When I was but a young Disney nerd in the pre-internet era, I was always hungry for details about the mysterious lost attractions from Disneyland’s past. Chief amongst these was the legendary Flying Saucers ride, which operated in Tomorrowland from 1961-66 and is still spoken about with wistfulness by those who were there at the time. To a kid, the idea of personal flying saucers seemed beyond the scope of known science – I always wondered, “How did they do that?” Well, here’s how they did it.
Our invention relates to an air supported vehicle and means by which it is supplied with a sustaining cushion of air which is constantly replenished from a source external to the vehicle.
Another object of our invention is the provision of an air supported car or vehicle which carries no motor, propeller or fuel, and thus is free from their weight, and the considerable hazards of high speed rotating parts and fire.
Another object of our invention is to provide air pressure generating, distribution and control means by which a high volume of low pressure air can be maintained in a distribution plenum chamber below a planar deck over which our car may move, with limited areas of applied pressure directly below the car, and without material loss of air from areas not covered by our vehicles.
Another object of our invention is to provide valves in the deck above our distribution plenum chamber which automatically open when the vehicle is over them, and close when the vehicle moves to uncover them. Another object is to actuate these valves without tangible mechanical contact with the vehicle.
Other objects of this invention are to provide launching means to initiate flight of the cars as well as means to remove the sustaining air cushion, so as to drop the vehicles to the deck.
Another object is to provide a manually controlled distribution valve in each car for effecting steering of the car by means of peripheral, tangential jets derived from air under pressure in the car plenum.
Still another object is to provide a collecting or gathering boom capable of collecting cars while in flight on the flight deck into a restricted area for loading and unloading passengers.
A further object is to provide a car of light weight construction in which the essential parts are an area to accommodate a passenger in a balancing position, and a car plenum chamber.
The Flying Saucers were designed by Karl Bacon and Ed Morgan from Arrow Development, who helped create a lot of the earliest ride systems for Disneyland. The Flying Saucers were cutting edge for their time, and Disney paid for it with constant breakdowns and logistical hurdles. They didn’t make the cut when Tomorrowland was redesigned in 1967, and many young fans of that era still mourn their loss. One of these longtime fans is Pixar head John Lasseter, who sought to revive the Flying Saucer concept when selecting rides for California Adventure’s upcoming Carsland area.
The patent for the Flying Saucers – a.k.a. the “Air Car and Supporting Apparatus” – was granted on May 17th, 1966. And now you can build your own at home!