It Came From the (Photo) Morgue: Flying Saucer!

In honor of the 2011 One City, One Book selection Packing For Mars: The Curious Science of Life in the Void by Mary Roach, we have found a few fun photos from the San Francisco News-Call Bulletin photo morgue for you to enjoy. Watch for them through November 2011!

Image and caption from the San Francisco News-Call Bulletin Photo Morgue courtesy of the San Francisco Historical Photograph Collection, San Francisco Public Library.

"Flying saucers" appeared on the verge of a break-through today with the release of the first photo of a saucer-shaped flying disc by the Defense Department [in] Washington. The vehicle, produced by [illegible] Aircraft, Ltd., of Canada, is being tested by the Air Force and Army. It is designed to take off and land vertically, using the air cushion principle, and to fly like a winged plane once it is airborne. The saucer would permit troops and supplies to be rushed to any battle area, regardless of terrain, as it skims close to the ground thus confounding enemy radar. Ground tests began last November, and the saucer is reported to have made a successful flight within a hangar. It has made no regular flights.
[August 2, 1960]

Sadly, it doesn't look like we're going to have flying saucers zooming through our skies any time soon. However, you can make your own plushie space gear with SpaceCraft at the Visitacion Valley Branch, Mon., Sept. 12 at 4pm and at the Ingleside Branch, Sun, Sept. 18 at 2pm. Call the branch to reserve a spot in either workshop

On Monday, September 12, sip Tang-tinis as author Mary Roach discusses the One City, One Book selection Packing For Mars: The Curious Science of Life in the Void at Books, Inc. - Opera Plaza at 7pm.
The San Francisco Public Library owns the photo morgue of the San Francisco News-Call Bulletin, a daily newspaper that covered the time period from the 1920s to 1965. Much of the San Francisco Historical Photograph Collection comes from the News-Call Bulletin morgue. However, the morgue also includes national and international subjects that have not been digitized or cataloged.

Looking for a historical photograph of San Francisco? Try our online database first. Not there? Come visit us at the Photo Desk of the San Francisco History Center, located on the sixth floor at the Main Library. The Photo Desk hours are Tuesdays and Thursdays 1 p.m. to 5 p.m., and Saturdays 10 a.m. to noon, 1 p.m. to 5 p.m.


  1. "In 1952, the US Air Force became aware of a project by the Canadian avionics company, Avro, to build a flying saucer. British designer, John Frost, was the mastermind of the idea, inspired by UFO sightings from all over the world. He learned of Nazi flying saucer projects and eventually met with Walter Meithe., who said he had worked for ten years on German saucers and also showed Frost plans and photographs of his work.

    With a $10 million grant from the USAF, Frost set up his special projects division at Avro and began work on a supersonic flying saucer.

    The first attempt was with ‘Project Y’, a spade-shaped aircraft that would serve as a tail-less, supersonic, vertical take-off and landing (VTOL) jet interceptor. After several failed tests, Project Y was abandoned.

    Frost’s next attempt was to create a circular aircraft that utilised rotary engines set along the outside edge of the airframe. This was called ‘Project Y-2’. A test of a 50-foot, six-engined design almost ended in disaster for the entire team when the tethered engines spun out of control, almost destroying the hangar. The supersonic Y-2 project was suspended and a smaller, test design was commissioned. This was to become known as the Avrocar.

    The Avrocar was designed to fly forwards at 300 mph at thirty-thousand feet and to land and take off vertically. In 1959, the first two prototypes were rolled out. It was hoped that this design could become a kind of flying Jeep for the US military. Early test flights proved that the craft could fly, although it only moved a few inches above the ground. Problems were also discovered when it flew over grassy areas, with the engine intakes sucking up all sorts of debris. The circular design was also very difficult for the pilot to handle, making the craft unwieldy and problematic to steer. Despite attempts to make the Avrocar more stable, the program was eventually scrapped in 1961."


  2. Interesting! Too bad it didn't work out!


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