The Intercity Vertical-Lift Aircraft design from the Hawker Siddeley company was an attempt to bring vertical take-off and landing (VTOL) to commercial aircraft, to allow airlines to put airports among densely-populated cities, open up more direct travel for passengers and cut down on the amount of space required for airport runways.

A number of designs were drawn up during the 1960s, looking very similar to our passenger planes today; however featuring rows of lift fans on either side of the body of the plane.

The project was eventually dropped after it was decided that the cost of fuel required to fly the aircraft and the extra load from the frames housing the lift fans, combined with the weight of passengers, could lead to instability in flight.

VTOL systems inspired by the project are still in use today however, through the F-35 Lightning II, with adaptations of the vertical lift fans having been engineered by BAE Systems to improve some of the most versatile military jets in the world.

BAE’s quest to inspire a new generation of engineers

After investing £150m in R&D in 2012, BAE has made a point of inspiring a new generation of engineering through both current projects and previous examples of wildly imaginative designs.

Howard Mason, heritage manager at BAE Systems, said: "Although 50 years have passed since these extraordinary designs were first put to paper, we can see how some of the technologies and ideas were developed over time and put to use now in aircraft like the F35 Joint Strike Fighter.

"BAE Systems stores more than one million historical documents and artefacts and in addition to celebrating our nation’s engineering achievements, I believe these examples of forward thinking are still inspiring for young people who are thinking about a career in engineering and considering the endless possibilities of what could be designed," said Mason.

Other designs from within BAE’s archives

To watch animations of other mothballed designs, including godfather of the VTOL – the piggy-back Fighter Jet Take-Off Platform, the reusable space bound Hypersonic Aircraft, known as the Multi-Unit Space Transport, or the extraordinary Jumping Jeep, please click on the links below.

Related content

Jumping Jeep

BAE Jeep

To celebrate the opening of a new heritage centre the company has released an astounding series of retro-designs – including the extraordinary Jumping Jeep.

Reminiscent of modern VTOL flying car designs, such as Terrafugia’s, the Jumping Jeep was a concept vehicle designed by BAC Warton in the 1960s as a 4×4 transporter capable of leaping over obstacles.

Hypersonic MUSTARD


Capable of reaching air speeds five times the speed of sound, MUSTARD was designed as a reusable space plane, the next evolution of the Apollo programme that put man on the moon, but for a fraction of the development cost.

The aircraft was formed of three separate crewed, delta-winged sections, each of which displayed shared ancestry with the Space Shuttle and BAE Systems’ current project, the X-37.

The piggy-back Fighter Jet

Fighter Jet Take-Off Platform

For those times when helicopters just aren’t up to the job, the Fighter Jet Take-Off Platform was a concept design that would take off from the most constrictive of landing strips carrying a winged aircraft on its back that could take off once in the clear.

The innovation was born from a collaboration between Shorts, which created the hovering P17D platform, and English Electric, which developed the lightweight piggy-backing P17A tactical strike and reconnaissance jet.