Soviet engineers in the mid 20th century advanced this technology the most, devising vehicles of great size culminating in the creation of the 540 ton 106 meter long KM, which came to be known by US military intelligence as the Caspian Sea Monster. It was an experimental vehicle intended for the role of a naval fast attack and landing ship which could travel at airliner speeds and was of such huge scale it could host numerous heavy deck guns and large missile batteries while delivering huge cargos of troops and armament to shore. The KM was sadly destroyed in 1980 and few of the vehicles developed by the Soviet program survived the transition to the post-Soviet era late in the century. Though their work was initially highly secret, many of the engineers in the Soviet ekranoplane program went on in the late 20th century to propose and design a vast menagerie of commercial vehicles based on this technology including cruise-ship scale liners that could speedily hop the ocean between continents.
Take-off From Water:
Unfortunately, the technology has been very slow to develop for a number of reasons. A key technical problem which has always plagued the ekranoplane is the very high energy needed at initial launch of the aircraft due to the excessive drag of water –a problem also common to sea planes but which they overcome easily because the power they need for flight is so much greater to begin with but which for the ekranoplane represents many times greater power than the vehicle would normally need in flight. Thus many ekranoplanes have featured a two-stage propulsion system where an array of engines assist take-off while being shut-down and becoming dead-weight for the rest of a flight, hampering efficiency at small vehicle scales. Relating to this is that jet engines have often been used for this take-off mode and have been placed close to the water, making them prone to frequent failure due to water exposure.
Very recently, an Australian builder of small wingships (30-passengers) developed a system of ducting a portion of the air-stream from the single propeller under the wings as it accelerates while still floating on water. Lift-off results from the combination of the forward motion of the craft scooping air under the wings plus the portion of the air-stream diverted from the propeller that simultaneously accelerates the craft. Testing of both a scale model version of the craft as well as a prototype identified the minimum speed at which the craft would remain aloft, allowing all of the power of the propeller to progressively be allocated to providing forward propulsion. The concept has so far proven effective on small vehicles, suggesting possible future success when applied to larger craft where the air-stream from the same propellers or turbofans may initially provide for the combination of lift and forward acceleration. As the vessel reaches 'flight speed', the air-stream directed under the wings would gradually be reduced as all energy from turbofans or propellers is diverted to provide 100% forward propulsion.
Excavated Water Runways:
The Suez Canal was excavated between the Mediterranean Sea and the Red Sea. That precedent serves as a basis to excavate canals inland from the ocean coast, to serve as water runways for seaplanes and WIG-craft. Breakwater structures or rows of raised ridges made from boulders may either deflect incoming waves away from the water runways, or cause waves to break offshore. Incoming WIG-craft would touch down on water runways that may extend as far as 25,000-ft inland . . . . . such a distance would allow large WIG-craft to lift off from water surface and transition to riding on air prior to beginning its transoceanic voyage.
Hydraulic Propellers - Towing Vessel:
Hydraulic-propeller driven and water-jet driven maritime craft have achieved sufficiently high speeds to cause racing boats to become airborne, also to tow a glider with floats to lift-off from water and become airborne and soar. The same technology can be incorporated into a towing vessel that will tow a large a wing ship to lift off from water. Towing cables made of high tensile strength, corrosion-resistant compounds connected to rapid release couplings allow a high-speed maritime towing craft to tow a winged vessel or WIG-craft to lift-off speed. A cubic unit of seawater has 870-times the mass of the identical cubic unit of air at atmospheric pressure, allowing a relatively small volume flow rate of water to efficiently propel the WIG-craft to lift-off speed.
The efficiency of liquid-based propulsion is based on the relative speed between the mass of the jet-stream or water-jet-stream and the speed of the vessel. Being incompressible, water offers higher propulsive efficiently that aeronautical propulsion that generates heat in the air as aeronautical turbines and related propellers begin to rotate at greater speed. The high-speed maritime tow vessel may use a hydraulic battery, flywheel energy storage or ultra-capacitor storage to deliver 2 to 4-minutes of maximum thrust to propel itself and the towed WIG-craft to the latter's lift-off speed, when towing cables would release from winged vessel and its on-board engines take over and provide 100% of propulsive thrust.
It is technically possible for a WIG-craft to 'fly' above water with submerged hydraulic propellers providing forward propulsion. A drive-shaft with constant velocity joints could transmit power from the 'inboard' engine to a high-speed propeller or series of propellers on the same shaft and mounted below a hydrodynamic flotation unit connected to the WIG-craft through a flexible suspension system. However, such a craft would exclusively operate on and above water. Concentric counter-rotating propellers may be possible . . as would submerged water-jet propulsion units.
Vessel Size - Economics:
Another problem with the ekranoplane has been the need to utilize titanic vehicle scales to approach their maximum efficiency, which makes them difficult to demonstrate commercially because of large speculative investment. Smaller demonstration vehicles prove the flight principles but cannot truly prove the efficiency benefits of the technology when lifting off from a liquid surface. The starting scale for superior efficiency for a wig-craft that lifts off from water is large commercial airliner scale. Only the Soviets have ever built vehicles of such size.
But perhaps the greatest obstacle for the ekranoplane has been simple indifference. The ekranoplane exists in a mode of operation between a sea and air vessel and has never been embraced by either transportation industry. Similarly, despite their great lead in this technology, the Soviet military was never able to realize any of its strategic military potential because neither airforce or navy would take responsibility for its use. Today we should understand enough about the technology of transportation in general to recognize the ekranoplane simply as a ‘fast ship’ class of marine vessel akin to hydroplanes and hovercraft. And yet the ‘image problem’ for the technology persists and only a single vehicle has, to date, come close commercial deployment; the Orlyonok, a turbo-prop driven design originating in the Soviet program as a fast troop carrier which was adopted in the post-Soviet era by the Volga Ship Yards for use as a commercial vehicle. Current status of the Orylonok is not clear but this may prove an off-the-shelf starting point for the Wingship development program.
Vessel Scale and Configuration:
Ekranoplane technology presents a certain set of trade-offs but would still be attractive as a solution to Aquarius’ long distance transportation needs. The cost of airstrip construction based on PSPs is high and increases with the scale of aircraft one needs to support. Sea planes would seem the logical solution but, in fact, there are currently no sea planes in existence that can take-off from the open sea. The type of sea conditions sea planes can tolerate is a simple function of scale, as their flotation surfaces must present greater length and height than the average wave lengths and heights in order to offer a smooth enough take-off.
Thus it takes a very large sea plane in relatively calm conditions to take off on the open sea. Take off may also be possible from inside protected bays and on wide river mouths. We lost all sea planes of that scale after WWII to the expansion of jet airliners. Simply because of their size, ekranoplanes would fill in this gap in capability, offering aircraft-speed transit while at the same time affording intercontinental ranges and vast cargo capacity based on the higher efficiency of this mode of flight.
The likely form of the Aquarian wingship would be that of a very simple lifting-body structure –perhaps as simple as a very large rectangular airfoil or a ‘ray-like’ shape reminiscent of sting rays or manta rays. It would employ the unique approach of a space frame superstructure rather than conventional monocoque aircraft construction, affording it easier construction in an open-air environment and possibly a strength-to-weight benefit at large sizes. Like other Aquarian vessels, it would be designed for multi-use, featuring a large internal bay suited to small ISO containers, RoRo access using large side or front access ramps, and adapted on demand for different combinations of passenger and cargo support.
Aircraft Carrier / Mobile Runway:
A large Wingship could be designed to carry a commercial airliner that could touch down on and lift off from its 'deck'. Every night, various airline companies fly almost empty airliners across oceans so they would be available for early morning flights that leave from certain airports. A Wingship of equivalent size and weight of a commercial airliner may typically burn about 35% of the amount of fuel to remain airborne. Fuel price is a dominant factor in airline economics. The combination of skilful pilot control and computer navigation assistance could assure that an airliner may touch down on the 'deck' of a Wingship that could then 'carry' the airliner on the major part of its journey. One option would be that the Wingship serve as a mobile fuel tanker or mobile fuel station that could refuel an airliner that would temporarily fly at low altitude. The airliner would operate over greatly extended distances, with the option of a mobile refuel during its journey.
A mobile runway can provide commercial aircraft with access to coastal cities that are without commercial airports, or where the airport runways may be too small to serve larger commercial airliners. Upon arrival, the WIG-mobile airport would meet the incoming airliner that would touch down on its decks, then be carried toward a coastal terminal where the mobile airport would transfer to its hydrofoils, skis and finally pontoons as it arrives. Upon departure, the WIG-mobile airport would depart the terminal sailing on its pontoons, pulled by a towing vessel propelled by hydraulic propellers. Both towing vessel and WIG-mobile runway would accelerate to higher speed and rise on to its hydrofoils, when preheated jet engines would propel the WIG-mobile runway to greater speed as it releases the towing cable.
The WIG-mobile runway would transfer to flight mode and carry the commercial airliner to its lift-off speed, allowing it to lift off and take flight.
Propulsion of the Wingship could be based on jet or turboprop engines top-mounted on the lifting body. The Wingship would also have the option to exploit its large scale as a means to employ renewable energy in the form of hydrogen, methanol, or possibly electricity used to power thermal-driven engines. To overcome its high take-off energy demand the Wingship may employ a radical approach; LOX rocket propulsion. Rocket engines have a potentially much lower mass-to-power ratio than jet engines and, since they have no air intake, are immune to marine conditions –hence the long history of marine-launched rockets. Military aircraft have long used disposable solid fuel rocket boosters to support the take-off of various large or over-weighted aircraft or the use of short runways. With relatively small light rocket engines and a reserve of cryogenic fuel just large enough to support the short term of take-off, the Wingship would be able to eliminate much of the dead-weight of large jet engine arrays.
A small on-board hydrolizer and cryo-cooler would refuel these rockets between flights in locations not equipped to service these vehicles –possibly over a period of a day or two which would not be too much of an inconvenience for vehicles which operate more like ships than planes and could normally experience days between flights. For a vessel already employing liquid hydrogen fuel, this would be an even lesser issue, the liquid hydrogen being used to liquefy air as an oxidizer. Certainly, LOX is volatile but a relatively small volume of fuel would be used and would be completely consumed in take-off, thus presenting much less risks than one might have with a large rocket vehicle. This technology would also offer a useful engineering introduction to rocket propulsion, aiding future spacecraft development among the communities of TMP.
Because of the scale of the Wingship, it is likely to be a development of late phases of marine colony development –possibly having to wait until Equatorial settlement is well established. This would be a very sophisticated vehicle to engineer and develop and would require a significant infrastructure among TMP and Foundation facilities to realize. But if successful it could obsolesce the EcoCruiser and possibly supersede the Aquarian Airship in transit importance
The Following Section Submitted by HV-Research:
HV-Research seeks to present the case of WIG-vehicles that can operate from and to coastal airports, several of which serve the airline industry around the world. The airport terminals provide the market support system needed to access a ready market of passengers and freight that a fuel efficient, low flying technology could carry at very competitive tariffs and connect to interline with other similar vehicles or with air transport services. The WIG-vehicles will need to include retractable land gear and the runways at most coastal airports would require sloped extensions to sea level. These vehicles could operate short-haul passenger service on routes such as Wellington - Auckland at New Zealand, Kingston - Montego Bay at Jamaica or Rome West - Palermo in Italy, consuming about 40% of the fuel of an equivalent size of commuter aircraft.
Large WIG-Craft that included lifting body designs that are built to a smaller scale that the technology described in the previous section, could operate between appropriately modified coastal airports such as Hong Kong, Inchon (S Korea), Kanzai (Osaka - Japan), Dabolim (Goa - India), Boston (USA), Rio de Janeiro (Brazil) and several others. These WIG-craft would be built to the maximum weight of a Boeing 747, or smaller aircraft that will mainly operate short-haul routes. There is a multitude of short-haul routes internationally, between coastal airports where WIG-craft would offer superior cost performance that conventional aircraft. WIG-craft will need to conform to standards set out by the International Maritime Organization (IMO) and available at the webpage at: ☀http://www.imo.org/OurWork/Safety/Regulations/Pages/WIG.aspx
While many WIG builders duplicate the wing profile of large birds that can glide close to the water surface with wings extended for considerable distance, birds' wings perform a wide range of flight related tasks other than near-surface gliding and can change profile according to the required task. The flight wings of WIG-planes, vehicles and craft are required to perform one main task and that is to maintain a certain elevation near the surface, at travel speed. By not being required to perform a multitude of other tasks better suited to birds' wings, WIG-designers are free to experiment with alternative wing configurations, layouts and designs intended to keep the craft airborne at a desired elevation above water surface.
Given that wind speed is lowest near ground level, WIG-vehicles that 'fly' at low elevation near ground surface into a headwind, will consume far less fuel than an aircraft flying carrying an identical weight of payload and flying in the identical direction, except into far more powerful headwinds that typically occur at high altitude. The occurrence of minimal wind speed near water surface enhances the economics of WIG-craft undertaking westbound crossings across vast distances over ocean.
Aircraft designer Burt Rutan developed a small aircraft that included forward 'canard' wings that allowed for easy recovery from the 'stall' phenomena, when 'lift' is lost from the upper surface of aeroplane wings. During a 'stall', the main flight wings can 'block' the air flow to the tail wings, rendering them ineffective. The wings of a WIG-craft that goes 'nose-up' could block air flow to the tail wings, however, forward 'canard' wings offer the opportunity to more easily regain control over the craft and return it to level flight. It may also be possible to extend the forward section of the WIG-craft and use ground-effect 'free-wings' mounted on lateral pivots, to carry some of the weight. Should such a WIG-craft go 'nose-up', the 'free-wings' would remain parallel to the surface over which the craft is 'flying' and greatly reduce the risk of a backwards somersault.
The majority of operational WIG-craft are equipped with a high-mounted tail-wing that helps maintain level flight. Without this wing, there is the distinct danger of the craft undergoing a back-flip somersault that occurs on racing boats, where the nose or bow suddenly rises into the air while the stern rapidly moves forward under the airborne bow. A WIG-craft intended to touch down on the runway of a coastal airport would need to rapidly descend as the approaching craft crosses over the end of the runway. A set of forward landing wings mounted near the nose or bow of the craft, similar to canard wings used on some project aircraft, could assist the tail wing at keeping the WIG-craft level during 'flight'. When the WIG-craft approaches the runway of a coastal airport with its landing gear extended, pilots would re-adjust the angular settings of the both the forward landing wings as well as the tail-wing so as to push the craft's landing wheels toward the runway as it decelerates. When the landing wheels touch on the runway, operating the reverse-thrust feature of the propellers (re-adjust pitch) or of the turbo-fan to further slow the WIG-craft.
Another method by which to ease landing on a runway would involve air deflectors mounted on the leading edge of the main wings, to redirect a portion of the air that would otherwise flow under the wing, to flow over the wings and in a stall mode. As a Wig-craft arrives above the end of a coastal runway, the pilot would activate the air deflectors to reduce the volume (mass) of air flowing under the main flight wings, to reduce flight elevation so as to allow landing wheels to touch on the runway surface at which time pilot would reverse the propeller pitch or activate reverse thrust to reduce speed on runway. The use of 'dump-gates' behind the intake to (supersonic) jet engines reduces the volume of air that would flow into the engines. In a similar way, the installation of 'dump-gates' under the main flight wings of a WIG-craft would allow the pilot to reduce the volume of air recirculating under those wings as the WIG-craft arrives above the end of a coastal runway. After deploying the landing gear, the combination of slowing the WIG-craft and opening the 'dump-gates' would lower flight elevation to allow wheels to touch on runway surface.
Hovercraft Operational Precedent - Ship Avoidance:
Prior to the construction of the railway tunnel under the English Channel (the "Chunnel"), hovercraft provided fast ferry service between the UK and France, also between the UK mainland and UK offshore islands (like the Isle of Wight). The English Channel is also one of the world's busiest shipping lanes and it was possible to schedule hovercraft to cross those shipping lanes without incident, courtesy of some innovative traffic control strategy. Computer navigation would allow Wingships to cross oceans and remain several miles away from ships that cross their paths. British style navigation control could assure that Wingships safely approach ports and ocean side terminals.
Unlike Hovercraft, new evolving wing technology for WIG-craft can allow the vessel to 'jump' to higher elevation, from 5-metres to over 25-metres within a matter of seconds for a craft with a wingspan of 50-metres. The 'jump' technology has already been tested on a WIG-craft from South Korea and offers another method by which sailing vessels and WIG-craft may co-exist in the same geographic region. WIG-craft built to a wingspan (and chord) of 60-metres (equivalent to Boeing 747 wingspan) may 'jump' to over 30-metres elevation, while a vessel with equivalent 100-metre wingspan as the Antonov A225 transport plane could theoretically 'jump' to an elevation of over 50-metres. The largest container ships sail at 60-metres total height, with 12-metres below water surface . . . . . meaning that a WIG-craft of 50-metres wingspan could literally 'jump' over such a ship.
Researchers at Boeing explored the possibility of Wing-In-Ground effect flight on a concept craft dubbed the 'Pelican' that was intended to 'fly' in WIG mode over the ocean and climb to higher elevation to fly to and from inland airports. The 1,400-ton craft was to fly with a wingspan of 500-ft (152-metres) that greatly exceeded the chord length, except that no airport in the world could accommodate a vehicle of that size. It could 'fly' at an elevation equivalent to 5% of its massive wingspan, or 25-feet above water compared to 15% for smaller WIG-craft. While flying close to water surface greatly reduced its fuel consumption, wing tips could touch water during gentle turns, requiring the pilot to increase flight elevation prior to undertaking a turn.
However, several small modern WIG-craft that can carry up to 12-passengers are being built with an extended chord that greatly exceeds the wingspan. One example from Australia can fly at an elevation of 3-metres above waves of 4-metres amplitude. A large-scale WIG craft built to the equivalent wingspan of a Boeing 737 and a chord measurement comparable to the wingspan measurement of the Boeing 777 could 'fly' at an elevation of 20-metres or 65-ft above the ocean surface.
Updating Ekranoplan Technology:
At the time the USSR under politburo chief Leonid Breshnev cancelled the Ekranoplan development, it had flown a few test/demonstration flights/voyages and was in need of further refinement. At the time of the program cancellation, the USSR was getting itself embroiled in conflict in neighbouring Afghanistan. The Ekranoplan did 'fly' at an elevation of 10-metres above the surface of the Caspian Sea, except pilots discovered that wingtips touched on water during turn maneuvers, reducing craft stability.
Many different researchers and WIG-technology hobbyists located in many different countries have since designed and built working scale models of possible future WIG-craft configurations, some that involve tandem and compound wing layouts. These layouts are intended to 'fly' at higher elevation than the Ekranoplan and be able to perform turn maneuvers without wingtips striking the water surface.
After the Soviet Union abandoned research and development on the Ekranoplan, numerous hobbyists and small-scale builders from around the world have designed and built unique radio-controlled scale-size and pilot controlled, single passenger variations of the wingship. One builder from Germany has built a tandem-wing configuration wingship that has been shown to exhibit superior stability, reducing the likelihood of the craft being involved in a backwards somersault occurrence that occasionally happens to racing boats. These innovative improvements came courtesy of private funding.
Recent Wing Research:
Some recent wing-related WIG-research and development from Flyboat in the UK has produced a WIG-craft capable of 'flying' at an elevation equivalent to 30% of aerodynamic wing chord, meaning that a scaled-up version of the flyboat built with a wingspan of 25-metres (82-ft) and mean aerodynamic chord of 25-metres should be able to 'fly' at an elevation of 7.5-metres (25-ft) above water, allowing for a tilt angle of up to 30-degrees during a turn as the craft 'sails' or 'flies' above a smooth water surface. A mega-scale WIG-craft built to a length of over 100-metres may involve both an equivalent wingspan and mean average chord of over 60-metres, yielding a possible 'flight' elevation of 18-metres (59-ft) above seawater.
Enthusiasts and hobby builders have built small-scale WIG-craft with innovative wing designs that show possible future promise. The innovations include tandem wings, multiple-scoop wings and compounded wing configurations intended to increase the strength of the twin counter-rotating cyclones below the wings, so as to maintain flight stability and increase flight elevation, possibly exceed 30% of mean average aerodynamic chord and coincide with 50% of wingspan. Enthusiasts and hobby builders are involved in ongoing development and testing of scale model wing concepts.
Compound Wing Concept:
Early aeroplanes were bi-planes, with upper and lower flight wings . . . . except that designers realised that forward flight combined with smooth airflow over the upper wing produced a 'vacuum-effect' that kept the plane aloft. During high-altitude flight, the lower wing was redundant. A bi-plane wing concept may have application on WIG-craft built with relatively narrow wings and greatly extended wing chord. During 'flight', both upper and lower wings would scoop air, except that air from the upper wing would be re-directed outward to produce a down-draft at the downward pointing 'wing-tips'. The additional downward moving volume flow-rate of air would theoretically translate into an increased up-draft volume flow-rate of air under the central axis of a compound-wing WIG-craft . . . . . potentially allowing a narrower wingspan to produce the equivalent flight elevation of a much wider wingspan.
Swept-Forward Wing Profile:
Some 30-years ago, engineers at NASA (North American Space Administration) undertook research into alternative designs of supersonic wings. One of the concepts was the 'swept-forward' profile of the leading edge, a more extreme version of the wing profile of some present day WIG-craft. There may be scope to adapt the supersonic 'swept-forward' wing profile to a high-speed WIG-craft built with an extended length of chord. At supersonic speed, a shock wave develops at the front of an aircraft or high-speed land vehicle. Air pressure and temperature both increase across a shock wave, allow for a zone of high-pressure air to develop between water surface and underside of the wings of high-speed WIG-craft travelling at supersonic speed.
Optional High Elevation Capability:
One recent development in WIG wings has been the addition of pilot-controlled flaps at the trailing edge of the wings, that over a short duration greatly increases the the volume of air that swirls in the counter-rotating cyclones under the flight wings. This feature allows the craft to 'jump' to many times its economy-level flight elevation, usually over a short distance as increasing flight elevation over any extended distance also increases fuel consumption. Some designs of WIG craft (from South Korea) can 'jump' from an elevation of 5-metres to as high as 23-metres, mainly to avoid small sailing craft. A short-distance elevation of 80% to 90% of wingspan measurement is technically quite achievable.
The option of being able to temporarily raise flight elevation allows the WIG-craft to make turn sharply while keeping wing tips well above water, also allow WIG-craft modified with landing gear to touch down on and take off from coastal runways. While a WIG-craft with 25-metre wingspan and 25-metre chord can fly economically at an elevation of 5-metres above water, there is the option of burning slightly more fuel to fly at an elevation of 7.5-metres . . . . . or consume the same amount of fuel as a commuter aircraft and 'fly' continuously at an elevation of perhaps 15-metres. A full-size commercial WIG-craft with a wingspan and chord of 60-metres may 'jump' to an elevation of up to 40-metres over a short distance, such as during departure and arrival at coastal commercial airports, also to 'fly over' small maritime craft at coastal regions.
Compatibility With Airline Fleets:
Existing airline operators may wish to consider operating WIG-craft between coastal airports on their route network. They have allocated space at existing terminals, access to maintenance facilities at the airports and their customers have ready access to ticket booths and all passenger related amenities inside airport terminals. They also have ready access to air freight transfer capability at several existing coastal airports. The builder of the WIG-craft will have to design the technology to be compatible with existing airliner fleets, such as sharing the identical design of engine(s). If the airline company operates Boeing 737's, then the WIG-craft will use the same engine as the 737 . . . also the same seats and many other interior features found on that airliner . . . plus compatible landing gear.
If the airline operates turbo-prop powered commuter aircraft, then the WIG-craft will be powered by the identical turbo-prop engine(s) and share many common features with the particular design of commuter aircraft, such as landing gear, controls and interior appointments. During 'landing' at coastal airports, WIG-craft propulsion technology would require superior reverse thrust capability. A commercial size WIG-craft sharing common and compatible parts, engines and other features with existing airliners enhances prospects of airline companies adding WIG-craft to the fleet, perhaps to operate routes such as Rome - Palermo, Auckland - Wellington, Nice - Rome, Genoa - Palermo, Genoa - Barcelona and many other routes around the Caribbean Sea and Asia. Such routes will include Singapore - Hong Kong, Hong Kong - Inchon (Seoul), Hong Kong - Kansai (Osaka) and Hong Kong - Sydney.
Commercial Airline Economics:
In commercial aviation, fuel accounts for over 50% of the cost of short-haul flights that involve small aircraft. Even on the longer routes that involve large jetliners, fuel is still the dominant cost. A 100-seat wingship that operates a short-haul journey between 2-coastal airports would be cost competitive against short-haul jets, consuming about 35% of the fuel of an equivalent size of commuter aircraft. A commercial freight carrier operating distant coastal airports could burn half the amount of fuel as a freight version of the 747 used by UPS or by Fed-Ex. There will be need to negotiate with authorities at coastal airports in many nations to have ramps built between airport runways and maritime sea level, to allow wingships to arrive on coastal runways. Being able to access existing terminals would allow wing-ship owners to establish services between such airports, where they would establish ticket offices for passenger transportation services . . . also gain access to existing air-freight transfer facilities.
Propulsive efficiency is based on the ratio between the velocity of propulsive 'jet-stream' and the travel velocity of the vehicles, with highest possible efficiency when jet-stream velocity is equal and opposite to travel velocity. In reality, the ability to move a massive volume of air at slightly higher speed than the travel speed would achieve peak propulsive efficiency. Large WIG-craft would allow for the use of propellers the diameter of helicopter rotors, perhaps with propellers mounted on quill-drive mechanisms so as to reduce transmission of cyclic vibration into the craft structure. Planetary reduction gearing may be required between each gas turbine engine and propeller, perhaps also between piston engine and propeller to achieve optimal efficiency. Unlike high-flying gas turbine engines, WIG-craft gas turbine engines may include a recuperative heat exchanger (re-generator) to recover a percentage of exhaust heat that may then be used productively to increase both engine efficiency and overall propulsive efficiency.
Some designs of helicopters use concentrically mounted counter-rotating rotors, technology also applied to some aircraft. WIG-craft may also use helicopter size, counter-rotating propellers or even inter-meshing propeller blades with propeller rotors mounted separate drive-shafts. The result would be the combination of higher travel speed as well as higher propulsive efficiency.
Hybrid WIG-aircraft Technology:
The basis of a hybrid 'flight' vehicle that combines wing-in-ground (WIG) effect concepts with aircraft technology would be retractable landing gear. While WIG-craft exclusively lift off from and touch down on a water surface, replacing seaplanes in many applications, the WIG-aircraft hybrid would 'fly' using WIG-wings and touch down on and lift off from paved coastal runways. A WIG-aircraft hybrid design may be based on the design layout of the ANTONOV AN-225 with its high wings and landing gear built into the fuselage, except that the high wings would be replaced by WIG-wings secured to the fuselage at lower elevation similar to the wing attachment location of the Boeing. The use of upper and lower compound WIG-wing design has potential to generate powerful twin counter-rotating tornadoes under the (lower) WIG wings.
While the Hybrid WIG-craft would fly/sail at an elevation of perhaps 10-metres above seawater, its wing design would include trailing-edge flaps that would enable a flight elevation of perhaps 80% of the measurement of the wingspan (or chord). The 'jump' capability would be activated upon approach to a coastal runway, lift-off from a coastal runway or on approach to a narrow channel. Such channels would include the 14-mile wide Strait of Gibraltar, the 25-mile wide Strait of Dover, Strait of Hormuz, Strait of Malacca, Sunda Strait at Indonesia, or the Strait of Bonifacio between Sardinia and Corsica, where the craft could fly or sail at an elevation of 40 to 50-metres above sea level and over small maritime vessels.
Manufacturing/Assembling (Hybrid) WIG-Craft (Locations):
It is evident that builders of wingships that are designed, built and intended to 'fly' between coastal airports, be manufactured and/or assembled at or near a coastal airport. While it may be possible to manufacture components at distant locations, the combination of maritime transport and heavy-lift helicopters would be used to transport large components to the site of final assembly. If an industry in France were to build the craft, final assembly would occur at the coastal airport at either Le Havre or at Nice. An Italian industry has the choice of Genoa, Venice, Rome west or Palermo. A South Korean manufacturer would have to do final assembly at or near Inchon airport, while a Japanese industry would have to do final assembly at Kansai Airport near Osaka.
It is unlikely that the craft would be built in the USA, otherwise final assembly would occur at any of Boston (next to Logan Airport), Los Angeles International Airport or Port Angeles Airport near Seatlle in Washington State. There may be scope for a Brazilian industry to build/assemble the craft next to Galeao International Airport at Rio de Janeiro. India has recently made great strides in manufacturing transportation technology and could do final assembly of a craft next to Dabolim Airport at Marmagoa located south of Mumbai. There are industries in Malaysia and Singapore that have shown interest in building WIG-craft and there are several coastal airports in the region that include Singapore Changi Airport and Georgetown International Airport in Penang province.
Commercial Coastal Airports:
Commercial passenger and freight transportation involving WIG-wingship technology would benefit from being able to operate between major international coastal airports that would provide all the necessary services and infrastructure to sustain both passenger and freight operations. There are several commercial coastal airports around the world that appear to be accessible to wingships. There will be need for sloped ramps to allow wingships without 'jump' capability to touch down and lift off from coastal airport runways, twin-rows of buoys on ocean that extend from runways (to delineate extension as seaplane runways) and also submerged optical technology to guide wingships to runways after sunset. The addition of jump capability would allow wingships to fly for short distances at over 20-metres elevation to cross over a coastal roadway located between airport runway and the ocean, or fly above water craft located near the coast upon arrival at or departure from a coastal airport.
Coastal airport list includes:
PACIFIC REGION: Seoul (Incheon Airport), Tokyo (Japan - Haneida International Airport), Osaka (Japan - Kansai International Airport), Nagoya (Japan - Chubu Airport), Hong Kong (International Airport), Macau (international Airport), Sabah (Malaysia - Kota Kinabalu airport), Auckland (NZ), Wellington (NZ), Panama City (Tocuman Airport), Sydney (Australia - Botany Bay), San Francisco (WIG-craft has to sail under Golden Gate Bridge and across bay), Panama City (Aeropuerto de Tocumen), Lima (Aeropuerto Jorge Chavez . . . climb to maximum elevation to pass over roadway), Trujillo (Peru - Aeropuerto Capitan Carlos Martinez Pinillo . . . climb to maximum elevation and cross over road), Port Angeles (Washington State, USA). Possible options at Los Angeles (USA) and Singapore that require craft to climb to higher elevation and cross over roadways. Short-haul service possible between Auckland and Wellington with extended service to/from Sydney. With Hong Kong as the hub, service possible to/from Seoul, Tokyo, Sydney and Wellington.
INDIAN OCEAN: Doha (Qatar - Hamad International Airport), Marmagoa (India - West Coast - Dabolim International Airport), Phuket (Thailand - Phuket International Airport), Maldives (India - Male International AIrport), Mombasa (Kenya - Moi International AIrport - small WIG craft only), Kedah (Malaysia - west coast - Langkawi International Airport
MEDITERRANEAN REGION: Coastal airports at Tel-Aviv (Ben Gurion Airport), Beirut, Rome (Leonardo da Vinci airport), Venice (Marco Polo airport . . . craft has to climb to higher elevation and sail through narrow channel), Genoa, Nice - Cote d'Azur (Southern France) and Barcelona (Spain). Other coastal airports with direct access between sea and runway include: Tangier (Morocco - Atlantic side access), Gibraltar (North Front Airport), Palermo (Sicily), Ajaccio (Corsica - France), Kerkira (Corfu - Greece), Iraklion (Crete - Greece), Salonica (Makedonia Airport - Greece). Trans-Mediterranean service possible linking these coastal airports. Coastal airport at Le Havre in north-western France, in English Channel and at Faro n Southern Portugal.
ATLANTIC REGION: USA (Boston - Logan airport), USA (New York City - La Gaurdia airport), Jamaica -(Kingston - Manley airport, Montego Bay - Sangster Airport) ), USA (St Petersburg, Florida . . . craft has to enter bay), Bermuda (Kindley Airport), Tobago (Crown Point Airport), Barbados (Bridgetown - Grantley Adams Airport), Cayman Islands (Owen Roberts Airport), Curacao (Willenstad - International Airport), Aruba (Oranjestadt - Princess Beatrix Airport), Bonaire (Kralendijk Airport), Netherlands Antilles (St Maarten - Princess Juliana Airport), Dominican Republic (Santo Domingo Airport), Cuba (Santiago de Cuba airport), Costa Rica (Port Limon Airport), Colombia (Cartagena - Rafael Nunez Airport), Madeira (Funchal Airport), Brazil (Rio de Janeiro - Galeao International Airport, Santos Dumont domestic airport)
Sail-Flying Under Bridges:
The highest point of a large hybrid WIG-craft of 60 to 100-metres of wingspan that operates between coastal airports may stand at 25-metres above tarmac, with low-speed flight elevation of 5-metres yielding a total height of 30-metres that would have to pass under several bridges, internationally. Where there is restricted clearance between wing tips and bridge piers, the combination of computer assisted navigation control along with retractable lightweight keel and hydraulic rudder could improve navigation when close to water surface. There are several coastal airports where WIG-craft will be required to sail between bridge piers and below bridges to access coastal airports. The list includes:
- Rio de Janeiro - Galeao International Airport: WIG-craft has to pass under Costa e Silva Bridge . . . main centre span is 280--metres wide with 72-metres vertical clearance, adjacent spans 180-metres between spans to provide passage for WIG-craft with 100-metre wingspan, with 70-metres between all remaining piers. Craft has to climb and turn when arriving at and departing from international airport. Santos Dumont (regional) Airport is located on ocean side of bridge.
- San Francisco - International Airport: Golden Gate Bridge offers 1200-metre between main piers with 67-metres vertical clearance, Oakland Bay Bridge offers 400 and 620-metres between piers with 58-metres vertical clearance. WIG-Craft has to climb and turn between ocean and airport runways.
- New York City - La Guardia Airport: At Bronx-Whitestone Bridge, vertical clearance of 41-metres with 650-metres width between piers. At Throgs Neck Bridge 43-metres vertical clearance with 400-metres horizontal clearance between bridge piers.
- Norfolk - International Airport : Chesapeake Bay Bridge offers 480-metres between piers at bridge centre with 56-metres of vertical clearance, WIG-craft has to climb and turn to access and depart from airport.
- Guayaquil - Simon Bolivar International Airport: On approach from south side, WIG-craft of 25 to 30-metre wingspan and 5-metre vertical height has to sail at 1-metre above water surface to pass under east side of Puenta de la Union Nacional that has 50-metres between bridge piers and 10-metres vertical clearance. Once clear of the bridge, WIG-craft has to accelerate and climb . . . . at maximum elevation perform 180-degree turn then pass over 2-roads on approach to runway at Simon Bolivar Airport.
Domestic Service Using WIG-Hybrid Craft:
Airport authorities of several nations may consider the installation of gently sloping ramps between sea level and coastal runway to allow for introduction of domestic transportation services between major coastal cities, using WIG technology. For short-distance service across a body of water (under 200-kms), a travel speed of 70-knots (80-mi/hr or 130-km/hr) would be economical and competitive . . . . for extended distances, higher speeds would be more suitable.
The list of nations includes:
- New Zealand: service between Auckland and Wellington international airports with possible extension to Sydney, Australia where 'jump' capability would allow for higher elevation flight upon arrival at and departure from Sydney
- Jamaica: Kingston (Manley Airport) and Montego Bay (Sangster Airport)
- Italy: Rome (Leonardo da Vinci Airport) and Palermo (Falcone Barsolina Airport), Venice (Marco Polo Airport) - Brindisi, Genoa - Rome, Genoa - Palermo . . . . . extended international service Rome - Nice, Rome - Barcelona, Genoa - Barcelona, Palermo - Barcelona, Palermo - Nice, Venice - Corfu (Kerkira, Greece), Brindisi - Corfu
- Greece: Crete (Iraklion) - Thessaloniki, Crete (Iraklion) - Corfu (Kerkira)
-:Brazil: Rio de Janeiro (Santos Dumont airport) and Florianopolis (Hercilio Luz airport)
- Peru: Lima (Aeropuerto Jorge Chavez) and Trujillo (Aeropuerto Capitan Carlos Martinez Pinillo), with international extention to Guayaquil, Ecuador
- Portugal: Madeira (Funchal Airport) - Faro (International Airport), WIG-Craft has to climb to high elevation on approach to and departure from Faro airport.
- France: Nice - Cote d'Azur (Mediterranean) and Ajaccio (Corsica)
- India: Marmagoa (Dambolim Airport) and Trivandrum, also services between mainland coastal airports and offshore coastal airports at Laccadive and Maldive islands
- Dutch West Indies: service between Aruba, Curacao and Bonaire
- USA: Port Angeles WA - San Francisco CA - Los Angeles CA - San Diego CA, Boston MA - New York
Operation of domestic service allows manufacturers to further develop and refine the technology, providing the basis for development of large-scale versions that cross oceans.
Airports near the Coast:
WIG-wingships that provide service to/from airports located near the ocean coast would require 'jump' capability to allow for increased flight elevation over short distances (40-metres flight elevation near the coastal airport compared to 10-metres flight elevation across open ocean).
Singapore (Changi Airport . . . railway-type traffic signals used at level/grade crossings plus retractable gates/barriers that lower across road required to halt traffic on Nicoll Drive and /or on Changi Coast Road when wing ships arrive and depart), Los Angeles (International Airport . . . railway style traffic signals and retractable gates/barriers required on Coast Road for wing ships to arrive and depart), Nassau (wing ship has to cross over 2-roads), Istanbul (wing ship has to cross over 2-main roads plus railway line . . . may need to extend runway above roads and railway line to accommodate wing ships).
Caracas, Venezuala (Simon Bolivar Airport . . . craft has to cross over 1-coastal road), Brindisi, Italy (craft has to cross over 1-coastal road), Reykjavik (International AIrport . . need to cross 1-road), Le Havre (France . . . . need to cross Chemin Rural 45), Belfast (George Best City Airport . . . cross over AIrport Road), Liverpool (John Lennon AIrport . . . wingship has to pass under 2-bridges on River Mersey)
Bahrain (Bahrain International Airport - cross over Avandous Road), Muscat (Oman - Seeb International AIrport cross over 18th November Street), Penang (Malaysia - Penang International AIrport - cross over coastal road), Kuala Terengganu (Malaysia - Sultan Mahmud Airport - cross over coastal road), Sabah (Malaysia - Labuan Airport - cross over coastal road), Trivandrum (India - west coast - Thirouvananthaparam airport - cross over coastal road), Chittagong (India - cross over coastal road), Andaman Islands (India - Port Blair - needs extended runway - craft has to cross coastal road)
To further enhance operations, seaplane runways delineated by parallel rows of buoys may extend from coast out to sea, as extensions of land-based runways. Operators of maritime craft would be required to avoid the seaplane runways when wing-ships arrive and leave from coastal airports.
Potentially Competitive International Routes:
There are several international routes where the distance travelled by WIG-craft will be almost identical to the distance travelled by commercial aircraft. While the WIG-craft will be able to offer savings in terms of fuel coast, lower flight speeds will incur additional travel time that could increase crew costs. On a westbound trans-Atlantic flight between Europe and North America, a WIG-craft can offer convenient overnight service, perhaps leaving Rome (Leonardo da Vinci Airport) at 9:00 PM local time and arrive at either Boston's Logan Airport or at New York's La Guardia Airport at 6:00 AM local time.
A list of routes may include:
North America - Europe:
-Boston and New York (Logan and/or La Guardia Airports) - Tangier (Morocco), Le Havre (France), Gibraltar, Barcelona (Spain), Nice (France), Genoa (Italy), Rome (Leonardo da Vinci airport), Tel Aviv (Ben Gurion airport),
South America - Europe
Rio de Janeiro (Galeao Airport) and Caracas (Simon Bolivar Airport) - Tangier (Morocco), Le Havre (France), Barcelona (Spain), Rome (Leonardo da Vinci Airport)
Asia - Pacific Region:
Qatar (Emirates) - Goa (India)
Hong Kong (central hub) - Singapore, Georgetown (Penang, Malaysia), Kanzai (Osaka, Japan), Inchon (near Seoul, South Korea), Sydney (Australia), Los Angeles (USA), Panama City (Panama), Auckland and/or Wellington (New Zealand)
Extended Length Runways:
At several European airports such as at Amsterdam and Leipzig, runways are built on bridges that cross over roads and over railway lines. That precedent may be applied to coastal airports where in the future, runways may be extended on bridges built over coastal roads and coastal railway lines. The runways would extend to gently sloping ramps to sea level. Candidate runways include international coastal airports at:
Singapore, Malaysia (Penang and Kuala Terengganu), Turkey (Istanbul - Ataturk Airport - to provide access to/from Sea of Marmara), Venezuela (Caracas), Oman (Muscat), Bahrain, India (Trivandrum, may be possible to build elevated extension to runway at Mumbai, France (Le Havre) and USA (Los Angeles)
Military Coastal Airports:
Several nations have built military airports adjacent to the ocean, including the United States (San Diego, San Francisco, East coast - Chesapeake Bay), Brazil (Rio de Janeiro) and South Africa (entrance to Saldanha Bay, north of Cape Town). In some nations, there may be scope to negotiate with governments to designate a runway at military coastal to service a small number of large trans-oceanic size super WIG-craft that carry international freight, possibly even passengers. In Ottawa, Canada, military aircraft and civilian aircraft sometimes share the same runways and go to or originate from very different terminals. At Rio de Janeiro, the military runway provides easier access to/from ocean than the runways at the civilian international airports that is located inside a bay, requiring the WIG-craft to pass under a bridge.
Military Airport north of Cape Town:
The only suitable coastal airport in Southern Africa that could be modified to service large WIG-craft, is located north of Cape Town on the north side of the entrance to Saldanha Bay. That coastal airport is located at the crossroads between the Americas and Asia-Pacific region, providing direct over-the-sea access to Eastern coastal airports at Qatar (Doha), India (Dabolim Airport, Marmagao), Australia (Sydney), New Zealand (Auckland and Wellington), Hong Kong, Macau, Japan (Osaka - Kansai Airport and Tokyo - Narita Airport), South Korean (Incheon, west of Seoul). Western coastal airports include Rio de Janeiro, Jamaica (Kingston and Montego Bay), Venezuela (Caracas), USA (Boston - Logan Airport). European airports would include Morocco (Tangier), Spain (Barcelona), Italy (Rome, Genoa), France (Le Havre and Nice - Cote d'Azur), Lebanon (Beirut), Greece (Crete - Iraklion), Israel (Tel Aviv).
Assisted Lift-Off from Runways:
Linear electric motors are lightweight, can provide extreme tractive capability and can travel at extreme speed, hence their application in Maglev trains. There may be scope to install linear electric motor technology at coastal airports, to assist heavily loaded aircraft and wing ships to accelerate along runways during take-off. Linear motors may operate from electrical energy storage located at or near commercial terminals, essential to avoid brown-outs on the commercial electrical grid. A large aircraft or winged vessel could briefly require 100MW of power to accelerate from standstill to lift-off speed. Electrically assisted lift-off using linear repulsion motors embedded in the runway would reduce hydrocarbon energy consumption and allow very heavy vessels to rapidly become airborne, while still on/above a coastal runway.
There may be future scope to install pairs of railway lines on either side of main runways, to support a carrier technology for large-scale WIG-craft. Linear motors built into the railway trucks of bogies would rapidly accelerate and decelerate the assembly that carries arriving and departing WIG-craft. Upon arrival of a large WIG-craft, a computer-controlled rail-borne assembly would be parked at the seaside end of the coastal runway. It would accelerate to keep pace with and remain below an arriving WIG-craft that would then touch down on the assembly, with rail mounted linear motors providing retarding force to sow the WIG-craft. The rail-borne assembly could carry the WIG-craft to a terminal for off-loading.
Alternatively, rail lines could extend from coastal runway, beside gently sloping ramp between sea and runway and extend below sea surface. A large WIG-craft may touch down on water then propel itself or be towed toward submerged extension of runway . . . . . from where rail-borne assembly would carry the WIG-craft out of water, up the slope and along the paved runway to a terminal.
For departure of large WIG-craft from modified coastal airports, rail-borne assembly would carry the vehicle from terminal building to main runway, where linear motors would accelerate assembly and WIG-craft to lift-off speed. At that speed, on-board propulsion would further accelerate the WIG-craft and linear motors decelerate the rail-borne assembly.
Further research could explore methods by which to combine Maglev train technology with wingships on coastal runways. Maglev technology could elevate the wingship, with linear repulsion motors accelerating the craft during lift-off, assisting on-board engines. Upon arrival at a Maglev equipped coastal runway, Magnetic levitation would carry the weight of the wingship as linear repulsion motors apply retardation force to slow the craft. Wingship could ride on onboard wheels to and from terminals, or airport wheel-sets may carry the wingship between Maglev runway(s) and terminals.
Thorium Nuclear Propulsion:
Toshiba presently offers a liquid-cooled micro nuclear reactor of 10MW output. Recent research in China revolves around high-temperature, helium gas cooled reactors that process thorium. A heat exchanger between between helium pipes and atmospheric air could active externally heated gas turbine engines that drive propulsion fans or (geared) propellers, technology based on the floating planetary gear systems developed by Pratt & Whitney for aeronautical geared fan-engines. Thorium can be repeatedly reprocessed for long-term energy conversion. Government officials may be more accepting of thorium reactors travelling at 60 to 100-ft above sea level, than flying at 30,000-ft or 10,000-m.
Trans-Atlantic (East-West) Service:
A wing ship could feasibly travel at half the speed as a commercial airliner, the savings resulting from reduced fuel consumption and increased carrying capacity. The eastbound freight service by Fed-Ex and UPS is especially attractive as a 6:00 PM departure from an east coast American airport results in an early morning arrival at European airports. An early evening departure of a slower moving eastbound wing ship would translate to a mid-morning arrival at any of Barcelona, Nice - Cote d'Azur or Rome. A westbound commercial flight of 8.5-hours duration may leave Paris at noon and arrive at NYC at 2:30 PM local time, with jet lag impacting passengers who may have difficulty sleeping on daylight flights.
A westbound wing ship could leave Rome at 11:00 PM local time and after an 'overnight' journey of 12.5-hours, arrive at Boston or NYC at 6:00 AM local time. Passengers more easily doze off to sleep on extended length, north - south overnight flights. Passengers travelling trans-Atlantic journeys aboard wing ships may suffer less 'jet-lag', having left Europe late in the evening and arrived at an American terminal early in the morning, ready to begin a new day. Wing ship service could attract business travellers
Gaining access to coastal airports offers the promise of greatly reducing fuel consumption during lift-off from a paved runway instead of a water surface. The craft would be airborne as it leaves the airport runway on its journey above water, greatly improving comfort for passengers who would be spared the pitching motions of a craft encountering coastal sea waves. Airline companies are motivated to provide transportation service while reducing fuel expenses. They would be prospective future customers for wingships that could travel between coastal airports around the Mediterranean Sea and the Asia-Pacific region.
The Supersonic Option:
A high-speed jet-powered 3-wheeled car exceeded the speed of sound on the Bonneville Salt Flats in the USA, opening the door for research into developing high-speed maritime craft with similar capability. The bulk of fuel consumed by commercial aircraft keeps the vehicle aloft . . . similar ground-effect vehicles will consume 65% less fuel, offering the potential to develop supersonic WIG-craft that travel at speeds of Mach 1.2 to Mach 1.5 while consuming less fuel than present day commercial airliners in trans-oceanic service. The leading area of the flight wings would be based on the "Oswatitsch" intake for supersonic jet engines . . . . to slow the incoming flow of supersonic air to sub-sonic speed and higher pressure.
As the supersonic WIG-craft speeds above the ocean, a shock-wave would propagate between the leading edge of the flight wings and ocean surface . . . . creating a region of low-speed air flow at higher pressure to propagate below the SS-WIG-craft. At supersonic speeds, it would be possible for a zone of higher-pressure air to exist below the extended-chord flight wings . . with lower pressure air above the top side of the wings. If a SS-WIG-craft can consume less fuel than a present day commercial airliner on a transoceanic route, while 'flying' at Mach 1.2 to Mach 1.4, then a possible market could develop carrying passengers on such routes as Hong Kong - Los Angeles, Hong Kong - Sydney and Los Angeles - Sydney . . . also Boston - Rome.
Future wing-ships that travel across the ocean will require multiple navigation technology that identify the location and direction of other maritime vessels. The technology would combine radar and GPS technologies and assist pilots (also assist automatic computer pilots) to negotiate around stationary and mobile obstacles. Such technology would be especially crucial in the vicinity of maritime terminals as well as offshore near coastal airports, where floating buoys that include lighting technology, would delineate both seaplane runways and extensions of land-based runways on which wing-ships with retractable wheels may touch down and lift off. Navigation technology would also need to include new regulations for maritime craft that sail in the vicinity of coastal airports.
- Solar Ferry
- Solar Wingsail Cruiser
- Relay Archipelago
- Aquarian Airship
- Aquarian Personal Rapid Transit System
- Aquarian Personal Packet Transit and SuperStore
- Aquarian SE Downstation
- Circum-Equatorial Transit Network