The Anonymous Widower

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

The First Flight Of A Commercial Electric Passenger Plane

This video has just been published.

Electricity is the future of aviation!

Initially, it will be smaller planes up to nine seats, like this DHC-2 Beaver and the Eviation Alice.

But I believe that we’ll be seeing Airbus A318-sized electric airliners by 2030.

December 11, 2019 Posted by | Transport | , , , | 2 Comments

Opinion: Why Aviation Needs to Go Green, and How

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

Read the article and especially what it says about the Wright Electric Jet.

This is a paragraph from Wikipedia, talking about co-operation between Wright Electric and easyJet.

In September 2017, UK budget carrier EasyJet announced it was developing an electric 180-seater for 2027 with Wright Electric. Wright Electric built a two-seat proof-of-concept with 272kg (600lb) of batteries, and believes that batteries can be scaled up with substantially lighter new battery chemistries: a 291 nautical mile (540km) range would suffice for 20% of Easyjet passengers. Wright Electric plans to develop a 10-seater and eventually an at least 120 passengers single-aisle, short-haul airliner and targets 50% lower noise and 10% lower costs.

I would assume, that the plane also emits a lot less CO2 and other pollutants.

I would assume that the plane will be built by using the best of these technologies.

  • Aerodynamics
  • Lightweight structures
  • Electric Motors
  • Batteries
  • Electronics and avionics.

But I also believe that designing an electric aircraft could be a very different process to a conventional one.

There Is No Fuel

Consider.

  • Fuel is a high proportion of the weight of an airliner on take-off.
  • There are a lot of complicated systems to pump fuel to the engines and also from tank to tank to trim or balance the aircraft
  • When a conventional airliner takes off, it is much heavier than when it lands, as fuel has been burned.
  • Fuel is dangerous in a heavy landing or crash.

On the other hand, I’m fairly certain, that empty batteries and full ones weigh the same.

This would mean, that the plane aerodynamics and structure,  would be designed to be optimal in the various phases of flight.

  • Taxiing out to the runway.
  • Taking off.
  • The climb to the cruising altitude.
  • The cruise
  • The descent to the destination airport.
  • The landing
  • Taxiing in to the terminal or stand.

In the climb, cruise and descent  phases power would be set and the trim adjusted, by the autopilot to attain the right speed and rate of climb or descent.

Aerodynamics

As the weight of the aircraft would be the same in all three phases and would need more or less the same lift, with clever aerodynamics, I think we will see a very simple wing. In fact, probably more like that of a sailplane than an airliner.

Wikipedia says this about the design.

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.

Note that sailplanes have high aspect ratio wings.

Compared to say a small jet airliner like an Airbus A318, I suspect that the wings will be longer, but possibly simpler.

The Wright Electric Jet will probably have various aerodynamic aids, like flaps and winglets. In fact the picture on Wikipedia shows the latter, which reduce drag.

A Simple Flight Profile

The fastest way to fly between A and B is probably to take off and climb as fast as possible to the optimum cruising altitude, where an optimum cruise is maintained, until the time comes to descend into the destination airport. Much of the descent would be straight in to the runway.

I have flown in an easyJet Airbus 320 from Schipol to Southend in much this manner and the plane arrived ahead of schedule.

I suspect that easyJet like to fly like this, as it saves fuel, but Air Traffic Control probably doesn’t allow it that often.

But simple efficient profiles like this would be ideal for electric aircraft.

If as I suspect their aerodynamics would allow a better glide ratio than a jet powered airliner. So to get a longer range, an electric aircraft might do a long approach.

A Low Noise Aircraft

As I said earlier, Wright are talking about fifty percent less noise.

This could be a game-changer for a smaller airport like Luton or Southend, where the approach can be over residential areas.

Especially for Southend, where planes from the East could do a long descent over the sea and come straight in on Runway 23.

Could Southend become London’s short-haul airport for electric aircraft?

  • easyJet and Ryanair are already there.
  • There’s plenty of wind power in the area
  • It has a good rail connection to London and could be served by Crossrail.

Essex is a county that likes to be different.

Airbus

The original article also mentions Airbus.

Airbus has the skills to design the required light and strong airframe, the aerodynamic knowledge.and a large support network.

They also have a lot to lose, if someone else takes away, the smaller part of their masrket.

Ignore Airbus at your peril.

Conclusion

The more I think about it, the more that I think a 120 passenger electric airliner with a range of 540 km, could be a very handy plane.

 

 

December 10, 2019 Posted by | Transport | , , , , , | 2 Comments

The Electric Aviation Revolution Will Be Televised … By MagniX And Harbour Air

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

These are a few points from the article.

  • The target date is December 11th.
  • The first flight could be delayed by weather.
  • Harbour Air’s CEO, Greg McDougall, will put his money where his mouth is and take the first test flight.
  • The first test flight will only be a few minutes.

I wish Greg McDougall all the best!

December 4, 2019 Posted by | Transport | , , | Leave a comment

Electric-Powered Passenger Aircraft To Launch By 2022

The title of this post is the same as that of this article in The Times.

In the past few months, two serious electric small airliner projects have emerged.

And now Cranfield University are launching Project Fresson, which aims to convert Britten-Norman Islanders to electric propulsion.

  • There are hundreds of Islanders in service.
  • They were designed in the 1960s and are still in production.
  • They can carry nine passengers for nearly 900 miles.

In some ways, they are the Ford Transit of the small airliner industry. Unspectacular they may be, but they do what it says in the specification.

I’ve only flown in an Islander twice and that was between islands in the Caribbean.

There are several things to like about this project.

  • Cranfield University have an excellent reputation in aerospace design.
  • The project is well-backed by the British Government, Rolls-Royce, the University of Warwick and others.
  • The batteries appear to be coming from motorsport.
  • The Islander doesn’t have a reputation as a difficult or unsafe aircraft.
  • Over the years, the aerodynamics seem to have been improved.
  • There must be a large number of airlines around the world, who are satisfied with their current Islanders and would look seriously at an electric version.
  • The Islander is still in production.

I don’t think it carries any high level of risk.

  • The current aircraft structure will be virtually unchanged, but possibly uprated for a higher payload because of the weight of the battery.
  • The electric motors must meet a power output, energy consumption and weight.
  • The battery will probably be made from lots of standard small cells from a well-respected manufacturer like Hitachi, Samsung, Leclanche or others.
  • The battery must hold enough energy, fit in a defined space and not be too heavy.

I suspect Cranfield have already written the specifications for the motors and the battery.

Conclusion

In some ways this project has a lot in common with Harbour Air’s project to convert a Beaver.

  • Simple engineering with little risk.
  • Proven airframe.
  • No expensive airframe to certify.
  • A lot of engine and battery testing can be done safely on the ground.
  • Electric motor technology seems to be improving rapidly, with new ideas cropping up in trains, cars, boats, ships and planes.
  • A waiting market.
  • I think pilots and passengers will like the idea of an electric aircraft.
  • Pilot conversion to the electric plane will not be a long and expensive process.
  • Good green credentials.

I think both projects will succeed, if they go well in the next year or so.

November 19, 2019 Posted by | Transport | , , , , | Leave a comment

Magnix Revs Up Electric Motors For Harbour Air Seaplane Flight Tests In December

The title of this post, is the same as that of this article on Geek Wi8re.

The article explains a lot about the state of play in the electric aeroplane market, with two examples possibly starting commercial service in the next few years.

MagniX are the company, who build the electric motors and surely, efficient, lightweight motors are key to flying electric.

November 16, 2019 Posted by | Transport | , , , | Leave a comment

Harbour Air Installs Electric Engine Into ‘Prototype’ Seaplane

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

It is as must-read as it gives the thoughts of engineers working on Harbour Air‘s project to create an electric seaplabe, by the conversion of a DHC-2 Beaver.

Will I see an electric aircraft in my lifetime?

If ten years ago, someone had asked me, if battery-powered trains would appear in my lifetime, I would have been sceptical.

But in the last four years, I have ridden in at least two battery powered trains and lived to tell the tale!

So I not only feel that I will see a news film of a small electric airliner carrying around a dozen passengers, but I suspect I’ll be able to fly in one in the UK.

Surely, the ultimate destination for an electric aircraft would be Barra Airport, where airliners land on a sandy tidal beach.

November 9, 2019 Posted by | Transport | , , , | Leave a comment

Harbour Air Set To Become The First All-Electric Airline In The World

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

This sounds a tough call, but someone will do it, even if it happens sometime in the second half of the 21st Century.

This is taken from the Wikipedia entry for Harbour Air Seaplanes.

Today, Harbour Air refers to itself as the world’s largest all-seaplane airline and became North America’s first carbon neutral airline.

They have a fleet of forty seaplanes and Wikipedia doesn’t list any incidents.

Wikipedia also says this.

In March of 2019, Harbour Air announced a partnership with magniX to electrify the entire Harbour Air fleet. The two companies are planning to begin tests in late 2019; the first converted aircraft will be a DHC-2 Beaver.

Could this well-respected Canadian seaplane operator achieve its goal of an all-electric airline?

I feel that they will certainly achieve a successful test flight, although as countless aircraft have shown, time scales may not be as originally planned.

I’ll start with the DHC-2 Beaver, one of which will be converted to the prototype electric aircraft.

  • First flight of the design was on the 16th of August 1947, which as it was the day I was born, must be a good omen!
  • Over 1,600 were built during twenty years of production.
  • In the past they have been flown by various military and civil operators.

In the Wikipedia entry, under Operational History, this is a paragraph.

The original Wasp Jr radial engine of the Beaver is long out of production, so repair parts are getting harder to find. Some aircraft conversion stations have addressed this problem by replacing the piston engine with a turboprop engine such as the PT6. The added power and lighter installed weight, together with greater availability of kerosene fuel instead of high-octane aviation gasoline, make this a desirable modification, but at a high financial cost.

Consider.

  • Fitting of new engines  has been regularly done to aircraft to extend their operational lives or to increase performance or reliability.
  • So why not change the power unit for environmental reasons?
  • The MagniX electric motor chosen for the trial appears to offer a weight saving.

I believe that provided the mathematics and engineering are correct, that the Wasp Junior piston engine, which dates from 1929, could be replaced with a modern electric motor of the right power level.

How many extra passengers would be drawn to fly in a zero-carbon electric aircraft, which was powered by electricity from renewable sources?

November 2, 2019 Posted by | Transport | , , , | Leave a comment

Orders For A New All-Electric Airplane Now Top 150

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

This looks to be a very positive article as Eviation Aircraft now have more orders for the all-electric Alice aircraft.

This is a couple of paragraphs from the article.

Talks are underway with a fourth possible client in Australia, while the CEO has previously said that prospective customers include major U.S. carriers like United Airlines Holdings Inc. and JetBlue Airways Corp., which are interested in planes to feed their hubs.

The U.K. also represents a natural market, given its relatively small size and plethora of regional airports, Bar-Yohay said. The Alice would be well suited to Virgin Atlantic Airways Ltd.’s Connect arm — previously Flybe — which has an average flight time of 55 minutes. The executive was appearing with Virgin founder Richard Branson and CEO Shai Weiss at a technology conference.

I hope the second paragraph is true, as flying in an all-electric aircraft is definitely on my bucket list!

I would feel that if the aircraft does well, then this experience would translate to France.

 

October 25, 2019 Posted by | Transport | , | Leave a comment