The Anonymous Widower

MagniX Electric Aircraft Engines Take To The Skies

The title of this post, is the same as that of this article on pv magazine Australia.

This is the introductory paragraph.

No emissions, low-cost regional flights with just eight other sanitised folk and a disinfected pilot… Yes, Covid-19 is warping our view of the future, but the successful electrically powered maiden flight last week of a Cessna Caravan aircraft, offers the potential for new models of travel supporting wider distribution of commerce in Australia.

The article goes on to discuss Roei Ganzarski’s vision of what zero-emission electrically-powered aviation could do.

Economics

This is a paragraph from the article.

Its successful half-hour, 160km test flight used less than US$6 worth of electricity, compared to a Cessna Caravan powered by conventional combustion engine which would have sucked up some US$300-400 worth of fuel. And Ganzarski points out that, as in electric vehicles, the motor requires very little maintenance compared to its gas-guzzling cousins.

That is impressive.

The Market

This is a sentence from the article.

MagniX says 45% of all airline flights cover less than 800 km, while 5% of flights are sub-160 km, and it’s likely that commercial electric flights powered by magniX motors will first be offered in the UK, US or Europe.

I didn’t believe that the proportion of short flights was so high.

I could see all flights below 160 km (100 miles) will be flown by electric aircraft and a large proportion of those below (800 km (500 miles) going in the same direction.

The Vision

This is a paragraph from the article.

You could have phenomenal factories or businesses in these places that can’t currently sell their goods or can’t receive goods because the 4.5 to 6-hour truck drive that happens maybe once a week is just operatively prohibitive. If you could have an aircraft do that in 20, 40, 60 minutes and do it with zero emissions at a really low cost, and suddenly you’re really connecting these communities…

As it was given in quotes, I would assume it was spoken by Roei Ganzarski.

What would that do for high-quality agricultural products and seafood produced on remote islands.

This statement is in the Wikipedia entry for Loganair.

Loganair is planning to introduce electric aircraft to the Orkney Islands by 2021 due to the short distance between the islands that would make such flights possible.

They seem to be following a parallel path, with their involvement in Project Fresson. But as that development of a Britten-Norman Islander, is not planned to fly until 2022, could Loganair be a possible launch customer for an electric Cessna Caravan?

  • Loganair have the ideal short routes.
  • The electric Caravan won’t be the most difficult aircraft to certify for flying with a Supplemental Type Certificate, as several other Caravan variants with a change of powerplant, are flown this way.
  • The environmental profile fits some of Loganair’s routes in Scotland.
  • According to Roei Ganzarski, the economics would be ideal for Loganair’s routes.
  • Roei Ganzarski gave a long sales promotion-style interview on the BBC. Who was he targetting?

But the biggest factor is that Roei Ganzarski appears to be a showman in the mould of those great Victorian engineer/entrepreneurs, who defined and built much of the world we admire. What better stage is there to showcase his electric aircraft, but the remote airports served by Loganair?

The Specification

The Wikipedia entry for the Cessna Caravan now has s section for the electric Caravan, where this is said.

The eCaravan is an electric aircraft modification of the 208B built by AeroTEC and magniX powered by a 750 hp (560 kW) motor and a 1 t (2,200 lb), 750V lithium-ion battery. Its 30 min first flight happened from Grant County International Airport in Moses Lake, Washington, on May 28, 2020, consuming $6 worth of electricity, needing 30-40 min of charging. The Magni500-powered variant can fly 100 mi (160 km) with 4-5 passengers while keeping reserve power, and aims for a certification by the end of 2021, hoping to operate 100-mile flights with a full load of nine passengers with better batteries.

The pv magazine Australia article says the flight was for 160 km (100 miles), so that would cover a lot of short routes.

Suppose with reserves, that the plane should have a one hour endurance. my experience of piloting aircraft leads me to estimate that the average power setting would be less than fifty percent of full power for a real flight, as cruise and descent, need a lot less power than climb.

This would mean, that the aircraft needs to take-off with around 280 kWh of fuel, which would be enough to power the motor at half-power for an hour.

In Sparking A Revolution, I comment on an article of the same name in Issue 898 of Rail Magazine, which talks about Hitachi’s plans for battery-electric trains.

This is an insert in the Rail Magazine article, which will apply to all applications with traction batteries. Including aviation!

This is said.

The costs of batteries are expected to halve in the next five years, before dropping further again by 2030.

Hitachi cites research by Bloomberg New Energy Finance (BNEF) which expects costs to fall from £135/kWh at the pack level today to £67/kWh in 2025 and £47/kWh in 2030.

United Kingdom Research and Innovation (UKRI)  is also predicting that battery energy density will double in the next 15 years, from 700 Wh/l to 1,400 Wh/l in 2035, while power density (fast charging) is likely to increase four times in the same period from 3 kW/kg now to 12 kW/kg in 2035.

This page on the Clean Energy institute at the University of Washington is entitled Lithium-Ion Battery.

This is a sentence from the page.

Compared to the other high-quality rechargeable battery technologies (nickel-cadmium or nickel-metal-hydride), Li-ion batteries have a number of advantages. They have one of the highest energy densities of any battery technology today (100-265 Wh/kg or 250-670 Wh/L).

The highest figure of 670 Wh/l would appear to fit the Hitachi extract, where 700 Wh/l is quoted.

If I use the Wh/kg figure, it would appear that a one tonne battery could hold between 100 kWh and 265 kWh.

I suspect, that the higher figure would be enough to perform the 160 km. test flight, which I estimated could need 280 kWh.

But battery development in the next few years will be on the side of Roei Ganzarski’s vision.

Conclusion

Electric aircraft are not a politically correct mad idea, but a serious proposition to make the world a better place.

The article is a must-read!

June 1, 2020 Posted by | Transport | , , , , , | Leave a comment

MagniX and AeroTEC Put All-Electric Cessna Airplane Into The Air For First Time

The title of this post is the same as that of this article on GeekWire.

This is the introductory paragraph.

An all-electric version of one of the world’s best-known small utility airplanes hummed through its first flight today at Moses Lake in central Washington state.

This is a picture of another Cessna Caravan, that I took, as I boarded it in Kenya for a flight to the Maasai Mara.

 

The aircraft are very much a Ford Transit or Mercedes  Vito of the skies.

  • 2,600 have been built.
  • It is still in production.
  • The passenger version can carry nine passengers.
  • Total flight hours are over twenty million.
  • FedEx operates 239 of the type.

It must surely, be an ideal aircraft to convert to electric power.

This is a video of the first flight on YouTube.

The guy behind the project;Roei Ganzarski has just given a very optimistic interview on BBC Breakfast.

He emphasised the various environmental and financial advantages of the aircraft and if you can catch it on the iPlayer, it outlines a possible future for aviation.

I can see electric Cessna Caravans flying around the UK within the next couple of years.

Designing And Building An Electric Aircraft

Three of the designs for commercial electric aircraft under development are conversions of existing designs.

This must make certification of the aircraft simpler, as you’ve just replaced one type of engine with a battery and electric motor of similar size.

The difficult parts of the design; the aerodynamics and structure are probably almost unchanged.

As MagniX are involved in the first two of these projects, I would suspect that they have come up with an electric motor, that fits what is needed for aviation very well.

But then electric motor design is changing, probably driven by the needs of electric transport from bicycles through cars and vans to buses, planes, ships, trains and trucks.

It should also be noted, that the Beaver, Caravan and Islander are all simple aircraft, with a long history of successful operation and a vast knowledge base amongst pilots, engineers and operators of how to use these aircraft safely and in a financially viable way.

Will we see other aircraft conversions from to electric power in the next few years?

This page on Flying Magazine discusses conversion of Cessna 172 to electric power.

 

May 29, 2020 Posted by | Transport | , , , , | Leave a comment

Watch First Electric Caravan Fly

The title of this post, is the same as that of this article on AOPA.

As AOPA is the Aircraft Owners And Pilots Association, the caravan is a Cessna C208B Grand Caravan, which has been converted to electric power.

I have flown in a Cessna Caravan in Kenya, where it took me from Nairobi Airport to the Maasai Mara.

It is a typical workhorse all over the world carrying up to nine or thirteen passengers or freight.

  • They have a single turboprop engine.
  • The undercarriage is fixed and very sturdy.
  • Around 2,600 had been built by 2017.
  • It is used by a variety of operators.

I would certainly be happy to fly in one at any time, unlike some aircraft I could mention.

This paragraph from the article details how the maker of the electric motor;magniX is involved in electric flight.

The Grand Caravan is to be the largest, but not the first commercial aircraft magniX has converted to fly with 100 percent electric power. Roei Ganzarski, CEO of magniX, wrote in an email exchange that the de Havilland DHC–2 Beaver first flown in December continues its test flight program in Canada. Harbour Air, a short-haul air carrier with a fleet of seaplanes, is working with magniX to convert its fleet to all-electric power, and the same 750-hp electric motor that will power the upcoming Grand Caravan flight has been performing well in test flights over British Columbia.

Ganzarski is quoted as saying he is pleased with results to date.

The aircraft is lined up to make its first flight on May 28th, which hopefully will be shown on the Internet.

My flight in Kenya was only about half-an-hour and despite the Caravan having a range of nearly 2,000 kilometres, I suspect that many flights in the aircraft are of similar duration.

A Quick Battery Size Estimate

  • 750 hp is 560 kW.
  • So a half-hour flight on full power will use 280 kWh plus whatever is needed for aircraft systems like avionics, heating and air conditioning.
  • The Eviation Alice electric aircraft seats nine passengers and has a 900 kWh battery according to Wikipedia.

I  would suspect a 900 kWh battery should allow the Electric Caravan to do two half-hour trips.

The Future Of Electric Aviation

It is interesting to note, that four of the projects in designing and building a viable electric aircraft are in this nine-seater segment.

Note.

  • All except Eviation Alice, are conversions of proven high-wing aircraft with a fixed undercarriage.
  • Moderately large fleets available for conversion. – Beaver (1,600 plus built), Caravan (2,600) and Islander (700)
  • Conversion only needs a Supplemental Type Certificate, rather than full certification.
  • The DHC-2 Beaver prototype first flew on the day I was born, so it can’t be all bad.

A detailed insight into the reasons and the economics of converting an existing fleet of aircraft are given in a sub-section called Development in the Wikipedia entry for Project Fresson.

  • Scottish Airline Loganair appears to be the launch airline and will use the plane for their short flights around the Orkneys.
  • Several companies are involved in the development.
  • First flight is aimed for 2021.
  • Conversion kits could be available in 2022-2023.
  • It is hoped that operators would get a return on their money for the kit in 2-3 years.

Once they get the design right, there is talk of a nineteen-seat electric airliner.

I can see hundreds of converted electric Caravans and Islanders flying short routes by 2030.

 

May 21, 2020 Posted by | Transport | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Airbus On Electric Flight

This page on the Airbus web site is all about electric flight.

This paragraph greets you.

Today, zero-emission flight is closer to reality than ever. Electric and hybrid-electric propulsion is rapidly revolutionising mobility technologies across industries, from automotive to marine. And the aviation industry is no exception. Airbus is committed to developing, building and testing electric and hybrid-electric future technology that will enable the aviation industry to significantly reduce the CO2 emissions of commercial aircraft.

A read of the whole section is recommended.

A lot of technology will need to be improved even to get say a 60-seat airliner, with a 500 mile range.

  • Design-changing efficient aerodynamics.
  • Lightweight, strong structures.
  • Efficient zero-carbon propulsion systems.
  • Batteries with a much higher energy capacity per kilogram of battery weight.

It’s a tough ask, but I believe it is possible!

We might even see some very unusual ideas. And some proven ones.

Catapults

Naval fighters are usually literally thrown into the air from aircraft carriers using aircraft catapults, which traditionally were steam-powered. Gliders are often towed into the air using a rope.

So could something similar be used to accelerate the aircraft to flying speed?

Taxiing And Take-Off Using A Tug

All taxiing would use a battery-electric or hybrid-hydrogen-electric tug to minimise use of energy from the plane’s batteries.

Could the tug be combined with charging and a vehicle to handle the catapult launch?

  • A fully-charged tug would meet incoming aircraft and tow them to the terminal.
  • The aircraft would use the tug for power, if it was low.
  • At the terminal, the tug and aircraft would be charged, during passenger unloading and loading.
  • On the taxi to the runway, all power would be provided by the tug.
  • The catapult system, would attach to the tug on take-off.
  • Once take-off speed was achieved, the aircraft would disconnect and climb away under its own power.

All the power for acceleration to take-off speed would be provided on the ground and the aircraft wouldn’t have to carry it.

Energy Calculations For An Airbus 220-100

The smallest Airbus aircraft is the A220-100, which has the following specification.

  • Passengers – 135
  • Maximum Take-Off Weight – 63.1 tonnes
  • Cruise speed – 871 kph
  • Take-off speed – 220 kph (estimated)
  • Ceiling – 41,000 ft.

Note that the design cruise speed of the nine-seat electric Eviation Alice is 482 kph at 10,000 ft.

Using Omni’s Kinetic Energy Calculator, the following values are obtained.

  • 220 kph – 32.7 kWh
  • 482 kph – 157 kWh
  • 981 kph – 513 kWh

As the kinetic energy is proportional to the square of the speed, I would expect that a small electric airliner would have a cruise speed slower than current airliners.

I would expect that Alice’s cruise at 482 kph and 10,000 ft., could have been chosen to get a decent range for the maximum size of battery.

The aircraft will also have to be given potential energy in the climb.

Using Omni’s Potential Energy Calculator, the following values are obtained.

  • 5,000 ft. – 262 kWh
  • 10,000 ft. – 524 kWh
  • 41,000 ft. – 2148 kWh

I would expect a small electric airliner  would fly a lot lower.

A 135-seat electric airliner, which is the same weight as an Airbus 220-100 and cruising at 482 kph and 10,000 feet would need the following energy to establish itself in the cruise.

  • Kinetic energy – 157 kWh
  • Potential energy – 524 kWh
  • Take-off energy at 220 kph – 32.7 kWh

Which gives a total of 681 kWh.

It should be noted that both the kinetic and potential energies are proportional to the maximum take-off weight. Assuming that take-off weight would be proportional to the number of passengers, rough estimates for the battery size needed.

  • 25 – 126 kWh
  • 50 – 252 kWh
  • 75 – 378 kWh

As Wikipedia says the smaller nine-seater Eviation Alice has a 900 kWh battery, I feel that at least a fifty passenger electric airliner is possible.

Very Efficient Aerodynamics

One of the biggest losses of energy will be due to less-than-perfect aerodynamics, with vortices, eddies and skin friction wasting precious energy.

Look at the pictures on the Internet of the Eviation Alice and you’ll see a strange aircraft.

  • A very pointed nose.
  • Two propellers at the wing-tips.
  • A third propeller at the tail.
  • I suspect, all the propellers are placed to get the most out of the power.

When Alice is cruising, her energy consumption will be minimal, so that the maximum range for a given battery size can be obtained.

Any electric airliner will draw on all the aerodynamic tricks in the book.

Efficient Flight Profiles

The longest flight, that I ever did in my Cessna 340A was from Southend to Naples.

  • Before take-off at Southend, the fuel bowser followed me to the end of the runway to give me a last-second top-up.
  • I travelled across France on a beautifully-clear day and the accommodating Lyon ATC allowed me to fly at 19,500 feet all the way to French Coast at Nice.
  • The French then decided that, as I was happy at that height, they would hand me over to the Italians without a change of level.
  • So I flew down the Italian coast past Genoa and Rome at 180 knots, with spectacular views all the way.
  • The Italians, then used radar to vector me on to final approach at Naples.

I reckon, I had flown nearly a thousand miles in if I remember correctly about six hours.

But it was a very efficient flight profile to get the range.

  • I took the maximum about of fuel, I could carry.
  • I climbed as fast as possible to an efficient cruising level.
  • I cruised at an efficient speed.
  • I used very little fuel on the descent and landing into Naples.

I certainly was pleased, that I had about another hour’s fuel left, when I arrived in Naples.

Electric aircraft will probably always fly efficient profiles, to get the maximum range. But they will all be calculated by the plane’s computer system.

Most Aircraft Are Heaviest At Take-Off

This is because they burn fuel in the engines, as they fly along.

But a full battery weighs the same as an empty one, so the electric aircraft will have the same flying characteristics in all stages of the flight.

This could have design and operational advantages.

Hybrid Propulsion

Some electric aircraft designs are hybrid, with both battery and turboprop power.

It still cuts carbon emissions and may give better performance.

Fuel created from biomass can also be used.

Conclusion

I expect to fly in an Aubus battery-electric short-haul plane between London and Geneva by 2030.

But I’m certain, I’ll fly before that in an electric aircraft.

 

 

 

 

 

May 20, 2020 Posted by | Transport | , , , , | 2 Comments

GKN Aerospace Joins Eviation Alice Electric Plane Project As Work Continues After Fire

The title of this post, is the same as that of this article filed under Engineering News on the IMechE web site.

This is the interlocutory paragraph.

Electric plane pioneer Eviation has signed a collaboration agreement with GKN Aerospace for the design and manufacture of wing, tail assembly and electrical wiring interconnection systems for its Alice aircraft.

It is very matter of fact, but does the tie up signal good news and progress, after the prototype Eviation Alice was destroyed in a fire?

As a disruptive innovator and one-time pilot, I like the Alice.

  • The performance, in terms or passenger capacity, speed and range match a market, where money could be made.
  • The propulsion system makes the most of up-and-coming technology.
  • I suspect that the unusual shape allows some efficient aerodynamics to work.
  • Some people might put their money down on a ride in space. A ride in an electric aeroplane would satisfy me.

I think, the Alice could be the first electric plane I ride in.

And the tie up with GKN, makes my dream more likely.

May 19, 2020 Posted by | Transport | , , | Leave a comment

Flying Taxi Start-Up Raises $240m From Existing Investors Led By Tencent

The title of this post, is the same as that as this article on the Financial Times.

This is the introductory paragraph.

Lilium, a German flying taxi start-up, has raised $240m from existing investors led by Chinese technology group Tencent to fund the next stage of its growth.

The article has a picture of the Lilium Jet, which looks to be an interesting design.

  • It is an electric VTOL aircraft.
  • Power comes from no less than thirty-six electric motors driving ducted fans.
  • The fans will tilt for take-off and landing.
  • Maximum speed will be 190 mph, with a cruise of 170 mph.
  • Range will be 300 kilometres or 186 miles
  • Total installed power is 320 kW.
  • Less than 150 kW will be needed for cruise.
  • A MW (?) battery will be fitted according to Wikipedia. Do they mean MWh?
  • It can carry two passengers with five from 2025.
  • Empty weight is 440 Kg.
  • Maximum take-off is 640 Kg.
  • Initially, it will have a pilot, but the aim is for a completely autonomous aircraft.

Lilium aims to run a city-to-city taxi service starting in 2025.

I have a few thoughts.

Aerodynamics

There have been a lot of developments in aerodynamics in the last few years and the Lilium Jet and other electric aircraft like the Eviation Alice take full advantage of the developments.

So don’t expect electric aircraft to look convectional, unless perhaps they are an electric-engined conversion of an existing conventional aircraft!

Structure

The structure of aircraft is getting lighter and Airbus and Boeing with the 787 Dreamliner are showing what is possible.

Will an empty weight of 440 Kg be possible? Especially, if that includes the battery.

The Wikipedia figures allow a payload of 200 Kg. That must be only two passengers.

Power

Wikipedia talks about a one MW battery, but I suspect they mean one MWh, as this is the unit of battery capacity.

In Sparking A Revolution, I quoted Hitachi’s predictions and suggested that they could have a five-tonne battery, that held 15 MWh by 2035.

This would mean that a one MWh battery would weigh 333 Kg.

This must be near to the target weight of the battery needed to power a Lilium Jet.

But a one MWh battery that weighs just 333 Kg. would be a tough ask given the limitations of today’s battery chemistry.

Fire

Wikipedia says this about a fire.

The first prototype was destroyed by fire during maintenance on 27 February 2020.

As the Eviation Alice also suffered a fire, are these aircraft pushing batteries too hard.

Conclusion

I am sceptical about some of the figures quoted for the Lilium Jet in Wikipedia.

When I see the following.

  • A Lilium Jet in the air, taking-off and landing.
  • Two passengers flying in the aircraft.
  • A Lilium Jet on a set of scales.

I’ll revise my opinion.

There is this video.

Obviously, I’m doing something wrong in my calculations.

March 23, 2020 Posted by | Transport | , , | 2 Comments

Electric Aircraft Pose New Challenges For Maintenance And Repair

The title of this post is the same as that of this article on the Institution Of Mechanical Engineers.

The article looks at the Maintenance, Repair and Operations (MRO) of electric aircraft.

It is a article very much worth reading!

March 17, 2020 Posted by | Transport | | Leave a comment

Channel Islands To France Tunnel Would ‘Cost £5.6bn’

The title of this post is the same as that of this article on Construction News.

The tunnel would be built as follows.

  • Phase One would be a 28 km. rail tunnel between Jersey and Guernsey.
  • Phase Two would be a 32 km rail tunnel between Jersey and Normandy.
  • Both journey times would be around fifteen minutes.
  • The tunnels would take ten years to build.
  • It is claimed they would double the GDP of the islands in a decade.
  • The Governments of Guernsey and Jersey are supporting the idea.

One factor driving the idea, seems to be the ageing population of the Channel Islands, which means they will need a commuting population to provide services.

There is also an article on the Jersey Evening Post, which is entitled Jersey-Guernsey-France Tunnel Proposed, that gives a few more details of the proposals.

  • The tunnel will start in St Sampson’s in Guernsey and travel under Herm and Sark.
  • An artificial island would also be built between Sark and Jersey which could house a combined Channel Island’s airport, hospital, prison and university.

These are a few of my thoughts.

The Route

This Google Map shows the Channel Islands.

Note.

  1. Herm is shown by the red arrow.
  2. Sark is llabelled as La Rade.
  3. The coast of the Cherbourg Peninsular is shown in the East.

From this map it appears that the distance of the two phases of construction would be similar.

Operating Speed

Both tunnels are proposed to be around twenty miles in length, so if the journey time is fifteen minutes, that means an average speed of eighty mph.

For comparison, the Channel Tunnel is just over thirty miles long and has a safety speed limit of 99 mph.

So it would appear that with good design, the timings are possible.

I also think that we could see speeds like these.

  • 200 kph (125 mph) on the surface in France.
  • At least 100 mph between France and Jersey.
  • 80 mph between Jersey and Guernsey, where there are three stops.

Timings of sub-forty-five minutes would be possible.

Single Or Double Track

I feel it would be possible to build each phase of the railway as a single-track tunnel, both of which would be paired with a service tunnel. There would be a double-track section in Jersey, so that trains could pass.

This would allow a four trains per hour (tph) service between Guernsey and France, with the services passing under Jersey.

This frequency would be a Turn-Up-And-Go service.

The article doesn’t say, whether a single or double track tunnel would be built.

As the tunnel would only be built once and probably never increased in capacity, the design must be right first time.

Tunnel Loading Gauge

Would the tunnel be built to take UK-sized trains or the bigger Continental-sized trains?

Consider.

  • The trains will probably terminate on the French side in a station.
  • The larger the tunnel, the more costly it would be to bore.
  • The tunnel would have to incorporate electrification.

I feel that the size of the tunnel will end up as a compromise between cost, convenience and compatibility with French railway standards.

Freight

Consider.

  • If the tunnel was the right diameter some freight could be transferred through the tunnel.
  • Parcels and smaller freight could also be carried on a shuttle train based on a passenger train.
  • A larger tunnel would increase the cost.
  • If freight were to be carried on the railway, then a freight terminal would be needed on the surface on Jersey and Guernsey where space is at a premium.
  • As less passengers would be using the ferries, this might mean money invested in new ferries between the islands and France and the UK for freight and road vehicles, would give a better return.

I think on balance, that building the rail link, so that it could handle freight trains, other than perhaps a parcel shuttle would not be a viable idea.

Rail Link Power Supply

I think there are two possible power sources for the trains on the rail link; electrification or battery.

Electrification would certainly be possible and would probably use the French (and UK!) system of 25 KVAC overhead electrification.

As it is a tunnel, an overhead rail would probably be used as on Crossrail and other similar railways.

|As a battery range of eighty files would be needed for a round trip and hundred percent reliability would be desirable, I think it would be unlikely, that batteries would be the primary source of power.

But batteries could be fitted to handle regenerative braking and provide a back-up power source.

Connection To French Railways

The nearest French railway is the main Cherbourg and Paris railway, which is electrified using 25 KVAC overhead.

It would seem sensible to allow trains from the Channel Islands to terminate at Cherbourg.

  • It is a municipality of 80,000 people.
  • It is a major port.
  • It has a station with what looks to be a large capacity.
  • It has a rail service to Paris, where passengers can change for London.
  • There is probably space in Cherbourg station to incorporate a platform with passenger, freight and Immigration and Customs facilities.
  • Trains could probably run between Cherbourg and the Channel Islands Rail Link in less than thirty minutes.
  • France plans to start a TGV service between Paris and Cherbourg, which would have connections to Eurostar.
  • Cherbourg would probably be an ideal place for a depot.

It looks like that about thirty kilometres of new railway would be needed to connect the Channel Island tunnel to the Paris and Cherbourg Line.

Rail Link Signalling

As the trains would be running in France, the whole route would be signalled to the French standards, that are used on any shared track.

The Artificial Island

Consider.

  • The artificial island would contain an airport, a hospital, a prison a university and possibly other important facilities.
  • It would release land on Jersey and Guernsey for development.
  • It is not far from halfway between Guernsey and France.

I like this concept and I also think, that it could ease the construction of the railway.

A fair-sized site will be needed to insert the tunnel boring machines and deal with the spoil they bring to the surface.

I believe that using modern construction techniques, that creating the perimeter of the artificial island first and then boring the tunnels from the new land would be possible.

Tunnel spoil could be used to build up the island or taken away by ship for use elsewhere.

Electricity For The Channel Islands

Much of the electricity for the Channel Islands is produced by La Collette Power Station on Jersey, which is powered by fossil fuel and waste.

If as I believe the rail link would be built with a service tunnel, then would it not be better to import zero-carbon energy from France and distribute it to other islands, using an interconnector cable in the service tunnel?

My electrical engineering is basic from over fifty years ago, but I suspect that if the rail link used 25 KVAC overhead electrification, that the electrification could be used to supply the islands with power.

Hospital Access

There is no point in building a world-class hospital on the artificial island, if patients die because they take too long to get there.

Seriously-ill patients will take forever, if they have to go in an ambulance by ferry and although a helicopter is quick, these are too expensive, especially if you have to keep enough on standby to handle every eventuality.

But the artificial island is less than fifteen minutes from Jersey and Guernsey by train. As trains could be fifteen minutes apart, that means a patient could always be in hospital thirty minutes after being picked up.

But it would need the following.

  • A mini-A & E unit in all four stations, where patients could be triaged and admitted or treated, after being brought in by ambulance.
  • The ability to take a hospital trolley on all trains.
  • The ability to take a patient in a wheelchair on all trains.

I am pretty sure, that an efficient system can be devised.

The Stations

All the stations would be underground, including the terminal at St Sampson’s station on Guernsey.

  • Surface access would be by lifts, escalators and stairs.
  • Platform-edge doors would be fitted.
  • Al stations would be able to handle a hospital trolley.
  • Guernsey, Artificial Island and Jersey would probably have two platforms.
  • Other stations would probably only need a single bi-directional platform.
  • I doubt there would be a second station other than Cherbourg in France, as this would require Customs and Immigration.

I would also make the platforms long.

  • Crossrail’s platforms are over two hundred metres long and even London’s suburban platforms are often this length.
  • They could have separate sections for passengers and freight.
  • They would be difficult to extend in the future, so make them long enough for any possible future needs.

This would enable capacity increases to be made by just lengthening the trains.

The Trains

I have left the trains to last, as I wanted to lay out everything else first, so anything effecting the train design will have been covered.

  • An operating speed of 125 mph or 200 kph would be desirable to make maximum use of the infrastructure, especial in France.
  • The ability to run a round trip between Cherbourg and Guernsey in under two hours.
  • Trains could be either separate passenger and light freight versions or a combi version that could handle both passengers and light freight.
  • Trains could be built to a lower height than a typical French train, to allow for a smaller and more affordable tunnel to be bored.
  • A long-reach pantograph would be used to reach the higher French electrification.
  • All access between train and platform would be level for bags, bikes, buggies and wheelchairs.
  • All passenger trains must have the ability to take a hospital trolley, so urgent patients can be rushed to hospital.

My design would be based on a train like a Stadler Flirt, Bombadier Aventra or Siemens Desiro, built to a UK-loading gauge.

  • The train would have an ambulance car in the middle to get the best ride quality.
  • On one side of the ambulance car would be a passenger section and on the other side would be a light freight or parcel section.
  • Trains and stations would be designed together to minimise loading and unloading times.

I’m certain Stadler could build a version of the Class 745 train, that would fit the application.

TGVs To Cherbourg

The French have plans to run TGVs to Cherbourg, which will link up with Eurostar in Paris.

This will improve journey times to Cherbourg and then to the islands, if the Channel Islands rail link terminates in Cherbourg.

But I doubt TGVs would ever run to the Channel Islands.

  • It would need large tunnels that would cost a lot more.
  • TGVs would have to be designed to work with platform-edge doors.
  • It would be difficult to schedule four or more Channel Islands Rail Link trains per hour and the occasionally TGV through the tunnels.
  • Two tunnels would probably be needed.
  • TGVs are large trains and could need longer platforms in Jersey and Guernsey and other places they call.
  • TGVs would take several minutes to rurn round in Guernsey, whereas the Channel Islands Rail Link trains would turn in under five minutes.

There would probably only be a need for a couple of trains per day and a frequent shuttle to Cherbourg would give a much more customer-friendly service. Especially if the TGV service between Paris and Cherbourg was an hourly service.

Electric Airliners

A large proportion of the flights from Jersey and Guernsey airports would be suitable for electric airliners, which I’m certain will be flying before the earliest date the new combined Channel Islands Airport opened.

This would mean that to get to the Channel Islands from say Edinburgh, Frankfurt, Geneva, London or Rotterdam can be done faster in a zero-carbon electric airliner.

The Channel Islands could provide the necessary infrastructure for electric airliners and say all airlines must use them for services to the new airport.

What would it do for Channel Islands tourism to have the world’s first zero-carbon airport?

Surely, with the  Channel Islands Rail Link, the airport could be the preferred one for passengers in the area, wanting to travel to the UK and Ireland.

 

What’s In It For The French?

France will be a beneficiary of the project.

  • The French build tunnel boring machines.
  • The Channel Tunnel Rail Link will create job opportunities in the Cherbourg area.
  • If economic activity increases around Cherbourg, the case for the TGV to Cherbourg gets better.
  • The French get a new modern airport for the Cherbourg area.
  • The French could get an increased market for their nuclear electricity.

I can see the French liking this project.

Conclusion

I think the Channel Tunnel Rail Link is a good idea and could transform the economy of the Channel Islands.

It will also be good for the surrounding area of France.

 

 

February 6, 2020 Posted by | Transport | , , , , , , | 7 Comments

Will Flybe Survive?

This article on the BBC is entitled Flybe Boss ‘Focused’ On Turning Airline Around.

This was the start of the BBC article.

Flybe boss Mark Anderson has told staff that he and the management team remain “focused” on turning the airline round.

Mr Anderson’s comments came in an email to staff following reports that the airline is in crisis talks in an attempt to put together a rescue deal.

According to Sky News, Flybe, which has already been bailed out once, has been struggling to secure fresh finance.

So will the airline survive?

A Wake Up To Money Discussion

At 0530 this morning, the BBC Radio 5 Live program discussed Flybe with Lord Adonis, who is a former New Labour Transport Minister giving his fourpennyworth.

The following suggestions and observations were made.

Air Passenger Duty Be Scrapped For Domestic Flights

This has been suggested and it is thought it would give Flybe several tens of millions of pounds of aid.

The feeling was that it wouldn’t be illegal under EU law and it looks like it could be the solution.

But it would apply to all domestic flights within the UK and I can’t see BA, Ryanair and easyJet accepting, this to be available only to Flybe.

It would also cost the Government a lot of tax and why should I as a non-flyer inside the UK have to pick up the tab in other ways?

Certain Flights Could Be Directly Subsidised

To get to some parts of the UK, flying is necessary and under EU rules, essential flights can be subsidised directly.

The programme mentioned that Newquay flights are subsidised and those to Derry could be.

Other Airlines Would Take Over Profitable Routes

This is the law of the jungle and it has always been so.

A Radical Solution

Consider these facts.

Flybe’s Routes Tend To Be Shorter

As examples, Flybe flies.

  • Aberdeen to Belfast–City, Birmingham, Cardiff, Durham/Teesside, Humberside, London–Heathrow, Manchester, Newcastle upon Tyne and Wick
  • Birmingham to Aberdeen, Amsterdam, Belfast–City, Düsseldorf, Edinburgh, Glasgow, Guernsey, Inverness, Isle of Man, Jersey, Knock, Paris–Charles de Gaulle and Stuttgart
  • Exeter to Amsterdam, Belfast–City, Dublin, Edinburgh, Glasgow, Guernsey, Jersey, London–City, Manchester, Newcastle upon Tyne and Paris–Charles de Gaulle.
  • London City, to Amsterdam, Belfast–City, Edinburgh, Exeter and Jersey.
  • Manchester to Aberdeen, Amsterdam, Belfast–City, Düsseldorf, Edinburgh, Exeter, Hanover, Isle of Man, Jersey, Knock, Luxembourg, Lyon, Newquay, Paris–Charles de Gaulle, Southampton and Stuttgart.

Most if not all of these flights are under 500 miles.

Flybe Flies A Lot Of Smaller Aircraft

The backbone of their fleet is the Dash 8 Q 400, of which they currently have 54 in service, making Flybe one of the largest operators of the type.

  • They are powered by two turboprop engines.
  • They seat 78 passengers.
  • They have a cruise speed of 400 mph.
  • They have a range of 1,200 miles.
  • They can fly into city centre airports like London City and Belfast City.

In my view, they are an ideal aircraft for their shorter routes, with shorter runways and stricter noise restrictions.

Flybe Makes A Lot Of Places Accessible

Boris said this morning on the BBC, that we need regional connectivity and Flybe is part of the solution.

Northern Ireland would fare badly if Flybe ceased to exist, until alternative airlines provided the flights.

London And Edinburgh Is A Rail Journey

Over the last few years, more and more of my friends travel by rail on this route rather than flying.

Why?

  • Trains are now virtually every half hour.
  • Trains go between city centres.
  • Prices are generally comparable.
  • The trains and service has improved.
  • One friend takes her dog.
  • The journey time is getting closer to four hours.

In the next couple of years, there will be more services and journeys will be faster.

But go beyond four hours and train travel is not so attractive, so there will always be a need for regional flights to the North of Scotland, the South and South-West of England and other places where trains are not convenient.

Noise, Pollution and Carbon Emissions

These are aviation’s three main environmental problems and although Flybe’s core fleet is mainly turboprop, they are still not totally environmentally friendly, although they are better than the smaller jets, of which Flybe use a few.

CrossCountry Trains

Several of Flybe’s routes are mirrored by some of the services of CrossCountry Trains.

CrossCountry uses exclusively diesel trains and these will surely be replaced by bi-mode or hydrogen-powered hybrid trains to take advantage of the electrification, where it exists.

A revitalised CrossCountry could take advantage of Flybe’s troubles to increase revenue.

Eviation Alice And Other Electric Aircraft

Eviation Alice and other electric aircraft are on the way.

Within ten years, there will be an electric aircraft that meets this specification.

  • All-electric operation
  • At least twenty passengers
  • A range of 500 miles
  • A half-hour turnround for an hour’s flight.
  • Low noise.
  • No pollution or carbon emission.

Eviation Alice will show the way with a first flight this year.

Note that their first customer is Cape Air, who are a very successful feeder airline in New England.

I am confident of my prediction because the maths and physics, say it is possible.

I also feel that the might of Airbus is the one to watch!

  • They have much to lose at the small end of their market.
  • They are very strong in aerodynamics and lightweight structures.
  • easyJet are reportedly behind the project.

It should also be remembered, that their rival Boeing has too much on their plate.

The Short Term Solution

The short term solution must be to keep Flybe functioning, as the economic damage to far-flung regions will be far greater than the cost of keeping the airline flying.

But it must be done legally and within the rules, as the large profitable carriers have access to some of the world’s best lawyers.

I can see the following happening.

A reduction in Air Passenger Duty for domestic air travel.

Government subsidies for essential routes like those to and from the North of Scotland, Northern Ireland and remoter parts of England and Wales.

BA, Ryanair and easyJet using their lawyers to get equal treatment.

The Long Term Solution

The long term solution will undoubtedly depend on electric aircraft, when they meet the following criteria.

  • Sufficient range and passenger capacity.
  • Sufficient support infrastructure at airports.
  • Full certification
  • Overcoming the scepticism of the general public.

I feel that the first electric aircraft will be about nine-ten seats and they will build up from there and that thirty seat aircraft will be flying in ten years.

They will start on thin routes, where the number of passengers are low.

The government could encourage the fast adoption of electric aircraft, by abolishing all Air Passenger Duty for electric flights.

What would that do for an airline’s marketing and the environment?

Conclusion

Electric aircraft will be one of the factors , that will ensure the survival of regional airlines like Flybe.

 

 

 

 

 

 

January 14, 2020 Posted by | Transport | , , , , | 1 Comment

The Collateral Effects Of Electric Aircraft

The Times today has an article which is entitled Cost-Cutting And Crew Shortages Will Force Pilots To Fly Solo.

The title says it all and it may well happen.

Although, the pilots and their unions will resist it.

I remember in the 1980s, Air UK, used to fly Embraer Bandeirante aircraft between Norwich and Stavanger with just a single fully qualified pilot.

However, the flight attendant was a qualified private pilot, who had sufficient training to take over, if the pilot were to be incapacitated for some reason.

I fairly sure that nothing ever went seriously wrong.

The article in The Times doesn’t mention electric aircraft, but I got to thinking, they will have collateral effects on aviation.

A Proposed Electric Aircraft

The nearest aircraft to a recognisable airliner so far proposed is the Wright Electric Jet.

This description of the aircraft is from Wikipedia.

The aircraft is to run on batteries and handle flights of under 300 miles. It will feature high aspect-ratio wings for energy efficient flight, distributed electric propulsion and swappable battery packs with advanced cell chemistry.

The aircraft was being developed with easyJet, who now seem to be talking to Airbus.

I find the talking to Airbus significant.

  • The aerospace giant have long experience with aerodynamics, composite structures and advanced flight controls and avionics to build a strong lightweight airliner.
  • They have a significant share of the small airliner market.
  • They have a worldwide support organisation.

The only thing that electric airliners lack, is an efficient electric propulsion system. But they are on friendly terms with companies like Rolls-Toyce, who are developing suitable products.

The Wikipedia entry for Wright Electric  says that they are aiming to develop an electric airliner with these characteristics.

  • Single aisle
  • 120 seats
  • Fifty percent less noise
  • Ten percent lower costs.

I would suspect, that Airbus are working towards a similar set of objectives.

Note,

  1. The aircraft will have long narrow wings with a high aspect-ratio.
  2. I wouldn’t be surprised to see a long fuselage with four abreast seating.
  3. The airliner would have to fit existing jetways, taxiways and stands at airports.

I don’t think that the design of the aircraft is too challenging, but battery charging and the engines will be more so.

The Collateral Effects

Electric airlines will have various effects on flying, airports and the environment.

Low Noise Could Allow More Airports To Be Served

This probably goes without saving.

Alternative Airport Design

But I also wonder, if it could lead to some innovative one-runway designs of airports, that were used solely by electric aircraft.

  • There would be short taxiways to save energy.
  • The terminal might be half-way along the runway.
  • There would be a source of zero-carbon energy nearby.
  • The airport could be near a city or town centre, perhaps served by a tram system to cut carbon emissions.

I also wonder whether an airport only served by electric planes would attract passengers.

More Airports Would Mean More Routes

Again this probably goes without saying.

More Routes Would Mean More People Flying

But this would not be at the expense of extra carbon emissions for the actual flying.

More Routes Would Mean More Pilots

So perhaps the predictions and fears of the article in The Times are well founded?

Efficient Battery Charging Would Be Needed

Wright Electric have said that they will swap full batteries for the empty ones in the plane, which I assume would be checked and charged at a convenient location.

The fastest way to recharge a battery is to connect it to some form of low-impedance energy storage like batteries or supercapacitors.

So I wouldn’t be surprised to see airports, that had electric routes had adequate and sophisticated electrical storage, which would be charged using renewable sources like hydro, solar, wave and wind,

The storage could even be built underneath the apron or aircraft stand.

Aircraft Would Drive Battery Technology To New Levels Of Efficiency

Aircraft will need lightweight efficient batteries.

This will mean that some of the world’s best battery technologists will receive the funds and the backing to create new and more efficient batteries.

As battery technology gets more efficient and more affordable, this will mean that other applications like zero-carbon heavy trucks, railway locomotives and energy storage of renewable power, will become more affordable as well.

Conclusion

We may have the ultimate contradiction.

More flying, more routes, less noise and no extra carbon emissions.

 

December 22, 2019 Posted by | Transport | , , | 2 Comments