Doc and Dusty’s Totally Outrageous Submersible Flying Machine



The VASH (Variable Attitude Submersible Hydrofoil) is the first submersible vehicle to achieve true “underwater flight.”  Dubbed the “Bionic Dolphin” by its creators Tom “Doc” Rowe and Dennis “Dusty” Kaiser of Redding, California, this unique vessel is capable of high speed and maneuverability on the surface and underwater; and can actually leap into the air like it’s living namesake.   While others may claim U/W flight capability, nothing else approaches the functionality of this amazing homebuilt.






This humble little shack is where the VASH was born.  Being a backyard subber myself, I can really relate to this.  I’ve seen truly incredible machines come out of  modest shops like this one, and I get a big kick out of that because it proves:  “What’s important is the dream and the drive: the rest takes care of itself.”







Doc and Dusty in the shop.  Doc is a glass sculptor; Dusty’s a businessman.   Neither one are certificated engineers.  Did they let that stop them?  Nope!  In their words, “We are totally unqualified to be doing what we’re doing, but we’re doing it.”  Some people have sheepskins, others have subs.  Take your pick.






The construction process started with one humongous block of foam.





The first task was to cut out the basic shape of the hull plug.






Slowly, through a process of sculpting, the plug begins to evolve.  When people ask them about the engineering used here, the builders say it was a process of  “Hmmm…that looks about right!”








Eventually,  the recognizable shape of the Dolphin is set free from the foam block.






Next came layer upon layer of Carbon-fiber and Kevlar-glass laminates to form the outer shell.











The engine chosen to power the Dolphin was a modified 100 HP Evinrude inboard.






Here, we see an in-process shot of the engine in its compartment.






Further along: here’s a shot of the engine compartment with the cowling removed.  In use,  a turbine compresser will charge the Dolphin with air on the surface, sufficient to enable powered runs of fifteen to thirty seconds duration.  The “blowholes” (yellow object at the upper left) open and close to let air in, or keep water out, as becomes necessary when traveling above and below the surface.







Doc checking the fit in the pilot compartment.   You don’t merely occupy this craft; you wear it.






There’s more than one way to test weight-and-balance.  The lesson here: Do what works!






Filled with water , bricks, and an occupant, the Dolphin hull still floats!  One gets the impression that, throughout this project, a primary motivation was to have fun with it.  And clearly, they did.  Very cool.







But all things in life are filled with joy and sorrow.  In this picture taken during a towing test at Whiskeytown Lake, we see the boat has been named NOLAND 1, in remembrance of Tom’s son: a beautiful child who all-too-soon left this World for better places. 










Here’s a look at the BIONIC DOLPHIN flying her true colors.  She’s ready to run.







Here we see the VASH interior: a control array any pilot would love!







Soon, visitors to Whiskeytown started seeing a creature swimming below the surface at high speeds.







A closer look revealed it was a man-made contrivance…but what is it, exactly?






Suddenly, the BIONIC DOLPHIN leaps out of the water like Flipper himself…






…and goes truckin’ across the lake like nothing ever seen before.  Check it out!






NOLAND WON breaks free and soars skyward.






Truly unique and downright audacious: the BIONIC DOLPHIN is in a class all its own.






The VASH prototype NOLAND WON and scale replica.





Among other things, the future may hold a combination diesel-electric Dolphin with extended underwater capabilities.  Right on, Doc and Dusty.  Keep on living the dream, and inspiring others to do the same.


(Visitors to Vulcania Submarine can access the BIONIC DOLPHIN website via our LINKS page.)


Images courtesy of and Copyrighted by Thomas A. Rowe, “All Rights Reserved.”