There’s an old pilot adage that says that every approach should be flown to a go-around — an aborted landing — until you’re sure you can get to the runway safely. In other words, plan for things to not go as planned.
Yet, as a generation of commercial aircraft powered by electricity, hydrogen or hybrid technology come to the fore, the energy capability required to get from point A to point B is important, but having energy reserves on board needed for when things don’t go as planned are paramount to enable them to fly alongside their fossil-fuel burning counterparts.
“The reserve calculation is going to be the recipe for the success of the aircraft and the technology that’s on that aircraft,” said Todd Young, De Havilland Aircraft of Canada’s retired chief operating officer who is heading up the development of a hybrid-electric propulsion test program that aims to cut the fuel consumption of a traditional aircraft by by to 30%.
For electric aircraft, battery capacity and health dictates the ultimate range of the aircraft in a commercial environment. Both fossil fuel and new propulsion aircraft are bound to the same reality — finite onboard energy — that has to be shared with the safety margin built into flight planning. That eats away at the useful range of the aircraft and the planned-for necessity of aborting a landing, climbing again and flying somewhere else to arrive safely.
“Even through the demonstrator project we’re working on, we’re learning more and more about how that recipe is influenced or not influenced based on what you can and can’t do,” said Young in a recent interview with The Air Current.
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