100 Percent Efficiency? Great! and So What?

Dean Sigler Electric Powerplants, Sustainable Aviation Leave a Comment

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 Leave a Comment

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 Leave a Comment

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 …

A Different Kind of Hybrid

Dean Sigler Diesel Powerplants, Sustainable Aviation 1 Comment

In the Innovation Pavilion at Oshkosh’s AirVenture 2013, Joseph Hutterer quietly drew people in with a model and an interesting approach to a single-fuel type of hybrid.  Take the twin engines off the wings and place one of them in the modified tail.  Now put a small turbojet in a retracting pod in the nose.  Taxi out to the end of the runway and use both engines to take off and climb, then shut the nose jet down, retract that, and cruise on the single rear engine. Hutterer, with an Aeronautical Engineering degree from the University of Minnesota, FAA commercial pilot’s license with single-engine, multi-engine, instrument and glider ratings, and 42 years of engineering and marketing experience in the general …

Solar Impulse Makes It to New York Early

Dean Sigler Electric Powerplants, Sustainable Aviation Leave a Comment

It’s hard to believe that the Solar Impulse has been on its Cross America tour since May 3, but its early touchdown at New York City’s John F. Kennedy International Airport late Saturday night was cause for elation on at least two counts. First, as the Solar Impulse team points out, “For the first time a plane capable of flying day and night powered exclusively by solar energy has crossed the USA from the West to the East Coasts without using a single drop of fuel.”  As we love to point out, though, it’s not the first time a solar-powered airplane has made the trip.  Eric Raymond did it in 21 hops in 1990 in Sunseeker 1, using the technology …

What a Month This Will Have Been

Dean Sigler Electric Powerplants, Sustainable Aviation Leave a Comment

With Solar Impulse descending on Washington, D. C., the Cross USA flight reached a symbolic conclusion, bringing the future to a capitol that seems resistant to even modest change, let alone radical departures from current, conventional reality. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=n64tAJs_c8w With one hop to go in its journey, Solar Impulse has spread the message of what might be if we have the will to overcome the inertia brought about by our well-lobbied legislature. Andre Borschberg and Bertrand Piccard have one more opportunity to challenge the world to adopt green energy when Solar Impulse goes to New York City. Monday, they met with Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz, with whom they participated in an energy roundtable and news conference about the technology that made …

Sunseeker Duo Shows Completed Form at Friedrichshafen, Moves to Italy

Dean Sigler Electric Powerplants, Sustainable Aviation Leave a Comment

Erik Raymond is moving his shop and Sunseeker Duo project to Voghera, Italy, nestled in Northern Italy between Milan and Genoa.  He showed the completed airframe at this year’s Aero Expo at Friedrichshafen, Germany and discussed, no doubt, the future of electric aviation with Axel Lange, the CEO of Lange Aviation.  Lange has developed the Antares and Arcus electric motorgliders, both outstanding designs. Following the Expo’s finale, Erik and his wife Irena drove south to Italy, where their enterprise will complete work on the Duo and plan for their proposed trips in unexplored realms– all on solar power. With Solar Impulse crossing the United States (which Erik did in 1990 in Sunseeker I) and more flights planned by other participants, …

Solar Impulse Lifts Off on First Leg of Cross America 2013 Tour

Dean Sigler Electric Powerplants, Sustainable Aviation Leave a Comment

With Bertrand Piccard at the controls, Solar Impulse completed its motor runups a few minutes before its scheduled 6:00 a. m. PDT takeoff.  The project commentator in Switzerland noted that Piccard looked “a little pensive” in the minutes leading up to the historic departure from Moffett Field in Mountain View, California. The first leg of the trip involves a stepped climb – first to 5,000 feet for about two hours, then to a little over 20,000 feet until about 7:00 p. m. , when the craft will begin a stepped descent for the next several hours and arrive over Phoenix near midnight. As cars whizzed by on the nearby Highway 101 linking San Jose and San Francisco, Solar Impulse’s crew …

Solar Impulse Soars Over the Golden Gate

Dean Sigler Electric Powerplants, Sustainable Aviation Leave a Comment

This photograph, by J. Revillard for the Solar Impulse project, speaks well more than a thousand words.  It exemplifies the aspirations those of us feel who want to see the skies filled with quiet, efficient aircraft.  If the individuals who’ve made this beautiful sight possible want to inspire others, they’ve succeed admirably. Follow the flight of Solar Impulse across America and see more pictures here.  

Solar Impulse is Here

Dean Sigler Electric Powerplants, Sustainable Aviation Leave a Comment

Solarimpulse.com reports, “The Boeing 747 landed at Moffett Airfield in San Francisco at 1:13 PM (UTC-8) on Thursday 21 February.  HB-SIA was immediately unloaded and, in the coming days reassembly will begin.” Almost immediately, crews will assemble and test fly the already intercontinental solar-powered aircraft in preparation for a flight from the Bay Area to the East Coast.  Having conquered the gap between Europe and Africa on its trip to Rabat, Morocco and on to Quarzazate, HB-SIA braved turbulence and gusting that caused it to turn back on its initial foray into the desert.  Its final arrival at a gigantic solar energy plant in Morocco’s interior was a symbol of what clean energy can accomplish and a tribute to Solar …