Engineers at the wheel of a proposal for a F-35B-sized passenger jet

BBC News/Doughty Street Academy It was dubbed the “Sky Hawk” when proposed in 1978. A civilian version of a US Navy battleship, it was sold to a consortium of investors led by billionaire Robert…

Engineers at the wheel of a proposal for a F-35B-sized passenger jet

BBC News/Doughty Street Academy

It was dubbed the “Sky Hawk” when proposed in 1978. A civilian version of a US Navy battleship, it was sold to a consortium of investors led by billionaire Robert Bradley.

The flying aircraft was supposed to fly seven or eight passengers over Canada to New York.

But the group was forced to shut down the project after problems with two independent maintenance companies at MoD aeroplane facilities.

So how could a light passenger jet ever make it over such great distances?

Light-medium range planes – the kinds that carry up to nine passengers and take off and land in just 20 seconds – are increasingly fitted with their own internal fuel tanks to avoid having to carry as much fuel as an ordinary airliner and the pilot to fit in.

They now fly straight from London to New York, for example, in about four hours and 15 minutes.

First, though, the plane must be lightweight. But, just as aeroplanes need to be as aerodynamic as possible, passengers in the Sky Hawk would want comfort and economy – its fuel would have to be in their economy seats.

So, having a pilot and cabin crew, as well as a typical airliner design with an engine and the plane’s own fuel tanks, must be closely integrated to the final plane design.

However, Gurnit Koutscher points out that aircraft:

– Possess the flying characteristics of the Sky Hawk

– Have the external size and weight characteristics of a normal passenger jet

– Have the comfort of a bus or train

They are also very large and heavy. First with a gross weight of over 400 tonnes, today’s major commercial jets would be over 300 tonnes heavy to fly at altitudes over 30,000 feet, or, as USA Today magazine reports, even 30,000 feet and less.

The Sky Hawk carried almost 350 tonnes of fuel, except for its engine, while the smallest passenger jet, Airbus A319, is just 40 tonnes, says ASE International.

CNN’s Jake Tapper, analysing another example of a small, yet future-forward aircraft (Jets) at last weekend’s South by Southwest conference, says that there will be “a new wave of military and commercial jets that fly in-between the fast jets. But, he points out that there will never be another Sky Hawk; at least not likely.

“Unless the technology is yet even more advanced, far bigger [than today’s planes], and far cheaper.”

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