One of the most recognizable and beloved of our vehicles, the Flying Sub seen in “Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea” was developed originally in 1964-65 by the Reynolds Metal Company, Richmond, VA, in conjunction with General Dynamics (Electric Boat Division), Groton, CT.
The Flying Sub (designated FS-1 by Reynolds), was supposed to resemble a stingray, and indeed, it was sometimes nicknamed “Stingray” by its pilots. Powered by two massive solid-fuel turbine engines (courtesy of General Electric), the FS-1 was designed originally as a test bed for hybrid air/sea vehicle technology by both the U.S. Air Force and Navy.
After a great deal of bureaucratic wrangling between the two defense branches, the Navy officially took sole possession of the FS-1 and used it to conduct a variety of research projects. It quickly became clear, after photos were published in “National Geographic”, that the public had a strong fascination with the ship. An unprecedented mountain of letters inquiring about the Flying Sub prompted the Navy to allow the ship to be loaned out for filming of the “Voyage” T.V. series.
In 1974, as the Navy prepared to decommission the then outdated FS-1, Reynolds Metals Company re-purchased it and moved it back to Richmond, VA, where it served as one of the key attractions in their “Reynolds Aluminum Museum.”
After Alcoa acquired Reynolds in June 2000, the company was kind enough to loan out the FS-1 to the Sci-Fi Air Show Museum, and allow us to fly (and submerge it) on a limited basis.
Current Flying Sub pilot Oliver Hawkes says, “It’s hard to say what I enjoy more – flying the FS-1 through the air and seeing the ocean slipping below me through the front viewports, or plunging beneath the water and cruising over the ocean floor. The dual-joystick controls and great forward visibility make it a fantastic flying experience – both above and under the waves!”
Fans of the FS-1 might also be interested in its bright-yellow spherical companion, the “Apple I” diving bell, which also appeared in “Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea.” Built by the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute in 1961, the bathysphere was loaned to producer Irwin Allen after the submarine “Alvin” replaced the Bell on June 5th, 1964. In 1992, the “Apple I” diving bell was purchased by the Aqua Tech Dive Center in San Diego, CA, and now resides as a “rooftop” ornament, visible from the nearby I-5 freeway.