Aviation Archive

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Crazy Su-37 E-mail

What is it with crazy e-mails? Do people always have to add inane commentary to something? I got the following e-mail the other day (presumably for the video itself, and not the text that went along with it, but most people usually just hit forward and don't edit the text). The video that was attached is the same as the YouTube video I have embedded below (which I first saw before I even moved down here to Texas).

Subject: Fw: FW: Russian Jet - READ MESSAGE BEFORE WATCHING VIDEO

AGAIN, PLEASE READ FIRST!!

Wonder how many Boeing/Lockheed/Northrop-Grumman engineers bailed out on our country to accept handsome cash rewards for their technology they gave the Russians.

Russia now has the #1 fighter plane in the world ... SU-30 - Vectored Thrust with Canards.

As you watch this airplane, look at the canards moving along side of, and just below the canopy rail.

The "canards" are the small wings forward of the main wings.

The smoke and contrails provide a sense of the actual flight path, sometimes in reverse direction.

This video is of an in-flight demonstration flown by the Russian's-30MK fighter aircraft.

You will not believe what you are about to see.

The fighter can stall from high speed, stopping forward motion in seconds (full stall).

Then it demonstrates an ability to descend tail first without causing a compressor stall.

It can also recover from a flat spin in less than a minute.

These maneuver capabilities don't exist in any other aircraft in the world today.

Take a look at the video with the sound up.

This aircraft is of concern to U.S. and NATO planners.

We don't know which nations will soon be flying the SU-30MK, hopefully China isn't one of them.

Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory Note:

Friends worked with advanced aircraft flight control systems and concepts for many years as an extension of stability control and means of control.

Canards and vectored thrust were among many concepts examined to extend our fighter aircraft performance.

Neither our current or next generation aircraft now poised for funding & production can in any way match the performance of this Russian aircraft NOW FLYING in any near combat situation.

Somehow the bankrupt Russian aircraft industry has out-produced our complex politically tainted aerospace industry with this technology marvel.

Scratch any ideas of close in air-to-air combat with this aircraft in the future.

Okay, let's just get a couple facts straight, first. The aircraft in the video is the Su-37, not the Su-30. Though those are both derivatives of the Su-27, and I'm not sure how much of a difference there is in their performance, anyway.

Next, and it's something you should always be suspicious of with e-mail forwards, is the time frame. The Su-30 and Su-37 are both products of the '90s. They were designed at the tail end of the Soviet hey day. And at that time, the Soviets did have a very good aerospace industry.

So, the very first line about U.S. engineers being lured to work for the Russians is just plain bogus. The Soviets could have designed (and did) a world class vectored thrust fighter on their own. Similarly, the second to last line, about a bankrupt Russian industry beating out the U.S. industry is also bogus.

Now, about the claims of this being the most agile modern fighter - well, it probably is, and it probably would have an advantage in dogfights. However, the F-22's no slouch. I've seen it an airshow, and it can do some pretty impressive maneuvers with its thrust vectoring, too. Besides, the main advantage of the F-22 is its stealth. The whole point is to shoot down your enemy without being seen, which is exactly what it's done in all the war games it's been in. And if two pilots do get stuck in a dog fight, much of it comes down to training and tactics, not the aircraft.

So yes, the Su-37 is a pretty cool plane. But no, that is not an indictment of the U.S. aviation industry.

Anyway, I'm still glad I got the forward because this is a cool video to watch.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

The Terrafugia - Are Flying Cars Finally Here?

A little less than two years ago, I wrote an entry, Where's My Flying Car? After discussing all the tradeoffs of a roadable aircraft, my conclusion was:

Yes, it's possible to make a roadable aircraft, but the compromises necessary add a fair amount of weight, reducing the useful load you can carry. For some people, this reduced useful load would be offset by the greater mobility, but for many applications, it's not worth it.

I posted a follow up to that, When Will There Be an Aircraft in Every Garage?, listing some of the practical limitations to aircraft becoming an everyman's vehicle.

Well, one of the latest entries into the roadable aircraft niche is a company named Terrafugia. They've been developing their concept for the past few years, and just recently achieved their maiden flight. According to their FAQ, their approach isn't an attempt to make a jack of all trades, but rather "to design a vehicle for pilots that brings additional ground capability to an airplane instead of attempting to make a car fly." They think that modern lightweight composite materials will make their concept more successful than previous roadable aircraft.

I would love to see this concept become successful, but I still have the same reservations as before. Using the same modern lightweight composite materials, a conventional aircraft will still be lighter than the Terrafugia. But, as I wrote before, maybe the added mobility at the cost of payload/range will be worthwhile to some.

Anyway, here's a video of their maiden flight. Another video and pictures are available on the Terrafugia website.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

A Belated Wright Brothers Day

Wright Brothers' First Flight, December 17, 1903

I can't believe I forgot to post this a day ago. 105 years ago yesterday, the Wright brothers became the first humans to truly fulfill the dream of flight. I'd wax poetic on the subject, but I'd probably just end up repeating what I wrote last year.

Friday, May 9, 2008

Book Review - From the Ground Up

From the Ground Up Book Cover
From the Ground Up

Buy it from Amazon
I just finished reading From the Ground Up: The Autobiography of an Aeronautical Engineer. It was written by Fred Weick (1899-1993), and co-authored by James R. Hansen. I found it to be extremely interesting (but perhaps there were a few unique reasons that made the book so appealing to me).

Fred Weick is probably not a familiar name to most people, even those involved in aviation, despite the significant contributions he's made. He's probably most well known to Ercoupe pilots - Weick designed the plane back in the '40s, and is spoken of almost reverentially on Ercoupe forums (such as the fly-in and tech groups on Yahoo). My great uncle and I share an Ercoupe (and by share - I mean he keeps it in Pittsburgh and flies it, while I get to dream about it while I'm down here in Texas). It was when I first started following along on those Ercoupe discussion groups that Weick became a name that I would remember.

Later on, after I'd started working as an aeronautical engineer, and was just getting started doing design work on propellers, while doing some research on the subject, I came across an interesting paper, Propeller design I: practical application of the blade element theory, by none other than Fred Weick. That lead me to pay even more attention to his name, and it began popping up all over the place.

Continue reading "Book Review - From the Ground Up" »

Monday, December 17, 2007

Wright Brothers Day

Wright Brothers' First Flight, December 17, 1903
104 years ago today, the Wright brothers became the first humans to truly fulfill the dream of flight. Yes, the Montgolfier brothers had their hot air balloon, and others like Hiram Maxim may have gotten an airplane to momentarily lift off under its own power, and Otto Lilienthal had been experimenting with his weight shift gliders decades previously, but it was the Wright Brothers who were the first to really integrate the structures, aerodynamics, and control into the first successful airplane.

Flying has become so common place today that we take it for granted. People complain about the cramped seats, the long lines to get through security, the bad food (if you even get any) on flights. But just remember how long people have dreamt of flight, for how long people looked to the skies wanting to emulate the birds. Flying used to be the stuff of myth and legends, reserved for the gods. Now, we can all get in an airplane, and soar above the clouds. It really is something special.

Happy Wright Brothers Day.

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