Goodyear Aircraft Corporation designed and built its first Inflatoplane, designated GA-33, in just over 12 weeks in 1956. As conceived, it could be used by the military for reconnaissance, or more dramatically, as a rescue vehicle to evacuate agents, downed pilots or other personnel from hostile territory. Taking only 6 to 10 minutes to inflate by canister, the deflated Inflatoplane could be packed into a 44 cubic foot container and dropped by parachute or transported by truck, jeep or trailer.
The wing, tail assembly and pilot’s seat were constructed of a new rubberized Airmat fabric developed by Goodyear that consisted of joined layers of inflatable rubber-coated nylon fabric shaped by thousands of nylon threads that gave it one of the highest strength-to-weight ratios of any construction material available at the time. The fuselage was made of airship fabric with high-strength fan-shaped patches of rubberized material providing attachments for struts and metal supports that connected the landing gear and the pilot’s seat to the aircraft. A 40-hp engine was mounted on top of the wing in a tractor configuration. An engine-driven air compressor maintained the low air pressure needed to keep the airplane inflated and rigid even if pierced by several .30 cal. bullets.
After successful flight-testing of the prototype, Goodyear developed more advanced models designated GA-447 and GA-468. A larger engine was adopted giving the newest model, the GA-468, more takeoff power. In addition to improvements in the aircraft structure, a combination wheel, hydro and ski landing gear was developed and incorporated into the GA-468, enabling the Inflatoplane to operate off land, water and snow with no landing gear changes or modifications.
While evaluation continued on the GA-468s, the Army Transportation Corps began development of a two-place Inflatoplane. This last version built, designated the GA-466, featured a 60- hp engine, as well as a 69 mph top speed and a 230 mile range.
The aircraft on display is a Goodyear Inflatoplane GA-468 (Army Model YAO-3(G)) Serial No. 4115. Goodyear test pilots flew this aircraft for a total of 1hour and 40 minutes during a series of four flights in May, 1961 before it was declared “OK for delivery” prior to its being repackaged.
Only five GA-468s were built and only 12 Inflatoplanes of all types (including a two-person model) were constructed. Of the three surviving Inflatoplanes, this is the only one currently on display. This aircraft was acquired by Jim Smith in 1991.