Waiting to Go. The Boeing 747-400. An Aviation Blog Image by Owen Zupp.

Owen Zupp - Thursday, June 28, 2012

 

 

Waiting to Go.

 

A  QANTAS Boeing 747-400 nears departure time.

 

"Boeing Sun" An Aviation Image by Owen Zupp.

Owen Zupp - Sunday, April 08, 2012

"Boeing Sun."

A QANTAS Boeing 737 taxies in to the backdrop of a setting sun.

"Boeing 737. The Next Generation." (Part One) An Aviation Blog by Owen Zupp.

Owen Zupp - Sunday, March 04, 2012

         

             "Boeing 737. The Next Generation." (Part One)

 

Somewhere across the globe a Boeing 737 takes off or lands every 5 seconds and over 1200 of their compatriots are aloft at any given time. With the 7000th aircraft rolled out in December 2011, the 737 has truly brought the term ‘prolific’ to airliner production and considering the maiden flight of the 737-100 took place in 1967, it is quite appropriate that the latest metamorphism be dubbed the “Next Generation”.
 
With its title clipped to the more easily handled, “NG”, the ‘next generation’ covers the -600 through to the -900 series of the 737. Of Boeing’s latest offering the 700 and larger 800s have gone on to dominate the skies, while the ‘Max’ is still yet to come. The NGs predecessors, the -200, -300 and -400 had provided the backbone of short haul travel in a very similar way. Whilst the number of earlier models is ever dwindling, they have gone on to be referred to as ‘The Classics’ as they reflect a last bridge between the analogue and digital flight deck. Whilst a highly visible transition, the clocks and dials are but one area of many in which the Classic has been superseded.

737 Next Generation Development:
 
The 737NG program was launched in 1993 under the title of 737-X. Boeing recognized the time-tested qualities of the type, but needed to bring the efficiency of new technology and systems to its most enduring machine. Fundamentally, the 737-X was to fly higher, farther, faster and more fuel efficiently than its predecessor without evolving into a new machine requiring a new designator and certification. A challenging task to say the least.
 
Much of the efficiency revolved around the redesigned wing. With 25% more total surface area and potentially 30% more fuel capacity, the new wing has much to offer. Boasting a higher span than the Classic, the new wing is a more swept with a constant angle of sweep and double-slotted continuous span flaps. Gone is the double swept leading edge and characteristic ‘kink’ of the earlier wing. Similarly, there have been changes to the leading and trailing edge flaps that have resulted in weight saving as well as aerodynamic efficiency. For all of the improvements to the aerofoil and lift augmentation devices, the most visible change to the wing and the aircraft generally, is the emergence of blended winglets on the 737.
 
The smooth, upward sweeping fairings at the tips stand a prodigious 2.4 metres and increase the span by a metre and a half. Simply put, the winglets benefit the aircraft through the reduction of induced drag and consequently improved operational and economic performance. Whilst yielding an impressive 4% saving in mission block fuel, the winglets also increase the 800s range by over 100nm. (Source: Boeing) Improved performance out of ‘hot, high and humid’ airfields is another advantage of the blended winglet. In fact, this aerodynamic device has proved so successful that it is now being retrofitted to 757s as well as 737s.

 

                                       

                                                          The Flight Deck of the Boeing 737-800.

 
The NG also sees the introduction of GPS to the 737 navigation system. Previously only equipped with dual Inertial Reference Systems (IRSs), the system relied upon ‘updates’ from ground based VORs and DMEs to continually refine the aircraft’s present position. Without such updates, the pictorial presentation on the map display could be inaccurate requiring the crew to heavily rely on ‘raw data’ from conventional radio navigation aids. GPS provides a far more consistently accurate map display for the crew and allows for more integration of the aircraft’s Lateral Navigation (LNAV) and Vertical Navigation (VNAV) systems. Additionally, the NG is equipped with a Predictive Windshear Warning and Enhanced Ground Proximity Warning System (EGPWS). This ‘forward-looking’ form of the original GPWS provides improved terrain clearance by such mechanisms as Terrain Clearance Floor, Look Ahead and Runway Clearance Floor algorythms.
 
Efficiency and costs savings can also be achieved on the ground. Production line improvements saw the final assembly of a 737NG in a record-breaking 11 days in 2005. On the maintenance side, the NG was developed with an eye to reducing airframe maintenance costs by 15%. Comprised of significantly less parts than the Classic, the NG was also designed with far more ‘ease of access’ for maintenance crews. Redesigned leading edges, landing gear, electronics, APU and the 15% more efficient CFM56-7 engines all contributed to the bottom line. In conjunction with improved maintenance documents, corrosion prevention and extended scheduled maintenance intervals, the 737NG has won the battle of the dollar over its forerunner.

On the flight deck, the 737NG strongly resembles its twin-engined big brother, the Boeing 777. The panel is dominated by the presence of 6 LCD panels arranged side by side, replacing the combination of EFIS and analogue that was found on the Classic. For the pilots, this means a degree of modification of their instrument scan from the vertical to the horizontal. The flight deck was designed in response to the demand by operators that a new type endorsement not be needed. As a consequence, the overhead panel closely resembles the Classic with its array of toggle switches and dials, though the operation of the system behind the switch may well be different.

 

          

                     A QANTAS Boeing 737-800 awaits its take-off clearance as another 737NG comes 'over the fence'.

 
As for achieving higher, faster, farther and more fuel efficient performance; Boeing delivered. The NG possesses greater range by more than 400nm over the earlier model, whilst topping out at FL410 (41,000 feet) as opposed to the Classic ceiling of FL370 (37,000 feet). With a typical cruise speed of 0.78M and a sprint capability to 0.82M, the NG draws away from the Classic’s average cruise of 0.745M, whilst all the while burning less fuel. Furthermore, depending on the cabin configuration, the -800 can achieve all of this while carrying around 40 more passengers than its predecessor. From humble beginnings as the 737-100 nearly 40 years ago, the 737 has kept pace with the times through ongoing development and improvement. The 737NG is no exception.
 
Technologically, some 737 NGs can be equipped with a ‘Head-Up Guidance System’ or ‘HGS’. The HGS 4000 system features a transparent drop-down screen in front of the Captain on which is projected an array of flight information, allowing the pilot to operate in lower visibility situations than would otherwise be possible. Head-Up Display (HUD) technology has been available for years on military aircraft and Alaska Airlines started flying HUD on their 727s back in the mid-80s and all of their 737-400s are equipped with the technology.
 
Some airlines have opted for the Vertical Situation Display (VSD) on their aircraft. The VSD displays the current and predicted flight path of the aircraft and indicates potential conflicts with terrain. The VSD is designed to enhance situational awareness on the flight deck and is yet another way in which the Next Generation is offering advances over its predecessor......

 

Check back later this week for the conclusion to "Boeing 737. The Next Generation."

"Late in the Day." An Aviation Blog Image by Owen Zupp.

Owen Zupp - Friday, February 24, 2012

                      

 

"Late in the Day"

"Traffic Ahead." An Aviation Blog Image by Owen Zupp.

Owen Zupp - Monday, February 20, 2012

  

    A contrail at dusk as the traffic ahead turns the corner, bound for home.

The Five Most Popular Aviation Blogs. By Owen Zupp.

Owen Zupp - Sunday, February 05, 2012

 

Hi All,

As the numbers continue to soar on this blog and a new group of readers join us, I thought it would be worthwhile to re-visit five of the most popular aviation blogs thus far. Here they are.

1. Golden Days.

2. So You Want to be a Pilot?

3. The Fatal Stall.

4. A Glimpse of the 'Red Tails'.

5. The Big Bang Theory.......of aircraft engines.

For those of you new to this aviation blog, welcome aboard! And for those that are continuing to come back, thanks for your support and please enjoy the growing list of original content.

Cheers

Owen

Nearly There. An Aviation Blog Image by Owen Zupp.

Owen Zupp - Tuesday, January 17, 2012

 

A QANTAS 747-400 makes a morning arrival at Sydney Airport.

A Boeing 747 at the rainbow's end. By Owen Zupp

Owen Zupp - Monday, January 16, 2012

                  ...even on a wet day, there's a bright side.

Something Old. Something New. An Aviation Blog by Owen Zupp.

Owen Zupp - Sunday, January 15, 2012

Despite powered flight’s mere century or so of development, it has come an awfully long way in that time. From frail craft of rag and tube to supersonic fighters of savage stealth, the range of creation seems to have only been limited by the imagination.

Yet within this sphere of rapid change and new frontiers, there have also been craft that have created their own legends. Whether in the form the Supermarine Spitfire’s classic lines, or the global reliability of the pioneering Douglas DC-3, certain aircraft have a means to charm their way into history, whilst others do not. Some have burst into the headlines announcing a revolution of sorts, while others have slowly endeared themselves through the years like a dependable friend. Occasionally, a machine will do both; the Boeing 747 is such an aeroplane.

I recently flew on the flight deck of the impressive Boeing 747-8 Freighter; an aircraft that has made a massive stride in extending the longevity of this already venerated aircraft. To add some context, it must be considered that the first Boeing 747 took to the skies on February 9th, 1969 and at the time represented a quantum leap from the already successful Boeing 707. Since that time nearly 1,500 have been built and variants have served in roles as varied as “Air Force One” to the aircraft used to piggy-back the Space Shuttle home. It changed the face of international travel and the bottom line for many of its operators. Yet despite such a tremendous history, it seemed that after 40 years its race may have been run as the Airbus A380 became the modern monolith and mammoth twin-jets began to stretch across many of the routes the 747 had called home. But the 747 still had one more card to play.

The 747-8 boasts a new wing, with both stylish and effective raked wingtips as well as engine and flight deck technology common to its younger stable-mate, the Boeing 787. In addition to the 747-8F freighter, there is the 747-8I ‘Intercontinental’ passenger version with a stretched fuselage and an increased fuel capacity compared to its 747-400 predecessor. The 747-8 is a modern, more efficient model of a proven performer that will see the type flying even further into the 21st Century.

Through the astute, ongoing adaptation of an established aircraft, the Boeing 747 has not only survived, but flourished, while other models have come and gone. In the beginning it was a wide-body revolutionary, with its upper deck and enormous capacity. However, its ability to remain at the top of its field is by every count equally impressive.

While the 747 has proven to be a giant in both name and nature, a team of aerospace engineers have been busily starting their own revolution at the opposing end of the slide rule. Far from a long range mammoth, they have been exploring the possibilities of air travel on a very small scale. However, the project is only small in terms of physical dimensions as its potential has this aircraft fighting well above its weight. This is no “Jumbo Jet”; in fact it is the “Puffin”.

Born from a Doctoral degree by aerospace engineer, Mark Moore, the Puffin is a concept aircraft designed to uplift a sole occupant. On the face of it, that doesn’t sound too special, however, consider that the craft is electrically powered and stands upright on four legs before lifting off vertically and transitioning into level flight with the pilot lying prone. Offering VTOL capability and reasonable horizontal flight performance in a manner reminiscent of the VF22 Osprey, this little bird packs a punch.

The Puffin is a far cry from the novel ‘rocket’ back packs that have emerged from time to time since the Germans first investigated the subject in World War Two. The pilot is enclosed and by virtue of its electric powerplant it is not only efficient, but stealthy. Being low on both noise and thermal signature, potential roles for the Puffin include the rapid deployment of elite troops and the delivery of supplies as an unmanned vehicle. Its quiet noise footprint would also render it desirable in a civil application as a personal transport.

With a basic weight well under 200 kg, including the 45kg battery, the Puffin has the ability to cruise around 140kt and sprint to 280kt. As with all electric vehicles, the battery technology is a limiting factor and gives the Puffin a range of only about 80 kilometres for the moment, but that is bound to improve along with the batteries. This is no longer the stuff of cartoons like ‘The Jetsons’, this is an emerging frontier with the evolving technology to support the concept. The first third scale unmanned Puffin is set to fly shortly and the interest in this project is bound to grow.

Behind the great aerospace advances are the men in the white coats with their vision and their science. In a field of endeavour so often associated with wings, gold bars and epaulettes, these ‘shadow men’ are the unsung heroes of the aerospace industry. They conjure the concepts and breathe life into them through uncompromising calculation. Without them, the 747 could not become a legend and the Puffin could not become reality. As a planet, we would never have heard the words about “one small step for a man...”

We were once told that the sky was the limit, but this has been proven not to be the case. As legends continue to fly farther and faster and new birds make their first tentative hops, it is worth considering the legacy of the men, women and machines that have gone before. For aviation, sometimes the way ahead will involve extracting one more dance out of a proven performer, while other tasks will call for an entirely new approach. As with so many aspects of life, the choice may come down simply to something old, something new.

 

Title image from NASA.

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