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Scroggs and The Last Laugh

steelpillow

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The Last Laugh was the name of a strange aeroplane built in America by Roy Scroggs in 1929.

In 1917 he had patented a dart-shaped lifting-body concept: US patent 1,250,033. It had a kite-section fuselage tapering in sync with the very low-aspect-ratio delta wing. He treated it as a lifting body design, in which the wings were as much adjuncts to the body as lifting surfaces in themselves and he made much of the deep keel which his cross-section gave it. It looked for all the world as if he had simply been playing with paper darts.

Disparaged by experts and ridiculed by his neighbours, he eventually built a modified version with the nose cut off to provide mounting for a 90 hp Curtiss OX-10 engine and two-bladed tractor propeller (the original concept had been a rear-engined pusher). He believed it would have high economy, unstallability and STOL performance. Registered as NC10648, there are skimpy claims that it flew to about 10 ft, and the next year he applied for an updated patent for it: US Patent 1,848,578.

Information is scarce, though I found enough to write a Wikipedia article on it. The best source I have found is a newspaper article: "Revolutionary Type of Aircraft Constructed by Roy Scroggs, Local Man", Eugene Guard, 28 August 1929, p.12. But this is a pay-for download so I have not been able to get a clean copy of the text, there is just an OCR dump of the whole page available. Does anybody have access to get a readable copy, or know of any other good sources?


 

Archibald

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just remember that's the last laugh is on you, come on guys, cheer up !
 

Temistocle

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Hi, a video (and audio) from Youtube about "The Last Laugh" (from minute 5:55 to 8:40), with an interview to its inventor, and some other planes:

Odd Ducks: Unusual Aircraft from the Movietone Collection, 1921-1934

There is very interesting audio also in some of the other video clips (i.e. for the Fernic T-9, the Johnson Helicoplane, the Nemeth parasol, et al.).
I do not want to "spread" this link and information on other threads about the other planes in the video (as the Fernic T-9 or the man powered plane of Alois Sauter), just let the moderators do what they prefer (leave the link here, open a new thread or something else).
The planes in the video are (as reported on the Youtube page):
  • Vincent Burnelli's RB-1: Vincent Burnelli's big idea was lifting-body aircraft: a wide, airfoil-shaped fuselage could provide a significant part of the lift required to fly. The RB-1 was his first design to embody this idea. Because of the size and placement of its control surfaces, it was difficult to fly.
  • Alois Sauter and "le Sauteral": There's not much information on M. Sauter online. One site describes him as "an artist." "Le Sauteral" is certainly a work of art, if not an actual flying machine.
  • Vincent Burnelli's RB-2: a larger version of his RB-1, seen here in its rebuilt configuration, identifiable by the rectangular openings in the nose. Like the RB-1, the RB-2 was difficult to fly. Mr. Burnelli, like many other inventors, was not a good businessman and spent much of his career wrestling with the airplane establishment. You can find some conspiracy-theory discussions of his work online, but the best account of his life and work is here: http://citeseerx.ist.psu.edu/viewdoc/...
  • The Fernic T-9: Romanian designer and pilot George Fernic built his T-9 in 1929, intending to fly it from New York to Bucharest. However, he was killed in an accident in his T-10 prototype before he could make the flight.
  • Roy B. Scroggs and "The Last Laugh": Mr. Scrogg's design appears to have been inspired by paper airplanes. Its ability to fly was doubtful, but that didn't stop Mr. Scroggs from patenting it (US1848578A).
  • The Johnson Helicopter Airplane: Jesse C. Johnson's "Helicoplane" was a Hamilton-Metalplane H-18 with a large prop on the underside of each wing. His hope that the plane would have a near-vertical takeoff were not fulfilled; in fact, the extra propellers appear to cause the plane to lose lift.
  • John K. Northrop and his original flying wing: Jack Northrop of Northrop Aviaion is well remembered for his YB-35 flying wing and other plane designs. The X-216H (not the N-1M as shown in the title) seen here was his first experiment with this type of design.
  • Rolla V. Norris and his "Foolproof Airplane": California inventor Rolla Norris's "foolproof airplane" put a pivot between the fuselage and the wings. In this clip, you can hear the derisive comments of the cameramen as it fails to take off or even steer a straight course on the ground. This was apparently a development of his 1921 patent (US1440489).
  • The Nemeth Parasol: Steven P. Nemeth's circular-winged airplane was an extensively-rebuilt Argo Alliance biplane. It demonstrated some good flying characteristics, but was not followed up on.
  • Tupolev ANT-20 "Maxim Gorky": The Soviet Union built the giant ANT-20 "Maxim Gorky" for propaganda purposes. It had the wingspan of a 747 and eight radial engines. It crashed with significant loss of life in 1935. A replacement, the six-engined ANT-20bis, was built the following year.
  • The Hoffman Flying Wing: Hungarian-born designed Raoul Hoffman worked for Arup Manufacturing, which built a number of tailless aircraft. After moving to Florida, he built a similar plane for a Chicago businessman. In 1936, the plane caught fire and crashed, killing its pilot. After the credits are some quick takes:
  • The Robertson Waterplane: Milton Robertson's outboard-motor-powered limited-height airplane. Alameda California, February 21, 1930.
  • "Autoplane," Detroit Michigan, April 19, 1934. As with all rear-wheel-steered vehicles, it appears to be difficult to control.
  • Stacked-propeller airplane, built by truck driver Charles L. Brown. Rushville, Missouri, October 26, 1934
  • Handley-Page H.P.45 G-AAXD "Horatius" Four-engine passenger biplane. Croydon Airport, December 6, 1934.
  • Biplane with folding wings, built by C. Edward Barnhart. California, August 9, 1921.
 

dgish

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I OCR'd the fragments, stitched them together and corrected typos.
___________________________

Eugene Guard 8-28-29

WILL THIS STRANGE BIRD FLY?
The Last Laugh.png

Roy Scroggs, Eugene Inventor, thinks it will and he proposes to try it out Sunday and Monday at his private field near Santa Clara. He has invited the public to witness his tests. The chief difference between his plane and the usual models is that its wing surface runs lengthwise rather than crosswise. In general outline it resembles the paper scooters the boys fold together and send up.


R Scroggs.png
R. Scroggs

Revolutionary Type Of Aircraft Constructed By Roy Scroggs, Local Man

An idea for a new type of airplane conceived 20 years ago by Roy Scroggs, of the Santa Clara district, and worked on patiently that length of time, will be tested Sunday and Monday at his farm one-half mile east of Irving, north of Santa Clara. Thousands of models have been constructed and now Mr. Scroggs has a full-size plane ready to test. This test will consist of ground work, for Mr. Scroggs has never piloted a plane and is in the same position as the Wright brothers years ago for he nor anyone else is familiar with this type of aircraft.

"The Last Laugh," as Mr. Scroggs calls his plane, is a name that has a history. For years he has been laughed at by aeronautical experts and the public, and now he will either have the last laugh on them or they will have a big last chuckle at his expense.

This plane, says the inventor, is not contrary to the known principles of aviation, for he uses both positive and negative pressures, but it is revolutionary in its application. This is also the only airplane ever constructed that uses its fuselage as a lifting surface.

Instead of the wings extending to the side of the craft, they run the length of the body, making the ship only 18 feet in width at its widest point. The fuselage, if one could call it that, acts as the keel of a yacht, tapering down to an edge at the bottom and sloping up so that it will act as a lifting surface, as well as a stabilizer.

This ship has 350 square feet of lifting surface and is 26 feet long. Its weight is placed at 1200 pounds, giving it a weight of 3½ pounds per square foot. The plane is streamlined at the front and is powered by an OX5 Curtis engine, 90 hp.

Airplane tubing of government specifications is used throughout in the construction of the ship. Much expert welding has been done in its building. One of Mr. Scroggs most revolutionary ideas is the use of a split rudder, which has four square feet of surface and he says he can turn the plane, which has a stiff skid, on a dime. There are 25 square feet of surface on his elevators.

As has been said before, Mr. Scroggs is not an aviator. He has studied airplane construction for the last 20 years and he is a firm believer in his new ship, although he has had absolutely no encouragement from aeronautical experts. He believes that he has something that will conserve gasoline, will be able to land in a much smaller space, and will be much safer than the present day ship, for he says that it cannot go into a tail spin or side slip. His working models, from six inches to six feet, have convinced him of that.

All his plans and specifications have been patented, and finally the "Last Laugh” is ready to take its ground tests. A few have already been made and it did everything that was expected. A few changes will have to be made before taking it into the air. One is that more and larger windows will have to be fixed in the plane for at present the pilot's visibility is poor.

There have been many ideas advanced on the speed at which the plane would take off. Mr. Scroggs believes that it will leave the ground at about 20 miles an hour and land at about the same speed.

Mr. Scroggs has been assisted in his work by Claude Gardner and D. A. Newman, mechanics, both of Eugene, and he gives much credit to them for their good work.

Much experimentation will have to be made before Mr. Scroggs intends to take the plane from the ground. He admits it would be utterly foolish to try to fly it now, for he nor anyone else knows how the ship would handle. He plans to put in about 50 hours on the ground before giving his plane its initial hop.

That Mr. Scroggs knows his aviation principles and can apply them is evident by the fluency with which he expounds them. He admits that he can convince none of the present day experts to his line of thinking, but he did find one of these men who was broadminded enough to say that he did not know whether it could be done or not. All others flatly refused to have anything to do with it, just as the public refused to take the Wright brothers, or any [of] the other pioneers of inventing seriously.

Demonstrations of the plane will be given Sunday and Monday. The gates will be open about 9:30 in the mornings, and "The Last Laugh" will be on exhibition and will be tested.

-30-
 

martinbayer

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royabulgaf, I completely concur, but since we have all successfully built those, and their flight characteristics typically weren't all that shabby, to me as a decidedly non aerodynamics expert the intriguing question remains how a full scale version might have behaved in actual flight testing, given the scaling and other differences in wing loading, Reynolds Number, CoG, propulsion, etc.
 
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steelpillow

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royabulgaf, I completely concur, but since we all successfully built those, and their flight characteristics typically weren't all that shabby, to me as a decidedly non aerodynamics expert the intriguing question remains how a full scale version might have behaved in actual flight testing, given the scaling and other differences in wing loading, Reynolds Number, CoG, propulsion, etc.
Scroggs' initial patent was for a full pointy-nosed delta, which he subsequently cropped off in practice to fit the tractor propeller more sensibly.
At slow speeds it would have been very inefficient, relying on vortex lift and needing a drag-creating nose-up attitude and lots of engine thrust to stay airborne. A bigger wing with lighter loading would just have been naturally high-drag. Its wing-body integration would have helped, but not as much as he hoped. It had to wait until the jet age before it could be made to work at full scale. It comes into its own at supersonic speeds, with the characteristics of the slender delta, blended wing-bodies and related near-deltas being extensively studied during the postwar era as candidates for supersonic and even hypersonic flight. Planes such as the Handley Page HP-115, General Dynamics F-111 and Concorde are examples of how to do the job in practice, with perhaps the closest to Scroggs' vision being the highly successful Saab Draken double-delta.
 

martinbayer

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Hello steelpillow,

your response makes a lot of sense, although the HP.115, according to https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Handley_Page_HP.115, had a solidly subsonic top speed of 248 mph, but I realize it was specifically intended as a low speed demonstrator for what was to become the Concorde. I completely agree that before the advent of jet propulsion the design would likely have been highly non-optimal, but I'm still intrigued by the question whether it might have been able at all to sustain flight with any type of engine available at the time. I also have to admit that I am somewhat fascinated by the similarity of this concept with the 1867 Butler & Edwards design of a steam rocket powered slender delta airplane, see http://www.flyingmachines.org/buted.html.

Martin
 
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steelpillow

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Engine power and wing area have to be fairly closely matched, and that was especially true in the early days where margins were slim. For a given wing size, too small an engine and the plane cannot reach flying speed, too big an engine and the weight increases takeoff speed so much that the lightweight airframe canna' take it, Captain. If the sweet spot between the two closes up, then the plane can never fly. Something like a Rolls-Royce Eagle, over three times the power and weight of the Curtiss, would have pushed the takeoff speed and airframe beyond endurance. Some kind of hop or skimming in ground effect might have been possible, but not sensible flight.
 

windswords

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So..... What happened when Mr. Scroggs tested his machine?
 
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