Video: Burt Rutan and His Airplanes

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Aircar

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Karoliina --thanks again for your video postings from Oshkosh --it is a shame that EAA does not tape all the tech sessions as well and get actual engineers to do the interviews with designers so that some of the real thinking in design comes across .

Burt makes fun of the biplane aerobatics during this tape and that repeats the observations of others that EAA is at heart more about preseving the 'golden age' of barnstorming and warbirds than anything about experimentation --that said he is not very forthcoming about actual design philosophy matters but plays to the crowd or the lowest common denominator in his forums and pronouncements --he acts a bit hokey or folksy but he must have a lot to tell about the real design process , I hope he gets around to putting a book together one day ,

BTW did you by any chancer get to the roadable aircraft forum (hosted by Ron Borovec )or even Rob borovec's forum on Thorium powered aircraft ? --your interest in long range over ocean flying and the personal spaceplane thread come together in what might be a feasible combination together with a much higher energy density fuel (Thorium) that could continue to work in space -- using a high density 'propellant' ejected with nuclear energy (rather than the low density products of combustion and the associated volume problem plus limited specific energy --the only way I could see long distance transoceanic 'flight' in small aircraft being thinkable is by some sort of new propulsion system that allowed skipping on the atmosphere in a 'sub orbital' path and avoiding most aerodynamic drag --the physiological requirements for a straight up and straight down "X prize" type flight are more than for a transatmospheric flightpath and the vehicle design likewise much less than for orbital (the German WW2 Sanger concept must be revivable if anything is going to grow out of the present spaceplane effort -- and it cuts out the interminable hours of flight that a transpacific crossing involves without the intermediate steps possible crossing the North Atlantic --Rutan's vision of passenger spaceflights from Oshkosh seems relatively doable if the refuelling and ground support was provided but I doubt it would be looked upon favourably during Airventure week if the launch went astray with huge crowds around --looks like there was a crash of some kind on the end of your video --the F86 fury ?-- and there was a spate of airshow crashes this year including the Reno races one (I was at an airfield yesterday where they had an aborted parachute drop --cloud formed under them prior to jumping-- and the aircraft (C 206) returned with the jumpers on board (but not seated or strapped in as is the case ) --overshot the strip and ended in a drainage ditch with a few multiple broken bones and fuel 'burns' (no fire) PLUS they had up to a dozen snakes sunning themselves where they went in --not a good day overall..

Safety issues are the real constraint on a lot of flights of fancy and I guess that nuclear powered aircraft are top of the list there --but nice to speculate anyway .
 

karoliina.t.salminen

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Aircar: This is beyond the scope of my ideas really. I don't think thorium reactor or any other type nuclear fission propulsion has anything to do in atmospheric application. It would be unhealthy thing to do to run this kind of propulsion elsewhere than in deep space only.

Crossing 2000 nm is not so much magic, but to ferry passengers, indeed skipping via space would be a great idea. I however think some other type of propulsion is needed, I would bet on ramjet/scramjet/rocket -combination. It would be rather interesting to compare the transport efficiency of flying high and shallow suborbital over Atlantic ocean instead of flying it like airlines do now. It would be quite a bit faster but would it actually use so much more fuel?
 

Aircar

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Karoliina -- I know that the subject of the video was around the Boomerang and Starship but Burt talked about the idea of launching people into space from Oshkosh so thought I'd take up that topic and your interest in long distance flight . As to the economics -- well that's where the idea of nuclear energy comes in since the thought was to avoid the huge fuel fraction in weight and volume of hydrocarbon fuels and oxidiser (Popular Mechanics did a cover story on Thorium power for aircraft a couple of years ago -- I don't recall the exact propulsion idea but I guess it was a type of scramjet using nuclear heating . Dieter Kuchemann did a lot of work on hypersonic airbreathing flight and came to the conclusion that hypersonic flight again became economic using his waverider concept -- his book "The aerodynamic design of aircraft" and a series of articles in Flight International in the early seventies put the case (it's 563 pages with lots of maths ) --he of course was the originator of the Concorde and the slender ogive delta amongst other innovations.

I noticed in your posting of John Roncz's forum where he stated that he had obtained a negative drag result from the interaction of a vehicle with it's own shockwave (not overall negative but a favourable interaction) but shrugged and said it was just ignored --the Busemann supersonic biplane with favourable interference and the XB 70 downfolding wing tips designed to capture the body shock wave are the other examples of drag lowering by supersonic shaping -- the problem of aerodynamic heating is the one that seems most intractable to me but we do have scramjets being tested in Queensland and some projected hypersonic airliners that may have solved it in principle (but the links by Franklin on the 'personal spaceplane' thread give cause to doubt that the X30 "aerospaceplane" was ever even feasible -- the 1940s Sanger supersonic concept even looked a bit like the X 30 but must have been well ahead of the materials technology then .


As long as 'blue sky' thinking (or maybe "black sky" as in the Rutan spaceflight series on you tube) is on the menu and Burt is nothing if not encouraging young designers in particular to think beyond the 'sensible' to the 'nonsense' in terms of new ideas in spaceflight then scramjets and edge of atmosphere flight become thinkable -- it is just extending the known benefit of getting out of the thick lower atmosphere to gain efficiency in one way --but short of the sub orbital step and according to Kuchemann might just be in a 'sweet spot' in terms of energetics .(without significant centrifugal lift I think ) --the propulsion efficiency increases enough hypersonically to more than make up for the aerodynamic reduction.


BBerson --Good to hear that someone attended Ron's Thorium forum --I am perplexed if it was not related to aircraft what DID it involve ? And did you manage to get to the roadables forum or know anybody who did even ? (Ron used to edit a newletter on Roadable aircraft and is one of the diehards on roadables as well as running the Oshkosh forum since 1992 I think )
 

BBerson

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BBerson --Good to hear that someone attended Ron's Thorium forum --I am perplexed if it was not related to aircraft what DID it involve ? And did you manage to get to the roadables forum or know anybody who did even ? (Ron used to edit a newletter on Roadable aircraft and is one of the diehards on roadables as well as running the Oshkosh forum since 1992 I think )
He showed a video that introduced the features of thorium energy (land based). Then Ron had a discussion about the usual nuclear power issues with the audience. I think thorium is his new interest.
I also have a strong interest and promote nuclear power as well, but not for aircraft.

I did not get to the roadable forum this year.
BB
 

Aircar

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Thanks for the update BB --I have just returned from a renewable energy conference and expo that included a presentation on fusion work by a Canadian company --they started with the "you've heard it all before , Fusion energy was 20 years away 20 years ago and still is" ...but they expect to get to a better than breakeven in three years using a new approach . Karoliina -- I have had a chance to read up on hypersonics etc in Kuchemann's book and the best place to post on this is 'personal spaceplane' rather than Burt's planes so I'll put it there.
 

karoliina.t.salminen

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BBerson: I did not hear this presentation, but I would like to know more about it.
Would you mind creating a new thread for that? I would like to know how there was supposed to be a solution for avoiding a radioactive plume coming from this kind of scramjet, if it expels thorium aerosols which, if it would happen, causes internal exposure to people breathing tiny particles of the plume which I don't think could be counted as insignificant.

That's why I was saying that only should be used in deep space where it does not matter so much if radioactive particles are expelled along with the propellant that is heated accelerated with it. Also I would like to understand what kind solution there would be for residue heat, when it is stopped on the ground, how the very large amount of residue energy is dissipated so that it is fail safe (as even thorium reactor has this problem despite the criticality would stop along with the removal of the neutron beam - the heat does not go away but according to my information requires continuous uninterrupted cooling). Also there is this question of plane crashes, these tend to be unavoidable, no matter how a safe an airplane is, someone someday may crash one regardless. It would be quite inconvenient if there were Chernobyl and Fukushima -like exclusion zones around the globe around aircraft crash sites. I am a bit sceptic if he proposed technical solutions for these that would actually work, but if he did or if you happen to know solutions, it would be highly interesting to hear. I pretty much know about the health etc. issues associated, so if he was talking about those, I am not so interested to hear them again, but if there were any solutions, that's where I would be especially interested. If you have some better information on the topic, how these problems are to be solved, feel free to post a new thread. Note to moderator: if a new thread would occur, my comment from this thread can be moved as it has very little to do with this video I made.

On the other hand, what comes to deep space propulsion, I rather think that VASIMR type of advanced ion drive (rather than the 60s proposed nuclear rocket which would propel heated hydrogen) will be the future in deep space propulsion (as anything else is waste of energy really), and space craft that would utilize those would never land on any planet, but just cruise between them, and they could have nuclear reactors (either fission or fusion or even LENR depending whichever is available at the time as a practical solution) producing the energy needed by the ion engines. Of course the needed cooling of the reactor in space might be a challenge to achieve, but I am guessing someone more knowledgeable than myself on this has studied this already.
 

BBerson

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Karoliina,

As I mentioned before, the thorium forum was not about aviation or space flight as far as I can remember. I have no notes or anything to add to the discussion other than I think nuclear power is not suited to aviation (lead shielding is heavy).
I support a transition to a nuclear-hydrogen economy as a replacement for oil. Actually, I would promote a nuclear-propane economy because propane is more user friendly than hydrogen.
But this is a homebuilt forum....
BB
 

autoreply

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I would like to know how there was supposed to be a solution for avoiding a radioactive plume coming from this kind of scramjet, if it expels thorium aerosols which, if it would happen, causes internal exposure to people breathing tiny particles of the plume which I don't think could be counted as insignificant.
Both air-breathing (scramjets) and nuclear rockets have been designed where the accelerated mass isn't radioactive. In the scramjet you're heating the air via a coolant, in the rocket you're heating some other material (water?) up to ridiculously high temperatures and velocities, without exhausting radioactive material. A crash would still have huge consequences in terms of radioactive pollution.
 

Aircar

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There have been proposals for a perpetually airborne 'mothership' that you rendezvous with and depart from when near to the destination -- nuclear submarines have the same 'on all the time' issue (and surprisingly are less quiet than diesel electrics (under battery power) because of the noise of the coolant pumps. ) The idea of towing the "reactorplane" a long way behind the passenger 'module' or vice versa (electric power going to motors in #1 and just a towline in #2 ) has been put up also --way back in the literature and making it to popular mechanics . We have nuclear material airborne right now and have had for decades (remember the nuke lost in Alaska and one in a crash in Spain ) and any reactor would be miniscule compared to Chernobyl I would think --how much radioactivity comes up in Volcanoes ? (given that radioactive decay is what melts 99% of the Earth's mass )anyone know ? Radon (and helium) coming up from geothermal energy extraction is a factor (Granite is itself mildly radioactive ) -- maybe someday CERN will sell some bottled antimatter and your transatlantic sub orbital flight in a phone booth sized aircraft will become a reality --or a little dark matter or dark energy possibly ...... seriously though if we can stuff more energy into less mass and space this would be really revolutionary (check out Henryk from Russia on the wireless transmission of electrical energy to an aircraft -- better again to keep the fuel and energy converter on the ground and just send raw power to the aircraft --it is already possible to beam energy from space.

Just back to the "Burt Rutan" theme --Burt mused about the prospects for zero point energy at airventure in 1998 -- the book "The hunt for zero point" by an ex Interavia journo is an interesting read also (it might have been Nick Cook from memory )
 
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