Return of the Seaplane

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Nilsen

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Hi all,

Here is an article from todays AM New York.

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Bloomberg suggests return of seaplanes to ease airport congestion
By RICHARD PYLE
Associated Press Writer

June 18, 2006, 12:14 PM EDT

NEW YORK -- More than 60 years after the Pan American flying boat Yankee Clipper departed Long Island Sound on its last trans-Atlantic flight, New York's mayor says it may be time to resurrect the seaplane _ not to restore the romance of aviation's "golden age," but to ease pressure on the city's crowded airports.

During a recent radio show, Mayor Michael Bloomberg noted that airport and ground facilities lag behind the growth of intercontinental jet travel, and said congestion would increase as Gotham's population reaches an estimated 9 million in the next 15 years.

"People are going to fly more and more, that's the wave of the future," said Bloomberg. Riding that wave, he suggested, could be the seaplane.

"If you take a look at a map, one thing we have going for us is an enormous runway all around _ it's called the water," he said. "For local, short flights, to let's say, Boston, Chicago, Atlanta, Florida ... you can land out away from everybody and then taxi in."

While Bloomberg is not noted for flights of fancy, his remarks conjured up images of the China Clipper, Yankee Clipper and other famous flying boats that spanned oceans in the 1930s, an aviation heyday cut short by World War II and killed off by the jet age.

Bloomberg, a licensed pilot who flies his own helicopter, anticipated practical questions _ such as who would build a new generation of large commercial seaplanes, and where they might land and take off.

LaGuardia Airport's Marine Air Terminal, the New York base for the Pan Am flying boats, fell into neglect after their demise. Since refurbished as an art-deco landmark, with a mural depicting "Flight" and a model Clipper hanging from the ceiling to evoke the bygone era, it still serves corporate aircraft and Delta Airlines' shuttle to Chicago.

Pan Am's 28 Clippers saw wartime service and were gone, mostly scrapped, by 1950. The Dixie Clipper, a Boeing 314 that inaugurated the trans-Atlantic route in June 1939, became the forerunner of Air Force One by carrying President Franklin D. Roosevelt to a Casablanca meeting with British Prime Minister Winston Churchill in 1943. That same year, the Yankee Clipper crashed and sank near Lisbon.

Not all seaplanes followed the Clippers into oblivion, but most today are small aircraft built in Canada, Japan and the United States. They're used for short commuter flights and island-hopping sightseers.

Only Russia builds what Bloomberg called "enormous seaplanes" that carry 50 or 100 people. He apparently meant the Beriev Be-200, a 72-seat passenger plane derived from a military jet called the Albatross. With no airline takers, it is so far a commercial flop.

Bloomberg spokesman Stu Loeser said Bloomberg was serious about the seaplane idea.

"New York is surrounded by water and it is a great resource," he said. "The problem is that we have too many flights and not enough spots, and the mayor feels that in a broad vision, seaplanes are an obvious alternative. There are no seaplanes on the market now, but there could be."

Spokesmen at the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, which operates the region's three major airports _ Newark Liberty, LaGuardia and John F. Kennedy International _ refused to return repeated calls seeking comment.

Elsewhere, Bloomberg's idea was greeted with skepticism.

"It's absolutely fabulous _ just as soon as we bring back the Hindenburg," said Michael Boyd, president of the Boyd Group, an aviation consulting firm in Denver. "It's so far out he might as well be talking about intergalactic travel."

The Hindenburg was a German dirigible destroyed by fire as it landed at Lakehurst, N.J., in 1937, a death-knell for commercial airships.

In a telephone interview, Boyd said seaplane technology "has long since been leapfrogged by aviation advances," and environmental issues "would be huge." The mayor had dismissed those concerns, saying there were "no environmental issues to speak of."

As one example, Boyd said, salt-water corrosion would be a serious problem for the amphibious planes. "Nobody remembers that those Boeing Clippers needed a three-day turnaround. They had to be hosed down after every flight," he said.
 

Topaz

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On a wispy-eyed 'that'd be neat' level I like it, but really, Bloomberg honestly expects the airlines to invest in expensive new airplanes just to serve NYC, because said city can't get its act together and expand the airports it has?

I thought this guy was supposed to be financial wizard?
 

Nilsen

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I agree with you Topaz. But I like the fact that he's putting a sort of crazy idea out there.

The water ways are changing alot around here though. I'm involved with a volenteer boating community in Manhattan. The city is currently altering it's views on the water ways now that the shipping has moved to Jersey. They want to open up access. They have reciently built several boathouses for free community use. I think thats the spirit that this statement came from.

Its possible that if someone had a buisness plan to start a small commuter seaplane line they could approach the Mayor and maybe get a green light. Weather or not it would turn a profit ...?

Btw. This is one of those news stories that you can vote on. Currently it's about 2:1 that his idea will "never fly".
 

Peter V

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Bring on the floating airport!

Now if only they could make a two mile long floating structure rigid and stable? :rolleyes:

Perhaps the cheapest option would be a landfill/reclaimation airport! I'm sure environmentalists would love that! :D
 

Dieselfume

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Imagine a dash 8 (errr... Q400 I think they call it now) only amphibious...

Long as the convienience is worth the fuel mileage and maintanance penalty it will cost. I like the idea myself, but imagine a really rough sea at your destination... Kinda hard to swallow if you want reliable service. What about poor weather and ILS and knowing the waterway is clear for landing?
 

Nilsen

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Water conditions at the landing site seems to be 'one' of the bigger problems.

Otherwise, I can imagine so much great fun and convenience by having a fleet of seaplanes serving the North East corridor.

To really make it worth while I think the planes would have to land in Upper New York Bay and then deplane to a dock or barge. This is very close to an exsisting water taxi route that costs $5 to many points in Broolyn, Manhattan and NJ. If the 1 to 2 hour commute to and from the airport could be elliminated this would be a popular airline.

So while there are problems, if it could work I think New Yorkers would flock to the airline.
 

orion

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The idea of seaplane commercial and/or business carriers is certainly not new. I'm actually surprised that it's being viewed by the original article as something unique. In many ways it does make a lot of sense, especially in areas where sheltered waterways abound.

But there are problems too, as mentioned above. I might add a couple more: First, from the standpoint of efficiency, a hulled airplane has a relatively high drag count - in today's economy, where every effort is being made by all developers of commercial carriers to shed avery fractional ounce of drag, incorporating a less than clean and relatively heavy structure such as would be required by a hull in commercial service, would make the airplane a fuel guzzling dog.

Another issue has to do with maintenance. The hull could possibly be made from composites so only a minimal issue there but when operating off of water, especially salt water, you now have to "marinize" all the exposed systems, which of course means the engines too. In addition to corrosion, one problem the Russians don't talk about is that of erosion of the turbine blades, something that is significantly increasing the maintenance costs and decreasing engine life.

Then, from the standpoint of efficiency, per pound of fuel burned a turboprop can deliver substantially more take-off thrust than a jet. Turboprops would be much more efficient for this mission than the fans.

Here is a project I worked on about ten years ago. It was slated initially to be about a ten to fifteen seater, with larger variants also in the works. It had a very unique and proprietary hull that provided nearly land-like take-off distances. It too would not have done well as a jet, something that became quite clear once we got more into the project. But it faded away in a fairly short term - the owner of the project was unable to comple the development financing.
 

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orion

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Actually the aero wasn't too much a problem, structure was. That outer wing panel was originally to be retractable. And throughout the project I couldn't figure the reason for that requirement since aerodynamically it doesn't do anything for you. But I guess it does allow you to get in closer to the dock without having to be concerned about smacking someone on the head if the plane gets hit by a swell.

The main problem though was that with the retraction, there was nowhere to put the fuel.
 

Peter V

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**** shame Orion!
That would have been a good looking bird!
Surely front or rear loading of passengers would have been easier to engineer than the weight, complication and minimal benefit of retractable wing tips if you're looking to stop the wings overhanging the dock?
 

orion

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Yea, I thought so too.

The owner of the design got some bad aero advice (which he unfortunately believed) so he was pretty stuck on the retraction idea, thinking that it would give him some magic form of aerodynamic efficiency.

It had a relly cool looking hull - I wish I still had the loft and data.
 

Old Jupiter

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Shin Meiwa in Japan was formerly Kawanishi, manufacturer of possibly the best large flying boat of WW2 (as well as some nifty fighter planes). The reorganized company later built Martin Marlin flying boats on license, made improvements, and ended up with a very good four-engined prop-jet flying boat (if forget if some or all were amphibious) used by Japan's self-defense forces in coastal patrol work. If Shin Meiwa still has the tooling, maybe they could build a passenger-carrying version without a monumental start-up cost.

Japan's own thinking on the subject of too little space for new airports has involved VTOL/STOL operations. When Boeing was trying to get more funding for the Bell/Boeing Osprey VTOL troop-carrier, the Japanese said that if that plane were ever put into production, they would put in a substantial order for a passenger version. They further stated that if the Osprey project died, Japan would build something similar on their own. This was in the mid-'90s, as I recall. We're all still waiting on the Osprey . . . .
 

Topaz

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The Osprey is in-service and is on its first operational deployment in Iraq. So far, so good over there, although the development program certainly wasn't smooth.
 

Himat

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Here is a project I worked on about ten years ago. It was slated initially to be about a ten to fifteen seater, with larger variants also in the works. It had a very unique and proprietary hull that provided nearly land-like take-off distances. It too would not have done well as a jet, something that became quite clear once we got more into the project. But it faded away in a fairly short term - the owner of the project was unable to comple the development financing.
Do you have any more pictures of this?
I would find a picture of the underside of the hull very interesting.
 

JamesG

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The Osprey is in-service and is on its first operational deployment in Iraq. So far, so good over there, although the development program certainly wasn't smooth.
After a few deployments and years of service V-22s are still very expensive to buy and maintain. Also very demanding of that maintenance, temperamental, and has a limited payload. Too hard to close the business case around those practical realities for commercial use.

I guess nothing came of the seaplane idea. Pitty...
 

Topaz

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After a few deployments and years of service V-22s are still very expensive to buy and maintain. Also very demanding of that maintenance, temperamental, and has a limited payload. Too hard to close the business case around those practical realities for commercial use....
Agusta is going to find out whether that's true or not with the AW609 in the next few years.

1946.jpg
 

orion

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Unfortunately I don't. The hull was apparently patented (old patents) but I was not able to get any details - the idea was that as soon as we started he would provide me with the technical documents but since he was not able to assemble the financial package, the program never got out of the gate.
 

autoreply

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Didn't they make a Hercules on floats too?

I still love the idea of a composite Global Explorer, it could catch part of the upper-segment of yachting:
 
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Himat

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Some necroposting, but it might be of interest to some.

Here is a project I worked on about ten years ago. It was slated initially to be about a ten to fifteen seater, with larger variants also in the works. It had a very unique and proprietary hull that provided nearly land-like take-off distances. It too would not have done well as a jet, something that became quite clear once we got more into the project. But it faded away in a fairly short term - the owner of the project was unable to comple the development financing.
amphib.jpg

Patent4691881.jpg
I did find a patent on an aircraft that looked the same in this patent paper:View attachment 4691881_High_performance_amphibious_airp.pdf

The patent holder had two patents, the other one is this:View attachment 6290174_Amphibious_aircraft_with_aerodyn.pdf
 
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