New Plane Design for Mid-Air Refueling

May 15, 2008 by  
Filed under Features

The idea of refueling mid-flight is not a new one. Yet previously this task was left up to modified civilian aircraft that were kitted out for the task. Though the concept was used mainly in the military, it would seem that mid-air refueling has a number of practical applications for civilian aircraft.

New light has been cast on the idea of mid-flight refueling after the work done by a group of students from Cranfield University in Bedfordshire. The students were given the task of exploring new possibilities of cost-effective flight in both the armed forces and civil aviation. Phil Stocking, a course director and senior lecturer at the university, said that the project provided an “excellent mechanism for the teaching and learning of aircraft design.” He felt that this in turn enabled innovative research to take place and it would seem that this is exactly what has happened.

The results of the research were presented in front of an audience of approximately 200 people. Guests included members of the military, academia and industry. It also included representatives from various major airplane manufacturers, such as Boeing and Airbus. The unveiling of the new MRT7-T aircraft concept was a massive success and the students gave presentations wherein they discussed various attributes of the aircraft, such as fuel systems, propulsion, avionics, cabin layout, landing gear and structural design.

This is the first time that an aircraft has been designed specifically to perform this function. In addition to this, the aircraft has practical applications in all spheres of aviation and doesn’t only cater to military aircraft. In fact, if the research was put to use for passenger jets and airliners, it could greatly help the environment and possibly even save money. The fact is that is that civil aircraft generally always take off with full fuel-tanks which are then used to sustain them in flight. The extra weight of the fuel is considerable and means that the aircraft must expend more fuel on take off, which in turn produces more emissions and has a detrimental effect on the environment. By reducing the fuel load on take off and then filling up once already in the air, the aircraft will not only save fuel but also produce less emissions and less noise.

While the students have some very valid points, only time will tell if major airline manufacturers see fit to put the new research into practice.

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