Wednesday, November 5, 2014 3:06:34 PM America/Denver
The genesis of the Aerosani isn't entirely clear. It's believed the first were built in 1909-1910 by Igor Sikorsky out of plywood and old airplane engines. In the 1920s the Russian military began using them for transportation, especially in medical emergencies.
An American inventor from Michigan developed his own propeller driven sleds in the 1920's. They were used as transportation across ice and for fishing. Some accused him of selling his plans to the Russians, although it is inconclusive whether or not he actually did so.
By WWII models were developed with light armor and machine gun mounts. They could carry several troops and pull even more behind on skis. In terrain that most vehicles couldn't even move in, they were very valuable in gaining the upper hand.
Multiple versions of the Aerosani were created, from small models using old truck engines to heavy armored assault vehicles. They were used for every application imaginable, military, recreational, even delivering mail.
The Aerosani could only travel at 25-30 miles per hour; doesn't sound like much compared to our 120 mph sleds, but for the time it was a huge step ahead. They were also difficult to maneuver, and performed poorly going up hill, making them less than ideal for forest and mountain terrain. Moving through open country, or across frozen lakes and rivers was their strong suit, even in deep snow that little else could get through.
While these have long since given way to the track system seen on snowmobiles now, it's fun to look back at the development of the technology we are all familiar with. Today, the aerosani is a novelty vehicle mostly only found in museums or in the form of small hobby models.