Technical Difficulties from on Top of the Mountain
2004-02-25
  Excitement in the air (jets)
The aeronautics fields is still a pretty exciting field. A few startups have surfaced in the last couple of years to build new commuter and executive jet type aircraft. Despite the setbacks, such as trying to use a low cost jet engine designed for cruise missiles (sorry, a MTBF of 50 hours isn't going to cut it), aircraft companies like Eclipse Aviation, Adam Aircraft, and Farnborough Aircraft are shaking things up and pushing the envelope of commercial aircraft.

Unfortunately, while each has managed to create a prototype and get it into the air, these guys have no track record or experience with creating a production line and turning hundreds or thousands of these things out. Even if I had $2-3MM these things are going to cost (which is a tenth what a private jet costs now adays), I'd still adopt a wait and see attitude. But then, another competitor entered the field, sort of. Back in December, Honda not only announced that they had been playing with engines and jets, but they had a public test flight of their jet. And the range of technological innovations was stunning.

This thing has the engines nacelles mounted up on pylons (kind of like the star ship enterprise), uses custom engines they designed themselves, and featured all kinds of novel structural engineering, from the large carbon composite cabin area, to the stiffened aluminum main wing. And the aircraft is far more efficient than its traditional counterparts.

At the time of the unveiling, Honda did not have any plans for a commercial roll out of any of this (plane or engine), and in fact was passing it off just as an intellectual exercise designed to keep their engineers happy. Yah, right.

This last week, Honda and GE announced they were forming a strategic alliance to build business jet engines. The engine itself has been in development for the last four years, and has more than 1,400 hours of run time (with 200 hours in the air); so its mostly a tooling and certification issue (something GE should be good at); and then its off and running.

Any bets on how long it is before the Honda CivicJet is announced? Or maybe they'll call it the Airlude. Personally, I'd be happy with commercial service out of Flagstaff to anywhere besides Phoenix, which is the only place AmericaWorstExpress goes.

I lay 3:1 odds that Honda ships something before the Moller Skycar ships its first craft.

[links]
Adam Aircraft, making a prop (A500) and jet based (A700) executive aircraft.
Eclipse Aviation, Eclipse 500 Jet
Farnborough Aircraft, turboprop F1.
Times Online industry analysis of Honda/GE partnership.

 
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The best of?
Jan '04
The second best villain of all times.

Feb '04
Oops I dropped by satellite.
New Jets create excitement in the air.
The audience is not listening.

Mar '04
Neat chemicals you don't want to mess with.
The Lack of Practise Effect

Apr '04
Scramjets take to the air
Doing dangerous things in the fire.
The Real Way to get a job

May '04
Checking out cool tools (with the kids)
A master geek (Ink Tank flashback)
How to play with your kids

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