Posts Tagged ‘Aviation’

Flying Railway Wagons

June 23, 2013


Many times when boarding large aircraft I have fantasised about having a cabin module instead of the waiting lounge, where passengers could take their places at leisure. When filled, the module would slide into the aircraft and lock into place just like the modular containers containing baggage. Now Swiss researchers are realising my fantasies with a futuristic concept for a modular aircraft consisting of

  1. A flying wing that includes the cockpit, the motors, and the fuel and
  2. Up to three flexible modules (capsules) that can carry either passengers, freight, or fuel.

Clip Air concept from Ecole Polytechnique Federale de Lausanne

They see their “Clip-Air” craft having modules where the  maximum dimensions of each capsule would becomparable to the fuselage of an A320 with a maximum weight of 30 tons and a length of 30 meters (the length of a train wagon) and where:

  • Dimensions of the flying wing: wing-span of 60 meters
  • Motors: 3, identical to those of the A320 (Swiss version)
  • Passengers: Together, the three modules can carry a total of 450 passengers.

The aircraft would allow passengers to board a module at a railway station and disembark at their destination without ever setting foot in an airport.

Clip Air EPFL

Rail transport’s flexibility in air transport?

How could this conundrum be unraveled? Clip-Air proposes a revolutionary air transport concept based on a flying wing that can carry mobile and interchangeable capsules. On the one hand, the Clip-Air plane is made up of a support structure including wings, engines, fuel and a cockpit. On the other hand, there is the load to be transported: passengers and freight.

The capsule is the equivalent to a conventional airplane’s fuselage, but without motors, without a cockpit, without fuel, without landing gear, or any of the other parts that usually make up a plane. The premise behind Clip-Air is to bring rail transport’s flexibility to air transport and to make airports reach all the way into railway stations.

Theoretical studies have shown Clip-Air’s potential in terms of transport capacity. In the scenarios that were analyzed, Clip-Air was able to transport more passengers than a standard fleet thanks to a more efficient allocation of the available capacity.

Based on various hypotheses, the estimated costs of Clip-Air are also competitive. In 89% of the analyzed cases, Clip-Air generates a profit. According to the model that is currently being considered, carrying passengers without combined cargo transport, Clip-Air is actually less expensive than a standard fleet, as long as it operates carrying three capsules. The architecture of modular aircraft is remarkably vast, and a flying wing carrying three capsules is but one possible choice. However, whether the aircraft is designed to carry one, two, or three capsules, its modularity is what makes this project strong.

Architecture and design
How should a flying wing be designed? How can the capsules be made as functional as possible? The extraordinary challenge lies in finding the most adapted architecture that incorporates all of the compromises involved in achieving such a project. A team of engineers is working on finding the most optimal design, rethinking everything from the materials used to the details of the attachment system, so that the latest technologies can be leveraged whenever possible.

Clip-Air is revolutionary in its design, but it must also be so in its choice of fuel. In the current stage of the project, Clip-Air has clearly proven its potential to adapt to tomorrow’s renewable energy challenges. Numerous alternative paths have been explored internally and have demonstrated the utility of a modular architecture (with liquid hydrogen, biofuels, classical fuel).

The complete separation of the cockpit (located under the wing) and the passengers (in the capsules) opens new doors in terms of security with, most notably, a reduced risk due to the decoupling between the fuel reservoirs and the passengers.

Aeronautical engineers assure that Clip-Air can fly, but many questions remain to be addressed. Future developments of the project will involve aerodynamic simulations and a six meters long flying prototype equipped with propulsion engines to explore the aircraft’s flight performance and the overall feasibility of the project.

Clip Air in “flight”: EPFL

The DC3 lives on

November 12, 2010

Translated freely from Ny Teknik:

When  German polar researchers needed to acquire a further research plane,  they selected the Basler BT-67, a newly built version of the classic DC3.

The Basler BT-67 fitted with skis: image Ny Teknik

The Alfred Wegener Institute for Polar and Marine Research needed to supplement its fleet of aircraft that can fly over the Arctic and Antarctic. They already had good experience with their Polar 5 and have now ordered another, Polar 6, to perform measurements simultaneously over the two poles.

The plane chosen is a Basler BT-67, basically a modern version of the classic DC3 built today by Basler Turbo Conversions of Oshkosh, Wisconsin, USA.
Compared with a classic DC3 the Basler is 40 inches longer, has 35 percent more volume, can load 43 percent more cargo, is 24 percent faster and carries twice as much fuel.
Instead of reciprocating engines in the original DC3 the Basler is equipped with turboprop engines from Pratt & Whitney.
Warren Basler, who founded the company, thought it was a pity that such a sound design as the DC3 would not live on. The company has been making planes since 1990.

From Wikipedia:

The Basler BT-67 is a conversion of the DC-3. Basler refurbishes DC-3s at Oshkosh, Wisconsin, fitting them with Pratt & Whitney Canada PT6A-67R turboprop engines, lengthening the fuselage by 40 in (100 cm) with a fuselage plug ahead of the wing and strengthening the airframe in selected areas. The airframe is rated as having “zero accumulated fatigue damage.” This and extensive modifications to various systems and avionics result in a practically brand-new aircraft. The BT-67s have been supplied to civil and military customers in several countries.

The 75th Anniversary of the DC-3’s first flight will be on December 17, 2010.

The Classic DC3 has been flying since 1935: image

Future of flight …

September 17, 2010

Der Spiegel:  What will air travel look like in the year 2050? A special team of engineers from European aircraft manufacturer Airbus have drafted plans for the future of flight. These include a completely transparent fuselage that will allow passengers to the see the stars above and city lights below.

“Passengers in an airplane like this would experience flight in a completely new way,” enthuses Axel Krein, 49, head of research and technology for European aircraft manufacturer Airbus. The unconventional idea came from the special team that Krein himself put together to forge ideas for the airplanes of the future.

“We told our engineers to give their imaginations free rein,” Krein explains. “What emerged were completely realistic visions of flight in the year 2050. Our people are grounded in reality, after all. And most of the necessary technology already exists.”

Finnair solar powered helicopter

Finnair 450 bed space hotel

Finnair's flying saucer. In 2093 with 2400 passengers

Lockheed Martin Corporation supersonic jet

Finnair supersonic jet

'Concept Plane' by Airbus 2050

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