Green Flight Challenge: Six Steps to Synergy

Dean Sigler GFC, Sustainable Aviation 2 Comments

Conventional wisdom says that an airplane is a collection of compromises – a premise seemingly borne out in practice.  Bigger wings mean slower speeds, but more lift.  Smaller engines mean less performance, but better economy.  Roomier cockpits mean lower fuel mileage and reduced cross-country range.  Everybody knows these things. But what if, applying the Firesign Theater’s comedic dictum, “Everything you know is wrong,” someone shook those bits of conventional wisdom and sorted out a new way of looking at an airplane?  It’s been done before.  Burt Rutan’s wildly creative approach to seeing past convention gave us the Varieze, Catbird, Boomerang, Proteus, Voyager, and Spaceship One, among others.  Because such creations don’t follow the usual scientific method of changing one variable …

QinetiQ Zephyr Breaks Official Record for Solar-Powered Endurance

Dean Sigler Electric Powerplants, Sustainable Aviation 0 Comments

According to BBC News and GlobalFlight.com, QinetiQ’s Zephyr, a 22.5 meter (72 feet) unmanned, solar-powered aircraft has been in the air for more than a week over the Yuma, Arizona Proving Grounds, and program managers intend to keep it there for a total time of at least fourteen days.  Having flown since 6:40 a.m. July 9, its endurance is now four times that of any other unmanned aerial vehicle.   A US Global Hawk holds the current official world endurance record for an unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) of 30 hours, 24 minutes.  Zephyr’s record is being certified by the Federation Aeronautique Internationale, the world air sports federation. Jon Saltmarsh, Zephyr’s project manager, says the craft, “Is basically the first ‘eternal aircraft,’”  a name once given to …

Hail HALE: Boeing’s “Flying Bowling Pin”

Dean Sigler Electric Powerplants, Sustainable Aviation 0 Comments

On July 12, at its St. Louis, Missouri plant, Boeing rolled out its Phantom Eye high altitude long endurance (HALE) aircraft.  Various members of the press and several bloggers took an opportunity to pelt the new plane with sobriquets such as, “flying bowling pin,” or “fat kid,”  failing to understand the aerodynamic advantages of the laminar flow fuselage.  A quick study of CAFE Foundation references would correct these reporters’ initial impressions. Notwithstanding the apparently controversial aesthetics of the 150-foot span craft, the exciting news for green aviation enthusiasts is its power system – a pair of 15o-horsepower, 2.3 liter Ford Duratec engines, turbocharged and fueled by a “breakthrough” liquid hydrogen system.  The long wings, drooping in the press photos, will …

Getting Rid of that Annoying Noise

Dean Sigler Sustainable Aviation 0 Comments

Despite our adoption of electric powerplants, at least at an experimental phase, one remnant of previous technologies remains.  And it threatens aviation’s future more than possibly any other aspect of flight. Charlotte Whitfield, head of the Aeroacoustics Branch at NASA Langley Research Center, quietly but effectively discussed a problem that plagues not only aircraft designers, but also the people who live near aircraft – noise.  Speaking at EAS IV, she touched on the concern that reducing aircraft noise is an increasingly important aspect of aviation, with urban zones encroaching on formerly remote airfields and a growing population likely to grow irate at having their golf game or quiet time disturbed by an unwanted aeronautical din. As she showed in her …

Solar Impulse Overnighter: 26 Hours Nine Minutes

Dean Sigler Electric Powerplants, Sustainable Aviation 0 Comments

Andre’ Borschberg, CEO and co-founder of the Solar Impulse project, landed this morning at 9:00 a.m. (local tme) in Payerne, Switzerland, having completed the first-ever night flight on battery energy stored during the previous day through the craft’s solar cells.  Taking off at 6:51 a.m. July 7, Borschberg flew the 64-meter span, four-motor airplane in large patterns around the area, gaining altitude to a height of 8,564 meters (27,404 feet) above sea level and charging the batteries – all while running the motors at climb power. As night fell, he glided to preserve the stored power, ran the motors as needed to maintain altitude, and landed with a small reserve.  This successful demonstration of being able to run the motors on …

Solar Impulse Collecting Rays for Night Flight

Dean Sigler Electric Powerplants, Sustainable Aviation 0 Comments

Its telemetry problems resolved, Solar Impulse HB-SIA took off at 6:51 a.m., Payerne, Switzerland time, July 7, for a day of collecting sunlight in its huge array of solar cells.  If Andre’ Borschberg, CEO and cofounder of the project, decides that enough electricity has coursed through the giant craft’s wings to charge the batteries sufficiently, he will attempt to keep flying through the night. The Solar Impulse Project notes the following in today’s press release.  “The whole day long, up to about 19:30 (7:30 p.m., Payerne time), the prototype will be slowly ascending to an altitude of 8,500 metres, while at the same time charging its batteries in preparation for the night flight. When the sun’s rays stop being strong …

CAFE Makes the Top of Kitplanes’ Cover

Dean Sigler Electric Powerplants, Sustainable Aviation 0 Comments

 While at the local magazine store, or the proverbial fine book store, you’ll be able to spot Kitplanes’ August 2010 issue easily.  The yellow letters on the cover line above the magazine title pop with upper-case intensity: “FUTURE SHOCK: CAFE’S Electric Aircraft Symposium.” Not only does the fourth annual Electric Aircraft Symposium get pride of place on the magazine’s cover and in four pages inside, but Marc Cook, editor-in-chief for the publication, titles his “Around the Patch” editorial “Making Electric Aircraft Exciting,” and proceeds to share his surprised discovery of respect for the new Toyota Prius, and to praise the husband-wife team of Bill Dube’ and Eva Hakansson, battery builder and racer, respectively, of Killacycle, the 0-60 in one second electric …

An Off-the-Shelf Hybrid Power Package

Dean Sigler Diesel Powerplants, Electric Powerplants, Sustainable Aviation 0 Comments

Dr. Andrew Frank of the University of California at Davis and Greg Stevenson of GSE, Inc. discussed Efficient Drive Trains at the fourth annual Electric Aircraft Symposium on April 23, 2010.  Their detailed look at a 75-kilogram (165 pound), 36 kilowatt (48 horsepower) power system for a high-performance sailplane gave attendees a clear look at what can be accomplished with off-the-shelf components, especially if the shelf is in either presenter’s warehouse. Dr. Frank, teaching and mentoring in the University’s Mechanical and Aeronautical Engineering Department, has been dubbed the father of the plug-in hybrid vehicle (PHEV), and has fielded winning teams for the Shell Eco-Marathon, with lightweight cars that obtained up to 3,500 miles per gallon.  The base two-horsepower Briggs and Stratton engine is …

Solar Impulse Night Flight Postponed

Dean Sigler Electric Powerplants, Sustainable Aviation 0 Comments

The Solar Impulse project sent out the following press release this morning: “Dear Solar Impulse Friends, “This morning at 06h45, the Solar Impulse Mission Team had to take the difficult decision to postpone the first night flight attempt. “The problem comes from the telemetry transmitter that has broken down. This system enables the ground team to follow in real time the flight mission and to monitor thousands of crucial parameters. With a prototype such as Solar Impulse currently in an experimental phase, this system is an essential component without which, the mission was not possible. “Due to this inoperative piece of equipment produced specifically for this prototype, we were unfortunately unable to replace it and subsequently had to postpone this …

Solar Impulse All-Nighter July 1

Dean Sigler Electric Powerplants, Sustainable Aviation 0 Comments

Solar Impulse is set to attempt its first night flight on Thursday, July 1, 2010. Weather conditions are “Favourable for attempting the first night flight on solar energy,” according to the Solar Impulse web site.   “The situation continues to look good and the likelihood of seeing the HB-SIA take off on July 1st and land back in the early morning 2nd July is increasingly probable.” The Solar Impulse team will confirm the date 24 hours before take-off time.  Only accredited journalists will be allowed on-site to witness the event, so don’t head for the Payerne, Switzerland airbase, but follow the flights on the Internet at the project’s special Night Flight web page at www.solarimpulse.com. These flights are crucial to the ongoing aim of …