Aviation: Beer Barrels Aloft

The odd, ungainly craft rolled out by Bell Aerosystems last week looked like a collection of outsize beer barrels draped over a discarded boxcar. But inside each barrel was a three-bladed propeller, and between two of them was a stubby wing. The boxcar fuselage contained some of the most complex machinery in the history of flight. The whole contraption was billed as the X-22A. Bell's contribution to the roster of V/STOL (Vertical/Short Takeoff and Landing) airplanes.

The ducted 7-ft. fans that the X-22A uses as props are a futuristic blend of modern...

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