FAA Awards for Commuter Liners of the Future

Dean Sigler Electric Powerplants, GFC, Sustainable Aviation 1 Comment

In a series of far-reaching competitions for university students, the FAA has opened the gates on innovation for new aircraft and airport infrastructure design. Announcing the winners of its Design Competition for Universities, the FAA awarded three prizes in the Electric/Hybrid Electric Aircraft Competition.  In doing so, it acknowledged the pioneering work of the CAFE Foundation and NASA in promoting the original Green Flight Challenge, generously supported by sponsorship from Google. “Recently, the Green Flight Challenge and efforts of general aviation manufacturers and others have demonstrated flight using electric motors on general aviation aircraft. Under NASA’s Subsonic Fixed Wing Project, aircraft and engine manufacturers identified key technology capabilities required for electric and hybrid-electric propulsion of single aisle aircraft, expected by 2030.” To expand on the promise of the GFC, the FAA requested that competition entrants design, “…a regional size aircraft (25-50 seatclass) that uses electric or hybrid-electric propulsion with a cruise Mach of 0.72 – 0.8, 500 nm range and …

Flying e-Genius for Two Years

Dean Sigler Electric Powerplants, GFC, Sustainable Aviation Leave a Comment

At this year’s Electric Aircraft Symposium, Rudolf Voit Nitschmann, Len Schumann, and Ingmar Geiss shared their well-documented experiences with e-Genius, second place winner in 2011’s Green Flight Challenge.  Flown by Erik Raymond and Klauss Ohlmann, the airplane managed 397.5 passenger miles per gallon on its 200-mile trek around a closed circuit between Santa Rosa, California and the distant geothermal power plants that provided the electricity for its flight. As Voit Nitschmann, leader of the e-Genius team since 2005 noted, one must design electric aircraft around the beneficial aspects of such vehicles to gain the greatest performance.  Originally slated to be hydrogen powered, e-Genius mounts its 59-pound motor on the leading edge of the vertical rudder, more difficult with a heavier internal-combustion engine.  This permits ample propeller clearance, provides blade protection and allows a short, retractable landing gear that is light and simple. With no turbulent flow over the nose, the cockpit can be streamlined like that of a sailplane and …

Panthera rollout and first engine start

Dean Sigler Electric Powerplants, GFC, Sustainable Aviation Leave a Comment

On March 28, Pipistrel rolled out its prototype Panthera, a sleek four-seat cruiser destined to be the first production hybrid aircraft and eventually, Pipistrel’s second four-seat electric airplane. It is currently powered by a Lycoming IO-390, 210 horsepower engine.  At Pipistrel’s factory in Ajdovscina, Slovenia a team of engineers and technicians fired up the engine for the first time and performed ground runs, “verifying design parameters and engine operation.” Pipistrel’s press release quotes Ivo Boscarol, their CEO: “It is very exciting to witness the tests and see the aeroplane come to life for the very first time. This is definitely a very important milestone in the development of Panthera. We look forward to the continuation of tests and the first flight soon!” With the Lycoming powerplant, Panthera can take four people 1,000 nautical miles (1,150 statute miles while cruising at 200 knots (230 mph) and burning 10 gallons of avgas per hour – 92 passenger miles per gallon.   While not …

Vimeo Viewing of First Ever Electric Aircraft Charging Station

Dean Sigler Electric Powerplants, GFC, Sustainable Aviation Leave a Comment

Dr. Brien Seeley, President of the CAFE Foundation, points us toward a video his son Damon just posted to Vimeo.  It depicts part of the 2011 Green Flight Challenge sponsored by Google, for which the Foundation played host. Dr. Seeley explains, “NASA’s Chief Technologist Joe Parrish refers to the Wright Brothers in the video as Sonoma County Supervisor Mike McGuire and I cut the hose to a gasoline dispenser nozzle.”  The symbolic hose is then proudly replaced by a very real electric charging station for airplanes, capable of providing a continuous 9,600 Watts to each of 12 aircraft and used to charge the Pipistrel G-4, e-Genius and Embry-Riddle’s hybrid Stemme during the contest. The video features great in-flight footage of the two pure-electric competitors from the GFC, and makes one wish for the day when private flight is quiet, pollution-free, and inexpensive. The G-4, according to Pipistrel CEO Ivo Boscarol, made the two 200-mile flights in the contest on about …

A Seraph in the Earthly Sphere

Dean Sigler Electric Powerplants, GFC, Sustainable Aviation 2 Comments

A Seraph is a six-winged angel in the first sphere of the celestial hierarchy, and while the earthly form in Richard Ike and Ira Munn’s vision may have fewer wings, it is no less inspired. In part, it’s inspired by biomimicry, imitating nature in its forms and even its structure.  The  airfoil-shaped profile of the fuselage “reduce[s] drag and optimize[s] aerodynamic efficiency, the blended-wing-body and lifting body (flying fuselage) maximize lift and produce minimum drag, according to Seraph’s web site. Seraph explains, “Flight with the Seraph will be made possible by two factors, lift generated by airfoil and lift generated by vortex.  The later factor is a return to a principle originally explored by Leonardo Da Vinci.”  Their site further explains that, “This new field of study is called ORGANIC AERONAUTICS, or ‘Green Aviation’ (Aerospace inspired by nature). It is also a discipline of the science called Biomimicry: using nature as Model, Mentor, and Measure.” Its exo-skeletal structure emulates insect …

A Useful Spreadsheet and GFC Handicapping Tool

Dean Sigler Electric Powerplants, GFC, Sustainable Aviation 1 Comment

For analyzing the greatest economy from an aircraft’s design, Howard Handelman, a highly-engaged reader of this blog, provides a link to his web site, which includes a downloadable spreadsheet he has devised that will give the inquiring reader hours of enjoyment. Handelman, self-described as, “just a retired IT guy,” with “weak math skills,” but a “compulsively curious” nature, has devised a tool for analyzing any airplane’s performance based on a few known variables, and which he has applied to many of the Green Flight Challenge’s aircraft. The basis for his analyses is his “triangle tool,” a wedge that can be used to help design propellers, “test [the] truth” of claimed aircraft performance, and estimate brake horsepower in real life circumstances (at least within the parameters of the triangle tool).  Handelman notes that some aircraft, including those with laminar flow, will “not fit the model very well because they don’t fit the V-squared curve.  Synergy won’t look anything like the model.” His findings …

Green Flight Challenge: New Schedule and Rules

Dean Sigler Diesel Powerplants, Electric Powerplants, GFC, Sustainable Aviation 1 Comment

CAFE announced June 30 that the CAFE Green Flight Challenge has been officially rescheduled for Sunday, September 25 through Monday October 3, 2011.   It will still take place in Santa Rosa, California. A revised prize structure for the event has been approved and is detailed on the organization’s web site. Originally scheduled to run between July 10 and 17, 2011, various factors led to the decision to reschedule.  The restructured prize schedule changes the orginal “winner takes all” approach to a distribution of awards, with the winner still taking a substantial $1.3 million.   A series of formulas have been added to determine distribution of awards if more than one teams exceeds the 100 miles per hour, 200 passenger miles per gallon criteria.  Another formula redistributes the $150,000 prize for best bio-fuel powered craft  if no bio-fuel entry achieves the GFC criteria of 80 mph and 160 passenger miles per gallon.

Synergy: A Practical Lightplane for the New Century

Dean Sigler Diesel Powerplants, GFC, Sustainable Aviation 1 Comment

At EAS V, Synergy Chief Operating Officer John Paul Noyes framed his presentation of the Synergy aircraft by showing a picture of a 1973 portable telephone, then comparing it to a current model.  The clunky size, heft and limited utility of the former compared with its slim, feature-laden modern counterpart tells a story of intense design improvements, quantum increases in capabilities and far lower costs for a significantly better product – something usually anticipated in the history of modern products. Along with that historically comparative pairing, though, he showed pictures of a 1973 Cessna 182 and its Lycoming engine along with shots of modern examples of the two.  Not much other than the paint scheme distinguishes today’s Skylane from its antecedent.  Following Noyes’ outlook, it’s a bit disheartening to review Wikipedia’s specifications for 182s for the past 54 years.  Little, other than the introduction of improved instruments and Omni-Vision, has changed.  Although a great deal of this is due to …

CAFE News: Doctors Seeley and Ford Stand and Deliver

Dean Sigler GFC, Sustainable Aviation 1 Comment

At the fourth annual Electric Aircraft Symposium, April 23 and 24 at Rohnert Park, California, two CAFE leaders provided the audience with superb presentations on CAFE Foundation’s history and future goals. Dr. Larry Ford, Vice President of the organization, led with highlights from CAFE’s past, including the scientific efforts to measure aircraft drag and provide actual numbers for comparing aircraft performance, a goal inherent in the CAFE name. He highlighted the work of many past and present CAFE volunteers (after all, CAFE is all volunteer, and a 501c.3 charitable organization promoting aeronautical research at both the grass roots and the highest levels), including the CAFE Barograph, a significant instrument that allowed objective flight performance characterization of individual aircraft and honest comparisons between aircraft. Larry let audience members know about the contributions of Jack Norris, and his creation of “zero thrust glide testing.” This innovation involved finding the point at which the propeller was not creating drag or producing thrust. At …