(Jeff Quitney)

When you look at the V-22 Osprey, you see an amazing aircraft. The tiltrotor has been a true game-changer for the United States, particularly the Marine Corps, which uses it to carry out missions that are impossible to accomplish with normal helicopters. But there was another plane that could have done some of what the Osprey does today — five decades ago.


That plane was the XC-142, a result of collaboration between Ling-Temco-Vought (a successor of the company that made the F4U Corsair) and Ryan-Hiller. This plane wasn't a tiltrotor like the V-22 Osprey, but instead tilted its wings to achieve vertical take-off and landing capability. Both the Air Force and the Navy were interested in the plane.

Imagine a plane like this landing on a carrier or amphibious assault ship — and bringing 32 grunts into battle. The XC-142 was a 1960s-tech version of the V-22 Osprey.

(US Navy)

The XC-142 had a top speed of 432 miles per hour, a maximum range of 3,790 miles, and could carry 32 grunts, four tons of cargo, or 24 litter patients. By comparison, the V-22 Osprey has a top speed of 316 miles per hour, a maximum un-refueled range of 1,011 miles, and can carry 24 grunts or 20,000 pounds of cargo.

Like the V-22, the XC-142 had a rough time during testing. One prototype crashed, killing the plane's three-man crew. The plane also had a history of "hard landings" (a bureaucratic way of saying "minor crashes") during early phases. Pilots also had trouble controlling the plane at times, which is not good when you have almost three dozen grunts inside.

The MV-22 Osprey made it to the fleet, but in some ways, it has worse performance than the 1960s-era XC-142.

(U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Patrick Gearhiser)

Ultimately, the Navy backed out of the XC-142 project. The Air Force made plans for a production version, but they never got the go-ahead to buy it. The XC-142 went to NASA for testing and, ultimately, only one prototype survived to be placed in the National Museum of the United States Air Force at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base.

See this plane in action in the video below.