John Langford’s New Direction

Dean Sigler Announcements, Electric Powerplants, Sky Taxis, Sustainable Aviation Leave a Comment

John Langford has been a leading exponent of new directions in aeronautical technology.  From his work as project manager with MIT’s human-powered Daedalus project to his executive leadership with Aurora Technologies, he has crafted electric, autonomous, and downright astonishing vehicles.   The following video is long, but insightful and exciting.   We see Langford in several early scenes. Having seen Daedalus conquer the Sea of Crete like the mythical first airman, Langford spread his reach into ever more technologically complex problems.  His resume is deceptively short, since he’s held only two jobs since leaving college.  His LinkedIn bio is brief, but telling. “John Langford is the founder and CEO of Electra.aero, a startup developing hybrid electric aircraft for regional mobility. He founded …

Joby and Uber Elevate Form Partnership

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In a new partnership agreement, Uber Elevate recently added Joby Aviation to its stable of aircraft companies which are to supply craft for its Urban Air Mobility program.  Joby builds electric motors, 12 of which line the wing of NASA’s X-57 Maxwell, with two larger motors for forward thrust when the small units are shut down. This inventory of electric motors on the NASA project gives Joby a certain entrée to interest from the Urban Air Mobility movement, and it’s received that interest from Uber.  Well financed in its own right, Joby has committed to meeting Uber’s desire to have operating sky taxis in the air by 2023, as reported by Andrew J. Hawkins in The Verge. We have written …

The 2019 Personal Aircraft Design Academy (PADA) Trophy

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Honoring John Langford If one stays with a line of work long enough, one will accomplish mighty things.  That’s certainly true for John Langford, Chief Executive Officer for Aurora Flight Sciences.  His decades-long career, start his decades-long career, starting at Massachusetts Institute of Technology and culminating his company partnering with Boeing, has explored almost every aeronautical discipline.  For this perseverance, he was awarded the 2019 Personal Aircraft Design Academy (PADA) Trophy. Aurora Flight Sciences’ Chief Technology Officer, Tom Clancy, was on hand at the 2019 Sustainable Aviation Symposium at UC Berkeley to accept the award for Langford.  Clancy has worked with Langford since their MIT days, building and flying several human-powered aircraft, including the 1974 Daedalus.  That aircraft flew the …

Aurora’s Odysseus – Large Enough for Its Mythic Name

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Named for a mythical hero like its evolutionary predecessors, Aurora Flight Science’s Odysseus is a huge, but ephemeral thing. A wingspan larger than the largest 747’s and a weight no greater than a Smart Car’s (around 1,500 pounds) means this airplane will be slow and frail.  A carbon fiber tube structure covered by lightweight Tedlar™ resembles the construction of Solar Impulse, but without the bulk of carrying a pilot. Since its antecedent was the world record holding distance champion in human-powered aircraft, the manner of flight is no surprise.  Its intended altitude is.  Odysseus takes it to the stratosphere. It’s the latest revelation in a thirty-year exploration of low-powered, extreme-endurance aircraft.  Before he founded Aurora, John Langford led a group of …

Referencing Uber’s Elevated Challenge

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We can tell things are heating up in the electric aircraft marketplace.  Established aircraft companies are investing (Boeing and Airbus for starters), growing numbers are planning for electrified and autonomous future flight (Uber Elevate Summit), and an absolute plethora of new designs are tumbling forth from an aeronautical cornucopia.  Their video of an Uber sky taxi ride illustrates the charm of the idea. A Common Reference Uber provided two common reference eVTOL (electric vertical takeoff and landing) reference models for partners to emulate.  Both seem to share a common passenger pod with an unusually long tail boom. Perhaps taking the 2011 Green Flight Challenge as his reference point, Mark Moore explained how Uber inspires others to give their best efforts …

AirSpaceX is NOT an Elon Musk Company

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Airspace Experience Technologies, LLC (AirSpaceX) is a subsidiary of Detroit Aircraft Corporation (DAC), and as far as this editor knows, not related to Elon Musk’s SpaceX.  A little closer to earth, the planned low-altitude perambulations of its two creations reflect the growing interest in “sky taxis.” A Holding Company Brought Down by the Great Depression Jon Rimanelli, founder and CEO, sees Detroit Aircraft Corporation as an attempt to return the Motor City to its former glory days as a leader in aircraft development.  He notes that for a few brief years, DAC held controlling interests in the Ryan and Lockheed Aircraft companies, and created the only metal-clad airship in aeronautical history, The ZMC-2.  He explains, “Back in the ’20s, Detroit …

Doing More with Less – BLI on a Big Scale

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Hybrid and electric cars sell because they lower operating costs for the owner.  Designers and manufacturers sort out ways to increase efficiency, including streamlining, using low-rolling-resistance tires, and making structures lighter.  An added technology, boundary layer ingestion (BLI) may add to aircraft efficiency. NASA and industry leaders are working on equivalent solutions for aircraft, and airplanes will end up as different from today’s designs as Toyota Priuses and BMW i3s are from Ford Falcons or Chevrolet Corvettes.  NASA proclaims, “An aviation renaissance, one focused on energy efficiency and economic impact, is on the horizon, and it’s changing how engineers look at aircraft power and design.” Jim Heidmann, a manager of NASA’s Advanced Air Transport Technology Project (AATT), says, “I feel we …

Boeing Announces Zunum Progress, Acquisition of Aurora Flight Sciences

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Boeing made two announcements this week that show the maker of large aircraft willing to investigate niche markets at smaller scales and with more personal service for flyers.  Both involve electric power and the potential for automated flight. Zunum To Fly by 2020, In Service by 2022 Zunum Aero, the Boeing- and Jet Blue-backed regional airliner startup, will begin development of a 10-to-12 passenger airplane, hybrid powered with large electric ducted fans at the rear of the fuselage.  Having flown on earlier examples of 10-passenger “airliners,” your editor welcomes this smaller package.  Ford Trimotors and DeHavilland Dragons carried passengers in the 1930s, with simple accommodations and window seats for all.  The single-aisle made boarding and deplaning easy and quick, and …

Zunum Electric Airliners Get Nod from Boeing, Jet Blue

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Zunum aero, a startup in Kirkland, Washington, aims to fill the skies with small, quiet electric and hybrid airliners.  These range from a ten-passenger mini-liner to a 50-passenger craft similar to regional jets and feeder airliners.  Zunum is a Mayan word for hummingbird, and like those little speedsters, Zunum aircraft would make short hops efficiently and quietly – with just the hint of a buzz. Their sales pitch is enticing.  “Imagine leaving your doorstep in San Jose at 7 AM and making it to a 9:30 AM meeting in Pasadena. With Zunum Aero, simply drive to a nearby airfield and walk to your aircraft with bags in tow, for a trip that will take half the time and at a …

Airbus E-Fans 2.0 and 4.0 Dropped in Favor of E-Fan X

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Much like waiting for the single-person ram-jet helicopter to show up in your garage, you’ll be left hanging for a two- or four-seat Airbus e-Fan to grace your hangar.  Although not sharing the news in its “Innovation” or press release sections on its web site, Airbus has announced that it’s dropping plans to produce an E-Fan family of personal aircraft.  It will move instead into developing a larger, more powerful aircraft, the E-Fan X, that could fly within three years. Airbus started with a four-motor rendition of the Cri-Cri, four MGM Compro units twirling contra-rotating propellers and producing 60 horsepower.  Their “Innovation” program followed that with the tw0-seat E-Fan, and announced plans to build these in series at their cleverly named …