For decades, people all over the world have reported seeing saucer-shaped crafts darting across the sky.  These sightings are attributed to any number of things: swamp gas, ball lightning, and of course, extra-terrestrials visiting Earth.  If you happened to spot one near Wright-Patterson Air Force Base in the late 1950’s however, there’s a chance it didn’t come from a faraway galaxy…  It probably came from Canada.

In 1952, the Canadian government provided initial funding for what would come to be called the Avrocar; a saucer-shaped aircraft intended to offer vertical takeoff and landing capabilities in a supersonic fighter-bomber of the future.  The cost of development, however, would soon prove to be too much for the Canadian government, prompting them to scrap the Avrocar project, and allowing the United States to sign a deal with Avro to continue development for the American military under the title “Project 1794.”

The design for the Avrocar was based on using the exhaust from the turbojet engines to power a circular “turborotor” that would create thrust.  When pointed downward, the thrust would create a cushion of air known as a “ground effect” that would permit it to hover.  When redirected out the back of the saucer-shaped craft, it was hoped to propel the Avrocar to speeds in excess of MACH 2.

Design cutaway courtesy of the U.S. National Archive

Two vehicles were produced, with the designation VZ-9AV Avrocar, and were sent to Wright-Patterson for testing.  “VZ” stood for “experimental vertical flight,” “9” for the ninth concept proposal, and “AV” for Avro, the company that produced the models.