Hybrid-Electric Utility Aircraft Gathers Support
People have to stop thinking about electric and hybrid electric propulsion as an evolution of piston, turbine, or jet propulsion. Our current crop of aircraft are designed around the operating characteristics of piston or turbine powerplants, including their fuel, combustion air, cooling, operating speed, maintenance, fire protection, and other requirements. All of these are at least somewhat different for electric or hybrid electric powerplants and they are going to necessitate differently designed aircraft to effectively take advantage of them.
This is much the same as when jet propulsion came along. Though there were several attempts to adapt aircraft designed for piston engines into jets, these were mostly unsuccessful, or died on the drawing board as their designers realized that a new propulsion paradigm required a new aircraft design paradigm.
Engineers are always going to strive to get the best performance and efficiency out of an aircraft and propulsion. When a new system of propulsion comes along, don’t expect the aircraft to look the same.
The wing is a box wing: it’s a biplane, but the lower wing starts near the nose and is swept aft; the upper wing is swept forward but has its center section far aft on the fuselage; and there is a vertical surface joining the upper and lower wings at the tips. The vertical surface means the lift distribution does not have to go to near zero near the wingtips, so there is more lift per unit surface area, which improves L/D; and the sort-of-biplane structure allows lower structural weight. But there are tradeoffs at high speed, in stability, and in deploying high-lift devices.
Some studies suggest that for shorter flights (large percent of the time at low speeds) and for aircraft that carry the fuel in the fuselage (and can tolerate having a very small wing volume) there is a several percentage point reduction in fuel burn.
That doesn’t seem like much, to justify combining the development risk of a new propulsion system and a new airframe.
Separately, the single propulsor at the back of the fuselage will ingest and accelerate the boundary layer, which reduces fuselage drag substantially but has a tendency to really mess up the efficiency of the propulsor and to make a lot of noise as the fan blades hit the unsteady (i.e., turbulent) flow from the fuselage. So that’s three development risks in one project.
I give them credit for trying!
Best of the Web: How Microsoft Flight Sim Recreated the Planet
I have been using an X-Plane11-based BATD to maintain IFR currency and proficiency for some time, but the artist in me was lured into building a new desktop simulator running MSFS 2020 by the promise of luscious graphics and weather modeling.
The new sim setup is a work in progress (sim flight control hardware is in short supply this pandemic winter) but I can still offer a few general impressions.
- MSFS 2020 looks amazing: it’s totally immersive, visually. Spawn a flight with the Carbon Cub parked on the edge of a grass strip in Wales at sunrise on a crisp fall morning and you can almost smell the crushed grass under your tires.
- As a serious simulator for real-life pilots? To be generous, it is a work in progress. There are too many things not-quite-right about the flight models and/or missing from the aircraft systems and avionics simulations to be convincing; some of the lapses are seriously annoying. I imagine Asobo/Microsoft will make improvements over time and third-party developers are starting to fill in some of those gaps, but…
- Did I mention the graphics are amazing? I think I’ll fire up the sim and go fly the DA62 out of Wanaka for a tour of New Zealand’s Southern Alps this morning.
Poll: Have You Used Microsoft Flight Simulator?
- Yes. Since its earliest versions on my Atari 400.
- Many years ago. At that time, it was primitive and highly unlike flying a real airplane. I look forward to testing the new version.
- Yes, just started.
- It’s pretty, but X-Plane is more of a simulator (i.e. systems, buttons etc. actually work) where MS2020 is game-like.
- Have used FS 2020, it’s terrific.
- I’m an X-Plane user but bought FS2020 and just starting. Difficult to load.
- Why simulate when you can fly a Pitts and feel the real deal?
- I’ve used prior versions, but I’m waiting for helicopters in FS 2020 before trying it out.
- Back to XP-11.
- Yes, but am using X-Plane more.
- As a child.
- Various versions over the years.
- Used to use it every day for years.
- It’s all I got to fly….
- Yes. A long time ago. Never updated for new computer.
- Firmly a Mac user for 34 years, might try if they come out with a compatible version – which won’t happen…
- Just got the new one. Played with it a little, but not extensively yet.
- I have only used the FS X version, not the 2020 version. Trying to decide whether to upgrade to 2020 or Wing-X 11.
- When it first came out — a lifetime ago on an Apple IIe!
- Tried it. Like MSFSX better.
- Yes – I just bought MSFS 2020 and am learning it on a powerful home graphics computer – it is stunning!
- No, Mac guy here and I don’t use non-native software. Sounds cool!
- It sucked; a forward slip cause a stall…
- X Flight, MSFS won’t work on an older MAC.
- Use it almost daily.
- Scenery isn’t necessary for IFR, prefer X-Plane for IFR practice.
- Not in over 25 years!
- Sure wish I could use my MS/FS Gold Edition with MS 10.
- Yes, only FS 2020.
- Why bother? I’ve got Condor.
- Just got it. Learning how to use it. It’s a bit tough for a non-gamer.
- Didn’t know that it existed.
- Used it, up until I got my pilots license.
- Yes, quite a few years but not seen the 2020 version.
- I will when Microsoft produces a native version for Mac.
- FS2020 has a very poor flight model.
- Yes, but many years ago. Have flown actual planes since then.
- Nope, its computing requirements would require the expensive purchase of a new computer.
- Barely, and long, long ago.
- Yes, just the latest version.
- Can’t due to not having a PC.
- I used it to quit smoking back in 1992. It was a great distraction, kept my mind occupied during idle hours after work.