The Anonymous Widower

‘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

Could The Scilly Isles Have An Electric Air Service?

St. Mary’s Airport on the main island of the same name in the Scilly Isles used to be considered a good test of airmanship.

When, I flew my Cessna 340A into the airport in the early 1990s, the runway was very hump-backed and it was a case of coming in slow, landing, cutting power and slamming on the brakes, so you didn’t run away downhill.

I remember having a telephone briefing before, I took off for the Airport and landed safely.

But there was a wrecked plane after the end of the runway.

Returning from the Airport was tricky. Maximum power was applied and you, accelerated up the hill on full power and along a short piece of flat runway on the hump. Eventually, I lifted the plane over the end of the runway and over the adjacent cliff. I maintained level, but once clear I deliberately lost altitude and this added the safety of flying speed. I then flew on at about two hundred feet or so above the sea, before turning to the East for home.

According to Wikipedia, a new runway was built in 1991, so hopefully aircraft like Islanders and Twin Otters can get into the islands with increased ease and safety.

The Future Air Service To The Scillies

Last night there was a discussion on Radio 5 about Flybe and other flights in the South West of England.

A text message to the program, said that the helicopter service to the islands was to be increased and it would be the sole way to get by air to the islands

Wikipedia says that the current air service run by Isles of Scilly Skybus, will be only flying nineteen-seater turboprop Twin Otters after March 2014..

Project Fresson

Project Fresson is a project to create an electric version of the Britten-Norman Islander by Cranfield University, with backing from the manufacturer, Rolls-Royce and some specialist suppliers.

  • The power could be electric or hybrid electric.
  • Rolls-Royce seem to be aiming for a low or zero-carbon power plant for a nineteen-seater airliner.
  • First flight is planned for 2022.
  • Sixty minute endurance with a thirty minute reserve is planned.
  • The aim is to design a kit that can be retrofitted to the up to seven hundred Islanders all over the world.

This could be an interesting project to watch, as Loganair needs an aircraft like this for its Scottish island services.

Conclusion

I very much feel that by 2030, one way or another, the airport on St. Mary’s will be hosting an electric passenger service.

January 17, 2020 Posted by | Transport | , , , , , , | 2 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

Boeing: US Regulator Admits ‘Mistake’ Over Aircraft Crashes

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

This is the first three paragraphs.

US aviation regulators allowed Boeing’s 737 Max aircraft to continue flying despite knowing there was a risk of further crashes.

Analysis after the first crash last year predicted there could be up to 15 disasters over the lifetime of the aircraft without design changes.

Despite this, the Federal Aviation Administration did not ground the Max until a second crash five months later.

The FAA chief said it was a mistake.

I would class it as a very big mistake.

When are Boeing going to come to the conclusion, that they can’t stretch the fifty-year-old design of the Boeing 737 and they need a new modern design?

 

 

December 12, 2019 Posted by | Transport | , , | 3 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

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

Virgin Reports Record Modal Shift From Planes To Trains

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

This paragraph sums up the shift from plane to train.

The operator said rail had a 29 per cent share of the traffic during the 12 months to July this year, and that annual passenger numbers on the route have now reached 700,000, compared with 244,000 ten years ago.

Virgin seem to say it’s all down to them, but various factors with flying are having an effect.

  • Airport delays due to drones and other operational problems.
  • In the case of Glasgow, the lack of a rail link to the airport, might encourage passengers to go the whole way by train.
  • Improved Railcard offerings.
  • Climate change awareness and guilt.
  • Ryanair’s problems.
  • Glaswegians taking long haul flights from Scotland and Manchester, rather than London.
  • Better awareness of rail travel.

I also wonder, if Scotland’s extensive electrification and large numbers of new trains has convinced a lot more Scots to travel by train.

I should also say, that my Scottish friends seem to be using trains rather than flying more often.

Conclusion

Let’s hope that when West Coast Rail take over on December 8th, 2019, the upward trend of market share continues, as it is surely better for the planet.

November 11, 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

All Electric Plane Startup Eviation Aircraft Secures Orders For 150 Units

The title says it all on this article on Nocamels.

Feeder airlines seem to believe in Alice!

I do think, that this is one of the most exciting ideas in development.

November 8, 2019 Posted by | Transport | , | 2 Comments