Thursday, June 26, 2008

Return of the half-wing

Smart, smart, smart.
With oil prices rising sky-high, the U.S. Navy and Coast Guard will test a helium-filled blimp to see if it can supplement the fuel-hungry aircraft that search the Florida Straits for smugglers and boats in distress.

The Navy is leasing a Skyship 600, about the size of a Boeing 747, for the six-week test mission between Florida's southern coast and Cuba, Coast Guard Lt. Matthew Moorlag said on Tuesday.

The manned ship is held aloft by nonflammable helium and propelled by two Porsche 930 engines that consume 10 to 12 gallons of regular gasoline per hour.

"It's considered a very green machine," said George Spyrou, president of Airship Management Services Inc, which owns and operates the blimp. "A regular jet uses more fuel to travel from the gate to the taxiway than we would to fly for a whole week."

The airship has a bathroom and can stay aloft up to 52 hours without refueling but the surveillance flights off Florida will be limited to about eight hours to guard against crew fatigue, Spyrou said.

His company in Greenwich, Connecticut, has a contract for a little under $1 million for the test. It will supply two pilots to float the ship at an altitude of 1,500 to 3,000 feet while a crewman operates the radar and other scanning equipment.
I've always had a weak spot for lighter-than-air vehicles. Not sexy, but for surveillance in an air permissive environment, they are just plain smart. Brickmuppet and Galrahn are on it too.

In case you are wondering about the half-wing, click here and scroll to the bottom.

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