I was watching an episode of "How do They Do it" on, The Discovery Channel the other day about putting parachutes on airplanes. It's extremely difficult to put a parachute on a plane because for a person to safely descend jumping out of an airplane, the parachute has to be one hundred feet wide. So for a parachute to work on just a small aircraft, you're going to need a massive parachute which is going to take up a lot of room.
Aviation experts asserted that putting a parachute on a small plane could not be done. Ballistic Recovery Systems was a company tasked to create the first airplane parachute, by a pilot who survived a plane crash. They faced multiple problems in being able to accomplish this. First is weight, you need a very large parachute for an airplane, roughly 1,000 square feet. A parachute of that size with regular parachute nylon would weigh as much as a small plane. The company made the parachute out of a super strong light weight composite and the parachute strings out of a special kind of nylon that is five times tougher and one hundred times lighter than steel. The parachute weighs just 30 pounds.
The next problem is bulk. You can't strap a parachute pack the size of an elephant to the back of an airplane. The company devised a folding technique that minimizes the amount of space the parachute uses. Then a massive hydraulic press is used to compact the parachute. Under a force of more than 11 tons the folded parachute is as dense as a block of wood. Another challenge of the airplane parachute was getting it to unravel quickly. The longer it takes to deploy the less time there is to decelerate the plane. The engineers came up with the idea of blowing the parachute open with rockets. Custom made rocket motors employ two linked electrical detonators which are housed in the base of the rocket. A one pound explosive charge is added which, when detonated, forces the parachute open.
One last major problem in getting the parachute to work was the speed of the plane. If the chute opened too quickly it would give the airplane such a pull that the parachute itself could rip the plane apart. The solution to this problem is the "slider"; a simple ring of fabric that prevents the chute from opening fully at the start but then slides down allowing it to open wider and wider as the plane slows.
The parachute is added to the airplane in a way that it doesn't rip open the airplane. The nylon straps are built into the body of the plane. When the rockets deploy they eject a five foot thick fiberglass panel from the body of the aircraft. This design is intended to release the chute with no harm being done to the plane. More than 30,000 parachutes are now installed on light aircraft throughout the world and have saved over 200 planes and more importantly, the lives of many pilots and passengers.
Lately, most aviation news I come across mentions the
growing aviation market in Dubai. Dubai's airports are relatively young,
becoming a commercial entity in 2007 and since have exponentially flourished.
Dubai International Airport (DBX) has become the world's third busiest airport
that serves international passengers servicing 60 to 70 million passengers per
DBX uses only three terminals and 145 airlines, flying to
more than 260 destinations worldwide. Passenger traffic rose more than 14% this
past year and with Dubai's recent popularity in tourism and business, this
number is only projected to rise. In May of 2011, Dubai International Airport
announced they are projected to be the busiest airport in the world by 2015.
The fast growth of DBX and its aviation market is partly due
to the ever expanding Dubai Air Show
which is held every fall. The Dubai Air
show started at a modest beginning and since has flourished into one of the
world's best, luring members of the aviation industry from all areas of the
globe showcasing industry technology and developments.
Perhaps the appeal of making the trip to the Dubai Air Show
is making valuable connections with those involved in the extremely lucrative
oil industry in which the region is dependent. Many oil companies use a variety
of aircrafts to assist in operations.
Lately, it seems the key to a bright future in aviation and
for aviation suppliers is getting an "in" with those in the Middle East-which
is no easy feat but there are opportunities out there. An example of how
companies are trying to make connections from those around the globe are
holding seminars or meetings for parties interested such as the one held on May
3 in Houston, hosted by Saudi Aramco.
So it seems in order to progress in aviation, companies must realize to become
proactive in developing relationships in the Middle East-stateside or abroad.
of my favorite timewasters is to dig through archives of old vehicles and
scrapyards while looking for unique machines that never made it to production.
My favorite concept car would be the Cadillac Cien. Built for Caddy's
centennial in 2002, it featured a 7.5L V12 Northstar, which cranked out 750 HP
and 450 lb.-ft of torque. Its style was in-tune with the F-22 Raptor fighter
plane, and it included night vision, thermal imaging, and a HUD. It was also in
one of the coolest action
As far as seafaring craft, consider the Ikkar.
This 2010 concept cruise liner relies on wind and solar power for both power
and propulsion. It also transforms, in every sense of the Optimus Prime-meaning
of the word. The single hull can expand into a trimaran, and it provides each
guest suite with an ocean balcony and access to a boardwalk. It remains a
concept though, just like the Cien.
That's not to say these vehicles
will never be built however. Even 80 years later, prototypes can be revised and
innovated to the point where they're finally useful, or at least practical.
Such is the case with the cyclogyro. It was dreamt of in the origins of vertical takeoff
but was radical even for those primitive designs. As such, it never flew until
Canadian-born and American-educated engineer Jonathan Edward
Caldwell taught himself aerodynamics in the 1920s, when heavier-than-air flight
had finally reached a point of consistency and understanding. Airships and prop
planes were the only modes of aviation available, but engineers knew that
stabilizing propellers with a vertical axis also created lift, and the autogyro
was a testament to that understanding. Caldwell envisioned a flying machine
that generated vertical lift through the use of the Magnus effect. It's the same principle that
helps golf balls and baseballs maintain flight.
patented the cyclogyro in 1928. Two paddle wheels -- akin to steamboat paddles
-- were equipped with four airfoils, and they replaced the main wings of an
airplane. In some designs, paddle wheels also replaced the rear wings, while
other designs utilized a prop rotor. During rotation the airfoils change pitch
to produce varying amounts of lift and thrust, and both wheels rotate
counterclockwise to null the torque produce by a motor mounted within the
fuselage. During the upper and forward part of the rotation the airfoils are
given positive pitch, and during the lowest part of the rotation the airfoils
are given a negative pitch. Adjusting the pitch of airfoils can be mechanically
controlled by an eccentric control ring located within the axis that is linked
to each foil; this control ring is represented in green in the animation at left . The blue arrows represent the direction of thrust.
Though Caldwell had created a reasonable instrument to
attain flight, he never cared to build an example. He moved on to ornithopter
designs and securities fraud instead. Over the next decade, just a handful of
cyclogyros were constructed. But not a single one was ever flown, and after
wind tunnel tests proved that the power to turn the wheels was not feasible in
1935, no one even attempted to revive the idea.
That is until 2007. That year, a team of
students at the University of Singapore constructed a working model of a
cyclogyro. Advances in motor scaling have become the bridge over the threshold
that kept cyclogyros a fantasy. Other
engineering programs around the world followed suit, and the most advanced gyro
to date would probably be the one developed by researchers at Seoul National
While no one is rushing the cyclogyros to the forefront of
aviation, research into these flying machines has yielded valuable knowledge.
Philip Bogrash is an inventor who has developed a cyclo wing (at left) that is an ellipse
instead of a wheel. By elongating the air foil path along the horizontal, the
airfoils are able to maximize their lift and thrust capabilities by minimizing
the instances where the produce neutral lift and thrust. Operators are able to
change the pitch of the airfoils for operating scenarios; one pitch can produce
the fastest cruising speed, while another would allow near-silent operation.
Also, there is hope that those flying cars we've all been promised can be achieved through the use of airfoil wheels similar to those on a cyclogyro. While roadworthy, the iCar 101 positions airfoils within the inner rim of the tire. A video of it's modeled takeoff is available.
Currently, Bogrash and iCar 101 are seeking financers and modelers to help these inventions come to life. I hope for the sake of novelty that cyclogyros can
become a reality. I feel as though transportation design always benefits from
the extreme or impractical, and airliners and helicopters feel so 20th
(Image credits: German Car Forum; Supercharged; Wikimedia; Patent Docs)
I was channel surfing one night recently and was fortunate enough to come across a news story about the Commander of the International Space Station (ISS) who has a twitter account and live tweets photos of the earth from various spots around the globe from its orbit height of 230 miles. As a reference point for the distance, the state of Michigan is 240 miles across at its widest point; just ten miles more than the orbit distance of the ISS from the earth. The Space Station is up there!
Chris Hadfield is the first Canadian Astronaut to walk in space. He lives and works on the ISS as Commander of Expedition 35. Chris began this journey to the ISS on December 19, 2012 and will be aboard the ISS for 5 months.
What drew me to follow Commander Hadfield's twitter feed were the stunning photographs he takes from aboard the Space Station. Some photos are of techy things like satellites and robots coming to the ISS with supplies, which are really interesting to see. But it's the pictures of our earth that I think anyone would agree are exceptional. The view of the land and oceans from 230 miles or so above us, some of them replete with the earth's horizon visible are breathtaking.
Ireland, Wales and Mann silhouetted in the setting sun. - April 23
The Australian Outback is effortlessly crazily beautiful. April 21 2013
The Greek islands, like delicate shattered eggshell pieces. April 30, 2013
Aside from the Photos
Also present in Commander Hadfield's daily tweets are descriptions in 140 characters or less (twitter's information capacity per tweet) of the day's research projects:
And sometimes he tweets a little 411 for interested space curious folks. This tweet includes a link to a YouTube video, which the Commander also posts on a regular basis:
No time like the Present
Follow Commander Hadfield's twitter feed: @Cmdr_Hadfield but you should hurry. The ISS is targeted to land on May 13, 2013.
The last time you were stuck in traffic for an hour or so on the freeway, did the thought cross your mind that it would have been nice to have had a couple of helicopter blades that you could pop out of the top of your car and lift you up and carry you away. Well, that may not be far away, according to the Netherlands based Terrafugia Inc.'s personal air and land vehicle called the PAL-V. It resembles a helicopter and maneuvers like a car when on land.
We discussed this here on CR4 back in 2007 and some felt that this would never get off the ground, but a recent article in Digital Trends indicates that the PAL-V is nearing production in 2014. It looks like fun, but I am not sure they solved the vibration issues.
They seem to have solved the issues with cornering a three wheeled
vehicle though. We don't yet know how much it will cost, however, I am sure it will start off too high for my pocketbook. They are hoping to attract attention from military and emergency service areas as they may be able to afford the initial cost as it enters the market. This could be a bridge between air and ground transportation, I guess we have to wait and see.
What do you think, is it worth a revisit? Do you think it will fly this time? Sorry for the pun, I just couldn't help myself. I am up for a ride in it though.
It was announced the other day that the Navy is grounding Blue Angels performances for the entire 2013 year due to budget constraints caused by the sequestration. The Blue Angels will still be around; they're going to still train but not perform at air shows this year.
To me this is bitter sweet because I remember what a great show they put on and all the excitement created when the Blue Angels perform. It was such a unique experience that one should see for themselves. At the same time I remember when I was stationed down at NAS Oceana in Virginia Beach and I had to work all weekend when the Blue Angels came to town. They would perform anywhere from 2 to 4 times a year and the show would always be at the base. I remember the first air show they put on. Being in an F-18 fighter squadron and the Blue Angels flying F-18's, there was always this expectation that our squadron look and act better than the other squadrons on the base. We had to make sure our aircraft were spotless and our uniforms were crisp and perfect. This went for the other F-18 squadrons on the base too, I'm sure. There would be the booths we would sit at to try and raise money by selling our squadron shirts, hats, and squadron patches. There would be goods that the Navy wives would bake as well. Then there were the tours, there were so many people that went to the air show that we would be giving tours the entire day. The guests would be shown the aircraft, the shops, the tools we use in each shop, and the lucky ones would get to sit in the cockpit of the aircraft. There was also the traffic to deal with. You couldn't get into the base without waiting well over an hour if you lived in the barracks like I did, and it took hours for everybody to leave once the show was over. So those of us who lived on the base made it a point to avoid leaving the base if we stayed on it while the air show was going on, or to get a hotel room on the beach for the weekend if we didn't have to work at the air show.
So it's a shame that people won't get to enjoy watching the Blue Angels perform this year and hopefully by next year our government can get their finances fixed and the public can once again enjoy the show they put on. As for me, it doesn't bother me at all because I've had my fill of air shows to last a lifetime.