As we look more into the history of inventions, it becomes really hard to overlook the ingenuity that went into designing and building these marvelous creations. From the internal combustion engine that enabled the making of a wide range of useful machines to the printing press which made information accesible to the public, there are countless inventions that made our lives easier and better.
But some “inventions” designed by people with their heads in the clouds were not always useful or noteworthy in any way. Some of these inventions were impractical and sometimes they were downright foolish, such as the chain smoking machine that allowed the user to smoke up to ten cigarettes at a time or the doughnut dunker; an elaborate device designed to keep your fingers from getting wet when dunking a doughnut into a cup of coffee.
Another Weird Inventon
Just like any other industry, aviation has its fair share of practical or silly inventions, or inventions that were found to be promising, yet couldn’t make it to become a household name. Alexander Lippisch‘s Aerodyne that was considered to be more like a helicopter but looked like a plane with half of it cut off or “The Pregnant Guppy” which looked like a whale. Also it wasn’t all that aerodynamic are some of the examples of weird inventions in the history of aviation.
In this article we are going to learn about the Nemeth Parasol, the weird looking plane that actually managed to make it through its test flight. It was originally intended for personal use and according to its designer Steven P. Nemeth, it was easy to fly Nemeth Parasol even with very little training. Even though it seemed like a successful design during the initial flight, Nemeth Parasol never actually become a commercial success and it eventually faded into obscurity.
Although the invention was never reproduced or become popular, Nemeth Parasol influenced the design of some of the more successful experimental military aircraft models such as Sack AS-6, “the Flying Flapjack” and the Avrocar as well as other unconventional designs. In spite of everything, Nemeth Parasol is a unique aircraft that’s worth learning more about due to the inventiveness that went into creating it and its distinctive design that had never been seen before at the time. So let’s dive in and explore the story of this weird looking aircraft.
The Origin of Nemeth Parasol
The inventor of Nemeth Parasol, Steven P. Nemeth was working as a flight instructor at the McCook field located near Dayton, Ohio as well as conducting experiments on rotating wings. As an aviation enthusiast he wanted to build an airplane that made air travel accessible to the average Joe and as a result he came up with the design of Nemeth Parasol.
It was a rather small plane that could fit in a large garage and according to Nemeth, it was so easy to operate the Nemeth Parasol that anyone could learn to fly it in thirty minutes. With this invention Nemeth planned to make aviation more popular and more within the reach of the ordinary folk.
Students at Miami University built the first model according to Steven P. Nemeth’s design so that they were able to test the practicality of the aircraft. It was named Nemeth Parasol after its designer and the word “parasol”, which meant umbrella, due to the unusual appearance of the plane.
The Unique Design of Nemeth Parasol
Now let’s talk about the design of this peculiar plane. Nemeth Parasol was a taildragger which means an aircraft with a tailwheel or tail skid rather than a nose wheel as the landing gear. Unlike the conventional wing structure, wings were round and almost reminded an umbrella or UFO when flown.
The main body of the aircraft was from an Alliance Argo biplane to increase the plane’s performance during takeoff . In addition, there were two ailerons at the rear of the plane which help it land safely at slow speeds. According to a newspaper you could land Nemeth Parasol in your backyard due to its small size.
The wingspan of the plane was fifteen feet and it could carry two passangers. A small 110-hp motor powered Nemeth Parasol. Warner motor which could make it reach up to 135 miles or more than 215 kilometers per hour.
Nemeth Parasol’s Test Flight
When the day of the Nemeth Parasol’s initial flight came in the year 1934, its inventor’s claims were put to the test. During the testing, the aircraft reached a speed of 135 miles per hour and Steven P. Nemeth even managed to stall it in the air with its motor off. The aircraft’s wing acted as a parachute and it was able to land safely at a speed of 25 miles per hour.
With this successful test flight, Nemeth Parasol was now the world’s first round winged aircraft to manage flying with adequate consistency. The plane managed to stay sufficiently balanced during the flight because of its round wings and the pilot could keep it under full control even at low speeds. In short, Nemeth Parasol’s test flight was a success and proved that its design was promising after all.
Following the test flight, popular newspapers and magazines such as Modern Mechanix and Popular Science reported the news of this brand new and unusual aircraft and Nemeth Parasol gained some recognition. But in spite of the initial success, the aircraft was never put into production and over time, it was completely forgotten about.
The Bottom Line
Just like the countless strange inventions in the history of many different industries, Nemeth Parasol was an odd and unique aircraft with a round shaped wing that inspired many other designs that came after it. Although its test flight was generally considered a success, Nemeth Parasol never managed to become a popular design and eventually vanished into oblivion.
Nemeth Parasol’s inventor Stephen P. Nemeth boasted about its ease of use and clever design which was quite effective when landing and taking off, reporters said that it “stall-proof” and “fool-proof”, yet the unconventional plane never became a household name.
Although it was not a commercial success story, we should all remember Nemeth Parasol as one of the most creative inventions in the aviation industry.
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Anders Clark (n.d.), Nemeth Parasol: Strange Aircraft that Flew, Disciples of Flight, Retrieved 19 March 2021
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