1942: The “Flying Pancake” First Takes to the Skies

November 23, 1942

The first flight of the experimental Vought V-173 aircraft took place. This plane, which became better known as the “Flying Pancake,” was designed by pioneering aeronautical engineer Charles H. Zimmerman for Vought Aircraft Companies. 

The “Flying Pancake” turned out to be one of the most unorthodox types of aircraft ever created. This plane was given its nickname because Zimmerman, in trying to come up with a design that would allow above-average low-speed landing capabilities while still guaranteeing high-speed flying performance in the skies, developed a flat, circular airfoil as the body for the aircraft; two piston engines concealed within the body powered the propellers on the wingtips. 

The first flight of this experimental aircraft originated at the Bridgeport Army Air Field (the present-day Igor I. Sikorsky Memorial Airport) in Connecticut, with noted Vought chief test pilot Boone Guyton at the controls. Over the next few years, the V-173 underwent a number of test flights in that area — resulting in several UFO reports from stunned local residents. Among those piloting the aircraft was Charles Lindbergh, who found himself impressed with the ease with which the plane transitioned into a low speed when landing. 

Notwithstanding its innovative components and unique design, the “Flying Pancake” also proved to be generally tough by many to handle and maneuver in flight. The last of this plane’s approximately 200 test flights took place in March 1947. The V-173 is now on display at the Frontiers of Flight Museum in Dallas, Texas.

Photo Credit: Public Domain

For more information on the Vought V-173 (“Flying Pancake”), please check out https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Vought_V-173

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