The colour out of aerospace

A recent post on the new science fiction blog io9 (which I'm enjoying, but is it really so hard to put in spoiler warnings?) claimed that the Vickers Velos was the 'ugliest and most worthless plane in the world'. Sure, it's not pretty, but I've seen plenty that were uglier -- fuglier, even. But there were a couple of links to lists of other ugly aircraft, which are always fun to browse. The first one had some bizarre nominations (the Dragon Rapide should never be on such a list) but I thought I'd found what may be the single ugliest aeroplane ever made, the three-engine variant of the Farman Jabiru airliner (it's French, naturellement). I was going to write this post about it. But then I clicked through to the second list.

That is where I first saw the Vedo Villi.

I can't take my eyes off it. I honestly can't decide whether it's ugly or beautiful. But it is somehow deeply, fundamentally, disturbingly, horrifyingly wrong. It is eldritch. It's like something H. P. Lovecraft might have dreamed up, if he'd been an aircraft designer and wanted just the thing for the airminded cultist to nip down from Arkham Aerodrome to the nightmare corpse-city of R'lyeh for the weekend.

There is a photo of the Villi below. Read on -- if you dare.

Vedo Villi

I have scoured dusty bookshelves, and plumbed the depths of the infinite archive. But all I can learn of this abomination is that it is from 1911, is French, is a pusher -- and, some say, that it flew. It flew. That cannot -- should not -- be. It undermines my faith in the laws of aerodyamics -- indeed, in the essential rationality of the Universe.

It is dark outside, and almost silent. Almost. I think I can hear something circling above in the sky ... an engine ... it sounds like it is whispering something to me -- almost in tempo with the rhythm of my breathing -- no, it can't be -- 'VE-DO VILL-I! VE-DO VILL-I!'

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15 thoughts on “The colour out of aerospace

  1. That is truly bizarre. What I can't figure out, looking at it, for this or the Farman Jabiru (which is also truly ugly, but in such a conventional, muscular fashion as to be.... mundane. By comparison), is how in the world the pilot looked forwards. The Vedo Villi (may God have mercy on its soul) looks like a wedge with side windows; the Farman Jabiru has engines where the pilot's head should be.....

  2. Post author

    Jonathan:

    I like to think that the designer of the Jabiru left out the front windows to increase the chances of a crash destroying all evidence of their foul creation. But it's not unknown -- most famously, the Spirit of St Louis (which I think was roughly contemporary with the Jabiru) only had small side windows and (IIRC) a small periscope. With the Villi, I'm not even sure that those things on the side are windows. But then I'm just not sure of anything, any more ...

    Chris:

    I think at some point, every blog must descend to a bad Lovecraft pastiche (assuming that the writer has ever read Lovecraft). Of course, there's no way to stylistically distinguish between a bad Lovecraft pastiche, a good one, and the real thing!

  3. simonator

    Boy, and I thought that the Beverly was homely. Of course in 1911 when they said flew they were probably grading on a curve. I'm betting hopped would be a more accurate description.

  4. George Shaner

    The Caproni Ca.60 is my nominee. To get to true ugly you need to look non-fuctional, and the Caproni is the most non-functional machine I can think of. The Vedo Villi is right up there though. The Caproni also gets my nod for the abomination of the resources that went into constructing that puppy.

  5. Chris Williams

    It only looked like it was falling apart to those of us constrained to 3 spatial dimensions. Acually it was merely taking off. The 'Ca.60' is halfway to Arcturus by now.

  6. Post author

    simonator:

    LOL, I'm sure you're right. That does help ...

    George:

    I don't know, if I lived on a river I wouldn't mind having the Ca.60 for a houseboat -- though the wings might be be a bit awkward.

  7. Antonio

    Ah oui, but mesieures (et posiblement mesdames), what, pray tell, is the point of having established a cultural and aesthetic superioté if one cannot occasionally screw off?

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