The Anonymous Widower

Pakistan International Airlines Grounds Third Of Pilots After Crash That Killed 98 People

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

This paragraph chilled me.

Pilots without adequate experience and technical knowledge obtained their qualifications by paying others to take their examinations, officials said.

I don’t think Pakistan International Airlines will be high on my list of preferred airlines.

June 26, 2020 Posted by | Transport | , , | 1 Comment

James Bond Stunt Pilot’s Electrifying Flight

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

This is the introductory paragraph.

A James Bond stunt pilot has completed the first electric-powered flights from a UK airport in an aircraft capable of carrying passengers.

The aircraft was a modified Piper Malibu.

  • They can carry a pilot and five passengers.
  • They are single-engined.
  • Some are powered by piston engines and some by turboprops.
  • Over 1,200 of different variants have been produced and the aircraft is still in production.

Tragicilly, the footballer; Emiliano Sala, died in a Piper Malibu.

Zeroavia, the company, who seem to be behind this flight, in my view seem to be on the right track. The Zeroavia Hyflyer, has its own section in the Wikipedia entry for the Piper Malibu. This is the first sentence.

ZeroAvia, a Cranfield University partner, is a U.S./UK startup developing a Hydrogen fuel cell power train targeting to halve a turbine operating costs.

Roei Ganzarsky, who is CEO of magniX, who are a company, who make efficient electric motors for aviation, appears to very much believe that electric aircraft will be cheaper to run.

June 23, 2020 Posted by | Transport | , , | 4 Comments

Will Biofuel Save Jet Aviation?

I ask this question as I have just written a post, which is entitled Grant Shapps Announcement On Friday, where I detail a project called Altalto, which its developers hope will convert waste into aviation biofuel.

But there are other factors at work, that will have effects on passenger flying.

Electric Aircraft

Despite the technological problems electric aircraft, I can see that in a couple of years, an electric plane will be available with the following specification.

  • 9-15 passenger capacity
  • 100-200 mile range
  • Half-hour recharge time

These will improve as technology improves. But then everybody who uses a battery in their product says this.

Lightweight Structures

If you’ve ever looked at a high-performance glider, you’ll see that they are the featherweights of the aviation world and are built mainly from ultra lightweight composites.

Boeing have gone this route with the 787 Dreamliner and the aircraft has been a success.

Unfortunately, Boeing’s accountants have trashed the company, by trying to prolong the life of the obsolete 737 too far, instead of developing a composite replacement.

By the end of this decade all aircraft will be made from lightweight composite structures.

Interstingly, the only all new electric passenger aircraft; the Eviation Alice has a fully-composite airframe.

Lightweight structures will help create lower carbon emissions on traditional aircraft, by reducing fuel burn, but will really help in creating new aircraft types. Some of which will look very unusual.

Better Aerodynamics

Aerodynamics are getting more efficient and this will reduce fuel burn and have two effects on aircraft design.

  • They will make existing designs more efficient.
  • They will improve the design of electric aircraft designed on a clean sheet of paper.

Expect to see some very weird looking aircraft. Look at Eviation Alice, which could evolve into a twenty seat aircraft with a range exceeding six hundred miles.

Hybrid-Powered Aircraft

I can’t with current technology, see an all-electric aircraft powered by batteries having a range greater than perhaps six hundred miles and a capacity of greater than perhaps 20 passengers. The mathematics and the physics say no!

Some aero engine manufacturers are talking about hybrid power, where a small turbofan engine is paired with a battery and electric motors.

I think it could be a way to extend the range of electric aircraft, without creating significant emissions. Aviation biofuel would fit well with a hybrid aviation powerplant, as it would further remove emissions.

Completely Automatic Flight

The pilot of a modern airliner does very little flying and there is no reason, pilots couldn’t do as little to fly the plane, as a driver on a Victoria Line tube has done since 1967 to drive the train.

When a train is ready to depart, the driver presses a button and the train moves automatically to the next station.

If anything unusual happens, the driver takes control.

Why not with airliners?

Point-To-Point Air Services

In MagniX Electric Aircraft Engines Take To The Skies, I put this quote from magniX, who make the electric motors for electric aircraft.

magniX says 45% of all airline flights cover less than 800 km, while 5% of flights are sub-160 km.

These flights will be the first to go electric.

But they are not really suited for an airport like Heathrow or Gatwick, as each plane needs a separate take-off and landing slot to fit in with conventional flights.

Heathrow want a third runway to increase capacity.

Perhaps it should be for electric flights only!

  • Electric aircraft will be low-noise and create no pollution.
  • It would have its own terminal.
  • Charging facilities would be built into the terminal.
  • Taxi distances would be short.
  • The runway would only need to be short.
  • Passengers would have to arrive and leave by zero-carbon transport.
  • There might even be space for two runways; one for landing and one of take-off.

I can see a network of both smaller airports and satellites at major airports developing, that are designed for electric aircraft.

  • Some airports, like possibly London City, might convert to all-electric, due to their sensitive locations.
  • Other important towns and cities without an airport, might develop new all-electric airports.
  • Hubs might develop at convenient locations in the UK, for short trips to the Continent and Ireland. Perhaps a high speed rail-connected Manston Airport would be ideal for electric flights to Belgium, The Netherlands and Northern France.

Frequent point-to-point electric flights could create a zero-carbon short-haul network for flights of up to about six hundred miles.

Rail Journeys Less Than Four Hours

It is accepted by many analysts and rail companies, that if a train takes less than four hours, then it is a viable alternative to flying.

  • Could the success of Eurostar’s London and Amsterdam route, be partly down to the that it’s four hours?
  • First Group subsidiary; East Coast Trains have stated they will target air passengers, with a sub four-hour, one-class £25 train journey between London and Edinburgh.
  • High Speed Two is currently promising three hours and forty minute journeys between London and Edinburgh/Glasgow, when their service starts.

I believe that rail companies all over the world will see tempting air passengers to use rail, as a market to develop.

Zoom And Other Internet Techniques

During the COVID-19 pandemic, businesses, families and others have started using Internet conferencing in a big way.

But will other software develop, that will have the effect of both cutting flying or making it more zero-carbon.

Suppose, I wanted to visit several cities in the United States. Is there an Internet site that tells me how to do it to create the least amount of CO2?

Biofuel For Short Flights

When I laid out the factors, I only mentioned aviation biofuels once.

That was in conjunction with hybrid aircraft, that use both jet and electric power.

If the hybrid technology succeeds, it may mean that flights up to about a thousand miles are possible and this would include a lot of short haul flights around the world. With biofuels and hybrid powerplants, carbon dioxide emissions will be greatly reduced and could probably be managed by carbon offset measures like tree-planting.

Biofuel For Long Flights

As aircraft get more efficient using biofuel will help to reduce the amount of emissions, to a level that could be balanced by carbon offset.

This will be an expensive process for airlines, as probably most fleets will need to be replaced with more fuel efficient planes.

But this is happening, as 757s and A380 are being replaced by Dreamliners and other more fuel efficient types.

Conclusion

By 2035, most short haul flights will be electric or some form of hybrid power, although a lot will be replaced by high speed rail.

Biofuel won’t save long-haul flights, but it will make them economic for the airlines.

I suspect that there will be a lot of aluminium aircraft going for scrap.

June 16, 2020 Posted by | Transport | , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Grant Shapps Announcement On Friday

I listened to Grant Shapps announcement on Friday, when he gave the daily COVID-19 Press Conference.

This article on the Velocys web site is entitled Government Announces Jet Zero Council And Confirms Support For Velocys Waste-To-Jet-Fuel Project.

The article shows a video of the speech and this summary paragraph.

At this afternoon’s COVID-19 press conference, Secretary of State for Transport, Grant Shapps, announced the establishment of a new Jet Zero Council and confirmed Government support for Velocys.

So who are the company with the strange name of Velocys?

This is a quote from the Velocys CEO; Henrik Wareborn.

Today’s announcement on the formation of a Jet Zero Council shows that a new era of net zero carbon flying is on a credible path, at a time when we need it more than ever. This follows news earlier today that our Altalto waste-to-jet fuel facility – the first of its kind in the UK – has received additional funding from Government and formally received planning permission, meaning it could be producing sustainable aviation fuel in commercial scale by the middle of this decade.

Is a new era of net zero carbon flying a possibility or is this a dream too far?

The AltAlto Project

Yhe project is called AltAlto and it has its own web site.

It is backed by British Airways and Shell, and uses technology from Velocys.

This description of the project is on the home page.

Altalto turns household and commercial waste into clean-burning fuels with reduced greenhouse gas emissions for air and road transport.

A page called Technology describes how it is done.

This is the initial summary.

Our process can accept a wide variety of waste, while delivering a clean product. There are very limited emissions to atmosphere from the plant except water and carbon dioxide. Components of the waste which do not get turned into fuel, such as metals and stones, are recycled; a small amount of it (less than 3%) goes to landfill.

This diagram from the Velocys web site illustrates the process.

The then goes through the stages of the process.

  • Stage 1 – Preparation – First the waste is treceived, sorted and prepared.
  • Stage 2 – Gasification – Next the solid waste is gasified; heated to a high temperature to break it down and convert it into synthesis gas or syngas (carbon monoxide and hydrogen).
  • Stage 3 – Synthesis – After cleaning, the syngas is used to synthesis hydrocarbons using the Fischer-Tropsch technology provided by Velocys.
  • Stage 4 – Finishing – These hydrocarbons are then refined into the final products; renewable jet fuel (in the form of SPK) and naphtha.

They add this final summary.

The process is fundamentally different to incineration: instead of being burnt, the carbon in the waste is converted into a fuel for use in aircraft or vehicles.

There are many clean ways of making electricity, but it is really difficult to make sustainable jet fuel – this is one of the very few economic ways of doing so. It’s therefore a far better use of household waste than incineration, creating a much more valuable and environmentally beneficial product.

Could the process be considered a sophisticated waste incineration process, where the actual incineration is performed in the turbofan engine in the aircraft or the diesel engine in the truck to provide power?

I have a few questions.

What is Fischer-Tropsch Technology?

This is the first sentence for the Wikipedia entry for the Fischer-Tropsch Process.

The Fischer-Tropsch process is a collection of chemical reactions that converts a mixture of carbon monoxide and hydrogen into liquid hydrocarbons. These reactions occur in the presence of metal catalysts, typically at temperatures of 150-300 °C (302-572 °F) and pressures of one to several tens of atmospheres. The process was first developed by Franz Fischer and Hans Tropsch at the Kaiser-Wilhelm-Institut fur Kohlenforschung in Mulheim an der Ruhr, Germany, in 1925.

One of the companies involved in using the Fischer-Tropsch process is the South African company; Sasol. Wikipedia gives this summary about Sasol’s use of the process.

Another large scale implementation of Fischer-Tropsch technology is a series of plants operated by Sasol in South Africa, a country with large coal reserves, but little oil. The first commercial plant opened in 1952. Sasol uses coal and now natural gas as feedstocks and produces a variety of synthetic petroleum products, including most of the country’s diesel fuel.

The involvement with the apartheid regime in South Africa probably wasn’t the best of publicity for the process.

But have Oxford University and Velocys created a way of making net zero carbon aviation and diesel fuels?

What Is SPK?

SPK is Synthetic Paraffinic Kerosene and it is an aviation biofuel.

The Wikipedia entry for aviation biofuel has a sub-section called FT-SPK, where this is said.

The second route involves processing solid biomass using pyrolysis to produce pyrolysis oil or gasification to produce a syngas which is then processed into FT SPK (Fischer-Tropsch Synthetic Paraffinic Kerosene)

This sounds like the Velocys process.

What Are The Environmental Effects?

In the Wikipedia entry for aviation biofuel, there is a section called Environmental Effects. This is the first sentence.

A life cycle assessment by the Yale School of Forestry on jatropha, one source of potential biofuels, estimated using it could reduce greenhouse gas emissions by up to 85% if former agro-pastoral land is used, or increase emissions by up to 60% if natural woodland is converted to use. In addition, biofuels do not contain sulphur compounds and thus do not emit sulphur dioxide.

As Velocys produce their SPK from household waste, their fuel will have a different and more positive effect on greenhouse gas emissions.

This press release on the Velocys web site is entitled Plans Submitted For The First Waste To Jet Fuel Plant In The UK And Europe.

This is a paragraph.

The proposed plant will take hundreds of thousands of tonnes of household and commercial solid waste and turn it into clean burning sustainable aviation fuel, reducing net greenhouse gases by 70% compared to the fossil fuel equivalent – equal to taking up to 40,000 cars per year off the road.

Earlier, I quoted this about the process.

There are very limited emissions to atmosphere from the plant except water and carbon dioxide.

A lot depends on where the carbon dioxide is produced, but if it is produced by a well-designed process plant, it should be possible to capture it for storage.

There are also possibilities to reuse carbon-dioxide in the Fischer-Tropsch process.

Could Diesel Be Produced By The Process?

In the United States, Velocys are developing a project called Bayou Fuels.

This is said on the home page.

We are developing a plant in Mississippi that will create diesel fuel for road transportation in the U.S. It will process waste from the paper and lumber industries – woody biomass forest residue that would otherwise rot on the forest floor or contribute to forest fires.

It should be noted that this is said in the Wikipedia entry for the Port of Immingham.

In 2013 ABP began the development of the “Immingham Renewable Fuels Terminal” on the Humber International Terminal site, as part of a 15-year contract with Drax Power Station to supply biomass (wood pellet) to the powerplant. ABP’s total investment in biomass handling facilities, including installations at Hull and Goole was to be around £100 million.

As Velocys’s new  plant will be at Immingham, close to the biomass port, I suspect the answer is yes.

Where Is The Plant Located?

This Google Map shows Immingham Port and the area to the South.

Note.

  1. Immingham Port is towards the North West corner of the map.
  2. South Humber Bank Power Station is towards the South East corner of the map.

It would appear that the Altalto plant, will be located on an 80 acre site between the port and the power station.

There would also appear from Google Maps that the Barton Line runs through the area, which would surely be handy for bringing in the waste and taking out the fuel.

This picture from the Altalto web site, shows a visualisation of the plant, looking North East.

INote, what looks to be the railway, through the site in the foreground.

There are also a couple of informative videos, including one from the BBC, on this page of the Velocys web site.

t looks to be the ideal site.

How Much Fuel Will The Plant Produce?

According to the video on the web site, the plant will convert 500,000 tonnes of waste into 60,000,000 litres of fuel. I estimate that would be about 48,000 tonnes of jet fuel.

Could The Diesel Fuel Be Used To Decarbonise The Railways In The UK?

I believe that a substantial amount of the use of diesel on the UK’s railways will be cut by the use of battery and hydrogen power in multiple units and locomotives.

But some services like the heavy stone trains moving aggregates from the Mendips and the Peak District to London will be difficult to decarbonise, unless a locomotive manufacturer produces a hydrogen-powered locomotive with upwards of five megawatts of power. And that is a tough design challenge.

Low sulpur diesel produced from waste would be one way to reduce the carbon footprint.

Conclusion

It sounds a crazy idea to create aviation fuel and diesel from household waste!

Will It Work?

Consider.

  • It appears that most of the technology used to produce this fuel has been around for decades.
  • Sasol opened their first commercial plant in South Africa, using the Fischer-Tropsch process in 1952 and still use the technique today.
  • Oxford University have added magic ingredients to the Fischer-Tropsch process.
  • Velocys seem to have put in a lot of serious thought to get the Altalto project ticking all the right boxes.

The project could be late, but I feel it will deliver the main objective of converting household and commercial waste to jet fuel and diesel.

 

 

June 14, 2020 Posted by | Transport, World | , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

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

UBS Predicts Post-Pandemic Shift From Air To High Speed Rail

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

The title says it all.

April 13, 2020 Posted by | Health, Transport | , , | 3 Comments

‘Total Loss’ Feared After Fire Reportedly Damages Eviation Alice Electric Plane Prototype

The title of this post is the same as that of this article on the Engineering News page of IMechE.

It’s not what you call a flying start!

Even-Boeing had problems with the batteries on the Dreamliner.

January 23, 2020 Posted by | Transport | , , | 1 Comment