Tehachapi 2013 – Baby Bowlus and Silent Electro

Dean Sigler Electric Powerplants, Sustainable Aviation 2 Comments

Tehachapi is a one-time railroad stop, 4,000 feet in the high mountain desert near Mojave, California.  Trains don’t stop there very often these days, but multi-engined, two-mile-long bearers of cargo and commerce run over the tracks 50 times a day, making the long haul toward Bakersfield or Mojave. Hawley Bowlus helped build the Spirit of St. Louis and later taught the Lindberghs to fly sailplanes, with some lessons taking place in the high desert air above Tehachapi.  Today, the once bare hills are covered with over 5,000 wind turbines, their giant rotors pointed into the prevailing westerlies.  At the base of these hills, Mountain Valley Soaring has a base, and Jeff Byard has a hangar that hosts the annual meeting …

AeroVelo Captures Sikorsky Prize

Dean Sigler Sustainable Aviation Leave a Comment

This was not their first rodeo.  Core members of the AeroVelo human-powered helicopter team, “Have been working together since 2006 on the world record setting Snowbird Human-Powered Ornithopter as well as the series of high-speed streamlined bicycles. Over the course of the various projects we have built a wealth of experience in human performance, lightweight composite construction, and advanced aerodynamic design.” Their Snowbird maintained altitude for 19.3 seconds on only human power.  Even though towed into the air, it flew on its own after the pilot released the towrope.  The beauty of this flight is so compelling the footage has been used in Honda commercials. Their record attempt streamlined bicycles are part of a series that make attempts on the …

Lifting Yourself by a Disappearing Thread

Dean Sigler Sustainable Aviation Leave a Comment

The University of Maryland announced the successful 11.4 second flight of an American human-powered helicopter with a female pilot – now the National record holder and successor to the first female flight on such a machine – 17 years ago. In 1994, your editor attended a human-powered aircraft symposium in Seattle at the Boeing Museum of Flight. Paul MacCready signed my copy of Gossamer Odyssey and I was official observer (for Chris Roper of the Royal Aeronautical Society) of the first female-powered helicopter flight.  Ward Griffiths, a svelte young thing from a local bike shop, cranked the very similar (to Gamera) thing into the air for 8.6 seconds – a first and a female record at that time.  A Japanese gentleman had …

Doing More With Much, Much Less

Dean Sigler Uncategorized 1 Comment

This dictum from Paul MacCready that we can do a great deal more with far less material expenditure is well realized in a big way by researchers at the California Institute of Technology (Caltech) with their new type of solar cell. Using about two percent of the silicon semiconductor material normally required for crystalline cells, and achieving a high level of energy conversion, the new cells may also be relatively inexpensive to manufacture. As noted by Harry Atwater in Caltech’s press release, “These solar cells have, for the first time, surpassed the conventional light-trapping limit for absorbing materials…” Atwater is Howard Hughes Professor, professor of applied physics and materials science, and director of Caltech’s Resnick Institute, which according to the …