USS Plainview: The ship that could fly became a problem
The ship that could fly: the USS Plainview went from being a technological wonder to a problem
The USS Plainview started out as an intriguing US Navy project: a ship that could raise itself out of the water on wings. But the plan never worked out.
A Shipthat can fly – for laypeople that sounds difficult to imagine. Hydrofoils, so-called hydrofoils, are designed exactly for this. One of the most spectacular examples of this category was the USS Plainview. The US Navy put a lot of money and high hopes in this ship in the 1960s – and was ultimately disappointed.
In 1965, the Plainview was launched, a ship unlike anything seen before. 67 meters long, equipped with two gas turbine engines and two diesel engines. And, of course, it could fly. At increased speed, two hydrofoils lifted the ship out of the water until it hovered above the surface. This increased the speed even further: The Plainview reached up to 74 kilometers per hour.
Arms race between the US and the Soviet Union
Its construction was the latest act in the Cold War arms race between the US and the Soviet Union. Americans feared the Soviets’ new nuclear submarines, which were reaching both record speeds and depths. The great Western power needed ships that could travel the world’s oceans at even greater speeds as quickly as possible. The congress also paid a lot for this: they gave a total of 21 million US dollars United States for the new ship.
While the technology wasn’t new, it hadn’t been used by the Navy until then. Hydrofoils were considered too unstable for use in the rough seas of the oceans. It wasn’t until the 1960s that technology was so advanced that the ships could also be used in rough seas. And in the arms race with the Soviets, every possibility had to be tried in order to, in the event of an escalation of the cold War to have a head start.
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Crossing the border between sea and aviation
On the water, the ship ran on two conventional diesel engines. However, when the wings were used, it operated with high-performance gas turbine engines, which were also used in fighter jets and had an output of 10,440 kilowatts. The Plainview was considered a “miracle of engineering” when it was launched. Nevertheless, it took another four years before it was really operational. Named after two cities in the states of New York and Texas, the frontier between sea and air travel entered service on September 3, 1969 after extensive testing and a few technical problems.
But the Plainview was never able to meet the great expectations. The constructions of the service providers proved to be vulnerable, the costs doubled compared to the original calculation. A general overhaul was necessary, which took years to complete. In the US Navy skepticism grew: not only because of the costs and the delays, but also because some doubted the usefulness of hydrofoils. They weren’t as robust and cost-effective as traditional warships. In addition, they were comparatively difficult to use.
Former USS Plainview rusts away
The United States soon turned to other alternatives in the fight against nuclear submarines Soviet Union to. Little was left of the enthusiasm for the once so fascinating hydrofoils, and the project for hydrofoils in military use was not pursued significantly. Eventually, Congress stamped the budget completely.
In 1978 the Plainview was decommissioned again. In total, it had only been in flight for 268 hours, and it was never able to fully demonstrate its initially so highly praised capabilities. The fuselage was sold to a general a year later for $128,000. In the meantime, the “ship that could fly” has become a problem: The remains lie on a bridge in Oregon, at the mouth of the Columbia River, and are rusting away. A few years ago, authorities warned that the former USS Plainview could pollute or even poison the local ecosystem with its oil and rusty metal.
Sources: mustard / Hydrofoil Pioneers / car evolution