Vin Fiz and Solar Impulse

Dean Sigler Sustainable Aviation 0 Comments

Calbraith Perry Rodgers, the first person to fly across the United States, was deaf from an early childhood disease.  Even though he came from a long line of naval heroes, this handicap kept him from joining the Navy, but didn’t slow his quest for adventure.  He was one of the first to sign up for flying lessons with the Wright Brothers at their home base in Ohio. He was 31 years old when William Randolph Hearst offered a $50,000 prize to the first aviator to fly coast-to-coast in 30 days or less.  Rodgers convinced the Armour Meat Packing Company to sponsor his attempt as a promotion for their new soft drink, Vin Fiz.  As a coincidence, your editor visited the …

Facebook Unveils a Very Big, Very Light Electric Flying Wing

Dean Sigler Electric Powerplants, Sustainable Aviation 0 Comments

Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg is intent on providing at least basic Internet services to everyone in the world, even if means creating his own air force to accomplish that lofty goal. March 27, 2014, he shared his overall plan, including a large fleet of airplanes that would loiter in the stratosphere, beaming high-speed Internet connections to one and all. Just a few days ago, Zuckerberg announced the completion of the first full-scale aircraft for this grand plan, the Aquila.  Aquila has the wingspan of a Boeing 737, but weighs in at around 400 kilograms (880 pounds).  Apparently built in England by his recently acquired team of aeronautical experts, Aquila will be able to stay in the air for months at a …

There’s an Airplane in There Somewhere

Dean Sigler Electric Powerplants, Sustainable Aviation 0 Comments

Looking like an igloo condominium, Solar Impulse’s inflatable hangar was hastily shipped to Nagoya Airport in Japan to protect the large, but vulnerable, machine from weather damage.  Before the temporary hangar could be installed, though, high winds caused part of the structure holding a cover over the right wing to hit the aileron and cause minor damage. Solar Impulse reports, “In the early hours of Tuesday 2 June as we were in the process of offloading the material and beginning to prepare the mount the mobile hangar, there were wind gusts which led to damage to SIB, on a small part of the wing. We do not see this as being a major issue, but we do not have a full evaluation of the time …

Getting Sideways in SI2

Dean Sigler Electric Powerplants, Sustainable Aviation 0 Comments

Any pilot who’s had to land an airplane at its crosswind limit knows that each airplane has a point where its controls cannot overcome the sideways force, and one cannot perform the final level, straight-down-the-runway touchdown.  Usually, pilots do a go-around or find a more wind-oriented runway.  Solar Impulse’s explanation under the video tells why this is almost impossible under deteriorating conditions with a craft as huge and slow as SI2. Take note of the control inputs test pilot Marcus Scherdel makes in the final moments of the August 30, 2014 flight. The Solar Impulse team released this video in the last week, perhaps to explain why the crew is waiting for a positive “weather window” before embarking on a planned five-day …

Desert + Salt Water = Jet Fuel

Dean Sigler Diesel Powerplants, Sustainable Aviation 0 Comments

Masdar, the United Arab Emirate’s clean energy development program, is hosting Solar Impulse as it prepares for its around-the-world flight.  Beyond that, Masdar comprises five business units: Masdar Capital, Masdar Clean Energy, Special Projects, Masdar City and Free Zone, and Masdar Institute, “an independent, research-driven graduate university. Masdar Institute of Science and Technology is a multi-faceted research center, which although small at this time, seems to be fairly prodigious in the output of patents, patents pending and academic papers. The Institute heads a program to use “coastal seawater to raise fish and shrimp for food, whose nutrient-rich wastewater then fertilizes oil-rich halophyte plants that can be harvested for aviation biofuel production.”  Halophytes, as those who’ve listened to or read Dennis …

A Big Plane Swallows a Bigger Airplane, Flies it to Abu Dhabi

Dean Sigler Electric Powerplants, Sustainable Aviation 0 Comments

Solar Impulse 2 is a big airplane, with a wingspan greater than that of the Boeing Cargolux carrier that transported it to Abu Dhabi this last weekend.  Seeing the craft slipped into the cargo hold of the whale-like Boeing, then disgorged a few hours later, presents an almost mythical vision of leviathans at work and play. Abu Dhabi, the capital city of the United Arab Emirates, has been named the Host City of Solar Impulse for the first round-the-world solar flight, to be started 50 days from now in March.  Following over a score of test flights in Switzerland, HB-SIB was dismantled and packed aboard the 747 that would carry it to the UAE, where it will be prepared for …

It’s (Green Aviation) Giving Tuesday, 2014

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

If you’ve managed to survive Gray Thursday, Black Friday, and a weekend of NFL games stuffed with blandishments to entice you to the nearest mall (Thanksgiving happened in there somewhere), you’re forgiven if you flinch at yet one more presumptuous tug at your purse strings.  But we’re talking about helping pioneers on the edge of green technology, crafting the stuff dreams are made of – and making those dreams a reality.  On this Giving Thursday, think about contributing to the dream makers who are taking us into a better future of flight.   We share a few suggestions here. Solar Flight Eric and Irena Raymond are the first family of solar-powered flight, now cruising Italian skies in the world’s first two-seat …

100 Percent Efficiency? Great! and So What?

Dean Sigler Electric Powerplants, Sustainable Aviation 0 Comments

A particularly brilliant and demanding manager for whom your editor used to work had a “SO WHAT?” stamp with which he would critique our technical papers and proposals.  His point in defacing our papers was not to be snide, but to force us to defend why we included certain facts – interesting though they may be in themselves. Two different and equally brilliant discoveries by University of Cambridge and University of California, Riverside researchers bring the “so what?” stamp to mind.  Even with their breakthroughs, approaching 100-percent efficient solar cells in the first instance, solar cells may not yet be a perfect fit for aircraft propulsion. Each square foot of the earth’s surface receives about 15 Watts of solar energy …

Reaching for the Sun

Dean Sigler Electric Powerplants, Sustainable Aviation 0 Comments

SolarStratos, a two-seat, solar-powered airplane, is being readied for record flights in Yverdon-les-Bains, Switzerland, just a 25-minute drive from the Solar Impulse hangars in Payerne. Its makers claim that it is the first commercial solar two-seater aircraft in history, and will be the first solar-powered airplane with a pilot to enter the stratosphere.  These heady claims are described on the project’s web site as a “crazy bet,” but it’s too early to make such judgments.  Calin Gologan of PC-Aero GmbH designed the base craft, an expansion of his earlier ultralight electric aircraft, Elektra Two.  The “Record” version of this craft, despite SolarStratos’ extended 20-meter (65 feet, 7 inch) wingspan, weighs a feathery 140 kilograms (308 pounds) empty, and only 350 …

Your Black Friday (and All-Year) Giving List

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

With merchants beating the drums of commerce to lure you to their stores and web sites for holiday cheer (at least for the merchants), your editor has some alternative giving suggestions that could help bankroll the future of aviation (if not aviation futures).  Each of these projects would welcome funding, and each has much to give back to all of us. Put Your Face in Space The Perlan Project has initiated a fund-raising program on Indie-Go-Go, with the immediate goal to complete construction of the major parts of Perlan II, a high-performance, high-altitude research sailplane recently featured in the New York Times.  Its planned mission to 90,000 feet in the Polar Vortex could give us new and profound understanding of …