The Real Life Sci-Fi of Vertical Take-Off Planes

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Vertical takeoff and landing (VTOL) aircraft include fixed-wing aircraft that can hover, take off and land vertically, as well as helicopters and other aircraft with powered rotors, such as tiltrotors. Some VTOL aircraft can operate in other modes as well, such as CTOL – conventional takeoff and landing, STOL -short takeoff and landing, and/or STOVL short takeoff and vertical landing.

source: si.edu / image: Real Engineering

Others, such as some helicopters, can only operate by VTOL, due to the aircraft lacking landing gear that can handle horizontal motion.Vertical take-off and landing craft require less physical space and infrastructure to get into the air compared to traditional planes. That means more fighters on a single aircraft carrier, or smaller airports in more remote places.

Vertical takeoff planes are basically science-fiction, except they’re real. This video describes the the amazing technology behind vertical take-off and landing aircraft and the early history of vertical takeoff attempts, which mostly involved helicopter-like rotors. Besides the Osprey which itself is a technological marvel, none of those planes worked.

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To take off or land vertically, the powerful exhaust streams from a jet engine can be directed downward as well as backward, and their direction can be changed in mid-flight. This allows fixed-wing aircraft, such as the Harrier or the F-35B, to take off vertically, fly forward, stop in mid-air, back up, and land vertically.