Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Wave-skimming plane!

Seems to me there is something here that should be looked into. I'm guessing the thicker atmosphere at sea level is offset by the bounce back from the ground/water and not having to reach altitudes of 30,000'. Safety is a toss up. On one hand you are not way up in the air but on the other hand you are at the mercy of all the local weather between points A and B. And you have to worry about things in the way. Then there is the safety of what is on the surface you are flying over. The plane would probably kill any fish near the surface. To understand what I mean imagine if you will standing under a 747 as it lands, skimming only a few feet over your head. There was a movie showing this in one scene. You'd be thrown about at whiplash speeds probably killing you. Now imagine these planes doing the same to all marine life it flies over...

Wave-skimming plane developed in China

* 15:44 11 July 2007
* news service
* New Scientist staff and Reuters

Chinese scientists have developed a "wing-in-ground" (WIG) aircraft that can fly long distances just a few metres above the sea surface, state media reported on Wednesday.

The plane can fly as low as half a meter from the ground, hitting speeds of up to 300 kilometres per hour (180 miles per hour), while also carrying up to 4 tonnes on takeoff.

WIG aircraft exploit a phenomenon known as the "ground effect", which occurs as a plane flies close to the ground.

At a height roughly equivalent to twice the plane's wingspan, trailing wing vortices that cause drag are disrupted by the ground. This allows the aircraft to travel much more quickly through the air and increases the lift experienced.

The plane is as safe as a ship, although much faster, according to Xu Zhengyu of the research team that developed the plane at Tongji University in Shanghai. "It can carry much more weight than ordinary planes, while costing half as much and using half as much fuel," he says.

The China Daily reports that the Tongji University plane should consume one third as much fuel as standard planes of the same size, by harnessing the ground effect (see Green sky thinking: eight ways to a cleaner flying future).
Military purposes

Tongji University plans to develop a 50-seat WIG by 2013, with prototypes capable of carrying 200 to 400 tonnes scheduled for 2016 or 2017. Xu says such plane could be flown for military purposes, including border control.

The WIG has been listed as one of three experimental types of aircraft given the green light by the State Commission of Science Technology and Industry for National Defense, Xu says.

However, the Chinese news agency Xinhua says: "The Civil Aviation Administration of China has yet to confirm aviation regulations at such low altitudes, which may become a problem."

During the Cold War, the Russian military also developed a giant WIG plane known as Ekranoplan. This was around 100 metres long and could carry 540 tonnes at 400 kph (250 mph).

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