Creating  an  Active  General  Aviation  Base:  The  Future  of  General  Aviation

The  article  printed  on  page  70  of  AW&ST  July20/Aug2  is  on  the  right  track  as  far  the  factors  that  will  help   advance  general  aviation.  However,  there  is  one  more  element  to  consider:  the  aircraft  itself.  Today's  general   aviation  aircrafts  are  only  refined  versions  of  50-­year-­old  concepts.  General  aviation  will  only  become  what  the   EAA  wants  when  safe,  quiet,  and  easy-­to-­operate  vertical  takeoff  and  landing  is  available  to  the  public.  

Today,  most  people  who  own  a  general  aviation  aircraft  must  drive  through  ground  traffic  to  an  airstrip  to  take   off—even  if  they  carry  their  wings  on  their  car  roof.  This  method  is  not  offering  any  time  savings  or  convenience   over  ground  transportation.  Aircrafts  should  be  able  to  pull  out  of  garages  so  they  can  take  off  vertically,  and   join  an  electronically  created  and  maintained  above-­ground  highway  system.  Such  a  system—along  with  a   safe,  quiet  vertical  takeoff  and  landing  system—is  the  future  of  general  aviation  and  will  arrive  sooner  or  later.  

Creating  Cost  Savings

Let’s  compare  the  cost  of  creating  a  250-­mile  (for  example)  ground  highway  system  to  the  cost  of  an   electronically  generated  above-­ground  highway  system.  The  costs  associated  with  the  ground  highway  system   include  a  demographic  study,  geotechnical  study,  political  opposition  study,  design,  construction,  maintenance,   and  control.  All  of  these  costs  are  in  the  tens  or  hundreds  of  millions  of  dollars,  and  will  take  years  to  complete.  

In  comparison,  an  above-­ground,  electronically  created  highway  system  can  be  instantly  generated  by   computers  with  desired  aircraft  density,  or  even  closed  instantly  as  the  density  drops.  Such  a  highway  can  be   monitored  and  controlled  with  help  from  existing  GPS  and  aerial  collision  avoidance  systems  already  in   operation.  

Providing  Valuable  Data

By  transferring  the  traffic  from  ground  to  air,  both  the  public  and  governments  will  benefit  from  the  requirement   to  file  a  flight  plan  for  travel.  For  instance,  everyone  must  file  a  plan  before  every  flight  stating  who  you  are,   where  you  are,  and  where  you  are  going.  Since  we  face  a  population  explosion  and  people  are  always  on  the   move,  this  will  prove  to  be  valuable  information  to  the  public  and  governments.  Chances  are  that  there  will   never  be  a  midair  collision  unless  the  system  malfunctions.  And  in  the  case  of  accidents  or  mechanical   malfunctions,  there  will  never  be  a  traffic  jam or  pileup.

It  may  look  like  we  are  not  technologically  ready  for  transferring  traffic  from  the  ground  to  the  air.  But  taking  a   closer  look  at  the  aviation  and  the  aerospace  industry  tells  us  that  with  the  exception  of  propulsion,  we  are   ready  for  an  initial  start  to  transfer  at  least  the  long-­distance  portion  of  ground  traffic  to  the  air.  The  sooner  we   start,  the  faster  we  will  have  helped  to  create  a  major  new  branch  for  the  transportation  industry,  and  all  the   new  business  opportunities  associated  with  it.

Reinventing  the  Transportation  of  Electricity

Taking  a  realistic  look  at  this  endeavor,  the  one  and  only  real  technological  shortcoming  standing  between  now   and  then  is  the  immense  power  required  to  create  truly  safe,  quiet,  and  practical  vertical  takeoff  and  landing   aircrafts.  Current  propulsion  technologies,  which  are  limited  to  internal  combustion  engines  or  turbo  shaft   engines,  are  too  massive,  complicated,  and  expensive  to  own  and  operate  daily  as  a  personal  ride.

Electricity  is  the  only  type  of  power  that  can  deliver  the  goods  required  to  create  a  true  vertical  takeoff  and   landing  aircraft.  The  amount  of  power  required  is  so  great  that  even  a  hybrid  system  will  fall  short  of  satisfying   the  equation.  What  is  needed  is  a  way  to  wirelessly  transport  electricity.  The  electric  motor  technology  is   available,  but  the  power  transition  is  not.  If  transporting  electricity  wirelessly  becomes  a  reality,  general  aviation   will  pioneer  the  use  of  it,  as  history  has  shown.  Commercial  aviation  will  adopt  it  when  general  aviation   identifies  and  establishes  its  benefits  and  operational  parameters.  Imagine  airliners  with  unlimited  range   capabilities.  

 


Additional  considerations:

Ducted  fan  units

Electric-­powered,  large-­diameter  ducted  fans  can  be  designed  and  built  to  the  same  mass  flow   performance,  interior  and  exterior  aerodynamics,  pylon  connections,  and  weight  as  the  current  gas   turbine  power  plants  installed  on  airliners,  requiring  no  aerodynamic  or  structural  changes  to  the   aircrafts  in  service  at  present.

Batteries

Today's  battery  technology  will  easily  fit  the  fuel  tank  cavities  in  aircrafts  as  a  reserved  power  source,  if   for  any  reason  power  transmission  or  power  receiving  is  interrupted.  The  amount  of  power  stored  in   these  batteries  should  not  be  underestimated:  some  airliners  carry  as  much  as  100  tons  of  fuel  at   takeoff.  Consider  how  much  electric  power  can  be  stored  in  100  tons  of  batteries  and  how  many   minutes  of  reserved  propulsion  power  that  translates  to.  Note  that  by  upgrading  the  batteries  every  five   years,  the  amount  of  power  stored  as  reserve  almost  doubles.

Batteries  and  General  Aviation

The  battery  upgrade  is  a  major  driving  force  behind  the  creation  of  a  totally  electric-­powered  general   aviation,  even  today.  Any  general  aviation  aircraft  equipped  with  batteries  to  allow  for  a  300-­mile  range   can  double  its  range  by  replacing  the  old  batteries  with  the  newest  battery  technology,  and  extend  its   range  every  five  years.  This  this  will  possibly  translate  to  less  weight,  too.

Environment

Above  all,  let's  consider  the  positive  environmental  impact  on  the  planet  from  using  electricity  as  the   source  of  power  for  propulsion  in  aviation.  Consider  how  many  airliners  fill  their  massive  fuel  tanks   multiple  times  a  day.  Or  how  many  tons  of  carbon  dioxide  are  ejected  into  the  atmosphere  by  airliners   every  minute.  Other  benefits  of  electric-­powered  aircrafts  may  be  a  longer  airframe  life,  due  to  no   change  in  mass  during  flight.

Getting  There  Quicker:  Incentivizing  Innovation

A  grand  XPRIZE  event  for  wireless  power  transmission—open  to  all  educational  institutions  ranging   from  high  schools  and  universities  to  corporations  and  individuals—could  bring  us  closer  to  the  reality   of  an  above-­ground  highway  system.  Such  an  incentive  could  create  the  momentum  for  expediting  the   development  of  a  technology  that’s  been  “past  due”  for  at  least  50  years.  Wire  has  been  the  only   means  of  transporting  electricity  since  electricity  was  discovered.  No  technology  on  Earth  has   remained  the  same  for  150  years!

Establishing  an  electronically  created  and  maintained,  above-­ground  highway  system  for  general   aviation  will  help  create  an  environment  for  active  general  aviation—in  turn,  leading  to  the   technological,  economical,  and  cultural  improvements  required  to  support  the  industry.  The  future  will   arrive  only  if  we  open  the  doors  and  bring  it  in.