Fly United!

Wim send us a link. The Volkskrant published an interesting article by Tonie Mudde about the future of air traffic. The increasingly high costs of fuel are a real concern. Currently fuel already makes up 30% of the operational costs. And it looks like kerosene will remain the main source for a long time to come: it produces most energy per kilogram.

Weight reduction seems to be the key. Koen de Cock of the National Air and Space laboratory (NLR) explains that it is rather inefficient to bring all fuel for the entire flight. It makes the plane unnecessarily heavy, so you need even more fuel. It is like bringing 200 liters of gasoline on a car trip from Amsterdam to Madrid… stopovers at the gas station save a lot of space and energy…

De Cock is developing a radical idea: refueling during the flight. Short distance planes, called feeders, will dock in mid-air to immense ‘mother ships’, long distance planes called cruisers to exchange fuel but also passengers! Swapping airplanes in the air will reduce transit time and might cut fuel costs by 30 percent.

But there are other possibilities too. Flying in formation for instance. For the Biennale in Venice in 2008 we created a Virtual Reality called Fly United. The Mash-up shows nine jets in the V-shape typical for migrating birds like geese. According to Tonie Mudde this now will actually become a real option. Airliners from London, Brussels and Paris for instance could gather in the sky to ‘embark’ on the collective long haul flight to NY…

The slipstream will reduce air-resistance; the airplanes will become lighter because they have to bring less fuel.

It takes really good pilots though: however useful for propulsion, the turbulence can also be very dangerous. But with the rapid evolution of drones precision flight has already come within reach. Expected reduction: 10%

Soon the skies will be speckled with flocks of airplanes…

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