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Hybrid aircraft design: a flying whale or a spruce goose?

Posting in Aerospace

  

wale.JPG
 

A freelance Spanish industrial designer is making waves with a concept plane that’s a radical departure from today’s jetliners due to its focus on efficiency, sustainability and size.

Oscar Viñals has envisioned the aptly named AWWA “Sky Wale” differently than any known aircraft. Everything from how passengers board, through its take off, flight, and landing has been re-envisioned. The hulking three-story, 755-passenger composite plane would take to the air vertically with pivoting engines, and large upswept wings with integrated turbines that control air flow and generate power.

The Sky Whale’s hybrid propulsion system would operate like an electric vehicle, using electric power instead of jet fuel whenever possible. The design features a double fuselage to increase flight time between refueling by reducing its weight. The avionics would be a fly-by-wire systems assisted by active sensors along its skin, which is endowed with some sort of unspecified "self healing" capability.

Did I mention that the wings also detach? 

Viñals wrote “the disposition of the wings and its architecture (with integrate engines) separated from the airplane’s fuselage like a security measure, that in a hypothetical fatal case of an emergency landing, these could auto-break up to reduce the damages on the passengers section.”

Once onboard, your floor is your status: the top floor is first class with “sky views,” business class is in the middle, and the tourist class is down below with some sort of novel virtual reality windows. That’s assuming that a business model even exists to justify the creation of this craft – the industry is currently trending away from using jumbo-sized planes and it may be incredibly costly to construct.

The Sky Whale lives up to its name, rivaling the A380 in wingspan, but the Spruce Goose might be a more appropriate comparison. The design begs the question: would it be safe to fly? At least one of Viñals’s designer peers has commented that he doesn’t believe so, critiquing perceived safety flaws in its layout.

Even still, this design could one day inspire engineers to adopt some of its principles. Science fiction (I'm not trying to be a cynic, but other Viñals concepts are for space vehicles) has a tendency to become reality. 

See here for a Sky Whale concept video:


— By on January 22, 2014, 7:34 PM PST

David Worthington

Contributing Editor

David Worthington has written for BetaNews, eWeek, PC World, Technologizer and ZDNet. Formerly, he was a senior editor at SD Times. He holds a business degree from Temple University. He is based in New York. Follow him on Twitter. Disclosure