Air Transportation: October 22, 2002

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Boeing is studying a new aircraft design able to carry 17 M1A1 tanks to wars in distant lands at ten times the speed of any ship. The huge plane, known as Pelican, would have a wingspan of 500 feet and would weigh six million pounds including fuel and cargo. Normal load would be 1.6 million pounds of cargo. With that load, Pelican could fly 6,500 nautical miles over land, but when over the ocean, it would drop to only 20 feet above the surface. Riding the compressed air of the Wing In Ground effect would boost the range to 10,000 nautical miles. The aircraft would cost a fraction (to buy and operate) of what eight C-17s cost to buy and fly. The wings of the huge aircraft fold down during flight to trap air against the surface of the ocean; for landing they are rotated to a horizontal position. Once on the ground (Pelican lands on a runway; it is not a seaplane) the outer wings could fold vertically to save room on the parking ramp.--Stephen V Cole

 


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