General Aviation Thread

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General Aviation Thread

Post by Piero on Sat 1 Mar 2014 - 13:26

Had something aviation related I wanted to post and figured I'd start an aviation thread.  It certainly seems like there are people with an interest in aviation on this board.

Anyway, a 302 foot long airship of sorts called "Airlander" was unveiled in the UK recently.  Its sorts of a hybrid between an airship and an airplane as its slightly heavier than air but generates aerodynamic lift from its shape.  It can also apparently land on land or water with no supporting ground crew.  Probably a bit slow for passenger use but it offers possibilities for cargo hauling and disaster relief.

http://www.bbc.com/news/business-26337673

Actually, it sounds to me like this is the latest incarnation of the "Skycat" concept I read about well over a decade ago.  Nice to know they're finally getting somewhere with it, though they seem to have scaled back their ambitions somewhat -Skycat proposed airships with 20, 200 and 1000 tonnes capacity!*

*Actually I'm not 100% sure what type of tons they were talking about back then -possibly whatever the ones they use in the UK are.  But 1000 tons is still a lot even if its not metric.

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Re: General Aviation Thread

Post by Il Direttore on Sat 1 Mar 2014 - 20:37

Hm, has potential actually. My concern would be for A) integration into the current system and B) what the exact details of the design are. 

While huge carrying capacity is very very VERY useful, does the Airlander require unique facilities to service it? It seems like this is true, in which case how does one use it at, say, London Heathrow or Tokyo Narita? For that matter, how does one use it in a dense urban environment? 

A big issue with airships, is the massively slow speed compared to an airliner, which can reach 90% the speed of sound at 30,000 feet (Mach 1 @ 30,000 is 678.1 mph). Unless the aircraft is designed to match turboprop aircraft (such as a Cessna Caravan), it seems like there needs to be some serious weighing of whether such massive cargo capacity is worth investing in over said Cessna Caravan. I can't imagine this thing will be cheap.

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Re: General Aviation Thread

Post by Alfisti on Sat 1 Mar 2014 - 22:50

By the sounds of things, so long as you've a large enough cleared space you can put it down just about anywhere, and I presume the designers would have been bright enough to ensure it could be fuelled the same way any regular large aircraft is (see: from a truck).

Looking at it, I don't think going central hub to central hub is where it's going to be useful. As you pointed out: planes are faster, and of course ships carry more. Where this would likely come into its own would be remote area work: mines, gas fields, infrastructure, etc, where aircraft don't carry enough/require runways and trucks are at the whim of (often shoddy) road conditions. Even if the Airlander winds up being more expensive per-tonne than a truck, its still likely to be cheaper than holding up a multi-billion dollar project, with the associated stand down costs, waiting for materials either arriving too slowly or held up on the road.

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Re: General Aviation Thread

Post by Il Direttore on Sat 1 Mar 2014 - 22:56

You would know better then, would a mining operation or other similar thing regularly require a multi-dozen ton lift capacity?

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Re: General Aviation Thread

Post by Alfisti on Sat 1 Mar 2014 - 23:05

Il Direttore wrote:You would know better then, would a mining operation or other similar thing regularly require a multi-dozen ton lift capacity?
Very much so, and it would save needing to constantly organise oversize permits for transport and the like. Even if it were not used operationally, I think there would be plenty of call simply in establishment and the like.

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Re: General Aviation Thread

Post by Piero on Sun 2 Mar 2014 - 2:49

Okay, so it appears that Hybrid Air Vehicles is indeed linked to Skycat as they purchased a lot of Skycat's assets several years ago after the company got into serious problems.

This airship is also not new, it was built as a long endurance surveillance platform for the US military and was bought back after the project was cancelled.  Supposedly it didn't meet its requirement for being base independent due to needing a tether point with 300 foot clearance for 360 degrees around and a 1000 foot runway and was 12,000 pounds overweight so it could only meet a fraction of its 21 day on station loiter time requirement (one site seems to suggest this was only a problem if it was flying manned and that it could meet the requirement if unmanned, but its a newspaper site and I don't think the writer entirely understands what s/he wrote).  Whether these issues were due to an unsound concept or a need for further development isn't 100% clear to me.  It hasn't actually flown that much, which may explain why the company shipped it to the UK rather than having it fly itself there.  Payload on this variant doesn't seem that impressive at only about 10,000 kilograms, the one with about five times that capacity is still in development.

Here's a youtube video to its test flight from 2012:




On the other hand this thing is apparently very fuel efficient, cost estimates for fuel for a three week mission were $11,000 to $20,000.  One site indicated that power was provided by a quartet of V8 diesels.

The old Skycat website talks a bit about what the basic design might be capable of with more development work.  Hybrid Air Vehicles seems to be aiming a bit more conservative than some of the stuff Skycat was proposing.  From what I gather these airships are supposed to offer super low cost per mile but are expensive to build, and securing investment has been a challenge (I think I first read about Skycat in a magazine in the late 90s/early 2000s, so the concept has been around a while).

Ultimately things may depend a bit on whether the concept can live up to its billing with development and whether production costs can be brought down over time.

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Re: General Aviation Thread

Post by Thescarredman on Sun 2 Mar 2014 - 10:58

The Skycat website reminds me of one of those old 'World of Tomorrow' features. I'm particularly reminded of one that predicted every major city would have an airship hangar - by 1960.
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Re: General Aviation Thread

Post by Il Direttore on Sun 2 Mar 2014 - 11:23

Fast-Changing Trends In Asia Fighter Market

According to Aviation Week and Space technology, there appears to be a growing trend in Asia in favor of the F-35. While the program has undergone close scrutiny throughout its development, one thing that is certain is that a LOT of countries have decided to procure F-35s, generally in non-trivial quantities. The niche in Asia, as according to this article, appears to be penetration into enemy airspace to destroy ground targets where there is a high concentration of advanced air defenses. Particularly important threats appear to be China, and as a corollary, Russia, with major purchases coming from South Korea and Japan. Nations further to the south appear to be less concerned, with Singapore focusing on upgrading it's F-16s. 

http://www.aviationweek.com/Article.aspx?id=/article-xml/AW_02_03_2014_p66-657036.xml&elq=7361577b1e5246a5bac36fac53f5d9fb&elqCampaignId=198

Supplementary: some analysis on the F-35 program and its cost issues, if you're interested: 
http://www.aviationweek.com/Article.aspx?id=/article-xml/awx_01_24_2014_p0-657672.xml&elq=4f99179258c2471097c8d52fc78bf085&elqCampaignId=167

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Re: General Aviation Thread

Post by Il Direttore on Tue 11 Mar 2014 - 17:23

You all know how much I have wanted to drop cyborgs out of airplanes like smart bombs. 

This has answered my prayers.

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