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

If Microsoft Built Cars…

There are loads of jokes that start like this and you can find pages on the Internet  like this.

But what if Microsoft built planes?

This article on the BBC shows the result.

The plan is to use the Stratolaunch plsne to launch satellites. More is here on Wikipedia.

The idea is not new, The North American X-15 of the 1950s, was a space plane that was launched from under the wing of a B-52 Stratofortress.

Wikipedia says this about the flights of the X-15

During the X-15 program, 13 flights by eight pilots met the Air Force spaceflight criterion by exceeding the altitude of 50 miles (80 km), thus qualifying these pilots as being astronauts.

Not bad for an conventional rocket-powered aeroplane built over half a century ago!

June 2, 2017 Posted by | Travel | , , | 1 Comment

My New All-Purpose Shopping Bag

I bought this stringbag for £2.95 and when I go out, it fits neatly in my shoulder bag or pocket.

My New All-Purpose Shopping Bag

My New All-Purpose Shopping Bag

Isn’t a stringbag the most useful of bags? After all it did lend its name to that most mighty of the Royal Navy’s attack aircraft; the Fairey Swordfish, which was called the stringbag on account of its ability to carry virtually anything to its target. Wikipedia has a full explanation.

The Swordfish is almost unique amongst military aircraft for two reasons.

Several aircraft types were built to replace it in service and it out-served them all.

In some attacks, it pressed the attack home successfully, because it flew slower than the low limit of the gun-aiming computer of the ship being attacked. The Germans hadn’t believed that an attacking aircraft would be as slow as a Swordfish.

But this unusual biplane did carry out one of the most unlikely battle successes of the Royal Navy, by attacking the Italian fleet at anchor in the Battle of Taranto. The lesson was not lost on the Japanese, who inspected the port after the attack. But the Americans, who must have known what happened at Taranto, did nothing to change their thinking.

December 27, 2014 Posted by | World | , , , | Leave a comment

The Pilot With More Lives Than A Cat’s Home

I watched the documentary entitled Britain’s Greatest Pilot: The Extraordinary Story of Captain Winkle Brown on BBC2 last night.

The title says his story has been extraordinary and never a truer use has been made of the word. His Wikipedia  entry reads like something penned by W E Johns.

He flew a total of 487 different aircraft types and made a record of no less than 2047 landings on aircraft carriers.

If his flying exploits weren’t enough, as he was a fluent German speaker, he interrogated some of the worst Nazi war criminals.

In the documentary last night he was still bright as a button at ninety-five.

If ever there was a program that everybody should see, then this is the one. This link is to the copy on iPlayer.

June 2, 2014 Posted by | World | , , | Leave a comment

Vapour Trails Over Hackney

I took this picture this morning.

Vapour Trails Over Hackney

They’re not normally this clear, but the sky was very blue at the time.

November 7, 2012 Posted by | World | , | Leave a comment

Lightning Strikes On Aircraft

They had a piece on BBC Breakfast this morning, about lightning strikes on aircraft, showing how that if there was a layer of metal fibres woven into the carbon fibre, the aircraft skin didn’t collapse.  They did show what happened if a lightning bolt hit the lab teapot.

But there was no mention in the piece of Michael Faraday, who would have course realised the solution, as he did all of the original work and invented the Faraday cage in 1836.

All metal aircraft are in effect, appropriately-sized Faraday cages and this work in Cardiff, is just repeating the process for carbon fibre aircraft.

July 18, 2012 Posted by | World | , , , | Leave a comment

A Clip of Video from the RAF

The RAF has just released this video taken from the Lancaster during the flypast to mark the Diamond Jubilee.

Note that the pilot and passengers in the Lancaster, are wearing very 1940s bone-domes.  It would also appear, that there are quite a few free-loaders going along for the ride.

The RAF should make more videos like this.

June 6, 2012 Posted by | World | , , | 2 Comments

A Big Spelling Mistake

I photographed this in a shop window in the Kingsland Road.

A Big Spelling Mistake

I thought spelling mistakes like this on products were a thing of the past.

April 23, 2012 Posted by | World | , | Leave a comment

Where’s The Mosquito?

The extraordinary obituary of Ted Sismore in the Telegraph is also a catalogue of the amazing exploits of the most versatile aircraft of the Second World War; the de Havilland Mosquito. The Times describes the Mosquito as Britain’s first multi-role combat aircraft, but some of its exploits weren’t actually in combat. The aircraft flew in US Air Force colours to perform high-altitude weather research and also as an airliner to bring valuable cargoes, as varied as ball bearings, the physicist Neils Bohr and Marshall Zhukov across the North Sea to the UK.

In 1962, Queen Elizabeth awarded the Order of Merit to the Mosquito’s designer; Sir Geoffrey de Havilland. He is the only aircraft designer to receive the award, which is a personal gift of the sovereign.

So as we come to the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee, it would be fitting that one of de Havilland’s wooden wonders should be in the fly-past to mark the event. But it won’t be as there are no flyable examples left in the UK. The non-flying prototype sits in splendour at the de Havilland Aircraft Heritage Centre in the hangar where it was built.

But then the RAF had no policy on the preservation of historic aircraft.

April 6, 2012 Posted by | Travel, World | , , , , | Leave a comment

Hail the Hercules

The title of this post is pinched from The Meccano Magazine of the 1950s.  I used to get it every month and it was very much part of my education.  As an aside here, does anything similar still exist?  I doubt it and could this be why our engineering and scientific education perhaps isn’t what it should be.

One particular edition  described the then new Lockheed Hercules or C-130 to give it, its US military designation. This was probably in about 1954, as the Hercules made its first flight in that year.

Today it is reported that the UK government has some RAF Hercules in Malta to extricate British nationals from Libya. So yet again, a nation is turning to an ageing design for its emergency transport needs. The RAF used them in Dhaka to get British nationals out during the war that saw the birth of Bangladesh, get people and supplies to the Falklands and into Sarajevo and the Israelis famously used them at Entebbe.

There are some designs that are timeless and will probably always be with us.  The Hercules is definitely one.

February 24, 2011 Posted by | News, Travel | , , | Leave a comment