Friday, December 11, 2009

Flying Firsts

Some Aerospace news that may not be in the mainstream.

First up is the flight today of the EADS/Airbus A400M Airlifter.

This is an all new aircraft designed to compete with the Lockheed built C-130 Hercules. The A400M is assembled in Spain and includes all new engines. The 4 TP400D turboprop engines are built by Europrop International and are advertised to be the most powerful turbo shaft style engines ever put on a "Western" aircraft. They generate almost three times as much power (shp = shaft horse power) than the motors on the C-130J's.

It's a good looking aircraft and is built for short and rough airfields with a carrying capacity of 82,000 lbs of cargo (compared with the C-130J's of 44,000 lbs) in a cargo box that is close to the size of the C-17 Globemaster III (built by Boeing now but it started out as a McDonald-Douglass product) just a lot shorter than the cargo box of the Globemaster. EADS/Airbus should do well selling this in Europe and Africa, they have almost 200 sold to 8 different countries. They will sell more as their contribution to the effort in Afghanistan uses up the C-130's they are using so I can see more and more of them in the future. They will in no way reach the thousands of C-130's that have been built over more than 50 years of service.

Now this: On this last Monday Virgin Galactic and Burt Rutan's company, Scaled Composites rolled out Spaceship Two.

Spaceship Two is the center tublar cabin shown in this picture, the two outter fuselage assemblies are part of the MotherShip.

This aircraft along with its White Knight Two mother ship (carrier aircraft) is designed to carry 6 passengers and two pilots up into the near-reaches of space – suborbital. The ticket is something like 200K per (go and get them here) so it's not going to be everyday people flying anytime soon. The cabin can be re-configured for experiments and apparently NASA has talked about leasing some flight time from Virgin Galactic. One other reason I mention this, not just because of the sexy flying machines but because the flights in and out of space will originate from "Spaceport America" in New Mexico. Yes, Las Cruces New Mexico will be home to commercial passenger flights into space. Las Cruces is south and west of the famous UFO Alley and the more famous Roswell New Mexico where most of the UFO fantasy and legend in the USA originate. Neither place is far from where they found Smokey Bear!

Flight testing has already started and they expect to make their first paid flight sometime in 2011. Hurry and reserve your seat before they are all gone!

And Finally: Boeing should be throwing is hopes and dreams into the air very soon, maybe even this next Friday (the 18th) with the first flight of the vaunted B787 Dreamliner.

This is one of those hodgepodge aircraft built with parts from all over the world and brought to the final assembly area in large chucks and then put together almost like Leggo blogs. Boeing has amassed a huge air force to move these large parts from the many assembly locations and fly them "just-in-time" to one of two facilities, one in suburban Seattle Washington and the other a newly purchased facility in Charleston South Carolina. They have major "subassemblies" being built in 9 different countries and 15 different states. I saw an analysis of miles on some of these assemblies that indicate they will have something like 12,000 miles on them when an aircraft first flies.
Here is one of the DreamLifters a heavly modified 747. The tail hinges (you can see the hinge points in this picture, those two bumps near the where the fuselage necks down to the tail.
Boeing has had problems with getting it all to work; parts left out of supposed completed assemblies and fasteners that had to be replaced in gear delivered to the Boeing assembly facility. The latest problem had to do with how the wings were mated to the center wing box. That has been fixed and they are moving forward with hopes of this first flight this coming week.

This is huge deal for the commercial airline market. It pitts two different approaches by two different Heavy-Weight Manufacturers to the market share problem within the current economic climate. The issue: Is a very large aircraft carrying a whole lot of people more profitable than a medium sized aircraft moving people at a huge efficiency more profitable? It is Airbus and the A380 versus
Boeing and its 787 against each other. Time will tell but it all starts with that first flight.
BT: Jimmy T sends.

1 comment:

Buck said...

The A-400M is indeed a cool looking plane. But you're right: it's got a loooong way to go before it exceeds the benchmarks set by the Herky Bird.