The lost, supersonic fighter jet that could take off and land on water
It sounds useful-and unlikely; yet, believe it or not, a US Navy aircraft, capable of supersonic speeds and water takeoff and landing, was crafted over half-a-century ago. It was called the F2Y Sea Dart, and it was probably the coolest looking machine that ever-well-floated.
The now-defunct Convair aircraft manufacturing company entered a "contest" held by the United States Navy to craft a supersonic fighter jet. Perhaps taking the naval aspect of the contest too seriously, Convair decided to make their aircraft one an amphibious one. Check out this video of the Sea Dart in test flight.
By the way, Convair took this risk in the early 1950s, when jet engines were consistently unpredictable pieces of technology. Not only were supersonic jets in their earliest stages, Convair doubled down on the risk and came out with the F2Y Sea Dart-one of the craziest aircraft in aviation history.
It was a time when jet engines were thoroughly unreliable and jet aircraft had not yet fully replaced propeller-driven warplanes. Using open water to takeoff and land was an idea that appeared to offer great flexibility.
It makes sense-for one, it would relieve the pilots of any anxiety of flying their fighter jet off the edge of an aircraft carrier and directly into the San Diego Bay; but that may have been the extent of the unconventional seaplane's usefulness. At the time, artists were depicting fleets of the Sea Dart alongside American warships-take a moment and picture that. It's a frightening sight, indeed, and it's really not a surprise that the US Navy would have invested in something like this. You might be wondering why the US Navy doesn't have dozens of these cool-looking jet planes in their arsenal.
Well, it was in the heat of the Korean War, and a consistent performer was needed to join the fleet. At the height of the testing period, test pilot Chuck Richbourg was killed while flying one of the Sea Dart prototypes. At the present moment, there isn't much information on what went wrong with the aircraft, but it seemingly had nothing to do with the take-off or landing. Instead, the aircraft "disintegrated in a low-level, high-speed fly-past with the press watching and television cameras running."
The Sea Dart was retired shortly thereafter, but it still remains an interesting chunk of aviation history. There are only four surviving Sea Darts in the world, and they all sit dormant in American museums.
In 2016, however, this sort of transformative aircraft might be something we will see shortly. Perhaps amphibious fighter jets will closely follow the evolution of other major technologies, such as the cell phone (and now smart phone). In the near future, what seems to define an aircraft might become increasingly blurred.
What do you think? Will we ever see another amphibious jet?