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Sunday, June 27, 1999 Published at 03:12 GMT 04:12 UK

World: Europe

'Flying saucer' grounded

Hoping for "help from on high, or from aliens"

A flying saucer project which attempted to turn science fiction into science fact has reportedly been thwarted by a lack of funds.

Aviation engineers in the Russian city of Saratov developed a small prototype craft two years ago, according to Ren TV in Russia. But the project has now been shelved because the money has run out.

Now workers at the plant are "hoping for some assistance from on high, or maybe even from aliens," the TV said. Although the shape of the craft takes its inspiration from old science fiction movies, the aim of its designers is said to be no less than the first step towards "an absolutely new concept of flying".

"The new aircraft is fundamentally different from all means of transportation known so far," the TV report said.

The original concept for the saucer, perhaps optimistically named "Ecology and Progress", envisaged a craft that could move at 700 km/h, accommodate up to 1,000 people and land anywhere, including mountainous terrain or water.

An air cushion system would allow it almost vertical take-off and landing. It was not clear from the report whether the prototype was actually capable of getting off the ground.

BBC Monitoring (, based in Caversham in southern England, selects and translates information from radio, television, press, news agencies and the Internet from 150 countries in more than 70 languages.

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