Alexanger Weygers (1901-1989) initially trained as an engineer in the Netherlands before moving to America in 1931, where he began to make a name for himself as a sculptor in California.
In 1941 he joined the US Army and worked in intelligence during the Second World War, and it’s during this period that he designed the Discopter, a hovering, Vertical Take Off and Landing rotor-based aircraft like an enclosed helicopter, that earned him US Patent #2377835 in 1945.
Weygers may have been inspired by the clear need to develop short or vertical take off aircraft as World War II unravelled. This was the first all-out air war, and if your airstrips were bombed then your grounded aircraft became sitting ducks for the enemy flying overhead. The alleged German flying saucer prototypes emerged as a solution to this problem, inspiring designer John Frost’s Avro Silverbug in the mid 1950s, while the US Navy sought STOL aircraft to minimise take-off distances from aircraft carriers, leading to the development of its own pseudo-saucer, the XF5U ‘Flying Flapjack‘.
It must have been 1927 when the idea came to me. I was working as a draftsman and we had been talking about propellers. It seemed to me the helicopter was a unfinished piece of engineering. You cannot just lift it up. It must move as a pendulum, which makes it very limited in use. (The Daily Review, August 9, 1985.)
As I discuss in Mirage Men, disc-shaped aircraft were being planned – and flown – by humans long before anyone was talking about alien flying saucers, and Weygers’ design is but one example of this approach to launching man and machine into the the air, and the greater problem of keeping them there.
Weygers’ philosophical outlook, his breadth of knowledge and his skills as both an engineer and an artist lead to him being described as a modern Leonardo and, true to form, he didn’t just imagine the Discopter itself but whole cityscapes shape around the concept. The Discopter wasn’t just an aircraft, but a vision of a possible future.