Wednesday, 17 October 2012

U.S. Air Force goes vortex surfing to cut fuel consumption

The United States Air Force is taking flying lessons from geese and spiny lobsters. This may seem like the mother of all bureaucratic errors, but there’s actually some pretty solid science behind it. In exploiting a phenomenon known as “vortex surfing,” the USAF has found that by having C-17 cargo planes flying in formation, it can reduce fuel consumption by up to ten percent. .. Continue Reading U.S. Air Force goes vortex surfing to

1 comment:

eon said...

And so, the USAF now believes that the laws of aerodynamics no longer matter. Or at least, they can be ignored in pursuit of "green goals".

The First Rule of Air Traffic Control is; Stay Out Of Vortexes From Heavies. They can flip a light aircraft on its back, and cause enough instability to put even another heavy out of control.

While they can be compensated for to a certain extent, I've yet to see an autopilot capable of handling the job, which means that the only way this will work is if the actual, flesh-and-blood pilots muscle the bird through the air.

For hours at a stretch.

FR maneuvers are hard enough on the crewdogs.This brainstorm works out to FR maneuvers lasting hours.

The official release stated that there would be a "4,000 separation" between A/C. They didn't say 4,000 what. Feet? Yards? Meters? Klicks? Miles?

I'd call 4,000 yards about the minimum acceptable safe sep for C-17s or equivalent. Granted, bomber boxes over the ETO in WW2 got away with 400 yards between groups, but a B-17 or B-24 going 150 KTS TAS at 20,000 is a horse of a different color that a C-17 doing 480 KTS at 40K. In the latter case, any mistake becomes painfully obviously unrecoverable about three times as fast.

I anticipate crew fatigue to be major issue as a result of this. I'm hoping that A/C and crew casualties won't be.