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Tuesday, November 30, 2010

WHAT ABOUT SUSTAINABLE AVIATION?

More than a year ago I wrote an article for the Huffington Post on The Future of Sustainable Aviation.  All commercial and military aircraft today burn some form of jetfuel, refined from petroleum.  Experimental flights have used biodiesel, and the speculation is that biofuel from algae looks the most promising.  More recently, the Defense Advanced Projects Agency had wonderful things to say about jetfuel from algae.

But for the next few decades we appear to be stuck with conventional air travel, where the two primary commercial jetliner manufacturers are Boeing, #1, and #2 Airbus.  The largest airliner is the Airbus 380:
The plane holds more than 500 passengers.  Several airline companies now fly this behemoth.  Watch a clip on You Tube.

Embraer from Brazil is #3, with smaller planes.  Russia produces Ilyushin and Tupolev models used by "their" partners.  All other companies only are involved with smaller aircraft

However, both China and Japan have entered the picture.  China hopes to produce 2000 of the 3000 commercial planes they plan to buy over the next two decades.  More so, they have an expressed vision to break the Boeing/Airbus duopoly.  Two weeks ago China unveiled a mock-up of a 160 passenger C919 to compete with the Boeing 737 and Airbus 320.

Mitsubishi Aircraft Corporation has begun making parts for a regional jet, challenging Bombardier and Embraer.  Mitsubishi has received 125 orders for delivery beginning in 2012.  Mitsubishi already builds the carbon-fiber wings for Boeing's 787 Dreamliner, which is yet another nightmare for the American company.  Japan's ANA ordered 50 Dreamliners (below) in 2004.  Now, actual delivery could be delayed to as late as 2012.


Now, about that hydrogen jetliner I've been trying to stimulate for more than 30 years when I drafted that first hydrogen bill for Senator Spark Matsunaga, apparently, there is European interest (above) in a Mach 5 version.  But in the USA, maybe a black military scramjet program, at best, which means commercialization is generations away.  A few years after the Matsunaga hydrogen bill was introduced, there was a 1983 television movie, Starflight:  The Plane That Couldn't Land, featuring a hypersonic jetliner capable of a two hour flight from Los Angeles to Sydney getting stuck in orbit and saved by a NASA space shuttle.  The American hydrogen scramjet:

Then, there is Rinaldo Brutoco's hydrogen dirigible.  The Hawaiian Hydrogen Clipper is capable of traveling at speeds up to, and maybe exceeding, 350 MPH.  A recent, and slow, entrant, is Seymourpowell's Hydrogen Clipper:

Every few months some small company or visionary floats a new air concept, but I do worry about Hawaii because we are the canary in the coal mine, for if oil shoots up to $200/barrel, and stays there, we will be first to go into a prolonged economic depression, as tourism is our only real industry.  Planning began with the Matsunaga Hydrogen Act a third of a century ago, and certainly must start again today to find either a replacement for jetfuel or develop a commercial hydrogen aircraft.  I fear the worst.

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The Dow Jones fell another 46 to 11,006, with world markets also dropping, Japan almost minus 2% to 9,937.  Gold surged up $20/toz to $1386 and petroleum is just under $84/barrel.  I've noticed recently that the price of oil and Japan yen to dollar numbers have been similar.  They are exactly the same today.

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