The Anonymous Widower

The Great Electric Air Race Has Begun

The title of this post is the first sentence of this article in The Independent, which is entitled Electric Planes: Could You Be Flying On A Battery-Powered Aircraft By 2027?.

This is the full first paragraph in an article by respected travel writer; Simon Calder.

The great electric air race has begun. Three European industry heavyweights have teamed up against a US startup and Britain’s biggest budget airline to develop the first commercial electric aircraft.

So is such an aircraft feasible?

When you consider that the three European heavyweights are Airbus, Rolls-Royce and Siemens, I suspect that the proposed project is serious.

It should also be said that the companies are not aiming for an all-electric aircraft, but a hybrid plane with a very efficient on-board generator and a two-tonne battery.

The key to success will probably include.

  • Batteries with a very high energy density.
  • A highly-efficient and quiet gas turbine, that generates a lot of energy.
  • Radical air-frame design to take advantage of the technology.

In my view, the batteries will be the key, but making more efficient batteries with high charge densities will also do the following.

  • Improve the range and performance of battery and hybrid road vehicles like buses, cars and trucks.
  • Improve the range and performance of trains and trams.
  • Transform energy storage, so wind and solar power can be stored and used in times of high demand.
  • Allow every house, apartment or office to have its own affordable energy storage.

In all of these applications, the weight of the battery will be less of a problem.

This leads me to the conclusion, that we may see smaller electric plasnes in a few years, but the technology that will make it possible, may well improve other modes of transport so much, that electric planes are never an economic proposition.

It’ll be interesting to see what happens!

I think most travellers and members of the oublic will benefit in some ways.

 

December 3, 2017 Posted by | Travel | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

How To Buy Airliners

I found this article entitled Ryanair Orders 175 Boeings, but CEO Wants More Seats, Less Baggage, whilst looking for an article about baggage.

It really does show how Boeing and Airbus are not providing airlines with what they want.

I wonder how long it will be before we are all weighed with our baggage before we go on an airliner. I wouldn’t object, but it would probably make flying just that little bit cheaper.

June 29, 2013 Posted by | Travel | , , , , , | Leave a comment

Do We Sometimes Push Technology Too Far?

I like proven technology, as often some of the things done fifty years or so ago, may not have been very good at the time, but somehow over time they have proved themselves to be reliable and economic.

The classioc is the Inter City 125 train, introduced as a stop-gap in 1976. But it is only one of a number of classic designs, that just never get replaced.

A personal old idea that affects me is Warfarin, which I take every day to thin my blood and stop myself having another stroke. There are more modern drugs, but I’ve heard cardilogists say that now is not the time to change, as we don’t know enough about the side effects of new drugs yet.

And that is the crux of the matter!  When anything has been used for years, we have a vast knowledge base to make sure, that it doesn’t bite us or even worse.

So I was rather pleased to see this report that says the new Airbus A350 will use more traditional batteries than the Boeing 787. Before you use new technology in something as critical as an airliner, you must prove it as thoroughly as possible.

The problem with proving aircraft parts as compared to that of says cars, buses or trains, is that the aircraft leaves the ground and does other things land-based machines don’t.

I remember, my next door neighbour in London, when I was a child, a Mr. Gibbon, saying that if Ford wanted to test a new truck axle, they’d fit a few in trucks and give them to a contractor, who was known to break anything.  If he couldn’t break any,then it was probably a better axle. But you can’t give aircraft to bad airlines and let them do the testing!

What worries me about these plane batteries, is how many other new ideas are incorporated, that haven’t been completely tested?  Aviation is littered with mistakes, where new designs have failed.

On the other hand, look at this wing of the baby Airbus 319/320/321, on which I flew to Stockholm.

Airbus A320 Wing

Airbus A320 Wing

Go back twenty years or so and the design of a wing would be similar, but you can see developments like the wing-tips, that make the wings more efficient, have now become commonplace.

June 16, 2013 Posted by | Travel, World | , , , , | Leave a comment

Don’t be Conventional!

On the BBC tonight, they had a program about a pilot who in the Second World War used to insert and extract agents of the SOE into German-occupied territories. One of the aircraft they used was the remarkable Westland Lysander, which although it wasn’t too good at its original job of Army Co-operation, was a superb aircraft to sneak in and out under the noses of the Germans, due to its slow speed and superb STOL performance.

But then the Second World War had its fair share of what could be described as unconventional aircraft.

The Mosquito didn’t look unconventional, but who’d have thought that an unarmed bomber built out of wood, would have been so successful. It was just that because it was light, aerodynamically efficient and could carry the same bomb-load as a B17, it could get to its targets fast and return.  In fact Mosquitos often bombed Germany twice in one day. 

But the theory of the heavily-armed four-engined bomber prevailed and we lost 250,000 aircrew bombing the Nazis, as did the Americans. Mosquitos incidentally had a much higher return rate and it could also be argued that because they were so much more agile and fast, they could have hit strategic targets, like ball-bearing factories, morning, noon and night. So there was also a moral case for using de Havilland’s wooden wonder.

The Mosquito is probably the only Second World War aircraft, that has a legacy in modern designs.  Bombers these days are not armed and British ones haven’t been for some decades.  This is because de Havilland’s fast unarmed concept was shown to be so superior, to any armed one. But the biggest legacy is in the wings of Airbuses, which like the Mosquito are glued together, rather than riveted.  You can trace the technology back through Tridents and Comets to the Mosquito and before that to the Albatross.

Supermarine is well-known for the Spitfire, but another of its products was the distinctly unconventional Walrus, designed like the Spitfire by R. J. Mitchell. It was an amphibious aircraft that could be lauched and recovered from naval ships like cruisers and battleships, but it found its major use in picking up downed airmen out of the sea. This maritime-rescue role has been taken over  by helicopters, but perhaps the role could be handled better, by a modern fixed-wing aircraft of unconventional design. The Americans have experimented with using Lockheed Hercules and pick-up systems, but nothing sensible has emerged.

The Americans too had an unconventional amphibian, the Consolidated Catalina. Like the Mosquito, the Cat seemed to revel in every task thrown at it. But unlike the Mosquito, you can still see a few examples flying.

And then there is the Swordfish or Stringbag.  This aircraft was probably obselete when the war started, but  went on to sink large amounts of Axis shipping. The Swordfish also destroyed a large part of the Italian fleet at the Battle of Taranto.  Was this battle the blueprint for Pearl Harbor? The Japanese certainly gave what the Fleet Air Arm did with a handful of obselete bi-planes more than a cursory glance!

I have always thought unconventionally!  It has never done me any harm! Although it’s got me into a few scrapes.

November 8, 2010 Posted by | World | , , , | Leave a comment

The Rivetted Wing

This picture of the wing of the 747 shows the rivets that hold it together.

747 Wing

By the way, the upturned end of the wing is an aerodynamic device to increase efficiency.

If you are on Airbus as opposed to a Boeing, you’ll see differences. 

For a start the Airbus uses a different end to a wing in that they have more of a sideways delta at the end.

But the main difference is that Airbus glue their wings, whilst Boeing use rivets.

Glue?  You  might ask.

But they have doing it for years.  In fact the technology was first started by de Havilland and was applied very successfully to the Mosquito of World War II fame.  They then applied it to the Comet and Trident airliners before using it on all Airbus wings.

The advantage is that glue carries the loads between the parts of the wing continuously, whereas with rivets the stresses are carried only at points, which have been weakened by the rivet holes.  This means that it should be possible to have a lighter wing for the same strength with glue.

Some technologies may seem strange, but don’t know them if they work.

May 13, 2010 Posted by | Travel | , , , | 1 Comment