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Sunday, January 25, 2015

Iconic Planes: B-2 Spirit

The B-2 Spirit is a stealth bomber developed by Northrop Grumman for the US Air Force. It grew out of needs for a strategic bomber to replace the aging B-52 Stratofortress, and several prototypes were cancelled because they could not survive for a very long time in enemy territory. Finally, the B-2 was built using stealth technology, which was state of the art back then, to allow an aircraft to fly past any weapons systems guided by radar. The shape of the B-2 and its radar-absorbent paint allows it to have an almost non-existent radar cross-section. The engines also are buried inside the body to minimize their exhaust. The picture above shows a B-2 flying in formation with 8 F-18 fighters.  
B-2 Spirit original.jpg
The B-2 is a flying wing; it has no tail or fuselage. It only has a single body which allows radar waves to be absorbed into the body. Because of the precise shape required by the B-2 to be stealthy, high-tech computer-aided design and high-tech manufacturing technologies. The cockpit is very comfortable: it includes a bed, kitchen and a toilet. The B-2's computer systems are very advanced, and thus the plane can be flown by only one person is needed. Usually, two pilots fly the planes. (Above right): A Spirit flying over the ocean.
The Spirit can carry a variety of conventional weapons as well as nuclear warheads. In the Cold War, the B-2 was originally intended as a plane capable of delivering nuclear strikes deep in enemy territory and then escape quickly. However, after the Cold War, the B-2's role switched to conventional warfare. The B-2 is also the only plane as of 2012 to be able to carry the 14000 kg Massive Ordnance Penetrator, the biggest bunker-busting bomb available. It can carry two of these in its bomb bays. The picture on the right above shows a bomb being loaded into the bomb bay of the B-2. 
The B-2 is a very expensive plane, with a single unit costing about 737 million dollars. Thus, only 21 have been built till date, although more may be built soon. Only the United States operates this airplane.

Iconic Planes: Learjet 60

Which movie multi-millionaire, hero or villain, would be complete without a Learjet 60? The Learjet 60 is one of the world's most recognized and widely-known private jets. This plane is one of the many private jets developed by Bombardier Aerospace.
The 60 is actually an improved version of the Learjet 55, and sports a longer seating area, improved control during landing and take off, reduced drag along the fuselage, and new engines, among other things. Also, a Learjet 35 empennage was attached to the 60's fuselage. The Learjet 60 is powered by two Pratt and Whitney Canada PW305A turbofan engines, and these required new pylons on the wing as this model was not used on the Learjet 55. (Above right): A Learjet 60 climbing.
Bombardier.svgThe Learjet 60 has the fastest time-to-climb performance, climbing to 41000 feet fully loaded in 18/5 minutes. However, this aircraft holds the record for the most accidents, most of which have occurred on landing. According to the NTSB (National Transportation Safety Board) though, most of them were caused by pilot error and were not technical faults. (Above left): The logo of Bombardier Aerospace, manufacturer of the Learjet 60.
The Learjet 60 has now been replaced by the Learjet 60XR, which is now being produced instead of the 60. The 60's production stopped in 2007 after 314 aircraft were built.
The 60 is used by a variety of operators, from governments to companies to small jet operators and yes, even by billionaires. However, at its price tag of 13.3 million dollars for each 60, not everyone can afford this plane.

Saturday, January 24, 2015

Strange shaped Aircraft - 7

Unfortunately, we have reached the end of crazy, weirdly shaped planes that have ever existed. So, here are the last 2 strangely shaped planes which I will be posting in some time. However, if I find anymore, I will include them in a separate post.

The Super Guppy

The Super Guppy is a super-sized cargo plane that has been flown since 1980 and is currently used by NASA and a few other private companies. The first Super Guppy was a modified C97J Turbo Stratocruiser. The whole plane was ballooned out and was much narrower than the plane pictured above. The Super Guppy was the predecessor of the Super Guppy Turbine, which was actually powered by two turboprop engines (Check out my post on engine types for more information). The Super Guppy Turbine was built from scratch, so the floor of the cargo area was wider, allowing it to carry more loads. only 4 Super Guppies were built, and when Airbus bought the rights to manufacture the aircraft from Aero Spacelines, they replaced it with the Airbus Beluga, a much more advanced cargo-carrying plane which can carry almost twice as much cargo by weight compared to the Super Guppy. The picture above shows a Super Guppy Turbine taking off.
Airbus Beluga
DSC 5493-F-GSTC (10299096584).jpgThe Airbus Beluga, as I mentioned earlier, is the replacement to the Super Guppy. The Beluga grew out of needs to transport aircraft components and in some cases, even whole helicopters, quickly over large distances. In the 1970s, Airbus transported parts by road, but growth resulted in a need for air transport. Only 5 Belugas have been built till date, and all of them are used by Airbus to carry airplane parts from one of their factories to the main assembly plant. The Beluga's main cargo hold is larger than that of the C-5 Galaxy, a military transport plane and the Antonov-124, a Russian plane designed to carry cargo. However, it can carry only 47 tonnes fully loaded, compared to the Galaxy's 122.5 tonnes. The Beluga was primarily intended for large, light cargo. The planes are also chartered out, and have been used to carry a variety of things, from entire helicopters to oversized pieces of art. However, even the Beluga isn't large enough for some of the fuselage parts of the A380, and these must travel by ship or by road. However, it is still an awesome and awe-inspiring plane. A picture of it is given above right.