Steam Powered Airplanes

Yes, steam…

Just to get it ‘out of the way’, Tesla had a plan for a steam powered airplane and designed the Tesla Turbine to power it. To the best of my knowledge, no operational plane was ever made, but turbines were. There were some issues at high power settings (low efficiency, though efficiency was good at lower powers and a tendency for the rotors to warp and fail at high hot settings) but a workable craft might have still been possible.

But I’m talking about real flying airplanes.

One Digression

There is one other interesting non-flying detour into steam and airplanes. An integrated rotary boiler and turbine.

Huettner Steam Turbine / Boiler

Huettner Steam Turbine / Boiler

This was intended to go into an airplane. The Huettner.

http://www.aqpl43.dsl.pipex.com/MUSEUM/POWER/rotaryboil/rotaryboil.htm#hu

and

http://www.aqpl43.dsl.pipex.com/MUSEUM/TRANSPORT/steamplane/steamplane.htm

A site with a rather extreme list of interesting old technology and a rather great sense of humor…

The claim is that the target airplane was to have a 43,000 ft ceiling, 230 MPH, engine power 2500 H.P.

By integrating all the parts a high power to weight ration could be achieved. I have to wonder, though, about balance and sealing problems in such an integrated design. The boiler efficiency might be a bit suboptimal too. Still, an interesting idea.

The Wiki on Steam Airplanes

The wiki has a pretty good list, but mostly it has non-flying things in it:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Steam_aircraft

1842: The Aerial Steam Carriage of William Samuel Henson and John Stringfellow was patented, but was never successful, although a steam-powered model was flown in 1848.
1852: Henri Giffard flies a 3 horsepower (2 kW) steam-powered dirigible over Paris; it was the first powered aircraft.
1874: Félix du Temple flies a steam powered aluminium Monoplane off a downhill run. While it did not achieve level flight, it was the first manned heavier-than-air powered flight.
1894: Sir Hiram Stevens Maxim (inventor of the Maxim Gun) built and tested a large steam powered aircraft. The machine generated sufficient lift and thrust to break free of the test track and fly but was never operated as a piloted aircraft.
1899: Gustave Whitehead built and flew a steam powered airplane in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. Stoker/passenger Louis Darvarich was injured when the plane crashed into an upper story of an apartment building. He later flew steam aircraft in Hartford, Connecticut, and was visited by one of the Wright brothers well before 1903. However, this flight has never been verified satisfactorily; there are no photographs, news stories, or other media from 1899 to confirm it. Likewise, the supposed visit of the Wright brothers to Whitehead is apocryphal; other than affidavits taken over thirty years after the fact, there is no evidence the visit ever happened. Mainstream aviation historians remain unconvinced of the Whitehead claims.
1902: Louis Gagnon flew a steam helicopter in Rossland, British Columbia, called the “Flying Steam Shovel”. Control problems caused a crash.
1920 The Bristol Tramp would have been a steam powered aeroplane but the turbine was over powered and the construction of a reliable boiler and condenser circuit was problematic.
1933: George D. Besler and William J. Besler’s prototype steam biplane, based on a Travel Air 2000, flew several times at Oakland airport. It was powered by a two-cylinder, 150 hp (110 kW) reciprocating engine designed by the Doble Steam Motors Company and Besler weighing about 500 lbs. and was capable of STOL operation due to the ease of reversing the thrust.
1944: A steam-powered version of the Messerschmitt Me 264a was hypothesized but never constructed. This was meant to be powered by a steam turbine developing over 6,000 horsepower (4,500 kW) while driving a 5.3 meter (17′ 6″) diameter propeller. The fuel would have been a mixture of powdered coal and petroleum. It seems that the steam turbines would have had an SFC of 190 gr/hp/hr. The main considered advantages to this powerplant were consistent power at all altitudes and low maintenance.
1960s: Conceptual drawings were made for Don Johnson of Thermodynamic Systems Inc. Newport Beach, CA of an engine. It was to be in installed in a Hughes 300 helicopter. The steam engine was a compact cylindrical double-acting uniflow [similar in layout to the Dyna-Cam Aero engine], but never prototyped by Controlled Steam Dynamics, Inc.

Other than the semi-apocryphal Whitehead flight, these are all either non-aeroplanes or never flew… except for that Doble powered Besler…

what interests me most is that; an actual flying steam plane…

What’s a Doble?

They didn’t make a lot of cars, but the ones they did make were very good. Jay Leno has one.

Doble In A Parade

Doble In A Parade

Original Image

So some folks looked at this very well made, fairly light (for the time) and very reliable steam engine with a small flash tube boiler of a sort and thought it would work in an airplane. And built one. And it flew… And we have movies, er “Film at 11″

The Plane:
\

I especially like the bit after they land when, headed back to the camera, they use the reverse engine feature to suddenly slow down without a pitch forward moment from low braking at the wheels.

So if we could make one that worked with an old car engine, I’m sure we could do better today. I’ve always wanted a relatively quite airplane…

The Engine

A well thought out engine, it has a fairly compact design.

Doble Engine drawing

Doble Engine drawing

Doble Engine From The Side

Doble Engine From The Side

From the Doble Wiki:

The Model E

By 1923, the model E had been developed; this could be said to be the “classic” Doble , of which the most examples have survived. The initial monotube boiler design was perfected into the “American” type. This produced steam at a pressure of 750 psi (52 bar) and a temperature of 750 °F (400 °C). The tubing was formed from seamless cold drawn steel 575 ft 9 in (175 m) in total length, measuring 22 inches (560 mm) in diameter by 33 inches (840 mm) in height when coiled and assembled. The boiler was cold water tested to a pressure of 7,000 psi (480 bar). Two 2-cylinder compound cylinder blocks were in effect placed back-to-back as the basis for a 4-cylinder Woolf compound unit with high pressure cylinders placed on the outside. A piston valve incorporating transfer ports was fitted between each high-pressure and low-pressure cylinder in an arrangement similar to Vauclain’s balanced compound system used on a number of railway locomotives around 1900. Stephenson’s valve gear replaced the previous Joy motion. This engine was used on all vehicles developed thereafter. Again, the car neither possessed nor needed a clutch or transmission, and due to the engine being integrated directly into the rear axle, it did not need a drive shaft either. Like all steam vehicles it could burn a variety of liquid fuels with a minimum of modification and was a noticeably clean running vehicle, its fuel being burned at high temperatures and low pressures, which produced very low pollution.
[...]
Typical performance

The 1924 model Doble Series E steam car could run for 1,500 miles (2,400 km) before its 24-gallon water tank needed to be refilled; even in freezing weather, it could be started from cold and move off within 30 seconds, and once fully warmed could be relied upon to reach speeds in excess of 90 miles per hour (140 km/h). In recent years Doble cars have been run at speeds approaching 120 mph (190 km/h), this without the benefits of streamlining, and a lighter version of the Series E accelerated from 0 – 75 mph (121 km/h) in 10 seconds. Its fuel consumption, burning a variety of fuels (often kerosene), was competitive with automobiles of the day, and its ability to run in eerie silence apart from wind noise gave it a distinct edge. At 70 mph (110 km/h), there was little noticeable vibration, with the engine turning at around 900 rpm.

Contemporary Doble advertisements mentioned the lightness of the engine, which would lead customers to compare it favorably with heavier gasoline engines, but “engine” in a steam car usually refers solely to the expander unit, and does not take into account the complete power plant including boiler and ancillary equipment; on the other hand clutch and gearbox were not needed.

Doble Boiler

Doble Boiler

In Conclusion

All in all, a nice little package.

A nice gallery of Dobles in Great Britain:

http://www.steamcar.net/dobles.html

A Pop Sci article on Jay Leno’s Doble:

http://www.popularmechanics.com/cars/jay-leno/vintage/jay-leno-and-his-doble-steam-cars

It has this interesting note at the bottom:

The smoothness and force of the acceleration, however, never fail to amaze me—it’s like the Hand of God pushing you along. I was running at 85 mph the other day, and there was more to go. It’s dead silent on the road, just wooooooooshhhhhh!!! Back in the day, Hughes was clocked at 132.5 mph on a Texas highway, faster than anything with an internal combustion engine. It proves what I’ve always believed: The last days of an old technology are almost always better than the first days of a new technology.

Wonder where they got the “H Rated” tires back then ;-)

Somewhere (a link I’ve lost) was a story of someone going well over 100,000 miles with one of these and it’s still going strong.

This site has a bit more history and a flying model airplane using steam!

http://www.flysteam.co.uk/history.htm

http://www.flysteam.co.uk/recent.htm

I must be crazy… I now want to make a steam powered ‘ultralight’… I’d love to have an ultralight, but some hearing damage has left me very sensitive to noise, especially the 2 stoke buzz so many make. The idea of a near silent ultralight is very attractive. I know, probably not quite possible… given the weight limit… but… A carbon fiber case, modern light weight materials for all the ancillary bits too. Lighten the boiler by using a large burner to tube ratio with atomization of the water as it sprays inside the boiler on the hot spots to flash, and have the weight of water reduced with a very efficient condenser and 100% recycle. I think it just might be possible…

After all, they were flying on steam in the 1930s…

Subscribe to feed

About these ads

About E.M.Smith

A technical managerial sort interested in things from Stonehenge to computer science. My present "hot buttons' are the mythology of Climate Change and ancient metrology; but things change...
This entry was posted in Tech Bits and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

31 Responses to Steam Powered Airplanes

  1. Ah. So when it came time to bet on real, powered, man-carrying heavier-than-air vehicles, it was doble or noting.

    Amusing coincidence; I did a bit of a write-up on that aircraft about five years ago.

    ===|==============/ Keith DeHavelle

  2. Another Ian says:

    E.M. If I’ve got it right Besler was a builder of logging rail locos of v-twin form and Herschel Smith has one of these doing the powering.

  3. Another Ian says:

    E.M. I’ve just had a read of “The encyclopedia of trains and locomotives” which lists Heisler as one of the geared truck manufacturers who used v-twins. Besler doesn’t get a mention, though there are mentions of un-named small manufacturers.

    Maybe Herschel needs to expand here -or explain.

  4. Richard Ilfeld says:

    Too bad you’re not wealthy. The Stemme is a quiet aiircraft. My Ford is projected to have enough power to weight that I can fully muffle the engine to european standards — not as quiet as a car but not too bad. Of course fabric covered aircraft have lot of noises all their own. I seem to recall a post here that R De Haan had an endurance mark of eleven hours plus — that’a a lot of quiet flight – though not too many places to accomplish same. Finally the hangers at Mojave have some electrics that are approaching practicality. But perhaps not cost effectiveness. Have you tries the noise canceling headsets?

  5. Bulaman says:

    Cheaper to buy a top set of noise cancelling ear defenders and get a Jabiru powered (4 stroke) microlight I suspect.

  6. P.G. Sharrow says:

    Steam engines do not have to be constructed of metal. Temperatures and pressures are much less then infernal combustion engines. ;-) pg

  7. E.M.Smith says:

    Ran into an interesting link.. seems you can buy already assembled working steam engines from India. A bit ‘political’ on the sales pitch as it’s pushing freedom from exploitation / economic empire… but, it looks like a fun product.

    Prices from $650 for a 2 hp engine (expander) only to $8600 for a 10 kW (kVA) generator set compete with boiler et.al. (That’s $860 / kW which is not all that bad for a unit that could burn anything from cattle dung to weeds and trash / slash wood and old cardboard boxes…)

    Yeah, big and heavy. But still… a 3 kVA unit for $4000 intended for continuous use? Hey, if I were building a facility in the jungle of Brazil I’d buy one. Plenty of fuel and no need to haul oil in from Venezuela… As steam engines often last longer than people, you’d most likely just need to rebuild the boiler every decade or two. I’m tempted to see how much ‘biomass’ is on the street each garbage day and figure out what volume it would take to power my home ;-)

    http://www.steamcar.net/steam-engine-for-sale.html

    Don’t know how current they keep that page, so here’s the direct link:

    http://www.tinytechindia.com/

    @Another Ian:

    Besler as near as I can tell just mated the Doble engine to a preexisting airframe and flew it. Don’t think it was related to anything he was doing in trains or with Heisler. Now if you want to talk steam TRAINs…

    @Richard Ilfeld:

    Yeah, I’d love to have, oh, 1% of a few million a year of net to toss at toys ala Jay Leno… I think I’d make some fun ones ;-)

    But pending that, I’m just going to have to make do with day dreams…

    Also ‘there is quiet and then there is QUIET!!!’… so I’d want plugs, with noise canceling phones, with inherent low noise. I’m uncomfortable at anything over about 80 decibels. Yup, a loud voice… I wear plugs when driving long distances even in a Mercedes… At levels of 2 stroke aircraft the ‘leakage’ through the skull and soft tissues is enough to be a bother. I can take it with plugs and muffs for only a little while, and far away. Otherwise things start to ring a little bit. And any ringing means I’m stealing from future function…

    So far by being careful I’ve had about 35 years of ‘about the same or slightly improving’ hearing. Few folks with normal ears can say that…

    At any rate, I also just like the idea of a very quiet airplane ;-)

    It has to be an ultralight as I don’t pass the hearing test for a private pilot (and might have issues with the vision… I don’t know if ‘one eye close focus one far’ qualifies ;-) but it lets me do most things without glasses at all… )

    At any rate, it’s all just a ‘thought game’ as I don’t have a few thousand to toss at a toy plane anyway…

    @Bularman:

    Cheaper, yes. But I’d be limited in total amount of flying I could do. I’d guess about 1 hour / month. (A lot more sound goes via ‘conduction’ than folks might think. As my eardrums were rebuilt and are a bit thicker than normal, the conduction path caries more percentage for me than for others…)

    @P.G. Sharrow:

    I was contemplating that a bit… I suspect that some of the ceramic piston work would do well in Steam, and a lot of the ‘castings’ of the past could be molded carbon fibre instead. Some of the rods and levers too. At the end I’m left thinking “maybe just the crankshaft and heads/valves” of steel.

    Then again, aluminum alloys have come a long way since 1880 ;-) so too has the availability of aviation titanium parts…

    Add it all up, you could likely just take a fairly light old style steam engine running at, oh, 500 F inlet, and go through the materials of the build list doing substitutions and get it down by 1/2. Some thermo work on a minimum mass boiler would likely also change things. Mass was usually not high on the list of worries… So an aluminum condenser of the tech used in car radiators that works at near atmospheric pressure (perhaps even a small vacuum) ought to be fairly light and cuts way down on mass of water needed. Similarly some highly finned (perhaps shorter life…) heat exchanger in the boiler ought to cut weight too. Make it a ‘1000 hour overhaul part’ and I’d bet it could be a LOT lighter…

    Heck, I’m tempted to think that with a bit of care you could even make a carbon fibre or carbon carbon piston, rod, cylinder… Might not last 100 years, but when you want ‘light and low use’… Well, lets just say if you flew an hour a day that 1000 hours takes about 3 years and very few folks actually get to fly an hour every day.

    But I didn’t want to suggest that in the article as it’s more ‘wild speculation’ than anything real… Unless folks have been doing things I don’t know about…

    (He googles…)

    Well, looks like folks have been busy… OK, make that a carbon cylinder, piston, etc.

    http://www.techbriefs.com/component/content/article/2258

    http://www.f1technical.net/forum/viewtopic.php?f=7&t=1668

    http://papers.sae.org/2000-01-1946/

    and more…

    Looks to me like a ‘Carbon Steam Engine’ would be very easily doable if folks are making combustion engines using it…

    Aw-Oo… I feel that feeling coming on…

  8. bruce says:

    oh, a quiet aircraft, positively spooky.

  9. sandy mcclintock says:

    They say USAF wanted a nuclear powered plane but the radiation was such a problem for the crew that it was not developed! Nuclear would be a good source of steam if radiation could be solved!

  10. Scarlet Pumpernickel says:

    This is cool.

    What about the electric car, I think the first cars were actually electric as well after steam?

  11. @Sandy McClintock

    Nuclear-powered missiles provided a big boost — to Coors. Probably worth a post all by itself.

    And yes, they spewed radiation all over the place. Had they ever been deployed, it might have been like the V2, which killed more people building it than it ever did hitting its targets.

    ===|==============/ Keith DeHavelle

  12. DocMartyn says:

    The Ader Éole, a French made steam powered manned aircraft is a contender for first human heavier than air plane.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ader_%C3%89ole

    If you go to Paris the aviation museum has a very good replica and it looks remarkable good

  13. kuhnkat says:

    Maybe Andrea Rossi will deliver a source of steam for these aircraft!!

  14. Richard Ilfeld says:

    @ EM …Not restricted to Ultralight anymore — hearing test not relevant for LSA so what can you make work in a 1200 pound package?

  15. E.M.Smith says:

    @Richard Ilfeld:

    Well… Looks like since 1996 or so they created a new category:

    http://www.sportpilot.org/learn/slsa/

    Why Consensus Standards?

    The National Technology Transfer and Advancement Act of 1995 mandated that federal agencies “shall use technical standards that are developed or adopted by voluntary consensus standards bodies” as opposed to rules established by the government. The United States Congress, in a 1996 Federal Law (Public Law 104), further stated, “Federal agencies shall consult with private sector consensus bodies when such participation is in the public interest….”

    Accordingly, the FAA mandated in the sport pilot/light-sport aircraft rule, that consensus standards be developed to govern the production of light-sport aircraft (LSA). At the suggestion of EAA, the FAA engaged ASTM International to assist the light-sport aircraft community in the development of those standards.

    OK, so I’m a decade or two out of step with the latest…

    1200 lbs, eh? Quite a lot, I think… carbon fibre bodywork, beams, ribs. Coated fabric cover (i.e. ‘doped cloth’) or lightweight composite structure. High carbon content engine (with some aluminum bits as needed and the sporadic titanium bits if COTS and / or really cool to point at ;-) At that point it’s down to boiler and condenser. If the airframe is very efficient (i.e. slender wings and low drag – think Dragonfly with stronger lighter composite than fiberglass…

    http://photos.imageevent.com/qdf_files/filesrelatingtodragonflyaircraft/Dragonfly%20Specs.pdf

    that’s 1150 lbs Gross… So I might not get as good a performance for the same engine weight ( but I don’t really need 160 knots…) but it will fly on a VW aircooled engine with 60 hp… I think I could get 50 out of a lighter weight engine using exotic materials… And I think I could swap enough materials on the frame / skin to get the mass of a boiler / condenser… or close enough. But the price would be a bit on the high side…

    So, double acting uniflow 4 cylinder would have 8 working surfaces … call it 10 hp per surface gross. Easy peasy even with small sizes. Maybe a 3 inch bore? At any rate, one HP / lb is most likely ‘doable’, so call it a 50 lb engine. (Some were made from regular materials with that density).

    Only issue I see is the boiler that’s still ‘hand waving’ at this point and would need some automated controls and proof that it worked fine even in ‘odd Gs’ orientations. Oh, and that goes for the condenser too. Probably want ability to recover water from it in most any orientation… Maybe that “rotary condenser” idea isn’t so nutty after all… pick up from the rim in any orientation as long as internal Gs exceed aircraft G rating… and rotation can enhance cooling air flow… Hmmmm…. So very small flash tube boiler (monotube with high flow rate?) and a rotating condenser in the front… Short crank engine (2 lands as the two ‘sides’ can share a land so the length of a 2 piston engine…) with Carbon Fibre casing and misc. I’d likely go for Aluminum pistons and steel rods in a first cut (going over to exotics as proven) and with pressurized oil lube (not always used in steam engines…) Poppet valves for induction (ports for exhaust) with an aluminum head and bronze cylinder bores (just to look cool ;-) again going over to things like sleeved Carbon once proven doable… Would be way cool to use titanium rods if they could be done…

    Yeah, I’m pretty sure I could make it go… Now I just need about $200,000 of development costs (direct costs, not including staff), 2 Aviation and Powerplant engineers, and access to a fab facility that can do composite airframes and make engines… Oh, and an espresso machine with appropriate supplies ;-)

    Gee, that’s a lot more fun than an ultralight ;-)

    @S.P.:

    Electric cars were around early on. When I was about 8 a neighbor had an old one in her garage that she didn’t use as she ‘did not drive anymore'; but I got to look at it. Wish now that I’d asked to be put in her will or gotten someone to offer to preserve it. It undoubtedly just got junked… I’d guess it was from about 1920’s?

    Worked well for her in our 4 mile across farm town for many years. She did also say that it would need new batteries as it was a couple of years since the last set…

    @DocMartyn:

    Interesting bit of history that, as an American, I’ve never heard of before… I wonder why? ;-) Does look like the flight history of it is well attested (and interesting that the Wright Brothers flight is often so ‘qualified’ and with so much attention put on the controls…)

    Per nuclear airplanes: Lead shielding a bit hard to do ;-)

  16. E.M.Smith says:

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rutan_Quickie

    Looks like the original Quickie had an 18 hp engine. I suspect that could be made steam too ;-) Ought not to be that hard to make a small light 18 hp steam engine…

  17. Sandy says:

    http://www.lange-aviation.com/htm/english/products/antares_20e/antares_20E.html

    Electric self-launching sailplane. Respectable performance. A true cloud-dancer.

  18. Scarlet Pumpernickel says:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=E3Lxx2VAYi8 Then there was the Nuclear Space Craft. Which was stopped for nuclear disarmament but who knows we could have been all over the solar system by now.

  19. Scarlet Pumpernickel says:

    http://www.treehugger.com/aviation/after-the-electric-car-the-electric-plane-tesla-motors-ceo-elon-musk-is-thinking-about-it.html Maybe the electric plane is coming? The Real Tesla dreamed about them powered by his wireless electricity ;) But I think this one will need a battery

  20. H.R. says:

    Someone mention electric cars? I was told my grandmother drove a Baker electric but when Grandpa got the ’25 Chevy she couldn’t handle the Chevy. Never drove again, even after he upgraded to a ’53 Chevy.

    (Made it through 83 years of life on 3 cars. That doesn’t happen much these days.)

  21. E.M.Smith says:

    @H.R:

    Well, IIF I’d gotten my Mercedes Diesel when I first wanted it, I’d likely have had ONE car in my life… (plus a couple of trucks, but they don’t count ;-)

    Wanted a Mercedes Diesel in high school. Got a Ford Fairlane instead. Then wanted a VW as a compromise. Dad got me a Chevy Impala with a 2 speed automatic… which broke an axle a year or two later while sitting in the parking lot at college… THEN I got my VW… had it for many years, replaced by a Honda CIvic in 1980 that I drove for 14 years and sold with over 1/4 million miles on it (last I heard it was over 350,000). FINALLY got my Mercedes… As it’s ‘smog exempt’, I intend to drive it the rest of my driving years. Now the spouse, she goes through cars faster. The kids, faster still…

    At any rate, of the cars I had; the Ford and Chevy were not bought by me, they were ‘hand-me-downs’. I count the VW, Honda, and Mercedes as “mine”. (The other Mercedes I own were “the wife’s” until she wanted an upgrade, or the Banana Boat that was “the kid’s” until he insisted he wanted a BMW sedan in college…). I chose the VW, Honda, and Mercedes Sedan. So depending on how long I live, and how one does the accounting of vehicles ;-)

    BTW, way cool video of an ALL GLASS steam engine:

    and a mostly metal one but with a glass cylinder and head so you can see things moving:

    Also found an 18 lb engine making 16 HP. So looks like 1 hp / lb is not that much of a stretch:

    http://www.gizmag.com/solar-thermal-waste-heat-engine/10969/

    Looks like Aluminum to me… Yup, I’m certain a lightweight engine can be done…

  22. P.G. Sharrow says:

    If I remember correctly, Popular Mechanics magazine ran a 2 part project for solar steam generator and a steam engine. late 1970s early 1980s. The engine was a conversion of an Evinrude in line 6 cyclinder, 2 cycle outboard engine. The conversion was easy as only the intake valve timing needed changing and the exhaust was ported, no valves! 2 cycles are now outlawed on most California waters. pg

  23. Jason Calley says:

    E.M., you always come up with the most interesting ideas!

    By the way, yes, Tesla hoped to put his turbine in an airplane — but it may not have been the steam version. (My memory gets fuzzy as years go by!) He developed non-steam, liquid fueled versions of his turbine as well, including one that used powdered coal. The basic modification was to join a separate combustion chamber to the intake of the turbine, and have a one-way valve on the intake side of the combustion chamber. Spin the turbine with a starter and it sucked fuel-air into the combustion chamber. A spark ignites it and the valve keeps the hot gases from blowing backward. Everything whooshes through the turbine, which spools up. Once the hot gases are gone, combustion chamber pressure drops to less than atmospheric, the spinning turbine again sucks in a fuel-air mix, the spark sets it off, etc. The trick, so Tesla said, was in designing the valve. While it is possible to make a mechanical moving valve that would work for a while, (see the old V2 pulse jets and their valves), they wore out quickly. His solution was a one way valve that had no moving parts. Smart guy — and yes, a little wacky!

    By the way, there is an airplane steam engine on display at the Warner Robbins Airbase Museum in Georgia. There is some argument about it’s provenance, but it seems to be an early Besler.

    As for steam engine airplane, why mess around with propellers. when you can have a steam JET?

    http://www.rexresearch.com/melot/melot.htm

    Last but not least, one of the regulars here recently posted a link to an electric man-carrying multicopter. http://www.e-volo.com/Home.html Maybe there could be a steam version of that. Have each small engine based on a small steam turbine. Have the steam boiler in the center and feed steam out the several support arms for the engines. Each small turbine would have a valve controlled by the on-board computer. It at least has the virtues of simplicity, redundancy and modularity.

  24. E.M.Smith says:

    @Jason Calley:

    What an fascinating find! It’s basically a high bypass turbo fan, without the turbo or the fan… and with steam driving the air compression step.

    So, ‘steam pump’ via a nozzle to pump the air. Venturi (s) to add in the ‘bypass air’ instead of a fan and then a large nozzle to get the power turned into thrust.

    You know, I think it just might work (!)… Not so sure about the fuel efficiency though…

  25. Jason Calley says:

    There has been discussion over the years on the possibility of a pulse jet aircraft engine that uses a Tesla valvular conduit for the intake end of the engine. Here is where I show my lack of memory… I remember reading a rather convincing post some years ago about just exactly why using Tesla’s valve was a bad idea for a pulse jet, but the details escape me at the moment and a quick google did not turn it up. Perhaps the post I read was wrong. Perhaps it was right. Perhaps one of your readers knows the subject better!

  26. E.M.Smith says:

    @Jason Calley:

    I ran into a pulse jet discussion while looking at the put put boat engine (it might be in the linked stuff?) that discusses why the valve on a pulse jet isn’t really needed at all along with some interesting pictures of a French version that pointed the intake backwards… So you could make a completely valveless one that works fine, or do a lot of machining to make a fancy valve…

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Valveless_pulse_jet

    http://www.google.com/search?q=pulse+jet+pump&ie=utf-8&oe=utf-8&aq=t&rls=org.mozilla:en-US:official&client=firefox-a#pq=pulse+jet+pump&hl=en&sugexp=ppwc&cp=6&gs_id=1h&xhr=t&q=valveless+pulse+jet&pf=p&sclient=psy-ab&client=firefox-a&rls=org.mozilla:en-US%3Aofficial&source=hp&pbx=1&oq=valvel&aq=0&aqi=g4&aql=f&gs_sm=&gs_upl=&bav=on.2,or.r_gc.r_pw.,cf.osb&fp=bdea5a1a60fe6a9a&biw=1366&bih=622

    So if you want a pulse jet, you likely don’t need a Tesla Valve. If you want a turbine, it makes some sense.

  27. R. de Haan says:

    “So if we could make one that worked with an old car engine, I’m sure we could do better today. I’ve always wanted a relatively quite airplane…”

    I have been flying several quiet airplanes like the Stemme S-10 and a home built experimental.

    The experimental, just like the Stemme is a motor glider but it’s built in a canard configuration with a wingspan of 17.5 meters and it’s more quiet than the Stemme (only 54 Db) and comes with a reverse propellor concept allowing for very short landings and rolling backwards on the platform.

    I really liked the canard configuration because of it’s aerodynamic efficient design.

    But all canards have a HELP problem (High Energy Landing Problem) which doesn’t cause any problems when you operate the plane on long runway’s but becomes a real pain in the ass when you operate them from the relative short air trips in Europe.

    The idea to built a motor glider in canard configuration was to maintain the efficiency and safety (you can’t stall a canard) of the canard concept but lower the take off and landing speed enabling safe operation on short air strips and to enable thermal flight’s with the engine shut down.

    In order to reduce noise a special design effort was undertaken resulting in a sleek and highly efficient two blade propellor with a little bend at the propellor tips comparable to the winglet’s of modern airplane. A lot of propellor noise is generated when the second blade moves through the vortex of the first propellor blade. The little bend in the propellor tips moves the vortex away from the blade allowing the second blade to slice trough clean undisturbed air. This propellor really is a great success.

    The other design feature is the positioning of the exhaust.

    The exhaust outlet is positioned on the top of the delta which is used as a sound deflector. All the noise is reflected upward. This makes it a very silent plane indeed.

    The propellor is adjustable by an electric actuator.
    This allows you to select the most efficient setting to a set RPM but it also allows you to set the blades neutral when you fly the plane in glider mode and reverse it for very short landings.

    Another feature is the fact that this canard comes with (electric) flaps further reducing
    the landing speed (80 km/h).

    The engine is a standard 80 Hp Rotax 912 engine.
    The Bing carburators have been replaced with an electronic fuel injection system developed by Silent Hectic

    http://www.silent-hektik.com/UL_912_1.htm

    This was a necessary step to run the engine with a sequential LPi propane system allowing the engine to run on liquid gas.

    The plane is easy to fly, it comes with low fuel consumption and a relative high cruising speed. In fact I can circle a cruising Cessna 182 with ease and it climbs like a monkey.

    By the way, the Stemme S10 is for sale.
    It’s in excellent condition (no accidents or crashes), no cracks in the paint and comes with foldable wings and the reliable Limbach engine, Jaxida covers and all the avionics you need for performance gliding like an LX 5000 glide computer. It also has the latest (mandatory) Mode S transponder and it’s probably one of the cheapest Stemme on the market at € 120.000,- including a final check with Stemme Berlin and a conversion training.
    Maintenance in the USA is not a problem:

    http://www.usmotorglider.com/overhaul.html

    This plane allows you to take off in low land territory and fly into the Alps for a few hours of mountain flying and return back home.

  28. E.M.Smith says:

    Great… Now if only I had € 120.000 … x 2 (one for the plane, one to replace the job I don’t have so I could afford to fly it) I’d be all set to sign up for flight school again… (I’ve got a few hours in my log book for gliders already ;-)

    What’s a 1/3 of a $Million between friends…

  29. R. de Haan says:

    We have great designs flying in the sports UL class today.
    I have flown most of the models available today but I really like the planes made by TL factory from the Czech Republic.
    They started with a great little plane built from glass, the TL 96 Star

    http://www.pilotmix.com/index.php?pgid=11&lang=en&maxInfo=242

    Their latest is a full carbon built plane, the TL 2000 Sting which in fact is a glass Star made from carbon.

    http://tl-ultralight.cz/en/ultralight-aircrafts/tl-2000-sting-s4/

    Most people I know who bought a TL Star fly them on Czech registration thus preventing the German paper war.

    The entire Sportsclass market is dominated by the Rotax 912 engine which today come at a price of € 17.000,- , quite steep price for a boxer engine with Bing carburators.

    What I would like to do if I can find the time is to get me a used Star or Sting airframe and replace the Rotax 912 with a 4 stroke jet ski engine from the Yamaha Genesis series or a 100 Hp three cylinder smart engine.
    That would reduce the engine costs to a few thousand euro.

    If you really want a fun airplane and don’t mind flying it alone I would pick the Twister designed by the Striker Brothers from Germany.

    http://silence-aircraft.de/en/aircraft/pricing/

    You can buy it as a kit or turn key.

    This great little flyer that looks like a WWII Spitfire is fully aerobatic, comes with their V-prop constant speed system, a great invention that unfortunatly doesn’t work with pusher aircraft but should be installed in all variable prop tractor applications.

    But what’s more interesting is that you can take it apart just like a glider and park it on a trailer or in your garage.

    This plane was first equipped with an air cooled Jabiru 2200 engine from Australia but is now equiped with a FADEC direct drive engine made by UL Power

    http://www.ulpower.com/news/blog/

    This company delivers a very nice series of boxer engines delivering between 100 and 130 hp, unfortunately just as expensive as the Rotax series.

    I am still waiting for a low weight diesel engine that delivers 100 Hp@2200 rpm.
    Something like this:

    http://www.bikervoodoo.com/2008/04/05/avls-high-performance-diesel-motorcycle/

  30. P.G. Sharrow says:

    Nice toys for wealthy boys. 8-)

    There are times that I remember wearing an aircraft and wish to do it again. Oh well I don’t ride bikes any more ether. pg

  31. E.M.Smith says:

    An interesting link with more history and links to some technical information on the Doble:

    http://www.damninteresting.com/the-last-great-steam-car/

    @R. de Haan:

    Interesting aircraft… I’ve occasionally suggested that my mechanic make aircraft engines (he does complete transmission rebuilds now and wants to get into manufacturing – that’s what his degree is in… Yes, a mechanic with a degree in manufacturing.) Despite the money available, he just ‘gives me that look’ and says “A Lot Of Government Regulations” and changes the topic.

    I’ve seen him rebuild Diesels from broken ones and machine missing parts on the fly as needed. I just KNOW he could make a nice light weight aero-Diesel, but he’s not interested in that much red tape…

    The best ones tend to be like that…

    @P.G. Sharrow:

    Well, there’s always “trikes” ;-)

Comments are closed.