September 16, 2002
7:40 PM   Subscribe

Looks like Boeing finally decided to exploit the wing-in-ground effect. Did they get inspired by the most famous ekranoplan ever, the Caspian Sea Monster?
posted by titboy (22 comments total)
For another great Soviet-era example of a WIG ekranoplan, do a Google search for "Orlyonok" (means "chicken hawk" or "eaglet" or something like that in Russian).
posted by alumshubby at 7:53 PM on September 16, 2002

I'm curious why they don't make it a water-landing craft. Seems like that would make sense.
posted by SpecialK at 8:03 PM on September 16, 2002

Searched the site, but couldn't find any explanation as to why WIG technology is only efficient on the scale of "thousands of tonnes". I'm not a physicist, so the reasoning isn't obvious to me. Does anyone have a link?
posted by Hildago at 8:17 PM on September 16, 2002

Could you imagine being out on a fishing charter and having that monstrous thing come cruising by about a foot above the bridge?
posted by mr_crash_davis at 8:22 PM on September 16, 2002

Good point... I wonder what would happen to a boat if a Pelican flew slightly over it.
posted by titboy at 8:24 PM on September 16, 2002

Wasn't the Spruce Goose larger than that?
posted by stevis at 8:24 PM on September 16, 2002

The Spruce Goose only had a wingspan of 320 feet.
posted by titboy at 8:28 PM on September 16, 2002

Spruce Goose specs.
posted by mr_crash_davis at 8:29 PM on September 16, 2002

Crikey. Beaten to the punch.
posted by mr_crash_davis at 8:30 PM on September 16, 2002

Boeing claims it wants to build an airplane bigger than this

i mean look at this baby
posted by nish01 at 8:31 PM on September 16, 2002

Hildago: From the WIG link above (What is a WIG/Introduction page), the problem is the relative height. For smaller craft (avoiding the whole boat/plane confusion) the optimal height for the WIG effect isn't large enough to be clear of waves. The relative height increases (presumably) with the area under the wing, and this increases the carrying capacity. It would need to be on that scale to get the big efficiency benefits that would make it preferable to a 747 making a trans-Atlantic run.

Or something - I thought I had it when I started writing, but I didn't get much sleep last night.
posted by wilberforce at 8:58 PM on September 16, 2002

Something that big and heavy is going to need a very large runway. I would think having an amphibious version would be more flexible, but I guess unloading 17 M1 tanks over water would be, um, tricky.
posted by Tacodog at 11:27 PM on September 16, 2002

The picture of the Pelican's engines just reminded me: what ever happened to the research in swept-back, counter-rotating pusher props? When I was in high school I remember reading scads of articles about them and haven't heard anything since. Doing a google got me nothing, but that's probably because I don't have the terms correct.
posted by Tacodog at 11:29 PM on September 16, 2002

Taco - From my understanding, there is a Russian attack copter that uses them as it's main rotor. However, I remember reading articles about the amount of maintenance the driveshafts required -- an amount that would make conter-rotating props not quite feasable for commercial or private use.
posted by SpecialK at 11:34 PM on September 16, 2002

Yeah, smart move. Just imagine that bird crashing into a supertanker. What a movie! And hey, it's gona fly 20 feet above the see. A lot of waves are higher than that. Wet bird!
posted by ugly_n_sticky at 12:04 AM on September 17, 2002

More on this from the BBC.
posted by saintsguy at 12:20 AM on September 17, 2002

Huge low flying plane + LA class attack sub that's always ramming things = a whole lotta 'splainin' to do.
posted by Tacodog at 12:29 AM on September 17, 2002

That was the problem for the caspain sea monster (I love saying that). Anything more impressive than a light chop and it sunk. Not entirely clever. I'd love to see the day when these things can be made practical though becuase well, they're just so cool to look at!
posted by nedrichards at 2:05 AM on September 17, 2002

The picture of the Pelican's engines just reminded me: what ever happened to the research in swept-back, counter-rotating pusher props?

Research showed that while they were quieter and a little more fuel efficient that the turbofans of the time (They were tested on a 727-200 and a DC-9-30), the extra maintenance required by the vibration of the large fan wasn't worth it. Then, fuel prices dropped, and advances in turbofan engines made them more efficient and quieter -- a 777-300 is far quieter than the 727-200, even though it has almost fourth times the power, three times the range, and can haul three times as many passengers. So, unducted fans are on the shelf.
posted by eriko at 7:10 AM on September 17, 2002

Thanks specialK and eriko. I learnded sumthin' today.
posted by Tacodog at 9:44 AM on September 17, 2002

A recent ekranoplan discussion. The only present commercial WIG vehicles are in fact small transports being used in the Bahamas, but as noted the wave height can be a problem, so they are limited to calm seas. For similar reasons, the boom in hovercraft ferries has reverted to the slower but more versatile catamaran.

And what Tacodog says about tanks. That was my first thought! Water landing is a useful variation for use in bush territory where runways are scarce. It isn't the best option for massive cargo transport.

The key thing that stood out for me here was the range: 10,000 miles. That gets you to Diego Garcia in one flight -- and from Diego, to just about anyplace the military might need to deploy. (Still, a lot of the efficient routes pass over too much land -- which might be hostile to overflights in given political conditions.) This isn't so much Boeing's thing as the military transformation thing, enhancing air mobility for faster deployment. Commercial uses are an afterthought; it won't happen if the Pentagon
posted by dhartung at 7:10 PM on September 17, 2002

Several things come to mind:

1) Wtf? Didn't the Russians conclusively prove that the double-body ground-effect planes were the only way to go? I was under the impression that the only reason the single-hulled ones even existed was because of a cult-of-personality surrounding the engineer who lead that particular program in Russia. The doubles get much better ground effect, even at altitudes hundreds of feet above the surface.

2) Wtf? Didn't the Russians prove that these things were way too jittery when it came to moving cargo front-to-back? Throw off the balance even slightly and the thing plummets into the water.

In general, though, I am thouroughly unimpressed by Boeing on this one. People have been pushing this technology forever, and now when they finally get around to doing something about it its with a design proposal that could easily have been drafted twenty years ago. The Russians are literally that far ahead on this one, just like with the Shkval.
posted by Ptrin at 8:21 PM on September 17, 2002

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