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Goodyear Inflatoplane (wikipedia.org)
108 points by prostoalex on Oct 14, 2019 | hide | past | favorite | 26 comments

I love these wild sorts of aircraft. This one from a practical standpoint reminds me a lot of the Hiller ROE-1 Rotorcycle. It was a 300 pound folding helicopter that you could drop to a downed crewman, and James Bond style, they could unfold it and fly off into the sunset for 150 miles.



This is an ingenious idea, and one I wonder if could be used for more personal modes of transit.

I live in NYC, where one of the biggest obstacles to owning a car comes down to parking. Even a bike would take up precious living space. I would love a vehicle that I could deflate and store in a closet of sorts -- all of a sudden my building would be able to offer "parking" to all of the tenants if the parking were stackable.

If you've ever owned an inflatable kayak - or even an inflatable mattress - you'll already know that:

Inflation takes a long time. Deflation takes a long time. Folding it back up neatly is impossible. Leaks appear out of nowhere and are tough to patch reliably. It's really heavy and floppy to carry around.

Assuming this is a powered craft, you can add powered inflate/deflate and get that time down to probably less time than driving around to your floor in a parking garage would have been.

Leaks and weight are still a problem. Although, you could take the bounce house approach and always run the inflator and not fully seal (may reduce the effectiveness of power deflation).

The state of pumping technology has vastly improved.

Now they’re li-ion based, charge over USB and astutely let you put the valve on the inflate side or deflate side.

One of these or its clones are awesome: https://www.amazon.ca/FLEXTAILGEAR-Portable-Rechargeable-Lig...

Source: have one for a giant inflatable floating that holds 8 adults and weighs 70lbs dry. And had lots of juice left to make new friends pumping up their smaller floaties on a camping trip.

But yes, they never fold like they did from the factory.

> Folding it back up neatly is impossible. Leaks appear out of nowhere and are tough to patch reliably.

Easily my biggest issues with any inflatable item I've ever purchased.

You'll never get it back into the box it came in, and you're folding is almost always going to be awful. Like trying to fold a fitted sheet before watching that one youtube video/someone who knows how to do it. If a leak appears I just consider it a lost cause, I don't think I've ever fixed a leak in an inflatable item that I was sure would allow me to use it confidently.

Having fixed bike tires for years, i can say that once a leak is there, it is due to material exhaustion. You'll end up in a carpet of patches.

Even a bike would take up precious living space.

I'd be surprised if you can fit any kind of deflatable vehicle into less space than it takes to store a folding bicycle.


For a small but excellently usable folding bike check out a Brompton https://www.brompton.com/

"This is an ingenious idea, and one I wonder if could be used for more personal modes of transit."

I ckuckled as I recalled that inflatable costume Woody Allen wore in "Sleeper" which essentially would be to a wingsuit what the inflatoplane is to a regular plane:)

Powered paragliders fit the bill, but still require infrastructure like some open space for launching / landing.

Just dedicate all car parking to bike storage, and there'd be plenty of room.

Laziness will prevail. No one will want to deflate their method of transportation.

Imagine the the highway safety statistics if everyone drove inflatable cars....

I suspect they're very heavy

I love to build flying things, it has been a passion for decades. No greater nerdjoy can be found than to see a pile of nicely refined junk launch itself into the sky, fly around, and land again. I say that as an RC hobbyist - real pilots know it from a different angle.

Personally, I think there is a big opportunity for inflatable/dynamic/pressurized airfoils. I'd love to have a blow-up glider that would stay aloft for days, just to have a way to communicate with the home base .. Until then, I remain convinced that the real shit is the Klein-Fogelmann realm, i.e. rigid planforms, adjustable.

Plus, gargantuan power systems of course .. which is something the Inflatoplane also exploited, it has to be said ..

I made a website about this! No longer available, but maybe one day...

In the mean time, I've found /r/weirdwings to satiate my "crazy airplane prototypes" addiction.

Have you attempted to find it via Wayback Machine (Archive.org)?

Nah, I still have the original directory so I can always put it back up. It's just not that impressive of a project and I don't think anyone else would really care.

This is essentially how a wingsuit works, although inflation happens in flight through inlets. That is in general how nylon wings (e.g. paragliders) work as well.

I would say ram-air inflation of parafoil wings is very different – it's dynamic, not static like a bladder pre-inflated with a pump.

This Inflatoplane is more of a precursor to modern "tensairity" designs (e.g. some of Prospective Concepts designs). While certainly interesting, pressurized bladders in aircraft have so far been a dead end due to practical limitations (catastrophic modes of failure, wear, altitude pressure differences IIRC). The only flying wings where inflatable bladders are successfully used are kitesurfing kites. But those don't normally carry people up high.

Parafoil based designs on the other hand are now everywhere. Paragliders, parachutes, parafoil kitesurfing kites, even parafoil sails (SkySails).

Ingenious- I wonder if this would be a good avenue for an open-design ultralight aircraft. You could publish the vector files so that anyone could send them to a laser cutter.

I told my wife about this. Her response: Isn’t that just a balloon?

Yes, babe. Yes, I guess it is.

But it's a balloon shaped so that it functions like an airplane. It's not a balloon that will take on enough helium to lift, nor a balloon to fill with hot gas to provide lift.

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