Yet Another Footnote
Nick Cook of Jane's Aviation Weekly is one of my favorite journalists exploring the UFO phenomenon. While I was watching his television documentary on this subject retitled "Alien History of Earth," I was struck by his insertion at the end of the program of the claim by a gentleman in Seattle, Washington who had a seemingly anti-gravity lifting platform in his garage which utilized ion propulsion.I was rather surprised to see Nick view this as a new technology, although at the end of the program he briefly eluded to the origin of terrestrial "anti-gravity" Third Reich experimentation with such craft now relegated to a mythological status.One of the admirable traits Mr Cook has is one my own favorite techniques of examination, in terms of historical context, as a certain Mr Keel also noted the parallel path of UFO activity in relation to earthbound events, not as isolated quirks or mere coincidences, a term which is simply a place marker for unanswered questions.
In August of 1964, forty five years ago, a long forgotten article appeared in Popular Mechanics entitled "Major DeSeversky's Ion-Propelled Aircraft by Hans Fantel. It is well worth reading. The simple reason for this is that in the program that Nick Cook had assembled, I was struck to by the similarity of this high voltage craft to that of the Nazi Bell experiments using a similarly tethered vehicle, at least that was the uncorroborated testimony of now long dead witnesses. By the way' this legendary craft makes a nice paper weight for those with admittedly exotic tastes.
"It was downright spooky. Without a sound, the peculiar, spiky contraption rose straight up, hovered awhile, climbed higher. Then it did a few graceful turns, stopped again, and just sat there silently in midair. It seemed like levitation --- some trick to overcome gravity. I could not shake off the feeling that I was attending a kind of spiritual seance, or maybe a Buck Rogers show, instead of an engineering demonstration. The eerie scene took place in the big barn like laboratory of Electron-Atom Inc., research firm in Long Island City, New York, devoted to the development of a new kind of flying machine. I had been invited to watch a scale model being put through its paces by remote control. What we saw was by far the oddest aircraft since the Wright Brothers' motorized kite.
It had no prop. No jet. No wings. In fact, it had no moving parts at all looking somewhat like an old-fashioned bedspring, the rectangular rig is the nearest thing to a magic carpet. It needs no runway, takes off vertically and is expected to climb as high as 60 miles. It can crawl through the air like a snail, or go faster than a jet. Nobody yet knows the speed limit.After a while, I closed my mouth. But David Yorysh, one of the project engineers, noticed my puzzlement.
(Ed Note: Of course to the vast majority of us this description has a very familiar ring both in Nazi mythology as well as in the description of the type of craft predominately reported in the two decades of post war reports, which of course are simply coincidental, right?)
"Any questions?" he grinned.
"Yes. What holds it up?"
"Ions," said Yorysh, as he launched into an explanation of a wholly new flight concept. The magic carpet, called the Ionocraft, flies on pure electricity. It depends specifically on the fundamental principle of electricity that electric current always flows from negative to positive, and it uses two basic pieces of equipment to take advantage of this principle --- tall metal spikes that are installed above an open wire-mesh grid. High negative voltage is shot from the spikes toward the positively charged wire grid, just like negative and positive poles on an ordinary battery. As the negative charge leaves the spike arms, it peppers the surrounding air like buckshot, putting a negative charge on some of the air particles. Such negatively charged air particles are called ions, and these are attracted downward by the positively charged grid.
"Okay," I said. "But I still don't see what holds it up." "I'm getting to that," Yorysh assured me as he spelled out the rest of the Ionocraft principle. In their mad rush from the ion emitter to the main grid, the ions bump into neutral air molecules-air particles without electric charge. The terrific wallop in these collisions hurls a mass of neutral air down-ward along with ions. When they reach that air grid, the ions being negative are trapped by positive charge on the grid. but the grid has no attraction for the neutral air particles that got bumped along. So the air flows right through the open grid mesh, making a downdraft beneath the Ionocraft. The contraption rides on this shaft of air, getting lift just like a helicopter --- by sucking air down from the top.
"Aerodynamically, it works just like a chopper," Yorysh summed it up. "But instead of using a rotor and blades, we create the downward air flow electrically by means of ionic discharge. The ions act on the air like a man treading water. They just push down." The engineers working on Ionocraft are the first to admit that their present rig is still a long way from any kind of practical aircraft. The model we saw measures only 1296 square inches and consists of about $5 worth of balsa wood and aluminum wire. But the principle holds an important promise for the future of aviation.
The problem now is improving efficiency --- getting enough lift from a given grid area and a given amount of energy, Present models cannot yet lift their own electric generators. they get power through a feeder cable, dangling down like an umbilical cord. Ionocraft engineers tend to be close-mouthed on performance figures.But they will tell you that at present it takes 90 watts (30,000 volts at 3 milliamperes) to fly a two ounce model. Translated into ordinary power-to-weight ratios, this works out to roughly 0.96 hp. per pound, as compared with a typical 0.1 hp per pound of helicopter or 0.065 hp for a pound Piper Cub.
But Ionocraft designers are hard at work upping efficiency. One possible power --- boosting technique is to pulse the power in short high energy bursts rather than apply steady voltage. They are also trying out various grid patterns and ion emitter layouts to minimize energy loss through turbulence in the downdraft.Despite such unresolved problems, the development crew almost bristles with optimism, and the most optimistic of all is the Ionocraft's inventor Major Alexander P. de Seversky. No crackpot, Major de Seversky is a practical visionary who in many areas has been far in front of his field.
"We hope to fly a model with self-contained power, perhaps by the end of the year," he told me, confidently.
"Ultimately, the ionic drive will prove more efficient than either propeller or jet as a method of aircraft propulsion."It will achieve lift at less expenditure of energy and fuel than existing form of aircraft. In fact, it will prove the most efficient method of converting electricity into motion."
Coming from a man of de Seversky's background, such a statement has an almost prophetic ring. A leading aircraft designer and ace flyer for the past 50 years, de Seversky's ideas have often been ahead of their time-sometimes to the embarrassment of other aviation experts. Losing his right leg during his first flying mission in World War I didn't deter him from downing 13 enemy aircraft in later flights. After coming to the United States from Russia, de Seversky developed bombsights and course computers during the 1920s that were the forerunners of today's inertial guidance systems."
Of course, the events of 1964 not only included this article in a popular magazine but in the context of the parallel CIA involvement in the manipulation and eager encouragement of UFO sightings by the public, which may have led to the mythology associated with the strange and now infamous encounter of a policeman in the high desert.Rightly or wrongly I remain convinced that the Roswell Incident was a staged ploy to draw our Soviet operatives which had successfully compromised our nuclear weaponry technology.We also fell for this intelligence operation, hook line and sinker.
All this is simply a discontinuous thread, filed as an impossibly subterranean and covert alternative historical footnote..or is it? I came away with the question in mind that has to do with mimicry as a veil of stealth, whom is mimicking whom? More importantly where did the story of the Ionocraft end? Good question.