Alternate Propulsion

That Avro Saucer


From: “Civilian Saucer Intelligence” (New York) News Letter #11   7/15/59

We've all seen too often that picture of a “real flying saucer, soon to appear in our skies” that the newspapers like to run over their UFO stories — a toothy-grilled disk, dashing briskly through the clouds.  Seldom accurately captioned, it's an Air Force handout of October 1955, an artist's conception of the “Avro Saucer.”   This disk-shaped jet aircraft, designed in 1951 by John Frost of Avro Aircraft, Ltd. of Toronto, Canada, has been under development for more than seven years, and by now it is beginning to take on the characteristics of a legend – “a modern myth,” as our fellow-UFOlogist Dr. Carl Jung has so well put it.

As early as 1954, the anonymous European author of one version of the “V-7” or “Nazi saucer” yarn wove the Avro saucer into his tale; he informed his readers that the V-7's creator, “Dr. Heinrich Richard Miethe,” was at that time in Canada, reconstructing his wonderful craft under the auspices of A.V. Roe (Avro).  The lastest reprinting of this fable occurred in 1958, when the English translation of Robert Jungk's interesting but factually-careless book Brighter Than a Thousand Suns (Zurich, 1956) was issued in this country.  (Jungk copied the tale, without acknowledgement, from another 1956 book by Rudolf Lusar.)   Although the Research Staff is pretty strongly of the opinion that all “Nazi saucers” were propelled solely by hot air, [1]  we did take the precaution of asking Avro to comment on the Lusar-Jungk story.  Not exactly to our surprise, we were informed by Avro's Publicity Supervisor that “if this man Miethe exists, we have never heard of him.”

One might add that, “if he exists,” he certainly doesn't seem to be much of an asset to Avro.  In late 1954, the Canadian Government withdrew support from the saucer project, because (in the words of Defence Production Minister C. D. Howe) “it did not seem sufficiently promising to be worth going on did not seem to have any useful purpose“ (Manchester Guardian, 12/2/54).  A few months later, the U.S. Air Force picked up the tab, and immediately proceeded to shroud the project in its habitual ridiculous secrecy (Toronto Globe and Mail, 8/23/55).  Four years have now passed since the Air Force took over, and yet it appears that Dr. Miethe has still not succeeded in rebuilding the marvelous craft that he developed in wartime Germany in 1945. [2]

However, anyone reading the newspapers of mid-April 1959 might well have thought that he had finally succeeded.  We quote from a UPI item by Norman Cornish datelined Washington, 4/14/59: 

The United States will test-fly its first “flying saucer” this summer, a defense expert said today. 

The expert, who is connected with the program, said the public will be “absolutely amazed” at the new manned aircraft when Pentagon secrecy wraps finally are taken off, perhaps this year. 

“I've never seen anything like it,” he told UPI.  He said the saucer will be able to skim close to the ground, dart between trees, dip into small valleys...thus confounding enemy radar.  It will also be able to hover over a fixed spot and move sideways. 

The saucer will provide the Army with a modern airborne “cavalry,” he said.  “Troops and supplies could be rushed anywhere...” etc.

This sounded pretty exciting, and some wigs began to flip.  “The disclosure that the United States has the flying saucer is tremendously significant news,” exclaimed the Lehighton (Pa.) Leader.  “Beyond doubt we had had the flying saucer for years – since the time people started seeing them – but our government did not feel ready to admit it...Some people couldn't help but notice it flying around.   These people were ridiculed...America owes an apology to everyone who saw a flying saucer...It is good to know that we were not being observed by space after all...”

We quote this effusion as a typical example of the way many people will grasp avidly and uncritically at any “conventional” explanation of UFOs, no matter how patently inapplicable it may be.  When (and if) the Avro saucer finally flies in public, we may expect to see many editors come up with this fatuous “now it's all explained” reaction.

For it was indeed the Avro saucer that UPI's “expert” was rhapsodizing about. [3]  “Brig.-Gen. Frank H. Britton, director of development for Army research, said the new craft is the result of a joint Army-Air Force program carried out by Avro Aircraft, Ltd., of Canada” (AP dispatch, 4/14/59).

Well, just how good is this “amazing” Avro saucer, after its seven years' gestation?  (All right, you can guess what's coming.  We're sorry to be so cynical and “negative” about so many things, but unfortunately that's the way reality is apt to be.  This world is full of disillusionments for the too-ready believer, and a good vinegary skepticism is healthy attitude – if not an endearing one for the student of UFOs.)  In illustration of this maxim, we conclude with some questions from an enlightening article in the Toronto Daily Star (2/26/59):

Avro's Flying Saucer - Is It a Joke or Will It Fly?

...A spokesman in the department of national defence said he had learned Avro might test a hand-made model of the saucer “within a few months”...The test vehicle would be an early prototype of the final product...Even if the test flight of the vehicle were successful, he said, it would be years before it would go into production.  “I understand they are fairly well along with the first test flight tests,” he said.  “It may be two months, six months or a year before they get it into the air.”
In Washington, top defense officials indicated they had pretty well given up hope the company's experiment would come to anything.  “So far, we can't see any great hope for the future,” said one official, “but we may continue the contract in case the company can turn up something.”
A former Cabinet minister [probably Howe – CSI Eds.] who was directly involved in the Liberal government's decision to withdraw support of the project in 1955, said the saucer “was of no use to Canada whatsoever, either commercially or militarily.”
Speculation that the saucer would cross the Atlantic in two and a half years was “ridiculous,” he said.  “It's a vertical take-off plane and has no forward speed – or very little.”  He described it as similar in principle to a helicopter, using jet engines instead of propeller blades.
“I wasn't interested in the project in 1955 and I'm even less interested now,” he said.

P.S.   It is interesting, to use no stronger word, that we have to go to a Canadian newspaper to find an honest account of the status of this United States military project.  It seems safe to say that no U.S. newspaper would print criticisms such as this;  the Air Force would undoubtedly consider them a violation of its “security.”  As we UFOlogists have good reason to know, the Air Force is apt to define “security” as its right to do just as it pleases in absolute secrecy – “secure” from any inspection and possible reprimand by the public that foots all its bills.

  1. Our cogent reasons for this opinion would take too long to set forth here.  If the topic (a fairly active one in 1958) doesn't die a natural death in the meantime, we hope some day to write it up in detail. - Back To Text

  3. Just to avoid any misunderstanding – this is simply a bit of sarcasm, directed at anyone who may happen to believe in “Miethe” (we know, for instance, that Lusar still does).   In our view, “Miethe” and his “V-7” are just as much fictional figures as “Ashtar” and his “ventlas.” - Back To Text

  5. The emphasis on flying close to the ground, however, probably reflects confusion between the Avro craft and several “ground effect” devices that were shown to the House Space Committee on April 13, 1959.  These are simply flat platforms that are kept just off the ground by compressed air blown out by fans underneath.  Their military value was, as usual, greatly exaggerated by the newspapers; no one seemed to realize that something of this sort will only work over a perfectly smooth surface. - Back To Text

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