Electric “Jet” Specs Sucky

One click leads to another and pretty soon you are off somewhere totally unexpected… like Yet Another NBC Propaganda Article.

This time from C-NBC, that’s a bit better than basic NBC and not nearly as sucky as pMSNBC, but has it’s own class of oddity. It likes to hype stuff that might drive markets regardless of how silly it is.

In this case, a “Jet” for commercial use. One that will, maybe, possibly, carry 6 passengers… and runs on electricity.

https://www.cnbc.com/2021/08/02/lilium-electric-jet-start-up-signs-1-billion-deal-with-azul.html

Lilium, a German start-up making electric jets that can take off and land vertically, has announced plans to sell 220 of its vehicles for up to $1 billion to Brazilian airliner Azul.

The two firms said on Monday that they plan to build an eVTOL (electric vehicle takeoff and landing) aircraft network across Brazil between now and 2025.

“The aircraft we’re planning to launch will do 175 miles an hour,”
Alex Asseily, Lilium’s chief strategy officer, told CNBC on Monday. “The range will be 155 miles.”

The aviation industry is under intensifying pressure to look at new ways of powering their carriers as policymakers publicly acknowledge the necessity of transitioning to a low-carbon society.

Lilium’s latest aircraft is a five-seater model but the one that goes into serial production and gets sold to Azul will be a seven-seater model, Asseily said, adding that the production line is 50% complete.

Each Lilium jet will cost Azul roughly $4.5 million.

I note in passing that some unknown “policymakers” have their bank accounts nicely filled and are fully engaged with The Collective and promoting idiocy…

So we’re getting something with almost the speed performance of a Piston Aircraft from about 1960? At $4.5 MILLION a copy? Let’s compare the Beech Baron, shall we?

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Beechcraft_Baron

Four to Six seats, so very close to the same. I note in passing you can see the effect of the rampant inflation as we went off the gold standard under Nixon, and Johnson spent like a drunken sailor (as, it seems, do all Dimocrats).

D55
Built 1968 through 1969. Four to six seats. Introduced new paint scheme and ‘speed-slope’ windshield. Changed to three blade props and a different flap configuration. 316 aircraft built. Priced at $73,950 in 1968.
E55
Introduced in 1970, run through 1982. Four to six seats. Incorporated new paint scheme and interior design. Improved avionics and panel. Wing-tip lights and rotating beacon made flush; new entrance step. Also added were 172 US gallon (166 usable) interconnected tanks with one fill cap per wing became an option in 1976. 433 built. Priced at $83,950 in 1970, $219,500 in 1982.

But the Baron specs are much better:

Performance

Maximum speed: 205 kn (236 mph, 380 km/h) at sea level
Cruise speed: 180 kn (210 mph, 330 km/h) at 12,000 ft (3,700 m) (55% power)

Stall speed: 73 kn (84 mph, 135 km/h) IAS, power off, wheels and flaps lowered
Range: 942 nmi (1,084 mi, 1,745 km) at 10,500 ft (3,200 m), 65% power, 45 min reserves
Service ceiling: 19,700 ft (6,000 m)
Rate of climb: 1,670 ft/min (8.5 m/s)
Takeoff distance to 50 ft (15m): 1,675 ft (511 m)
Landing distance from 50 ft (15m): 1,840 ft (560 m)

So paying a heck of a lot more for a worse aircraft? Um, why again?

FWIW, this proposed ePlane can’t get from San Francisco to Los Angeles (about 360 miles) even if you stop for a recharge at the 155 mile point. THE biggest flight corridor in California. Brazil is much bigger than California so I expect there to be even more challenges finding places to use it there.

In fact, it can’t even make it from San Francisco to Reno Nevada (about 230 miles) on one charge. That’s about as short a run as possible while getting any benefit from an airplane. Though I’d wonder if it can handle a 9000 ft flight altitude to get over the mountains… in summer especially when Density Altitude has the hot air making it act more like 10k to 11k feet.

It looks to me like this is far more a way to “Generate Buzz” (like, oh, “The Tesla of the air!!!”) and suck in “investor” money for salaries and perks than any real attempt to make a workable biz-jet. (And can you really call something going 175 MPH a “biz-jet”?)

Oh, and after you fly this thing for just under an hour (155 mile range, 175 MPH, so 53 minutes at max speed) you get to let it, and the pilot, sit on the ground a good long time while you recharge the batteries for the next flight. One hopes they come up with battery packs they can swap, but that usually adds a lot of weight you would not want in a marginal aircraft…

So what are the economics going to look like, eh? Pop $4.5 Million for an aircraft you can fly an hour, then let sit for (let’s be VERY generous here…) say 5 hours on a charger, then fly it again. So a 6 hour cycle time. At full boogie, 4 flights a day. Call it 360 x 4 a year (5 days for maintenance) or 1440 absolute max. With interest on $4.5 Million at, say, 3%, that’s $135,000 a year. Add in costs for electricity and a pilot, it will not be cheap. I’d guess you are looking at a minimum of $100 / passenger / flight. To “puddle jump” a distance you can drive in 2 hours (when getting through security at the airport takes 2 hours…)

The only way I can see this working is if you have about 1/2 dozen airplanes per pilot. At any one time, 5 are on the ground being charged and cleaned. Pilot is shuttling between 2 airports and on landing parks it at the charge point and moves to the next airplane. On average he’s got 1 hour 20 minutes per plane to fly for just under an hour, park it, and get to the next plane. So about $27 Million per pilot just to keep the pilot working for an 8 hour shift and move 36 people 150 miles each. (Seating of 7, minus one for the pilot, 6 passengers and NO COPILOT which may be illegal in some places… for 6 plane loads, or 36 paying passengers). So about 5400 passenger miles / pilot / day. Or 1,620,000 passenger miles for a 300 day work year per pilot. Figure even a cheap pilot will have a fully burdened rate of $100,000 / year, that’s 16.2 passenger-miles / dollar or 6.17 ¢/passenger-mile just for the pilot IF you can keep them hustling that fast for 300 days.

Note that 250 days is the more realistic number. 5 days x 50 weeks = 250. Two weeks off for vacation and “weekends” off. At 300 days, you are really racking overtime… but this gives a low-ball cost and might exist in 3rd World places.

Then you get to add in 6 x $135,000 = $810,000 interest rate on those planes (though in reality they could be shared over 3 shifts IFF you can find people willing to fly every single hour of the clock… so might be only $203k) That’s going to be 12.5 ¢ to $1/2 per mile. So somewhere between 20 ¢ and 60 ¢ per passenger mile even before gate fees / parking apron (and you will need a LOT of it for 5/6 of your fleet grounded and charging at any one time) ground crew, electricity and charge points, etc. etc.

So your 150 mile flight will run between $40 and $60 best case, but more likely in the range of $100 to $300 (don’t forget taxes and management overhead and and and…)

So will you pay $100 to fly a distance you could drive faster than it takes to get through security and be boarded onto the plane? Only if stuck in an Urban Jungle with horrible traffic jams.

Where I could see this working?

NICE high end executive suburb about 100 miles away from The City with a very small airport and fast security screening since it is full of Rich Executives. They “commute to work” in the City with this thing doing a VTOL on the roof of their big office building. Company pays the $200 / day transport cost. after all, that is “only” about $60,000 / year. Cheap for a Big Corp Perk to the executive class. Pilot flies in 100 miles, lets off the passengers, then goes another 20 to 40 miles to a “Park ‘N Charge” and waits for the Lunch Rush calls…

I do also see it working as a way to suck in a LOT of “investor” money to be spread around to “Family & Friends Of The Company” making the planes. I don’t see this working for the “working class” in any capacity at all.

Smells like a boondoggle to me ;-)

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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...
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44 Responses to Electric “Jet” Specs Sucky

  1. Canadian Friend says:

    I wonder how much the battery weighs in that ” jet” airplane ?

    In a small electric car the battery weighs aproximately 1000 pounds, which is almost half the weight of the car.

    I don t have the numbers, but my guess is that electric airplanes will have to use very large batteries ( not only for range but for safety, they cannot run out of power in mid air )
    and very large batteries will hurt efficiency and range and how many people it can carry

    if most of the energy is used to carry 5000 or 10,000 of batteries, it is absurd to even build electric airplanes.

    As I said above I do not have the numbers, but I suspect those batteries will have to be very big and very heavy and make the airplanes very very inneficient.

  2. cdquarles says:

    So they’re using an electric powered ducted fan? Those have been around for decades powering RC models. Yeah, for about 30 minutes or so.

  3. Ossqss says:

    I see long extension cords on the taxiways while they wait for 45 minutes in line to take off. They could easily travel across country with a following diesel powered charging station connecting the two courtesy of a C-130 following them around.

    Simply amazing this is even a thought. I would rather fly in a large Balsawood contraption with a large rubber band powered prop. At least that could probably glide when the power goes out.

  4. Steve C says:

    Having grown up in “the white heat of the technological revolution” that Harold Wilson promised us half a century or so ago, there’s really only one thing I can say:

    Why does every one of these “innovations” leave me staring at the page in blank incomprehension at the utter stupidity of it?

  5. @Canadian Friend: You said the big money line right here. “it is absurd to even build electric airplanes.”

  6. jim2 says:

    An electric blimp might work. But you could have a repeat of the Hindenburg, fueled by lithium.

  7. YMMV says:

    They have been promising the flying car since the fifties. This isn’t quite what they said it would look like. All the billionaires on your block will want one.

    My first thought. It’s a ducted fan, not a jet. My second thought. It’s a canard! My third thought. As a RC model plane this is very impressive. My fourth thought. Safer than a helicopter? No way. No autorotation. Power failure? Grab your parachute. How does it do as a glider? Serious question. What is the stall speed? Clearly it is not designed to do a normal landing at stall speed plus, just look at the casters used for the landing gear.

    https://lilium.com/jet

    “The target range is 280 km (150 nmi). Its 36 electric ducted fans are powered by a 1 MW (1,300 hp) lithium-ion battery; less than 200 hp (150 kW) is required to cruise.” Source: Wikipedia quoting Aviation Week & Space Technology.

    There’s a video of a small prototype flight here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Jterxus7V3g
    And a video which goes into all the details that you should watch:

    Final thought: Cool!

  8. E.M.Smith says:

    @YMMV:

    From their webite you linked:

    “Maximum physical range 250+ km / 155+ miles (service range + reserves)”

    So no, you can’t fly 155 miles. You must subtract “reserves” plus any losses from flying in very cold conditions with poor battery performance plus any decrease from battery age over time. OK…

    https://www.law.cornell.edu/cfr/text/14/91.151

    § 91.151 Fuel requirements for flight in VFR conditions.
    (a) No person may begin a flight in an airplane under VFR conditions unless (considering wind and forecast weather conditions) there is enough fuel to fly to the first point of intended landing and, assuming normal cruising speed –

    (1) During the day, to fly after that for at least 30 minutes; or

    (2) At night, to fly after that for at least 45 minutes.

    (b) No person may begin a flight in a rotorcraft under VFR conditions unless (considering wind and forecast weather conditions) there is enough fuel to fly to the first point of intended landing and, assuming normal cruising speed, to fly after that for at least 20 minutes.

    So figure they treat this as a “rotorcraft” since it can do VTOL, your 53 minutes of flight just became 33 minutes. You can now fly roughly 88 miles between destinations…

    But yeah, it does look cool and I’d love to have one as a personal craft if they got the price down to about $40,000 or so… (It looks like a composite shell, standard avionics, a big battery, 36 small ducted fans / motors / controller and some standard control surfaces. No way that thing costs over $100k of parts to make…)

  9. E.M.Smith says:

    I think I’d be much more inclined to ditch the batteries for a fuel cell (bolding by me):

    https://newatlas.com/aircraft/zeroavia-first-commercial-scale-hydrogen-fuel-cell-electric-flight/

    World’s largest hydrogen-powered plane makes maiden flight
    By David Szondy
    September 29, 2020

    ZeroAvia says it has completed the world’s first hydrogen fuel-cell-powered flight of a commercial-grade aircraft. On September 23, 2020, a modified Piper M-class six-seater plane, which ZeroAvia says is now the largest hydrogen-powered aircraft in the world, took off from the company’s research and development facility in Cranfield, England, and completed a full-pattern circuit before landing.

    The latest test flight follows on from the company’s June 2020 first-ever flight of a commercial-scale electric-powered aircraft in the UK when a similar aircraft with an all-electric powertrain took to the air. Both are part of ZeroAcvia’s HyFlyer project to produce not only a scalable hydrogen/electric hybrid propulsion system that can be fitted to conventional aircraft and, later, new airframes, but also develop the hydrogen infrastructure needed to fuel them.

    Project HyFlyer is funded by the British government through Innovate UK and the Aerospace Technology Institute (ATI)-led Aerospace R&T program. ZeroAvia says that the technology is scalable in a short time and the company expects to see 10-20-seat aircraft going into service in three years, 50-100-seat versions by 2030, and a 200-seat aircraft with a range of over 3,000 nm (3,452 mi, 5,556 km) by 2040.

    A 3000 mile plus range is something that is actually usable. Hydrogen fuel is a bit tricky, but the worst bits are already worked out and you can buy hydrogen powered cars that expect normal people to fuel them up. The Hydrogen can be made with bursts of wind and solar, so can to some extent help dampen the surge instability of all that uncontrollable supply hitting the grid, and it can be made pretty much as needed on site (if economies of scale make it financially desirable).

    According to ZeroAvia, the next and final stage of the six-seat development project is to conduct a 250-mi (400-km) zero-emissions flight from an airfield in the Orkney Islands north of Scotland – a distance equivalent to that from Los Angeles to San Francisco or London to Edinburgh.

    When the technology is mature, ZeroAvia says the new hydrogen powertrain could lead to aircraft with lower operating, fuel, and maintenance costs than jet-fueled airplanes. Along with the powertrain, the company has also developed the Hydrogen Airport Refuelling Ecosystem (HARE) at Cranfield Airport, which is a pilot version of the infrastructure for supporting hydrogen production, storage, refueling, and fuel-cell-powered flight that the company will use for supplying hydrogen to its customers.

    Um, no. It is 360 miles from SFO to LAX. It is NOT equivalent. OTOH you can go from San Jose SJC to Burbank airport in about 300 miles, so getting closer…

    I would expect a final production fuel tank to be able to load in 10% to 20% more than their demonstrator, so eventually, sure…

    I didn’t get any sound out of the video, but at least you can see it fly:

    I think that’s got a whole lot more potential in front of it than batteries…

  10. YMMV says:

    Testing the ZeroAvia propulsion system in a Piper Malibu Mirage (M350) makes a lot of sense. Make an incremental change in a proven system rather than a from-scratch design. But, not so fast …

    https://techcrunch.com/2021/04/14/zeroavias-hydrogen-fuel-cell-plane-ambitions-clouded-by-technical-challenges/
    TechCrunch has learned that batteries provided the majority of the power required for the landmark flight, and will continue to feature heavily in ZeroAvia’s longer flights and new aircraft. And while the Malibu is technically still a passenger aircraft, ZeroAvia has had to replace four of the Malibu’s five passenger seats to accommodate bulky hydrogen tanks and other equipment.

    https://www.ainonline.com/aviation-news/business-aviation/2021-04-30/zeroavia-hydrogen-testbed-damaged-airport-crash
    “ZeroAvia has not indicated whether the experimental powerplant and related systems were linked to the accident.” But it must have been a power failure which necessitated the off-field landing. “Crash” is an exaggeration though. More like bad landing, on the very bad landing side.

    I just wanted to know how many HP the new engine has, compared to the OEM engine. Because the takeoff run in the video looked very long, especially with only two people on board.

  11. philjourdan says:

    It is a boondoggle. Climate Alarmists are either too stupid, or just plain dishonest about where the energy for all the “lectric” vehicles come from. And the materials to build those batteries costs a lot more in polluting fossil fuels.

  12. YMMV says:

    I have nothing against proof of concept experiments, but it will be a very long time before they find something better than turbine engines for airplanes. Turboprop or turbofan.

    Now putting one of those fan-drive engines on a performance glider, that would be interesting.

  13. Logau says:

    A lightweight battery is only used for takeoff and landing; once airborne the plane will fly underneath two contact wires as shown – in principle – there:

    Some special pilot training may be needed. And some really audacious passengers as well. (Just in case: Don’t buy a round trip ticket.)

  14. H.R. says:

    @Logau re round trip tickets:

    🤣🤣🤣🤣🤣🤣🤣👍

    “Ticket please… OK, here’s your parachute. You’re mid-way back on the left, window seat.”
    😜

  15. Foyle says:

    These are the first crude product, the technology itself is ripe to disrupt most transportation and change cities and roading infrastructure forever.

    The price will rapidly come down with scale; as they increase to automotive production levels and refinement the marginal manufacturing cost will come down to under $100k (typically a multiple of ~3x materials cost for cars a bit more for carbon fiber, batteries are already ~$30/kg).

    Given enormous (and increasing) spend on battery R&D their performance (and aircraft range) will likely nearly double over next 5 years and with improved energy density, increased battery mass fraction, and some improvement in aero efficiency. With battery swapping it will only take a minute to refuel midtrip at a robotic battery swap vertiport. Long trips can then easily be done in a couple of hops @ ~150mph trip average speed making them the fastest transport option out to perhaps 600+ miles (ie where ultra-rich make use of helicopters now).

    Autonomous operation will start within a couple of years of first commercial operation – no pilot required and vastly easier than autonomous driving with ballistic parachutes for added safety, at which point smaller cheaper quieter one-seaters mass produced for a few $10k’s will take over, with fully amortised costs per trip lower than cars. Opener blackfly is close to these specs (minus the autonomy) – their range is compromised by a regulatory weight limit that impacts their battery size.

    Range extending engines will rapidly become available in high altitude long range variants flying at commercial jet speeds over continental range, but without all extra hours associated with getting to and from airports.

  16. rhoda klapp says:

    It’s common for a little piston two-seater to do 150 mph for hundreds of miles. Those aircraft require little new tech and cost $100k give or take a bit. They need to be certified by the FAA for sale fully built. That’s not easy. The standards are higher for aircraft carrying paying passengers. They are never going to be cheap and nor is any new tech solution, especially if autonomous.

  17. H.R. says:

    @Rhoda – I have to second your observation. About 10 years of my manufacturing experience was in aerospace. The FAA will strangle any aircraft sold to the public with inspections and regulations as well as restrictions on who can pilot the craft, all costing lots of money.

    If you think getting an emissions test every year is a PITA, just wait until you have a flying car!

    Many people do homebuilt planes under Experimental Aircraft rules, but even those planes don’t leave the ground without a couple of FAA inspections.
    .
    .
    I had a friend who built a nifty little biplane from a kit. It was a two-seater. He could not give me a ride because the rules changed drastically as soon as he had a passenger. Oh, and he had to call to get an FAA inspector out at a couple of points in the build before he could continue; I think at frame completion and motor installation. Then there was an inspection at completion.

  18. Foyle says:

    A 2tonne Tesla costs about $15/kg to manufacture, including a drivetrain powerful enough for flight and a computer powerful enough for autonomous operation around animals and people. A vtol aircraft is no more complex, probably ¼ the mass for 1 passenger (smaller=quieter), and just as amenable to high reliability mass production as cars are, with redundancy for all major systems, fault detecting onboard diagnostics (as for cars) few moving parts, ballistic parachutes and passenger survival cells with air bags as final safety net. Propulsion system components will be highly modular and cheap due to volume for easy replacement. They will spend far less time in the air than cars spends on the road with benign operating conditions and not be subject to the rough, abrasive, bumpy, dirty conditions that cars have to handle. Past experience and understanding of low volume low tech aircraft industry is not a good predictor of how things will pan out with application of recent tech and recent high volume Machine learning manufacturing advances,

    Regulatory management by FAA will be a far different situation once there are millions of these planes flying (with proven safety records accumulated in 10’s or even 100’s of thousands of unmanned test flights and ability to amortise costs over huge production numbers).

    It won’t happen over night, but we will see a radical and permanent change of similar magnitude to car replacing horse within 20-30 years

  19. p.g.sharrow says:

    The car quickly replaced the horse because it was more convenient, much less dangerous, and a lot more comfortable means of transportation. The car evolved before regulation could stifle its use not after, as is the case in aircraft adaption. Transport on the ground is inherently much more safe then in the air.
    Believe me. I have maintained, repaired and operated cars, trucks and heavy equipment for much of my 75 years, over all kinds of road and track. Piloted air and watercraft in lakes and sea. Ridden Horse and wagon. Have extensive experience with Alternative Energy systems, Presently building a 8Kw solar PV system to power my small farm because the Sacramento Liberals have ruined the states Electrical Supply system with their conflicting Ecoloon demands that Ignore the realities of physics.
    No amount of Blue Sky liberal dreams can change the laws of physics and the reality of people. The IC powered Modern automobile is the best solution for it’s purpose. If….IF we reach an all electric power supply system it would be better to manufacture fuel from air and water to fuel transportation, at the energy source, rather then waste most of it in line distribution and batteries.
    The only way to reach the nirvana that liberals dream of, is to regulate it into existence by outlawing any other alternative and they know it. …pg

  20. H.R. says:

    @Foyle – The FAA is a bureaucracy. It won’t help or encourage personal flying transportation.

    Bureaucracies:

    1) Perpetuate themselves
    2) Get bigger: increase head count and budget
    3) Create new rules and regulations to justify their existence and in support of #2

    If you think your State’s BMV is bad, wait until there’s a Bureau of Personal Flying Aircraft.
    .
    .
    Then there are the lawyers and law enforcement just salivating over the revenue stream from fines and penalties needing a lawyer to defend.

    And finally, to my experience, a large percentage of the population can’t cope with 4-way stops and roundabouts in 2D traffic. I don’t think 3D will end well for those people… and cell phones… cell phones

    Just imagine 150 million people in the air during rush hour with probably more than 50% of them having no business piloting anything that flies. It won’t be pretty.
    .
    .
    .
    All that said, you might be right about it being possible in 50 or so years. But as p.g. noted above, the regulatory framework for autos came after cars became ubiquitous. That’s not the case for flying cars, VTOL or not.

  21. The True Nolan says:

    @Logau Overhead wires? Hmmm…. Why use overhead wires when you can pull a wire behind you?
    https://www.nbcnews.com/mach/science/look-sky-it-s-400-mph-train-ncna891771?icid=related

  22. E.M.Smith says:

    @TTN:

    Now that’s a keeper ;-) Looks a lot like a remake of the Ekranolplan
    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lun-class_ekranoplan

    Hauling massive amounts of stuff and people using ground effect. One over the seas, this new one over rail and electric…

    @Folye:

    I’d love to believe that wonderful story. The problem is, I’ve heard it my entire life and I’m all out of “This Time For Sure!” buttons.

    It isn’t about cost of build or new tech. IF it were about cost, we’d have had these ages ago. From gyrocopters to fabric Taylorcraft there’s LOADS of incredibly cheap incredibly easy things to fly. At one time, about the early 50’s, there were even subdivisions being built with hangers in every home as Piper and Cessna were cranking out nice personal aircraft reasonably cheap.

    By 15 years later, when I was in ground school, the FAA had gotten busy with a load of regulations so thick it would choke a horse… but instead strangled the Private Pilot industry. I know, I’m one of the “strangle-ees” as I basically gave up on ever owning my own aircraft.

    There have been at least 1/2 dozen “flying cars” built over the years. You can even see one in a James Bond movie. The idea isn’t new at all. The embodiment with ducted fans is only a little new. (One professor at UCD has been “developing” his ducted fan flying car for about 40 year that I personally know of… It works, but he never takes it off tether. I think it is a regulatory issue – or he’s afraid the flight controls / stability issues would crash it before he retires and the funding would dry up…)

    How bad is it?

    Folks will pay reasonably Big Money for an entirely destroyed aircraft just to get the certification placard. A “type certification” and serial number are worth big gold. They will then set about rebuilding a 50 or 70 year old aircraft, by hand, with special trades and inspections and an A&P Certified engine mechanic and all. The final product may contain no original parts, other than the placard. That is cheaper and better than trying to buy a new airplane. All while the new airplane has all manner of technical improvements, process improvements, materials improvements, labor saving, made in a factory, etc. etc. All due to the FAA. How do I know this? I’ve seen folks do it.

    Just one nearly trivial example: To pass a flight physical, you must pass a hearing test. It is to hear a whispered voice at 10 feet, IIRC. I can’t hear whispers at all, so I fail. This, BTW, is also THE regulation that gets the most waivers on appeal, but only AFTER you flunk and jump through hoops. Any idea why one must be able to hear whispers while wearing Clark noise blocking earphones in a cockpit at about 95 dB of engine racket? No, me neither…

    Last time I heard, several decades ago, it was north of $1 Million to get a type certification. I’d guess what with inflation and all, that will be closer to $5 Million now. Say you manufacture 20,000 aircraft (a truly gigantic number, BTW, most are closer to 10,000 or less model runs). 5000000/20000 = $250/plane, and not bad at all. But say you want to start a NEW kind of light and cheap personal aircraft, and know that initial sales will be slow as you are basically limited to the exiting pool of pilots and that’s small. You have a bright idea how to make one for $10,000 and figure you can sell 100 the first year (being an optimist). OK, now you have 5000000/100= 50,000 of regulatory burden. At $50,000 / plane, your going to sell those 100 for $60,000 each (plus sales commissions and and and). Your 100 buyers just walked out the door.

    That’s the hurdle every aircraft manufacturer faces. The type certification start-up hump. Ether you blow off a few $Million to get started and hope someday, maybe, somehow, to make it back; or you sell your airplane at ridiculous “6 Figure” prices. Thus all the 6 figure airplanes… and the very small market size, causing few potential pilots to bother getting a license.

    In order for your “vision” to work, you will need a few things in the way of “regulatory relief”. Way more than I can list here, but for starters:

    1) Waving the pilot physical exam requirements. This may be possible with enough automation, IFF you can get regulations written to allow automated piloting…
    2) Approval for automated routing infrastructure and automated “lane following” for high traffic skyways. Facts not in evidence for capacity to do this… Infrastructure missing too.
    3) A BIG FAT SUGAR DADDY willing to sink a few dozen $Millions into your little idea (to start) and get it built ‘enough’ for the Type Certification and then more dozen $Millions to build the factory and parts supplier network. Finally, a few more dozen $Millions to develop a distribution and sales network (you don’t think Piper and Cessna dealers will be allowed to sell this do you?…)
    4) A Major City that will allow a pilot program of these things regularly running around the air space to show public acceptance and compatibility with dense urban environments. Figure only a few $Million in bribo “campaign contributions” and building landing zone retrofits / landing parks.

    After that, you will get to wait a few years for the idea to be “proven up” and for it to catch on with the public. Then, and only then, you might have a shot at recovery of some of those $Many $Millions sunk into the project / idea.

    No Sugar Daddy type I know will sink that many millions into that long a time horizon gamble with that poor a set of likely returns with the exception of Elon Musk, and he’s all booked up. (IF you can show how this benefits his “Mars Colony” idea, you have a chance, otherwise it’s not happening).

    Note:

    I dearly want to be proven wrong. I want to see Flying Cars all over the place. I want to ride in one and hopefully even pilot one some day. I’m 100% for the idea and the attempt. I’m rooting for it.

    It’s just that I have 1/2 century of countervailing lived experience… so I’m not expecting it.

  23. My thoughts on a flying car (applies any time two totally different technologies are combined into one package)

    You either get a crappy airplane that you can drive on the road to and from an airport, or a crappy car that happens to fly. There are too many compromises necessary to put the two together. The same principle applies to the Amphicar of the early 1960’s. Or the larger Duckboat.

  24. p.g.sharrow says:

    One more little thing that everyone misses in this dream. The Air is not a friendly place. It can become violent and dangerous even in a clear day. with cross wind shears, up and down drafts, turbulence and vortex. Those pretty puffy white clouds up there harbor demons of violence that you can only see because some of their moisture condenses into fog/mist and makes them visible. .

  25. David A says:

    “The Hydrogen can be made with bursts of wind and solar, so can to some extent help dampen the surge instability of all that uncontrollable supply hitting the grid“

    Well then some use can possibly come out of the trillions spent on Solar and wind.
    My solar puts about 120 fewer KWH back into the grid since I got the Rav 4 Prime plug in. The little SUV is doing great. The 42 mile range is actually performing much better at 50 miles. I have not heard how Toyota is doing with their hydrogen car. The Rav 4 has a 600 mile range on a 14.5 gallon tank. However every 50 mile recharge while using that tank adds plus’s 50 miles. Doing a regular drive 3 times a week I am getting right at 1000 miles per 14.5 gallons

  26. E.M.Smith says:

    @David A.:

    I’d love to have a “Plug in hybrid” with about 50+ miles range. It would cover almost all of my “around town” driving (60 would do it…) and the regenerative braking would be a big boost to energy efficiency. Maybe someday…

    In the early ’70s to mid ’70s (before the Great Pacific Climate Shift) the hot topic was CAT – Clear Air Turbulence. We lost a bunch of airplanes to it sometimes on final approach, some on takeoff. It was stressed in my ground school. After the shift, it just sort of became uninteresting. Now, with the atmosphere “shortened” again as the sun went quiet, the vertical air flow seems to have picked up again. An unbroken year or three of no fatal airliners was terminated shortly after the shift back with a few crashes… I think all that matters.

    IIRC, downdrafts (especially near thunderheads) can reach 2000 ft/min. Most private aircraft can not climb at that rate. If you hit CAT of that scale near the ground, you will crash.

    FWIW, an exemplar of the prior attempt at the Everyone Plane:

    https://www.smithsonianmag.com/travel/ercoupe-was-airplane-anyone-can-fly-until-it-wasnt-180956769/

    The Ercoupe has the rudder tied into the wheel so it quasi auto-coordinates ruder and elevator in turn. No rudder pedals needed.

    From a comment:

    I took lessons in an Ercoupe at Skyranch in Denver in 1946. Soloed in 5 hrs. Sold new for $3695.

    Rental $8 / hr wet. A little tricky landing in a crosswind. Instructor, $3 /hr more.

    Figure that at about $36k today. Approachable if still a bit expensive.

    From the article:

    In October 1945, the future of travel sat in a glistening showroom in a Manhattan Macy’s. Alongside the department store staples of household appliances, gentlemen’s socks and ladies’ girdles was a small, all-metal, two-seater airplane. This was the Ercoupe, “the airplane that anyone could fly.”

    Built by the Engineering and Researching Corporation (ERCO), the Ercoupe was billed as “America’s first certified spin-proof plane.” It was safe: Ads called it the “world’s safest plane” and compared its handling to that of the family car. Others vouched for its affordability, emphasizing that it cost less than $3,000 (about $39,000 today). It was also a media sensation: LIFE Magazine called it “nearly foolproof” and the Saturday Evening Post asked readers to not look at it “as another airplane, but as a new means of personal transportation.”
    […]
    It was the “plane of tomorrow, today.” But by 1952, the Ercoupe was basically out of production. Seven decades later, the question remains — what happened?
    […]
    For a while, the plane even seemed to be impervious to world events. Though ERCO only manufactured 112 airplanes before the looming war effort halted production, it started selling the plane as soon as World War II ended. By the end of 1945, the airplane was in department stores across the country – from Denver to Baltimore, from San Antonio to Allentown. Celebrities like Dick Powell and Jane Russell bought and endorsed the airplane. The Secretary of the Interior Henry Wallace flew an Ercoupe solo. Magazine and newspaper features were written highlighting the safety, accessibility and affordability of the Ercoupe.

    ERCO’s marketing blitz worked: During the first year, the company took over 6,000 orders. To keep up with demand, Berliner increased production, firmly believing the boom was here to last. By mid-1946, the ERCO factory in Riverdale was producing 34 airplanes a day.

    Then, it all fell apart.
    […]
    The Ercoupe’s journey from boom to bust happened seemingly overnight. First, production outpaced demand. A brief economic downturn in 1946 spooked would-be purchasers. And professional pilots voiced their suspicion of the plane, pointing out that while the plane was safe in the hands of an experienced operator, descents and speed drops could prove to be fatal for the average consumer.

    In the end, only 5,140 Ercoupes were produced. Just two years after taking America by storm, Berliner sold the rights to his plane. Seven years after it was introduced, production of the plane ceased for good.

    It actually didn’t cease for good… it has been sold to a couple of makers since then who crank out a small batch, then sell it on. Now called Aircoupe it was made by ALON:
    https://www.aopa.org/go-fly/aircraft-and-ownership/aircraft-fact-sheets/alon-aircoupe

    My Guess is that a whole lot of folks heard “easy to fly as a car” and figured they would get one, then ran smack into the FAA Pilot License Requirements. Ground school, flight training, et. al. Pretty soon you realize this process is going to be painful and expensive. Oh, and like a boat, you get to pay someone every single month to have it parked somewhere…

    Finally, insurance costs and such start to chew at you.

    My old college roomie bought a Cessna 172? IIRC. Got to pay for a hanger 30 miles south of here for a few years. Realized that the cost of “staying current” with his license and paying for a plane he rarely flew were just not “worth it” and sold it all, let his certificate lapse. So what do you think the typical person NOT familiar with all that Red Tape and such will do with their “Affordable Airplane”? His was very affordable as he bought it old and used. Somewhere around $15K in the late ’70s or early ’80s I think it was. It was certified to run on car gasoline too (a huge feature) so cost of operation was not too bad. BUT the pain and suffering of dealing with the whole collection of “crap” wore him down.

    From hanger costs, to time getting to the airport, to time spent prepping and pre-flighting the plane and flying sometimes just to stay current, so you can fly, and getting check rides and inspections and and and… They have made “private pilot” a royal pain in the ass to get and keep your certificate.

    FWIW, my last attempt at it was in the mid-’80s at a glider school. Booked some hours, and when I was about ready to solo (maybe 3 hours to go?) they shut down the glider port and moved it about 60 miles away. The land now has buildings on it. I was busy with a LOT of work and a new family and just could not take 2 hours of driving AND a lesson, so “let it go”. However, I was happy with my ability to take off, fly, and land a glider. It’s a hoot! (And no hearing qualification required…)

    If it were easier to get a license and fly, I’d be doing it already. Cost of airplane not relevant to my NOT being a pilot. It’s all the “other stuff”…

  27. philjourdan says:

    @Foyle – boy do I have some lakefront property to sell you in Florida!!!

  28. Canadian Friend says:

    @Foyle

    Nope

    things are not about to all become electric, its been tried before multiple times, failed each time

    but of course a totalitarian government could impose electric cars on us just like they can impose masks and vaccine for something no worse than the flu

    electric cars were around about 100 years ago, as a matter of fact in the first days of the automobile no one was sure if steam, electricity or gasoline cars would become the most popular.

    All 3 types were available, people bought all three, until people realized that gasoline cars made the more sense.

    That is why in the last 100 years or so, gasoline engines have been sold by thousands of millions along the decades

    that is why today even though the government PAYS customers to buy electric cars, LESS than 3 % of the population can be convinced to buy one

    I could provide links, but you would probably not look at them and dismiss them

    here are a few facts

    In many nations the government PAYS customers to buy electric cars, for example here in Quebec Canada, the government will PAY you up to $13,000 to buy an electric cars…yet despite this HUGE gift in CAHS less than 3 % of Quebecers buy an electric car

    Many if not most US states also pay people to buy electric cars…yet less than 3 % of Americans buy electric cars

    Here are number for the whole planet

    average number of cars sold on the planet each year ; 70 MILLION

    number of electric cars sold last year ; 1.7 MILLION

    that is less than 3 %

    Do we have to PAY people to buy hamburgers? color tvs? shoe?

    The government pays our hard earned taxes and PAYS people to buy electrics

    Electric cars are so NOT desirable that they have to pay people to buy them !!!!

    A couple weeks ago an article revealed that in California where there is relatively a lot of electric cars, half of the people who had owned an electric cars said they would never buy another one again

    in other words, after owning and driving an electric car for a few years, half the people dislike it so much that the next car they buy is one that runs on gasoline

    In places with harsh winters (such as the entirety of Canada,…where I live ) electric cars make even LESS sense because in cold winter weather the batteries lose roughly half their power and the car loses half its range!

    So despite that $13,000 gift from the government ( taken out of hard working tax payers smart enough to drive gasoline cars ) most Canadians do not want to buy a car that loses half its range in winter and makes you feel very unsafe as the heating also comes from the battery!!!

    Infracstucture would not change much

    electric cars take a long time to recharge

    yes you can use the fast charge, but it shortens the battery life, it makes the battery over heat ( which is why so many Teslas catch fire )

    But even on fast charge, the time it takes to recharge your electric car is ( if memory serves) roughly 30 minutes

    Filling up a gas tank takes at most 3 minutes

    So, lets do simple maths here

    even if there was a lot of charging stations, you would still have to wait at least 30 minutes for the guy ahead of you to recharge his car

    and if there are 3 people ahead of you, then you have to wait 90 minutes before it is your turn to spend 30 minutes “”” fast-charging””” your electric car ( that in winter needs to be recharged TWICE as often )

    There are short waiting lines at gas stations because it takes 3 minutes to fill up a gas tank

    but when it takes 30 minutes , the waiting lines get much much longer

    Electric vehicle, be it cars, boats, motorcycles, airplanes have been around for decades, maybe one day they will be efficient enough but right now no they are not

    Speaking of innefficiency

    when wind falls below 9 Miles per hour, a wind mill stops producing electricity

    when it is cloudy or when it is dark ( as it is at night ) solar panels cannot produce electricity

    The green dream for now anyway is but a dream

    the technology is not ready and will take probably another 50 or 100 years before it can replace gasoline, diesel, coal and other such things

    Well the government could force us to go electric, but that would not mean electric is better, it would only mean that a totalitarian dictatorship can impose whatever it wants on a docile under informed people

    Electric airplanes are the least likely electric vehicle to ever be efficient.

    The weight of the battery alone would defeat the purpose

    oh and “”” zero emission “”” is a lie

    electric cars are no more zero emissions than my credit card is zero dollars

    I use zero dollars when I purchase something on my credit card, yes, but later I will have to pay with actual money

    the tv paid on my credit card at the end of the month or the end of the year will cost me real dollars

    the electricity recharging the “”” zero emission””” car is made by burning something, either gas, coal or wood ( in ENgland close to half the electricity is made by burning wood imported from the USA and shipped on diesel burning ships…and YES I have links to everything, everything I say is true )

    Also making an electric car requires digging for minerals and rare earth metals, all of this requires diesel machinery, gasoline trucks, trains and ships that run on diesel to transport the minerals or parts made from them, and mine digging uses billions of gallons of water that is then contaminated and rejected in the environment, and those gigantic mines destroy the environment, not to mention often the people working in them are under paid, sometimes children if not slaves

    “”” zero emission””” is a ridiculous lie

    building an electric car uses as as much resources and causes as much harm to the planet and to the people and then it pollutes but not where it runs, it pollutes where the electricity is produced

    This comment is already way too long I know

    But I could go on with more information about electric cars and all that green energy mirage…mirage or scam? scam is more like it.

    for example that the largest ever solar plant in the world was such a failure that they closed it about 2 years ago

    That China may have the largest number of electric cars but that most of their electricity is made from burning coal, thus those cars run on BURNED COAL, they are NOT zero emission at all.

  29. jim2 says:

    For those with a short attention span, allow me to summarize Canadian Friend @ https://chiefio.wordpress.com/2021/08/03/electric-jet-specs-sucky/#comment-148447

    Electric Cars Suck.

  30. Canadian Friend says:

    @Jim2

    seconds before you posted the link to my first comment, I posted a new comment

    the link seems to link to my new comment instead of to the older comment

    sorry!

  31. jim2 says:

    Don’t sweat the small stuff, CF.

  32. tom0mason says:

    I wonder how well those electric planes react to being hit by hail or the odd bird?

  33. rhoda klapp says:

    There’s a certified electric aircraft. Here’s an article about its running costs:
    https://www.flyer.co.uk/a-year-in-the-life-of-pipistrels-velis-electro/

    Seems to cost over $200K. I’ll wait.

  34. cdquarles says:

    To second what our gracious host said about flying, I also got into it (dad was Korea era Air Force). After a few lessons, I got out of it. Too expensive and high maintenance for me. Average Joe or Jane? Way out of their reach for now, if not forever.

  35. E.M.Smith says:

    @Canadian Friend:

    At about 8 years old, I got to see an antique Electric Car at a local Antique Dealer shop. She had it in her garage next to her shop. It did not run. I asked about it. She said it needed new batteries and she was unable to pay for them then. I suppose she eventually sold it as an antique… but in prior years it had been her car around town. Town was about 2 miles across, so it was a very good fit for the job.

    This, BTW, was “the moment” when I realized battery life was a killer for electric cars… Every Tesla out there, when time for a battery replacement, will discover what EOL Cost Profile means.

  36. Steve C says:

    E.M., anytime you’re over in the UK, you must visit my native town, Brighton, and have a trip on Volk’s Electric Railway, 135 years old and still running!

  37. philjourdan says:

    @Canadian Friend – Your response was not too long at all. And very well written. I enjoyed the read. Thankyou

  38. E.M.Smith says:

    @Steve C:

    We’re hoping to do a Europe Tour in about 2 years, maybe sooner, so I’ll look for it!

  39. YMMV says:

    Volk’s Electric Railway http://volkselectricrailway.co.uk/history/the-volks-electric-railway/1883-1900/

    1883: “a quarter of a mile of 2ft gauge line … Power was provided by a 2hp Otto gas engine driving a Siemans D5 50 volt DC generator. The small electric car was fitted with a 1½hp motor giving a top speed of about 6mph.”

    1884: added new line. “The uprated power plant in the ‘Arch’ consisted of an Otto 12 hp gas engine powering a Siemens D2 dynamo at 160 rpm. This gave an output of 160 volts at 40 amps – more than sufficient to propel the two new cars along the 1,400 yard long line.”

    “Current was fed to the motors on the cars by using one running rail as the live feed and the other for the return. One wheel of each axle on the cars was fitted with a wooden centre thus preventing a short circuit. Unfortunately leakage to earth caused by the wet conditions – especially where the line dipped under the Chain Pier – caused enough problems for an insulated third rail to be fitted in 1886 offset from the sea-side running rail to provide the live feed with return now allowed through both running rails.”

    For comparison, SF cable car system: 23 lines established between 1873 and 1890.

  40. Steve C says:

    @YMMV – Oh, well, such is life. I was quoting Volk’s own promotion, starting with my own childhood memories of it when it was half its present age. I think what we have here is, in the blue corner, the American “can-do attitude”, in the red corner, one bright bloke taking on British bureaucracy. Even so, unless the recent works have ruined it, Volk’s has a wonderful “seat of the pants” feel to it and is great fun on holiday. For a start, consider that this is an electric railway running along the seafront

    If you can be on Madeira Drive (near Volk’s on the seafront) on, IIRC, the first Sunday in November, you can applaud the more successful cars in the Royal Automobile Club London to Brighton Veteran Car run, celebrating the raising of the speed limit for “Light Locomotives” from 4 to 14mph and the removal of the requirement to be preceded by a man on foot. Seeing these beautiful ancient cars running, driven by their proud owners in period dress, beats any museum hollow.

    The other thing not to miss in Brighton is the eccentric Royal Pavilion (known locally as the Dome), of which Sidney Smith quipped “Brighton Pavilion looks as if St Paul’s had slipped down to Brighton and pupped”. I remember going to a Captain Beefheart concert there back in the day, when Beefheart performed most of the set standing dwarfed inside the mouth of the biggest bass horn speaker I have ever seen. My ears bleed just at the memory!

    It’s also fair to warn potential holidaymakers that the “grains of sand” on Brighton beach are typically about two to four inches across. And that the city is run by loony Greens who accidentally burned their own Town Hall down a few years ago ;-)

  41. E.M.Smith says:

    @Steve C:

    The Railway IS electric. It’s just the source of the electricity that was gas driven (as it most of it, really, in one way or another…)

    I do hope to visit, see it all. But at present, the UK looks set on “Vaccine Passports” and that will mean I am “Persona non grata” so will not be spending Tourist $Dollars in the UK. At least until that is “fixed”.

  42. YMMV says:

    The history of railways is fascinating. It developed so fast! Once the industrial age got going.
    Greece had a rut-way — the track is grooves instead of rails — in 600 BC. China has a wooden railway in 100 BC. 1804: The first full-scale working railway steam locomotive. 1879: first electric railway. But the first electric locomotive was built in 1837 and was battery powered.
    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/History_of_rail_transport
    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Timeline_of_railway_history

  43. YMMV says:

    “I’d love to have one as a personal craft if they got the price down to about $40,000 or so”

    This is what I would love to have (but it’s not going to happen). Starts at about $70,000. Plus all the time it takes to put it together. That’s the bad news, all the rest is good. Your first reaction might be that it is just a modern Piper Cub. But that’s the good part. We all tend to think that higher and faster is better (and it is if you just want transportation). But if you just want fun, the best part is close to the ground where you get a new view but the details are still sharp. And the feeling of speed is all relative, so the higher you go, the less there is. Plus, as in all things, every time you improve something, something else is lost. Something you might not value at the time, but you will miss it later. Like fun. Like the wind in your hair. (or you can miss the hair too)

    Lots more fun videos at his website. Note that these planes are fabric&dope. Old school, but amazing stuff.

  44. Steve C says:

    @E.M. – Agree we look like going down the “Vaccine” Passport route, though TBH so does most of Europe. Now, if you could get yourself a rubber dinghy and somehow turn up in the Channel … :-( Though I’m not sure how you’d get out again.)

    @YMMV – Cool! Though I’ve always rather favoured an autogiro myself – longer takeoff, but as long as your Jesus Nut holds, you just “sycamore seed” back to earth even if ALL the rest of the mechanicals pack up!

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