LISA Airplanes conducts flight tests of its high-speed, long-distance AKOYA amphibious skiplane, whose structures are made primarily of composites. The plane is shown taking off at low speed from France's Bourget Lake. (Source: LISA Airplanes)
So maybe now that the price of composites is coming down we will see more innovative designs like this? Designers and engineers can only do so much with aircraft aluminum and fiberglass. Can our 1950s flying car be far behind?
I want one! We have a neighborhood in our town called Aero Estates. They have their own runway, and all the houses have 3 car garages and a hangar. The taxiways are in the back between the houses. With one of these, I could park it in the third bay of my conventional garage and just tool down the street to the runway. Almost a flying car.
Beth, this is a very high-end, upscale, custom built, leather-seats type of aircraft for private use. williamlweaver, you made me laugh--yes, this does make me think of our 1950s flying cars. And naperlou, sounds like you live near a community that's already set up for the AKOYA.
Actually this and the Terrafugia, which we've written about, show the flying car is just around the corner. The Terrafugia, which I've personally seen and sat in, has wings that fold up and can operate on the road or in the air. This week, Terrafugia announced that its prototype plane, the Transition, had completed its first flight and it's aiming to get the car/plane to market by next year. I've also read about another company who is working on the flying car and claims to have already tested a maiden flight. The company is PAL-V and it has a video on its Web site of the craft's first flight.
Over the last 10 yrs composite material OEM prices have doubled!! They keep talking about CF price dropping but where is it?
2 flying cars have first flights this week and others have been around for 50 yrs like the Taylor Aero-Car. Interesting it's composite was paper varnished? together!!!!!! Sadly hard to find the old fiber Kraft paper for bags now, just glued mush.
I disagree that CF only in the load paths when Kevlar types is better in many ways in tension at much less money. Not just for ground rash protection though it really shines there too. I use a layer most inside my composite car to spread the loads and hold everything together in a crash, something CF could never do.
The plane is very impressive except it's main point, it's rather poor seakeeping hull/water design. I'm into Seaplanes and Wing In Ground Effect craft along with my 35 yrs doing boats. Looking at it's specs and comparing them to well done normal hulled Seaplanes and just don't see any fuel economy increase to back their claims.
While it's probably fine in perfect calm waters I wouldn't want to be in it in any kind of waves other Seaplanes can handle easily.
Sad part about small planes is they fall out of the sky way too often. I belonged to the EAA and planes were killing way too many mostly because of stalls. Yet there are plane designs that can't stall yet everyone keeps buying these doctor killers as many call them.
One design that I like is called the Spratt control wing where each wing pivots about it's Center of Lift set so the wing dips, picking up speed, instead of stalling automatically. I have a seaplane designed this way I hope to do in a few yrs.
Hi @Jerry, I no longer work with composites here in academia so I'm surprised and curious to hear about the rising price of composite material. Are you talking about the raw fiber, such as woven CF and Kevlar? I would expect that the raw CF and Kevlar fiber and weaves production process would be highly automated and subject to downward price pressure due to economies of scale.
If you are talking about OEM composite parts, I can appreciate the increase in cost. The limiting manufacturing step in composite part production continues to be layup and fiber orientation, most often provided by highly-skilled manual labor. I'm guessing that as composites become more popular, engineers and tool designers will set to the task of automating the layup process.
Composites sell starting at 100+ lb lots for fiber or polyster resins used to cost $1-2/lb for various fiberglasses with higher tech ones the higher side. Now they are hitting about 2x's that.
Composites have been scaled since 65 and 1 reason I like it as I can buy OEM size lots at OEM prices. Here in Fla we have the largest boat industry in the US so you won't find a lot of things but, we have composite, boat suppliers coming out of our ears so a very competitive market with all the players.
Epoxies have too as have various cores starting at higher levels. Cores especially have went up which is interesting as they have the least material. I'm just getting back into composites and haven't got the most recent CF, Kevlar prices but price in news items about it haven't come down. As I have need of Kevlar or similar fabric soon I'll be finding out exactly how much.
For most the inflation over the last 10 yrs caused by Repub stupid energy, war, ballooning debt policies has over doubled raw materials and CEO's, board members salaries have increased greatly is the main driver as energy as oil feedstock for many resins or for converting sand to FG, etc takes costly fuels, are the main reasons .
As for highly trained labor if I can't teach someone in a few hrs they are history. Then have them help some else for a couple months. If they are not really good by then, bye. It's how I started and just not hard.
Hand lay-up Labor, molds, etc for composite parts is rarely more than materials cost and usually far less, depending on number, etc. If hand layup is worth it depends on the part and it's value. Larger and strong, light part specs is hand lay up sweet spot.
I've done the numbers on car body/chassis and have one a few feet from me says they can be built for the same or less than in steel, alum while being stronger, better. I can do that for about any car, truck design cutting vehicle weight, thus cost by 30+%, thus better mileage and smaller drivetrain, saving much cost.
The reason you don't see them is big auto is afraid of building a car, truck that doesn't rust away thus needing replacement. Same with EV's, too few parts to replace, sell.
Luckily resins, Kevlar can be made from biomass. Solar furnaces can produce FG and likely CF from sand and biomass. CF is already made from biomass. Add it's high strength, lightweight and doesn't rust and for many things it's the smart choice.
Thanks for the detailed reply, @Jerry. Valuable information! When it comes to the use of composites in automobiles, do you really suspect the disruptive nature of a non-rusting last forever component or could it be safety? I know tensile strength and toughness of composites far surpass the values for steel and light-weight alloys, but I have not seen a composite vehicle in a crash test. I just don't have any data on how a 2000-lb composite passenger car would make out in a collision with a 4500-lb steel-frame SUV...
Rusting away is a good part of it but just as important is it's not the way they do it mentality also. Now add they weigh under 500kg in the 2 seat sizes and they just can't handle that much change.
As far as crash protection it can be excellent as always the correct design means even more. I use F-1 crash tech, hard driver/passenger area with energy absorbing ends.
While I think another SUV hitting an SUV won't be good either with good design lighter composite vehicles can survive better than in steel. Some of my designs crash systems is patentable but others like foam, l etc are well known as is the way F1's keep a driver safe at 200mph into a hard wall and walk away.
Probably the best use of my FreedomEV all composite 2 front wheel 3wheeler is for cop patrol with a single center seat that if well 4-5 point seatbelted in could survive almost anything. And cutting their energy use by 90% in that service especially in the southern heat with the AC, etc run from the batteries. Burning 20hp to get 1kw just isn't smart.
Another thing in light vehicles is you can't put too much force on them as if designed to, will just get pushed, spun usually, aside. I know this from experiece!!! I was rear ended in one by a compact car at about 25mph which totaled the car and only cost me $40 to get mine back on the road with no injuries to me.
Why is I designed the rear wheel to take the hit which also raises up the rear letting the car slide under it and worked just as designed. I never expected to test it and was extremely happy it worked ;^P
If they wanted to they know how. Check out these GM Ultralite, RunAbout and Aero they did decades ago. And 80mpg or better!! Yet they can't do it now? Why? Because it scares the hell out of them to change.
Beth, to answer your question, designs like this are unlikely to ever be comercialized. The plane will probably be sold as a homebuilt kit. Experimental designs are prohibited by the FAR's from use other than recreational. There are a few exceptions but those are mostly for flight training rather than comercial. All the hype about electric powered aircraft is also baloney. E-planes make less sense than e-cars. The weight factor of the batteries makes it much harder to take off. Cars don't want to leave the ground so they can get away with an extra 500 pounds, but in a 2 place aircraft that might amount to the entire payload. I do like the use of composites though. The high initial cost-to-manufacture being the only serious concern. Not just the cost of the composites, but also the price of the molds and attachments. That said I think the plane looks realy exciting and hope they do well. I am an EAA member and homebuilder myself so I'm generally for anything that promotes General Aviation. Bill J
The AKOYA is not designed to be sold as a kit--it's a fully functional, customized plane for very well-to-do people for their entirely private use. That said, we can still compare it from the design and function standpoints to flying cars.
Ann, I may have missed it but I didn't see FAA certified anywhere in the article. Their website suggests you, "can build in the functionality you want." Which doesn't suggest a complete go-buy-it aircraft. I like the design but I have seen many manufacturers die while trying to acheve FAA certification. A current example, Lancair Columbia, then Columbia, and after money problems the design was purchased by Cessna. If they already have certification I wish them well. It is a VERY hard market to succeed in. Bill
Bill, the AKOYA is designed and custom built by a French company, not an American one. The FAA has no say about aircraft built and flown in Europe, only about those sold in the US.
"Build in the functionality you want" is a metaphor, not an invitation to a kit builder. The website clearly states "LISA Airplanes - a French company with international ambitions - creates, produces and distributes top of the range airplanes, products and services."
Yes, this new plane is very exciting, apparently a breakthrough design in the general aviation catagory, picking up where past great sea planes, like the Otter, left off. The problem, from my prospective, is that it is being designed and manufactured in France, instead of the USA. What is wrong with our national industrial climate when an over regulated, over taxed and inefficient unionized workforce in France can make a cutting edge product like this, while a US-based icon of small plane manufacturing, Hawker Beechcraft, struggles with backruptcy? We'd better get smart, fast, and fix the manufacturing environment in the US, or we will be collectively "Out of Business". I don't know all the answers, but I'm pretty sure France is succeeding *despite* the hinderances mentioned above, not because of them, As such, these are elements we need to eliminate or minimize to regain our competitive edge, not grow, as the Democrats would lead us to believe.
ChasChas, what a great metaphor--a single-tool Swiss Army knife. I also like the incredible economy of function. Too bad this isn't being considered in the commercial sector--but design ideas can certainly cross markets.
One place this design might find a lot of use is in Alaska. Long distances, lots of snow and water would seem to be an ideal set of requirements for this airplane to fulfill. Also Alaska has a long history of bush pilots and airplanes. Not that this design is anything like a bush plane.
Automakers are on the prowl for lighter weight materials to make vehicles less heavy and more fuel efficient, and Nanosteel is one of the companies hoping to take advantage of this opportunity with their lightweight automotive steel of the same name.
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