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For rocket powered vertical landing vehicles, see VTVL.
The Convair Pogo was one tailsitter design.

A tail-sitter or tailsitter is a type of VTOL aircraft that takes off and lands on its tail, then tilts horizontally for forward flight.


The concept of a tail-sitting aircraft was included in a patent by Nikola Tesla in 1928.[1]

The Focke-Wulf Triebflügel (wing-driven) fighter was a German tail-sitter project during the Second World War. Three wings were mounted radially as a rotor on a rotating section of the fuselage and driven by small jet engines on the wingtips. The aircraft was supposed to be propelled by this wing rotation. In fact, it was more akin to a helicopter, generating lift by rotating winglets or blades, than to an airplane, which generates lift from the forward speed pushing air over the wings of the plane. It would not make conventional landings, and the entire body of the aircraft shifted from a vertical to a horizontal orientation and back again for standard flight.

The Heinkel Lerche project, which used propellers, and the later French postwar, pure-turbojet powered SNECMA Coléoptère with no need for propellers, each had an annular wing which formed a duct around the powerplant. The French aircraft flew but never achieved the transition between vertical and horizontal flight.[citation needed]

After the war, the USA experimented with propeller-driven design configurations fitted with either delta wings for forward flight, as with the Convair XFY Pogo which successfully demonstrated the full transition between flight modes, or with conventional wings as with the Lockheed XFV Salmon, which used an X-configuration cruciform tail instead to rest upon, and which never managed a transition from vertical to horizontal flight involving vertical landings.

A later jet-powered design, the Ryan X-13 Vertijet, first flew in 1955. Two prototypes were made, both flew, made successful transitions to and from horizontal flight, and landed. The final test flight was near Washington DC in 1957.[2]

An inherent problem with these tail-sitter designs was the lack of ability to transition the pilot to a comfortable position from which to control his descent.[citation needed] This led to the concept being abandoned for a time once a more practical form of VTOL appeared, in the form of the thrust vectoring Hawker P1127 in the 1960s.[citation needed]

Studies and wind tunnel models were made of a tail-sitting version of the F-16 that would be ship based. It had a hinged nose section.

An unmanned UAV does not suffer the problem of pilot attitude. The Dornier Aerodyne is of ducted-fan configuration similar to a coleopter, and a test UAV flew successfully in hover mode in 1972, before development was discontinued.

List of tail-sitters[edit]

Type Country Date Role Status Description
AeroVironment SkyTote UAV
Convair XFY-1 Pogo USA 1954 Fighter Prototype
Focke-Wulf Triebflügel Germany 1944 Interceptor Project Rotor wing around middle of fuselage. In-flight transition never resolved.
Heinkel Lerche Germany 1944 Fighter Project
Lockheed XFV-1 USA 1954 Fighter Prototype
NASA Puffin [3]
Rotary Rocket Roton ATV USA 1999 Experimental Prototype Rotorcraft test vehicle for proposed SSO space launcher.
Ryan X-13 Vertijet USA 1955 Experimental Prototype
SNECMA Coléoptère France 1959 Experimental Prototype Never achieved transition.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Nikola Tesla U.S. Patent 1,655,114 - Apparatus for Aerial Transportation from Tesla Universe". 2015-03-01. Retrieved 2016-08-07. 
  2. ^ Darling, Jeff (2011-06-13). "Ryan X-13 Vertijet". Diseno. Retrieved 2014-02-09. 
  3. ^ Choi, Charles Q. (2010-01-19). "Electric Icarus: NASA Designs a One-Man Stealth Plane". Scientific American. Retrieved 2010-02-27.