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Scaled Composites 311 Global Flyer

Test flying began in 2004 in the US on an aircraft designed to fly around the world by a single pilot and without refuelling. Known as the Global Flyer, or Scaled Composites Model 311, it made the first of several flights which tested its controls and systems, including its "drag chutes" used during descent and landing.

The GlobalFlyer is a single seat, turbofan powered airplane designed to fly around the world nonstop, unrefueled. It achieved this milestone for the first time on March 03, 2005 after 67 hours and one minute of flying time. With that, Pilot Steve Fossett set the record for fastest time around the world unrefueled.  The GlobalFlyer took off and landed in Salina, Kansas.

The second world-record flight was completed on February 11, 2006 when Pilot Steve Fossett made an emergency landing at Bournemouth Airport in England. Kennedy Space Center was chosen for the takeoff, which took place on February 8. The flight had many stressful moments. Despite this, Steve was able to accomplish the goal of the "Ultimate Flight" by breaking the previous world distance record for an airplane, which was set by the Voyager in 1986 (24,987 miles), as well as the aviation long-distance record set by the Breitling Orbiter Balloon in 1999 (25,361 miles).

Aerodynamics are key to this aircraft, and its configuration is optimized for range and fuel efficiency. The aircraft's shape has been designed using computational fluid dynamics to predict how the aircraft's surfaces will behave in flight. The aircraft is so aerodynamically efficient that the only practical way to descend is using drag parachutes. As the aircraft is only required to land once, these aren't detachable and take time to reset.

The aircraft is a trimaran-like construction with two huge external 'booms' which hold the landing gear, and 5,454 pounds of fuel on either side of the pilot's cockpit in the center on top of which is the single Williams turbofan jet engine. The construction materials used for the structure of this aircraft are all graphite/epoxy. The stiffest carbon fibers are used in the construction of the wings, and the skin is a sandwich of graphite/epoxy and Aramid honeycomb.

The aircraft doesn't have what is known as 'deicing' or 'anti-ice' measures. This means that it is not able to fly in 'icing' conditions. In addition, it does not cope with turbulence very well in the early part of the flight when the aircraft is heavy and structural margins low; so weather will be an important factor in choosing when and where to take off from.

The pilot sits in the main fuselage, the center pod, just behind the nose landing gear and below the engine. He also sits in front of the main fuel header tank which feeds the engine. Early on in the project, there were huge obstacles to overcome caused by engine noise levels, but those were quickly overcome with the addition of insulation. The cabin is pressurized because of the altitude which gives a 'cabin altitude' of 10,000 feet at the 45,000 feet the plane actually flys at.

There are thirteen fuel tanks all in all, and on take-off, it is expected that this aircraft will be 83% fuel by weight. Getting fuel to where it's needed whilst maintaining the balance and stability of the aircraft is a feat that will require constant supervision and monitoring. The fuel itself is a special fuel that has a much lower freezing point than regular aviation fuel.

Wing Span: 114ft
Wing Area: 400 sq.ft
Length: 44.1ft
Height: 13.3ft
Gross Weight: 22,000 lbs
Empty Weight: 3,350 lbs

 

 


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