Aviation history is a bit strange. People tend to remember some firsts but not others and — sometimes — not even firsts. For example, everyone knows Amelia Earhart attempted to be the first woman to fly around the globe. She failed, but do you know who succeeded? It was Jerrie Mock. How about the first person to do it? Wiley Post, a name largely forgotten by the public. Charles Lindbergh is another great example. He was the first person to fly across the Atlantic, right? Not exactly. The story of the real first transatlantic flight is one of aviation hacking by the United States Navy.
[Mike Patey] had made a name for himself by building high-performance experimental aircraft. In his latest project, he added a transforming wing that can extend its chord by up to 16 inches for low speed and high angle of attack performance.
The aircraft in question, a bush plane named Scrappy, has been attracting attention long before [Mike] even started building the wings. Designed for extremely short take-off and landing (STOL) performance, only some sections of the fuselage frame remain from the original Carbon Cub kit. The wings are custom designed and feature double slats on the leading edge, combined with large flaps and drooping ailerons on the trailing edge. The slats form an almost seamless part of the wing for normal flying, but can expand using a series of linkages integrated into each precision machine wing rib. Making extensive use of CFD simulations, the slats were designed to keep the center-of-lift close to the center of the wing, even with 50 degrees of flaps. Without the slats, the pilot would need to use almost all the elevator authority to counteract the flaps and keep the aircraft’s nose up.
Leading-edge slats have been around since before WW2, but you don’t see them used in pairs like this. Aircraft like Scrappy will never be commercially viable, but innovation by people like [Mike] drives aviation forward. [Mike]’s previous project plane, Draco, was a large turboprop bush plane built around a PZL-104 Wilga. Sadly it was destroyed during an ill-considered take-off in 2019, but [Mike] is already planning its successor, Draco-X. Continue reading “Wing Can Expand To Fly Really Slow For Short Take-Off And Landing”
We like to feature hacks that are affordable and accessible to the average person, but from time to time it’s fun to dream about the projects we’ll tackle when we’re all grown up and stinking rich. [Mike Patey] appears to fall rather comfortably in the latter category, but thankfully he hasn’t lost his “excited kid with big plans” spirit. A talented and experienced experimental aircraft builder, he’s currently working on Scrappy, a small bush plane built to be a short take-off and landing drag racer.
Scrappy started life as a Carbon Cub, a modernized kit version of the venerable Piper Super Cub. The only thing left of the original plane is a part of the fuselage frame, with almost everything else being custom. The engine is a 780 cubic inch (13 liter) horizontally opposed 8-cylinder, scavenged from one of [Mike]’s racing planes, and fitting it required extensive structural changes to the fuselage. The paddle-like propeller was intended for an airboat, and is designed for high thrust at low speeds. The skin of the aircraft is all carbon fiber, and the suspension almost looks like it’s borrowed from an off-road racing truck. [Mike] also added (and test fired) a ballistic recovery parachute. The cockpit instruments are also over-the-top for an aircraft like this, with seven Garmin multi-function displays.
Scrappy is still missing its wings, which will also be heavily modified. From the oil-cooling system to the door latch and gust-lock for the stick, everything was designed and made by [Mike]. We’re enjoying the in-depth build videos that show how he tackles all the little challenges that pop-up in such an ambitious project.
[Mike] made a name for himself with his previous monster bush plane Draco, which was sadly destroyed during an ill-considered take-off last year. Fortunately nobody was harmed in the incident, and Draco became a part donor for Scrappy. If budget planes are more your style, check out [Peter Sripol]’s latest electric microlight.
Peter Sripol really likes building gravity defying death traps. He recently flew the fourth ultralight, which he designed and built himself. For a taste of what’s going on here, the wings have aluminum tube spars and are made of hot-wire-cut styrofoam sections.
To keep the plane simple, he got rid of ailerons entirely. For roll stabilization he angled up the wings noticeably, adding dihedral. This gives the aircraft passive stability, because as it rolls to a side, the upper wing’s lift decreases and the lower wing’s lift increases, forcing the plane to correct itself. Interestingly he kept the rudder controls on pedals instead of moving it to the stick, so the stick only controls the elevator.
It is powered by a single large brushless electric motor borrowed from the OpenPPG project. On the first test he used a two-bladed propeller, with a small pitch angle which required full throttle to keep flying. It can be compared to driving a car only in first gear. By moving to a three bladed propeller with a higher pitch angle, and increasing the length of the wings for more lift, [Peter] was able to cruise comfortably at about 30 MPH or 48 km/h.
Although this aircraft definitely performed better than [Peter]’s previous ultralight builds, piloting something like this isn’t for the faint of heart. Although he does extensive weight-loading and thrust testing before taking to the air, adding tail weight to piloted aircraft by simply taping a water bottle to the tail just felt wrong. But we aren’t aviation experts, so we won’t pass final judgement.
For many people the gateway drug to aviation is radio-controlled aircraft, and in [Andre Bandarra]’s case this led to paragliding. Now he has combined the two, turning his full size paragliding wing into an RC aircraft. (Video, embedded below.)
The primary controls of a paraglider are very simple, consisting of two brake lines that connect to the trailing edge of the wing. When a line is pulled, it increased drag on that side of the wing, causing it to turn. [Andre] connected the brake lines to two 3D-printed spools, which are each powered by a large RC servo that he modified for continuous rotation. These are mounted on a slim wooden frame that also holds the battery, RC receiver, an old electronic speed control to step down the battery power, and attachment straps for the wing. Without enough mass, the wing would just get blown around by the lightest of breezes, so [Andre] hooked a cloth bag filled with sand to the frame to act as a counter weight.
On the first test flight the wind was too strong and the sandbag too light, making it impossible to control. The hardest part of the flight is the launch, which requires the help of someone who knows how to fly a paraglider. The second test day had much better success. With only a slight breeze and a heavier sandbag, the contraption flew beautifully, floating slowly across the beach. He admits that there are a number of improvements he can make, but as a proof of concept using parts he had lying around, it was a roaring success.
For paragliding from flat ground, you can always strap a motor to your back, like the open source OpenPPG electric paramotor. For more crazy RC flying contraptions, also keep an eye on guys at [Flite Test].
Flight shaming is the hot new thing where people who take more than a handful of trips on an airplane per year are ridiculed for the environmental impact of their travels. It’s one strategy for making flying more sustainable, but it’s simply not viable for ultimately reducing the carbon impact that the airline industries have on the environment.
Electric planes are an interesting place to look for answers. Though carbon-free long haul travel is possible, it’s not a reality for most situations in which people travel today. Current battery technology can’t get anywhere near the energy density of fossil fuels and larger batteries aren’t an option since every pound matters when designing aircraft.
Even with land travel and electric grids improving in their use of renewables and electric power, aviation tends to be difficult to power with anything other than hydrocarbons. Student engineers in the AeroDelft program in the Netherlands have created Project Phoenix to develop an aircraft powered by a liquid hydrogen fuel cell, producing a primary emission of water vapor. So it is an electric plane, but leverages the energy density of hydrocarbons to get around the battery weight problem.
While the project may seem like an enormous reach peppered with potential safety hazards, redundant safety features are used such as sensors and vents in case of a hydrogen leakage, as well as an electric battery in case of failure. Hydrogen produced three times more energy per unit than kerosene, but is six times the volume in gas form and requires cumbersome compression tanks.
Even though hydrogen fuel only produces water vapor as a byproduct, it can still cause greenhouse effects if it is released too high and creates clouds. The team is exploring storage tanks for slow release of the water vapor at more optimal altitudes. On top of that, most hydrogen is produced using steam methane reforming (SMR), creating up to 150g of greenhouse gases per kWh, and electrolysis tends to be more costly and rarely carbon neutral. Alternatives such as solar power, biofuels, and electric power are looking to make headwind as well, but the technology is still far from perfected.
While it’s difficult to predict the success of the project so early on, the idea of reducing risk in hydrogen fuels may not be limited to a handful of companies for very long.
Long-haul flights can be a real pain when you’re trying to get around the world. Typically, they’re achieved by including a stop along the way, with the layover forcing passengers to deplane and kill time before continuing the flight. As planes have improved over the years, airlines have begun to introduce more direct flights where possible, negating this frustration.
Australian flag carrier Qantas are at the forefront of this push, recently attempting a direct flight from New York to Sydney. This required careful planning and preparation, and the research flight is intended to be a trial run ahead of future commercial operations. How did they keep the plane — and the passengers — in the air for this extremely long haul? The short answer is that they cheated with no cargo and by pampering their 85% empty passenger cabin. Yet they plan to leverage what they learn to begin operating 10,000+ mile non-stop passenger flights — besting the current record by 10% — as soon as four years from now.
Continue reading “Qantas’ Research Flight Travels 115% Of Range With Undercrowded Cabin”