Gone are the days when the concept of flying cars could only be resigned to fiction. Many companies are working on vehicles capable of vertical takeoff and landing to address the transportation needs of the future. Boeing is one of them and the aviat…More...
Fighter jets rely on midair refueling to extend their range. Militaries across the globe use airborne tankers that are capable of refueling their fighter jets while they’re airbone. Boeing has now unveiled a new kind of airborne tanker and it’s one that doesn’t require a pilot. Boeing’s new autonomous plane has been desgined to refuel U.S. Navy fighter jets midair.
The United States Navy issued a request for proposals in October as it sought unmanned refueling capabilities for many of its fighter jets. They include the Boeing F/A-18 Super Hornet, Boeing EA-18G Growler, and the Lockheed Martin F-35C.
Interested companies have to respond to the Navy’s request by January 3rd, 2018. Boeing has revealed it’s unmanned airborne tanker entry. The autonomous plane is completing its engine runs currently and will head to the flight ramp for deck handling demonstrations in early 2018.
The airplane that’s selected has to be capable of launching and landing on aircraft carriers. It will have to work with catapult, launch, and recovery systems that are found on aircraft carriers.
Boeing’s entry is called the MQ-25 Stringray aerial tanker. The company says that it can deliver 15,000 pounds of fuel to a distance of 500 nautical miles out from an aircraft carrier. This should be enough to provide fighter jets with an additional flight range of up to 400 miles.
“Our expertise gives us confidence in our approach. We will be ready for flight testing when the engineering and manufacturing development contract is awarded,” said retired admiral Don Gaddis, he leads the refueling system program for Boeing’s Phantom Works organization.
How do you keep the pilots entertained during an almost 18 hour live engine test on an aircraft? You let them have some fun with it. Boeing has conducted one such live engine test on its 787 Dreamliner. During the 18 hour test flight, the plane traced the outline of a massive plane above the United States. It looks pretty cool when you pull up the tracking data for this flight.
18 hours is a lot of time to spend on an airplane and it’s enough time to cover an immense amount of distance. The outline that the pilots have created during this test flight is of a massive plane.
They’ve likely hit 17 states in this endeavor, ranging from Texas to Michigan. The plane eventually landed back at Boeing’s home base in Seattle once the live test was finished. The 787 Dreamliner in this test was up in the air for 17 hours and 45 minutes. It covered a total of 9,896 miles.
That’s much longer and farther than the longest commercial route in service today. Just in case you’re curious, the longest commercial route today is the flight that links Doha, Qatar to Auckland, New Zealand. That particular flight is 16 hours and 10 minutes long. It covers 9,021 miles. Imagine being on a plane for so long!
We’ve seen 3D printing being used in all kinds of industries where it can be used to create things on the spot that might otherwise take a long time. It also helps companies and users create working prototypes on the fly, and we’ve also seen how it can be used in the fashion industry to help create customized sneakers.
However it seems that very near future should be ever get to fly on a Boeing 787 Dreamliner aircraft, know that there will be some components that are made as a result of 3D printing. This is thanks to Boeing teaming up with Norwegian company Norsk Titanium who will be using 3D printing to create structural titanium components for the plane.
Boeing expects that by 2018, the use of 3D printing will help them shave $2-3 million off the cost of each 787 Dreamliner. Note that planes already do use 3D printed parts to some extent, as Reuters points out, where General Electric already uses 3D printing for the fuel nozzles for aircraft engines, but this will be the first time a 3D printed part will be used in a part of a plane that bears the stress of the frame during a flight.
According to Boeing the reason for turning to 3D printing is because for the 787, it uses more metal compared to other models and traditionally manufactured titanium alloy can be very expensive.
The Boeing 787 Dreamliner is the company’s pride and joy, but this state of the art aircraft hasn’t been able to take to the skies without drama. Last year the plane was grounded globally for over four months after a series of battery related fires that warranted a redesign of the entire system. It appears that the Boeing 787 battery issues might have emerged once again. Earlier today a Japan Airlines 787 Dreamliner was temporarily grounded after white smoke was spotted outside the plane, and the warning lights in the cockpit indicated that there might be a fault with the main battery and charger. According to reports, one battery cell might even have leaked.
It has almost exactly been an year since Japan Airlines and All Nippon Airways grounded their 787 fleets after batteries on two separate aircrafts overheated in under two weeks. The global fleet was grounded on January 16th 2013 and didn’t take off for at least three months as Boeing redesigned the battery system. Boeing has confirmed that it is “aware” of the issue that occurred earlier today, according to the company it appears to have involved the “venting of a single battery cell.” Only a detailed investigation will reveal what the cause of the latest incident is, if it is widespread, Boeing’s second consecutive new year won’t be off to a good start.