Skip to comments.'Muppet planes' on drawing board (Enviro-friendly aircraft get look from Boeing)
Posted on 06/06/2006 7:13:58 PM PDT by SandRat
SEATTLE When Boeing names an airplane design after a Muppet, it must be pretty different.
Two small teams at the company are re-imagining the airplane in futuristic configurations that sprout wings, tails and engines in unexpected shapes and places.
The research, illustrated in internal documents, aims in two directions: low-cost airplanes, and environment-friendly planes that will be quieter, use much less fuel and leave fewer pollutants in the upper atmosphere.
In the latter category is the "Kermit Kruiser," a low-noise concept airplane with main wings radically swept forward rather than back, and sporting miniature wings on the front.
Then there's the "Fozzie." It has a "Pi-tail" two vertical tails joined by a piece across the top, and sips fuel because it flies slower using open-rotor jet engines that resemble the old-style propellers.
The concepts are "intended to help us focus technology on a future out beyond the horizon," said Dan Mooney, Boeing vice president of product development, who directs both research teams.
The documents show Boeing has looked at other concepts as well: a supersonic business jet; a megasize freighter; airplanes that use biofuels or hydrogen; and even a "reduced crew" airliner one with no windows in the cockpit, judging by a sketch in the Boeing documents.
But of all the potential concepts, Boeing has prioritized the "low-cost" and the "green" planes for further research this year. Both teams have begun work with engine companies on the various propulsion alternatives.
The Boeing documents include assessments of very similar research projects that its rival Airbus has sketchily mentioned at scientific conferences. In an interview, Mooney declined to discuss proprietary details of the designs but offered insight into what his research teams are up to.
He said the latest airplanes being sold today, such as the 787, are designed to meet airlines' projected requirements for about the next two decades. Designers strike a balance among cost, fuel efficiency, capacity, range and other factors based on those projections.
His concept teams, however, think "out beyond 15 or 20 years," where fuel costs, noise or other factors may become more important and reshape what airlines want. "We need to be developing technology today to allow us to be ready for those uncertainties in the future." The low-cost team, documents show, is studying the benefits of options such as long, thin wings and new engine types. That team has not yet envisioned new structural designs, however.
In contrast, the Green Team, with a broad mandate to address diverse issues of fuel burn, noise and emissions, has considered some widely differing airplane structures each with its own whimsical code name. (The Muppet theme may be a reference to the song Kermit sang on "Sesame Street": "It's not easy bein' green.")
* "Kermit Kruiser": Low noise. The engines sit atop a twin-fin tail, so that the noise is reflected upward. The wings are placed so far back they join the fuselage right at the horizontal stabilizer. And most radically, the wings sweep forward, not back, lowering aerodynamic drag and increasing maneuverability at the price of some stability. Keeping this tail-heavy aircraft stable in flight requires a canard those mini-wings up front. The plane would be a wide-body seating nine abreast.
* "Fozzie": Ultra-low fuel burn. The airplane is designed to cruise at a much reduced speed 500 mph rather than the typical 600-plus mph of current jets. That would add an hour to the typical transcontinental flight.
Attached to a tail with twin vertical fins and a crossbar (called a Pi-tail because it resembles the Greek letter pi) are engines with an "open rotor" or "unducted fan" design.
The plane has a fanjet gas-turbine engine of the sort used on airliners today, but without the usual duct encasing the fan, Mooney confirmed. At slower speeds, this offers great fuel efficiency.
One internal drawing shows the rotors on the back of the engine; another shows them on the front, the more usual position.
* "Beaker": Low emissions. This airplane has the low fuel burn and same low cruise speed of Fozzie. It has low-emission engines and long, very narrow wings perpendicular to the fuselage. The wingspan is such that the wings must fold to fit an airport gate.
* "Honeydew": Low fuel burn. Another wide-body, this aircraft seems to be a meld of the traditional "tube-and-wing"-shaped airliner and the often-touted "Flying Wing" design that produced the B-2 bomber.
The resulting delta-shaped wing blends in a graceful curve into the fuselage. Yet there is still a distinct fuselage at the front.
The Flying Wing design is more aerodynamically efficient. One disadvantage is that most passengers are far from a window. Honeydew appears to be an intriguing compromise.
Since April, Boeing's Phantom Works research unit, in collaboration with NASA and the U.S. Air Force, has been doing wind-tunnel tests on a small-scale, 21-foot-wingspan prototype of a Flying Wing or Blended Wing Body aircraft concept. Flight testing of the prototype is planned for later this year.
The Air Force is interested in the design's potential as a long-range, high-capacity military aircraft. So how realistic are these cool-looking airplanes? "When you look at where energy costs are going in the next decade, it could be time for a change in the rules," said Jerry Ennis, a retired vice president at Boeing's Phantom Works who worked on prototypes.
Like the Detroit carmakers who wheel out fanciful concept cars that never reach the showroom, Boeing may never build an airplane that looks like any of these images.
Still, Mooney said, "Most likely there'll be parts of the technology or parts of the configuration that will find their way onto products of the future."
You keep on talking about twenty year old cars in order to compare them with twenty year old airplanes. But the fact of the matter is most cars on the road are five years old or less, so it really doesn't make a lot of sense to talk about the state of the art, circa 1985.
In any case, I was not talking about the automobiles of 20 years ago. I was talking about the mobile sources of 10 years from now. In 10 years, everything with a tailpipe is going to be regulated except aircraft. This is going to make aircraft emmissions really stand out as the last remaining area for improvement.
Eventually pollution controls are going to come down the pike for aircraft. What form they will take is anybody's guess at this point. I really don't see how conventional pollution controls can be applied to modern jet aircraft engines. Some other form of propulsion may become necessary.
So, where's the Animal? or the Miss Piggy? how bout the Great Gonzo, or the Dr. Floyd Pepper?
sound economics is a bit more thoughtful than just "what's cheapeast today." Perhaps that's how you'd make decisions if it were your responsibility, and that's why you think everyone else would do so, too.
mercifully, there are checks and balance on folly.
Sometimes old ideas need a re-look since new technology can make them work. The basic idea of the B2's shape is very old.
I like the Kermit because it reminds me of this:
It also can, at high pitchup rates, stall both canard and main wing.
I thought one of the main advantages of the forward-swept wing was that it was hard to stall the wing tips.
I understand the sentiment. I know of one airport in the middle of a suburb where 100% of the homes surrounding it were built years after the airport was established.
OTOH, less noise is always good. Maybe Boeing should talk to the Navy to see how they get their screws so quiet. Water, air, it's all just fluid dynamics.
Will they biodegrade at 40000 feet?
Perhaps Doe Eyes, like I, merely took your statement at face value, and came to the obvious conclusion.....
However, if you'd care to modify your comment into something with actual intellectual content, I'd be happy to revise my opinion.
I believe that half the burden of clear communication belongs to the hearer. Somewhere along the line someone apparently convinced you two that "sound economic principles" were defined by apparent immediate price advantage only (arbitrage), completely devoid of accountability to moral ramifications. And that may be what passes these days for "economics." But it is not a true definition.
If you're content with a plane that goes less than 20 knots, you can make it as quiet as you like.
As far as your comment that "half the burden of clear communication belongs to the hearer," that presupposes that the speaker is making sense in the first place. Let's put that to the test.
You're attempting to transform your silly original comment (post #7) into a serious-sounding economic argument; however, if you look at the overwhelming positive response that met the introduction of Boeing's more fuel-efficient 787, it would seem that you haven't got any point at all -- there is, in fact, a long-term economic advantage to fuel efficiency.
Your attempt to invoke "accountability to moral ramifications" is meaningless, since you haven't bothered to tell us precisely what the adverse moral impacts of fuel efficiency, quietness, or overall aviation "greenness" really are. One is left to speculate that your criterion is no more complicated than that you simply and unthinkingly hate the idea of "green."
I stopped reading here. I'm going to do be really generous and reply by pointing out that nohwere, ever, did I say anything about Boeing and its planes. I certainly implied the very opposite of what you have attributed to me --read: what you have imagined that I believe.
OK, one more favor: if you can identify what I did -- quite explicity -- take issue with, I will refrain from concluding that you answering imaginary posts.
There's nothing wrong with making planes that are more fuel efficient and/ or less noisy. There is a kernel of truth to environmentalism, we do make polution and making less is a good thing. The problem with modern environmentalists is they take it too far and get addicted to programs that don't work, but there are reasonable things reasonable corporations and people can do to make our stay on this planet less damaging and handover a nicer place to future generations.
Which is a rather abject confession that you're gabbling on about ... well, something ... that has absolutely nothing to do with the topic of this thread. Thanks for clarifying.
A link back to your original idiocy .... how quaint.
If a soiled shirt is placed in the opening of a vessel containing grains of wheat, the reaction of the leaven in the shirt with fumes from the wheat will, after approximately twenty-one days, transform the wheat into mice.
Les oevres de Jean-Baptiste Van Helmont, French trans. Jean Le Conte (Lyon, 1671), Part I, Ch. XVI, "On the Necessity of Leavens in Transformations," pp. 103-109
Yeah, the "props" on the Fozzie were a hot ticket on one of their concept planes a few years ago - they were killed by the apparently unresolveable issue of excessive noise.
Cute names though. ;)
Fozzle's my bet. We're already nearly there, with all the bypass in modern engines. The first couple or three blade sets are nothing more than glorified propellers.
The loudest plane on earth is the Tu-95. In some ways, ahead of its time.
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