loud if you’re anywhere near one when it takes off (straight up).

It’s a long shot, but is there any chance they were motor gliders? They can have propellers mounted on a kind of pop-up vertical pedestal. If they were transitioning from powered take-off to gliding, the propeller might have been spinning slowly enough for you to see the blades.

Do a search on “canard aircraft” in Google images and see if one of the planes stand out.
Or search on Burt Rutan who had a number of canard (tail first) designs.
VariEez on ground VariEze in flight
Maybe not this one
Rutan Solitaire

Re-reading the OP more carefully, I am thinking that they might have been examples of the Daedalus. The Gossamer human powered planes had a rear-facing propeller.

Can the Osprey fly backwards like a helicopter? :confused:


The motor gliders don’t look the same. These things were much chunkier. They might have been only about 4 times as long as the chunky part was tall.

They didn’t look like canard aircraft either.

And definitely not like the Daedalus. They were much fatter, and nothing was very long. Besides, I can’t imagine they were going slower than, oh, 50 or so mph; I realize I shouldn’t have been able to tell if I couldn’t tell how far away they were, but I think human powered aircraft are slower than bicycles, right?

Upload the cellphone pics anyways.

Your description doesn’t sound like anything I’m familiar with, and the way you describe the propellers is pretty odd. Without being able to see any pic at all, the closest thing i can think of is that you saw some sort of UAV or drone. They come in all sorts of odd shapes, and if you are not familiar with them it can be hard to get a handle on the size/distance.

Here are some examples of what they looked like, without the rotor on top, and traveling with the vertical panel first and the big part of the body last. In other words, if they were helicopters they were flying backwards. Bear in mind I was seeing them pretty nearly from the side. The sky was bright and I was really seeing more silhouette than painted colors. These pictures have about the right combination of vertical panel slanted forward, long slender tapered leading half of the body, and big complicated chunky trailing half of the body.




Were you in a moving vehicle when you saw these mystery aircraft?

Yes, the rotors can turn beyond 90 degrees. The OP’s description doesn’t sound like an Osprey though.

I’m not saying they were aliens … but …’.

No, parking lot. And I got to observe two going by. No way I could have mistaken which end went over the fence last.

Where in the world were you? In southern Nevada or Southwestern Utah? Area 51 and its replacement are near those locals. The skunk works could be involved. Are there any AF bases near where you saw these aircraft?

At this point what you saw were UFOs. We are now trying to identify them.

Somewhere I’ve seen a picture of an aircraft that might be on the right track. The propeller was high and forward, with a drive shaft coming back (and slightly downward) to the fuselage. For the life of me, I can’t remember where I saw it; might have been an early UAV. I’ve been googling, but to no avail.

Anybody have a remote idea what I’m remembering? Even if that’s not what the OP saw, maybe it will be wrong in ways that help the thread.

I like the look of this AV Gyro and this Icon A5 but I don’t think either of them are what you saw.

My best guess is it was a customised version of a kit plane somebody managed to cobble together. Though that doesn’t explain why there were two of them. Was there an Air Show near where you were?

The Lockheed QT-2PC? Scroll down for a pic of the powered version.

That might be it. That’s about the only thing I can think of that meets this criterion from the OP:

That led me to a few other pictures.

Napier, are any of those getting close?

Obviously this is a typo, since it’s spelled correctly in the second link. Anyway, just a note on the naming: Rutan discovered too many people were mispronouncing VariEze as ‘Vari-Eez’; so when he designed an improved model, he named it Long-EZ to avoid confusion.

How about one of these Bedes?