The first three places are:
1st Place, with 6 votes: Focke-Achgelis_Fa_223 – A dual rotor helicopter
When Otto Skorzeny was planning his raid to abduct captured Italian dictator Benito Mussolini from the Albert Rifugio hotel on the Gran Sasso in September 1943, his original choice of aircraft was a Fa 223. The Fa 223 would be able to land directly in front of the hotel. However, the chosen aircraft broke down while en route, and Skorzeny instead was forced to use a Fieseler Fi-156.
The Drache could transport cargo loads of over 1,000 kg (2,200 lb) at cruising speeds of 121 km/h (75 mph) and altitudes approaching 2,440 m (8,010 ft).
2nd Place, with 5 votes, Silverbird
The design was a significant one, as it incorporated new rocket technology, and the principle of the lifting body, foreshadowing future development of winged spacecraft such as the X-20 Dyna-Soar of the 1960s and the Space Shuttle of the 1970s. In the end, it was considered too complex and expensive to produce. The design never went beyond mock up test.
The Silbervogel was intended to fly long distances in a series of short hops. The aircraft was to have begun its mission propelled along a 3 km (2 mi) long rail track by a large rocket-powered sled to about 800 km/h (500 mph). Once airborne, it was to fire its own rocket engine and continue to climb to an altitude of 145 km (90 mi), at which point it would be travelling at some 5,000 km/h (3,100 mph). It would then gradually descend into the stratosphere, where the increasing air density would generate lift against the flat underside of the aircraft, eventually causing it to “bounce” and gain altitude again, where this pattern would be repeated. Because of aerodynamic drag, each bounce would be shallower than the preceding one, but it was still calculated that the Silbervogel would be able to cross the Atlantic, deliver a 4,000 kg (8,800 lb) bomb to the continental United States, and then continue its flight to a landing site somewhere in the Empire of Japan–held Pacific, a total journey of 19,000 to 24,000 km (12,000 to 15,000 mi).
In 3rd Place, with 4 Votes, Die Glocke
Die Glocke is described as being a device “made out of a hard, heavy metal” approximately 2.7 metres (9 ft) wide and 3.7 to 4.6 metres (12 to 15 ft) high, having a shape similar to that of a large bell. According to an interview of Polish historian Igor Witkowski by the author Nick Cook (Aerospace consultant for Jane’s Defence Weekly), this device ostensibly contained two counter-rotating cylinders which would be “filled with a mercury-like substance, violet in color”. This metallic liquid was code-named “Xerum 525” and was “stored in a tall thin thermos flask a meter high encased in lead”. Additional substances said to be employed in the experiments, referred to as Leichtmetall (light metal), “included thorium and beryllium peroxides”. Witkowski describes Die Glocke, when activated, as having an effect zone extending out 150 to 200 meters. Within the zone, crystals would form in animal tissue, blood would gel & separate while plants would decompose into a grease like substance. Witkowski also said that five of the seven original scientists working on the project died in the course of the tests. Based upon certain external indications, Witkowski states that the ruins of a concrete framework—aesthetically dubbed “The Henge”—in the vicinity of the Wenceslas mine (50°37′43″N 16°29′40″E) may have once served as a test rig for an experiment in “anti-gravity propulsion” generated with Die Glocke. However, the derelict structure itself has also been interpreted to resemble the remains of a conventional industrial cooling tower.
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During research for The Hole Inside the Earth, I corresponded with the Polish historian Igor Witkowski, who has visited the Wenceslas Mine and has a great deal of personal knowledge about the facility and Die Glocke. You can read more about Die Glocke in The Hole Inside the Earth.
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