June 26, 2008 It's safe to say that there is a transport revolution underway. Driven by the need for cleaner, more efficient and more versatile vehicles, it's delivering an unprecedented number of radical and innovative designs for the road, sea, and for the air. The latest airborne example to come to our attention is this Hybrid Transport Aircraft design from Falx Air. In addition to being used as a standard light cargo platform, mid-air light re-fueling or surveillance aircraft, the Very Light Hybrid Transport (VLHT) can be adapted to carry six passengers, or four stretchers and two medical staff. Like the company's hybrid-electric tilt-rotor aircraft platform unveiled earlier this year, the design combines automotive hybrid electric technology with a fast charge battery system and solar cells to deliver exceptional fuel economy.
With a design that wouldn't look out of place in the space shuttle program, the rear-loading VLHT is made from aerospace certified composite materials, measures (34.5 feet long x 11.5 feet high (10.5m x 3.5m) with a wingspan of 33.8 feet (10.3 meters), weighs 800kg (dry weight) and can carry 650kg.
The basic performance specs released to date put its range at around 1430 miles (2300 km +40 min Res) with a top speed of just under 300mph (480kmh) and a cruise speed of 251 mph (405kmh) dropping to 68 mph (110kmh) before it stalls. Short take‐off and landing capabilities and the ability to use grass strips also add to its versatility.
The two small high torque internal combustion engines drive permanent magnet generators to generate electricity when in operation and the embedded photovoltaics enable slow charging of the batteries while the aircraft is on the ground, meaning the avionics packages can be run without using a fuel burning auxiliary power unit.
Falx puts the fuel consumption of the two engines at at 6.6 gallons (20 liters) per hour based on bench testing under load.
The avionics package includes a dual redundant flight system, custom ballistic recovery system fitted as standard and an air traffic monitoring system with a situation awareness display.
There's no definite time-frame yet from UK based Falx on when the design overview will move to the next phase of development but we will be watching with interest - stay tuned.