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Synergy aircraft aims at more comfortable, efficient personal flight

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May 23, 2012

Synergy is designed to be more comfortable, more efficient and less expensive than other s...

Synergy is designed to be more comfortable, more efficient and less expensive than other small planes

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The airplane is arguably the biggest single revolution in travel ever. Voyages that used to entail weeks of dangerous, life-threatening navigation can now be done in the matter of hours. No single invention has connected physical space like the plane. Yet, there's still much room for improvement in terms of cost, efficiency and comfort. With this in mind a team of U.S. designers is developing what they believe is a better solution for flying: the Synergy aircraft.

Led by designer John McGinnis, the team claims that Synergy has more room than a standard personal plane, is more fuel efficient, is cheaper to build, is quieter, and allows for quicker, more versatile travel.

The key to the Synergy's promise is in its funky "double box tail" design - an innovation aimed at reducing drag in any and every way possible.

Synergy's creators have built a model and are now working on the real thing

"Synergy’s signature shape creates stability and control through induced drag reduction- the glider-like efficiency of a long wingspan packed into a much stronger, compact package," the company's website explains. "Unlike a box wing design, Synergy's unique double box tail is stabilizing and creates constructive- rather than destructive- biplane interference. Together with wing and fuselage suction and subsonic area ruling, Synergy exploits numerous aerodynamic and structural advantages to deliver a roomy, practical, and safe high performance aircraft."

As a result of all the drag reduction, McGinnis and team claim that the plane is 10 times more fuel efficient than the average small jet and 10 times less costly, calling it the "largest practical fuel economy breakthrough in history." Synergy also has built-in versatility in that it can fly farther than existing craft and land at slower speeds at small airfields. In terms of motivation, Synergy can be flown with jet engines but is optimally configured with a multi-blade turboprop engine.

The Synergy team has already built and tested a model aircraft and is now working on a full-sized five-seat prototype. They've launched a Kickstarter campaign to help fund some of the costs of development and production. With about 10 days left, they're a little over US$11,000 from their $65,000 goal.

Source: Synergy Aircraft

About the Author
C.C. Weiss Upon graduating college with a poli sci degree, Chris toiled in the political world for several years. Realizing he was better off making cynical comments from afar than actually getting involved in all that mess, he turned away from matters of government and news to cover the things that really matter: outdoor recreation, cool cars, technology, wild gadgets and all forms of other toys. He's happily following the wisdom of his father who told him that if you find something you love to do, it won't really be work.   All articles by C.C. Weiss
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24 Comments

Okay, it's an efficient design, although made from exotic composites which translates into "not that cheap." What's really missing from the equation is the hardware and software for mostly automated flight controls, so that even Grandma can punch in a destination and let the aircraft fly itself there.

William H Lanteigne
23rd May, 2012 @ 11:26 pm PDT

The Punch in a destination and "let the plane fly grandpa there", is already a possibility..

Talk to FAA, JAA, CASA, etc as to their motivation for restricting the field in terms of Automation and Liability....

Would you as an engineer (If you were an engineer) take the blame for every time some dimwitt flies the plane to fly itself into an inner city condo... Hey I just wanted to get home real quick....

One of the real problems is idiot proofing the control and navigation system.

Maybe it would need an on-line controller approving each and every flight plan filing, then monitoring the flight in real time.... And stepping in if it diverges from the "Plan"

Traffic avoidance etc is easy to do, as long as all of the traffic are fully automated....

That one maverick who Loves flying by the seat of his pants, in the "automated control space" would really mess things up.

As my old professor would have said....

"The first disaster with any sort of Automatic aviation, would be the last..." It really ain't that necessary. There are other ways of getting places... These toys will always be the province of those who can afford to jump through the hoops.... Not Grandpa.

Loving it..

MD
24th May, 2012 @ 12:44 am PDT

Must be an electric plane because those wings look incapable of carrying fuel.

Buellrider
24th May, 2012 @ 06:20 am PDT

No this is the just right common sense design. Even the other comments can't criticise it but put in additions which will be in the future design, this is only prototype. This is also the actual future flying car concept. It's fuel efficiency also makes it more affordable. This is the jackpot if it can move forward. If the wings could be made from lithium polymer, this could eventually be an electric. Congratulations and good luck.

Dawar Saify
24th May, 2012 @ 06:45 am PDT

Is the design concept and intended effect scalable. If you can make this work with say a 747 carrying capacity, it becomes extremely interesting for both investment and reduced cost for travel.

dutch
24th May, 2012 @ 07:33 am PDT

A staggered box wing is a good amount better in being lighter, lower drag and much better stability than this structurally weak design, thus has to be heavier to make up for it, flight of fancy.

Now a nice staggered box wing seaplane with twin rear props, one engine done in medium tech composites has real possiblities.

jerryd
24th May, 2012 @ 10:13 am PDT

Is this not just another potential toy for the wealthy? Also, Boeing has a staggered wing airliner project in the works.

Nelson
24th May, 2012 @ 11:00 am PDT

re; Buellrider

First with the efficiency they are talking about why would you need to put fuel into the wings.

Second the wings are hollow three dimensional objects why can't you fill them with fuel?

Slowburn
24th May, 2012 @ 11:06 am PDT

It seems disingenuous to compare a very small prop-driven plane with a jet, and crow about its theoretical economy.

1) Brag when you have actual fuel economy figures from an actual plane.

2) How does it compare to a conventional single wing, single engine plane of equivalent size?

Jon A.
24th May, 2012 @ 12:57 pm PDT

How many times have we heard a similar story about a new and better light aircraft in development? I am not saying that this is particular project is a bad concept, just unproven as yet.

And when the 'low costs' skyrocket and the plane is basically unmarketable on a large scale, everybody sighs and starts over with another project that intends to do the same thing as the last only this time better and cheaper.

When manufacturers are NOT saddled with the kinds of regulation and liability they currently work under, they just MIGHT be able to push a concept like this all the way across the finish line and into the mass market.

Unfortunately, those conditions only exist in places like China as of now.

flylowguy
24th May, 2012 @ 01:36 pm PDT

The things I see is the extra stress on the wing, a low glide ratio and the pusher prop does not meet virgin air. It looks great if you fly fast, don't make any mistakes and no stunt flying.

donwine
24th May, 2012 @ 03:52 pm PDT

"I'm a husband and father of four, a consultant and professional designer, a veteran manufacturer of composite products, and one of the more advanced students of the big picture in fluid dynamics. Synergy is my resume, and I'd like to think it speaks for itself."

I notice McGinnis doesn't say anything about having any experience whatsoever in aeronautical, structural or mechanical engineering or even being a pilot. I'm supposed to take this guy seriously? By "designer," I suspect he means an industrial designer, and we've seen so many terribly impractical designs from such people here on Gizmag. He doesn't even give us any examples of what products he has designed in the past.

Gadgeteer
24th May, 2012 @ 04:11 pm PDT

the day is almost here where not just the rich travel in their own airplanes.

Carson Stander
24th May, 2012 @ 05:40 pm PDT

Hmmm, so into that small, central fuselage module they're going to pack all the avionics, engine, fuel, flying controls, hydraulics, instruments, landing gear and a pilot ?

Not a lot of room left for passengers and their bags...

Nick Herbert
24th May, 2012 @ 05:57 pm PDT

Hi MD,

Have a look at the VP-400 emergency landing system covered on Gizmag recently ! http://www.gizmag.com/vp-400-emergency-landing-system/22308/

Spacewalker
24th May, 2012 @ 06:39 pm PDT

All,

There's a good reason why planes don't look like this. It's been styled rather than engineered. A real concern is the proximity of the main and tail wing - tail plane ratio. This will create a very pitch sensitive aeroplane which will be difficult to fly.

If you compare the homebuilt aircraft, the successful designs are the all-rounders which are capable in all segments of the flight - take-off/landing, climb, criuse. This design is more prioritised to cruise with its sleek shape and low drag. Look at the past pusher aircraft - Vari-Viggen, Long-Eze, Cozy, Prescott Pusher, etc. Their numbers are small compared to more conventional layouts, such as Vans RV's, Glasair, etc. There's a reason for this.

NiteRider
25th May, 2012 @ 04:15 am PDT

Donwine,.. it appears you started with a flying wing, then added verticals, then horizontal stabs to increase the "tail moment", but integrated them all together so the verticals not only give yaw stability, but also reduce tip vortices. Interesting and ingenious. I love the "sexy design" Do you see an increased usable CG range due to the longer "tail" compared to simply a flying wing? Is there any washout,...i.e. twist like a horton, or relies only on the verticals? Avid modeler and also private pilot although I'm not current and active in fullscale at the moment.

Gary Wright
25th May, 2012 @ 04:38 am PDT

If you'd like to see a model flying (21ft wingspan) and tech details of the model, here's the link to Gizmag . . .

http://www.designboom.com/weblog/cat/16/view/21352/synergy-airplane-achieves-40mpg.html

d'-)

Jetwax
25th May, 2012 @ 04:42 am PDT

Gary W....Don't know why you mentioned my name. I am building a twin sailplane that uses water ways for a runway. It is battery powered and can recharge in flight for the next take off. NiteRider makes some good points even though I am all for new attempts.

donwine
25th May, 2012 @ 09:51 am PDT

Why not use the Continental Voyager liquid cooled?

Jack Burke
25th May, 2012 @ 10:28 am PDT

it would be perfect if it had an e-gas (methan) engine

Dave da GearHead
25th May, 2012 @ 05:47 pm PDT

I love this design! I heard about it via avweb and flicked them $10 via kickstarter - I urge anyone and everyone to do the same. They're a bunch of enthusiastic, can-do aviation nerds ... my kind of people :-)

@ Jon A - I agree - comparing these to business jets is silly. I'd say this thing will do 180 to 200 knots on 200 hp with great fuel burn so a better comparison would be a Cirrus SR-20 or -22. It is goes faster, thats awesome but a good comparison with business jets would be a TBM 850 or Pilatus.

@ Jack Bourke - I am surprised that engine never made it into production, especially for canards etc. I bet the diesel flogs it for specific fuel consumption though.

@ Niterider - that's what I thought too but after reading the designer's comments on the topic on some online forums, I am somewhat convinced. He reckons that the distance between the wing and tail is not the full story, due to other aerodynamic implications of the design. Remains to be seen, though. The RC model doesn't appear any more pitch sensitive than other models ...

Hogey74
25th May, 2012 @ 08:04 pm PDT

a couple hours after the GizMag post, their KickStarter got pushed over the goal!

GizMag is a great resource; you guys do a fantastic job.

clay
26th May, 2012 @ 12:29 pm PDT

Looks intriguing. Making a model fly safely doesn't always translate to stability & control in a full-sized machine, but it does look like a nice rigid configuration. I wonder how much pitch control they've got with that short moment-arm on the tail.

Here's a link to a plane my Dad and his team designed for Rohr Industries back in the 1970's. The Rohr 2-175 FanJet was aimed at competing with the Cessna 150 - and at being street-taxiable to the owner's home where it could fold up to fit into a single-car garage.

http://www.fraseraerotechnologycompany.com/Rohr_2-175_Fan_Jet.html

Unfortunately Rohr went broke building light-rail cars for both BART and the Washington Metro System, and the bank forced the destruction of all three prototypes.

What a waste!

Curtiss Mooney
19th June, 2012 @ 07:22 am PDT
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