A Working Model of the Ryan Vertiplane

Constructed by the Page Author at Age 10

Ryan VertiPlane

Ryan Vertiplane

In September 1960, Popular Science Magazine published a report about 8 different kinds of vertical-take-off airplanes being developed. Airliners That Take Off from a Parking Lot Popular Science Sep 1960 pp78-81

Most of these designs tilted the wing, tilted the engines (e.g. the Osprey), or diverted the blast of a jet engine (e.g. The Harrier Jump Jet). Three of them had very unusual designs. The Ryan Vertijet took off pointing straight up (like a rocket). The Flying Jeep looked more like a hovercraft (and was probably just as unstable as the AvroCar (The USAF attempt at a flying saucer) was at altitudes above 10 feet.

The third was the Ryan Vertiplane (see photo at right). It looked and behaved much like an airplane, with one exception. It had the largest wing flaps ever seen (in proportion to the wing size). Notice also how the propeller engines are set below the wing, so most of the air coming from the propellers hits the flaps. This provides the lift needed to raise the Vertiplane off the ground. The remaining air from the propeller goes over and behind the wing. Some of it flows over the tail control surfaces so they still work. Raising the flaps made the Vertiplane act as an ordinary airplane.

The Vertiplane was never put into production due to instability problems and low fuel efficiency. The instability problems came from trying to balance the plane by varying pitch of the two propellers, and what happened if one engine quit or developed power problems. It could not land vertically with only one engine, and an engine failure on takeoff caused a crash. They later linked the two propeller shafts to try to fix this.

North Pacific Sleek Streek

Sleek Streek

North Pacific Strato


In 1961, the page author amassed quite a collection of small balsa toy airplanes, the products of North Pacific, Guillow's, American Junior, American Toy, and Testor's. They ranged in price from 5 cents for the smallest to 89 cents for the most elaborate (in 1961 dollars). The page author had several copies of the same airplanes, so he could experiment with unusual arrangements of the parts.

He had at least 3 copies of the North Pacific Sleek Streek "Rise off Ground" propeller plane (upper photo at right), 6 copies of the North Pacific Strato glider (5 cents, lower photo at right), 2 copies of the Guillow's Starfire glider, and 2 copies of the Guillow's Sky Streak propeller plane. The North Pacific planes had plastic clips that held the wings in place on top of the stick fuselage with a dihedral angle. The Guillow's planes had a slot in a vertically thicker fuselage for the wing to slide into.

Among his successful creations made from rearranged parts were:

The page author was also a voracious reader, and read all of the issues of Popular Science his father had. They wrote articles on how things work and how to do things back then (the magazine today promotes things that are new with no technical explanations).

Vertiplane model

My flying model

When the page author found the article above, he had to try the Vertiplane. As seen in the inset he fastened the wings from a North Pacific Strato to the bottoms of the wings of a North Pacific Sleek Streek. Originally he used Scotch tape to attach the Strato wings to the wing bottoms. The inset shows the arrangement - the front of the plane is to the right in the inset.

The original experiment was made in a basement because of winter weather. Another unmodified Sleek Streek was used for comparison:

The page author kept this version, replacing the Scotch tape with paper hinges held in place with Elmer's Glue. The inset shows how they were attached. He had it until his family moved when he was 13. The plane was destroyed in the move.

The photo at right is a composite the page author made from the two photos above it. No photos were ever taken of the original because of the relative expense of photography back then. The original black and white photos were provided by balsaplanefan2. This article is presented so others can try it.