The world's first plastic airliner
Boeing must have needed a truly huge tube of polystyrene cement :-)
Boeing yesterday rolled out its "technologically advanced and environmentally progressive" 787 Dreamliner - heralded as "the world's first mostly composite commercial airplane". Roughly 15,000 invitees made their way to Boeing's final assembly facility in Everett, Washington, to get a first look at the new "green" aircraft, …
"20 per cent less fuel per passenger than similarly sized airplanes, produce fewer carbon emissions, and...have quieter takeoffs and landings".
That sounds like better engines... which will benefit a lot of new aircraft (though they seem to be the first to be active in pushing these advantages... and without looking at a zoom of the engine maker plate visible on the side of the kite looks alot like a Rolls Royce...
Well for a start you would have to share the praise with GE as the 787 is available with either RR Trent 1000 or GE GEnx engines.
Then you have to consider that the Trent family is just an ongoing development of the RB211 and has been around since '87.
The main fuel savings come from the fact that the composite construction massively reduces the dry weight of the aircraft. If you have less mass to move, you don't need to burn as much fuel to move it.
Say , since high flying commercial aircraft are subject to upper atmospheric high voltage surge strikes when flying through bad electrical storms , and the normal metallic body acts as a Faraday Cage , me I wonder what happens when a lightning strike hits Boeing's new plastic pet? , given the amperage and current in one strike is enough to power a large city , will it melt or blast a huge hole from one side to the other and turning everything in the bolts path to instant carbon?
The other aspect about "pet" , once it's reach the end of life , can it be recycled like normal plastic?
Saw a mock-up of the 787 interior and a section of the fuselage on a visit to the Boeing plant last year.
A significant part of the improved fuel efficiency is due to the lack of drag from rivet heads on the outside of the plane. They had a section of the outer skins from a Comet, a 747 and the new 787 next to each other, and the difference was pretty staggering.
Also, the windows are a lot bigger than current airliners - like in the old days before they discovered metal fatigue :)
If hit by a lightening bolt, the Boeing will do just like a plastic water bottle in the fire. It will shrink up to a fist size lump of plastic, compressing the human bodies, luggage and engine until they dissapear in a quantum singularity. No recycling needed.
Of course, if this happens on the ramp at JFK international airport, most of the state will sucked into it, but would that really be a major loss?
On the down side, I guess that the Boy Scouts organisation will be outlawed as a terrorist organisation by the Department of Homeland Security due to the potential lethal effects of 2 sticks being rubbed together in the vicinty of the airframe...
Does anyone remember an old Russian bomber I think it may have been called the bear? It was designed to not need refueling so it could bomb around the clock.
Perhaps now that technology has moved on it might be more environmentally friendly to make use of this idea in a passenger plane maybe?
No carbon emissions at all
You do have the problem of radioactive waste.
We could shoot that into space with some kind of Rail Cannon?
Um....not so sure that the Russian 'Bear' bomber was nuclear powered - actually I'm fairly sure it was a turbo prop job. There was a program that they had to investigate the prospect of nuclear powered aircraft. Despite a modified aircraft as a testbed and some test flights the program never really got off the ground, so to speak.
The USAF has also dabbled in nuclear powered flight, although the Orion project would have resulted in aircraft a tad noisier than most would like, and a touch on the dirty side too.
First off - lightning strike. Carbon composites don't particularly like lightning strikes and fail pretty catastrophically, though it depends on the component and the material.
In any case, I believe that the 787 has been constructed with a metallic (aluminium?) mesh in the skin to provide lightning strike protection. I also believe this was one of the reasons for the weight of the aircraft increasing above the original target.
As for recycling, carbon composite can be recycled relatively easily and this is an increasingly important process for dealing with older aircraft parts (eg. Airbus tails) and for disposing of production waste like offcuts.
Basically you chop the composite into pieces, and cook/burn it to get rid of the resin. The pyrolytic process doesn't hurt the fibres & they retain their original properties. The cleaned fibres can then be reused as filler material for processes that don't require woven sheets of fibre i.e. anything that used chopped strands.
The plane was rolled out on 7/8/7 (at least according to American reckoning).
The Bear was a turboprop that had HUGE fuel tanks. It wasn't capable of mid air refueling, which was its weak point. But it could fly from the USSR to most of the US, deliver its payload and return. It was flying at the time of the collapse of the Soviet Union.
The USAF experimented with Orion, but the "engine" was incredibly cranky and there were no solutions in sight at the time. I believe, however, that this was designed as a launch vehicle for rockets rather than and aircraft engine. Must look it up during my next test.
The USAF has been experimenting for years with replacement engines for the B52. The "fuel efficiency" of those almost 60 year old turbojets is terrible. The Air Force Times recently had an article about a B52 that was now being flown by the grandson of the original piolt. And who's father had also flown the same plane. That's how old those suckers are. And the Air Force says they are good for another 20 years or so.
Both the RR and the GE engines are within a miniscule amount in fuel efficiency. The PW engines weren't up to the task. But PW is getting lots of business on the small end, with several of the personal jets (Eclipse, Piper Mustang, etc).
a quick search came up with this...
"Following discoveries in the early 1990s it was alleged that the Soviet Union had flown a nuclear powered aircraft as early as 1961. They used a modified Tupolev Tu-95 bomber, the Tupolev Tu-119. To simplify issues of shielding, the crew had little protection. It had 2 conventional turboprop engines and 2 experimental 'dirty' direct cycle jet engines powered by a minimally shielded nuclear reactor in the main fuselage. The aircraft flew about 40 times."
Which sounds about right with what I've heard before.
(Source: http://www.answers.com/topic/nuclear-aircraft )
This isn't the first aircraft to have this sort of composite construction. It is new for a civil aviation airliner, but at the end of the day this technology isn't entirely new to aviation. Where has it been used before? Over 20 years now with the USAF for openers. Bombers, fighters, missile bodies, you name it. I suspect lightening strikes have been worked out of the equation by now.
(B2 pilot to base): "Sorry -- we can't make it the rest of the way to Iraq and finish our bombing mission, as we got hit by lightening and our ass is melted off!
(Base): Roger that.
It's a bit disappointing that it doesn't look a bit more, well...futuristic. It's just another plane. They could have added a bit of styling to it. Or are we expected to believe that the jet airliner has already reached it's ultimate, most efficient external configuration? They should have hired some formula 1 engineers - there's ALWAYS a bit more carbon-fibre you can glue on :)
Correct me if I'm wrong, but unless lighting has a path to the ground (earth), it isn't going to be as bad to aircraft. Yes they'd get hit and instrumentation may be affected etc, but I'm pretty sure that it wouldn't be as bad as if it was sitting on a runway.
After a moment of reaserch:
"Some modern aircraft are made of advanced composite materials, which by themselves are significantly less conductive than aluminum. In this case, the composites contain an embedded layer of conductive fibers or screens designed to carry lightning currents."
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