It’s no longer science fiction that a plane can take off vertically. With the V-22 and F-35B, it is almost becoming routine today. But there was a day back in the 1950s when taking off without a runway was the thing of science fiction. The Ryan X-13A-RY was an impressive aircraft. The Ryan X-13 wasn’t the first attempt to build a plane that took off vertically. It was one of the most ‘successful’ though of its era though. With just slide rules and wind tunnels, the engineers from Ryan successfully built an airplane that could take off an land vertically but fly like a conventional aircraft. The transition alone from vertical flight to horizontal flight is no small feat. It is beyond impressive that they were able to repeatedly do it safely without that aid of modern computers to simulate the transition prior to trying it in the actual aircraft.
The support necessary to launch and land an aircraft vertically was just too much though. It was impractical to place launch towers all over the country just to accommodate a single niche aircraft. Plus, the Ryan X-13A carried much less weapons that other jet aircraft of its era due to the need to launch the jet vertically. Even though a successful demonstration flight was made before congress in Washington DC, the project was cancelled stortly afterwards. The usefulness of taking off and landing vertically just wasn’t enough to justify the cost of development at the time.