VTOL stands for “vertical take-off and lift” and refers to flying vehicles that can take off vertically rather than horizontally, which is generally how most planes leave the ground. VTOL vehicles are particularly rare, as the technology needed to lift a plane vertically is quite complex, and there’s a lot of engineering and maintenance that’s needed. Keep in mind that while a helicopter is somewhat similar to a VTOL plane, the main difference is that a plane is able to obtain significantly higher speeds and can often travel far greater distances than a helicopter.

There are a lot of benefits to being able to take off from the ground vertically, and is especially beneficial to military aircraft, and almost all the most advanced VTOL aircraft are maintained by militaries around the world.

V-22 Osprey

It’s one of the most recognisable aircraft in the world thanks to its unique propulsion system that consists of two separate motors that place it somewhere between a plane and a helicopter. The Osprey is technically classified as a tiltrotor aircraft, and it actually sits within its own category that few other flying vehicles are a part of. It was initially created with the hope that it would one day be used as a civilian aircraft but has since been used only in a limited fashion due to several design and engineering problems.

Although it took decades to get right, the work continued to create an aircraft that had the vertical take-off capabilities of a helicopter but the high cruising speed of a turboprop plane.

Boeing Harrier

The Boeing Harrier is a true legend and was one of the first designed that proved that it’s possible to create a jet that was able to take off vertically. First entering service in 1969, the Harrier is still in operating across the world, including the US Marine Corps, but the plane has since been decommissioned by the UK Air Force.

Despite the incredible advancement that the Harrier brought to modern jet design in the 1970s, the technology is considered quite old now, and it’s much easier to find a Harrier in a museum than being used in active service. Regardless, the Harrier remains the most popular hovering jet plane of all time, became a popular part of modern culture, featured in video games to movies to NZD online roulette, and was a part of a number of successful missions over the years.


The f-35 program is well-known for its focus on experimental aircraft, and the F-35B is perhaps the most successful of them all. It was the result of a partnership between Yakovlev and the Lockheed Corporations, who were working on the Yak-41. They instead took much of the design and engineering from the Yak-41 and instead created the F-35B.

It’s one of the only VTOL aircraft in the world capable of supersonic speeds, and many militaries around the world switch to it after the Harrier was discontinued. It’s an enormously complex single-engine aircraft that’s capable of taking off straight up and then quickly attaining high speeds.

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