August 16, 2013 – Vol.18 No.21
MORE, GREENER AIRCRAFT, YES.
Hybrid electric aircraft utilizing more airports could be a transportation choice of tomorrow.
by Bruce Mulliken, Green Energy News
Somehow I can't imagine being stuffed into a windowless capsule and shot down a tube at close to the speed of sound.
Hyperloop would need stops along the way. I can't imagine how station stops between cities would work. I can see how capsules could leave the tube; a "Y" in the tube perhaps. But how do they get back in? Would capsules somehow merge into a 700 mph traffic flow of capsules? It's hard enough to slip a 60 mph car into flowing traffic on a freeway.
For speedy, non-stop trips each city pair would need its own two pipes, to and from. The heavily populated U.S. East Coast would have a plumbing nightmare on it hands.
So far Elon Musk has done great job of bringing a top rate electric car to the market, sending rockets into space and sending money across the Internet, but Mr. Musk: Don't push too hard on this Hyperloop thing. We all make mistakes.
At it's core Hyperloop is really about introducing a new mode of greener, low-cost and faster transportation. True, something is needed. But before we attempt to build something outlandish, maybe we should take another look at a form of transportation that, as of January 1,2014, will be 100 years old: The scheduled airline.
(The first scheduled airline in the U.S. was operated by the St. Petersburg-Tampa Airboat Line (SPT Airboat Line) and flew between St. Petersburg and Tampa, Florida on an across-the-bay trip in a two passenger Benoist air boat that lasted about 20 minutes. The airline made two round trips a day, six days a week. After 1205 passengers, four months time, but no crashes, the company shut down.)
Maybe air transportation needs a total remodeling, a major do-over, with the eye on making money and transporting more people by air to more destinations.
To begin with, high fuel prices are here to stay. Fuel costs are the thorn in the airline's side. Airplanes are cheap compared with the cost of fuel to power them. Airlines spend at least one third of their operating costs on fuel. Conventional gas turbines, those jet engines hanging from the wings, are powerful, smooth and reliable, but they are also fuel guzzlers. Maybe its time to jettison them.
There are options already in the wings, as it were:
More people take to the skies from more places.
But with more people flying where would they all fly from? Increasingly congested airports? No, from smaller airports closer to home, those that aren't utilized today for commercial service.
According to the 2011-2015 National Plan of Integrated Airport Systems (NPIAS), released by the U.S. Department of Transportation and the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), there were over 19,700 airports in the U.S. Of these, 5,170 airports are open to the general public with 503 airports offering commercial service. The majority of public airports – 2,829 – are designated as reliever or general aviation airports versus commercial service.
Those nearly 3000 airports could be upgraded to cater to passenger service increasing the number of commercial airports by a factor of 6.
Close to home air service would make it easier and more efficient to fly while bringing new business opportunities to smaller communities. The State of Alaska could be a model for study for the rest of the nation. Often, in the 49th state, the only way to get from Point A to Point B is by air.
Combine, cleaner, cheaper to operate hybrid aircraft with the utilization of nearly 3000 airports and you'd have a new kind of transportation without building a myriad of people carrying tubes around the country.
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