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Fly by Steam Airplane

December 17, 1903 being an important date in aviation history, it turns out October 9, 1890 might be an important date for steam boilers.

You all will remember how the Wright brothers from Dayton were the ones who first successfully flew a powered plane. It was a plane that could also be steered and that could take off and land repeatedly. It thereby launched the whole airplane business and since then nothing has fundamentally changed. That was in 1903. It was an exploit you will say.

But, not to be outdone (I am reading this from Planet Aerospace magazine), this was all old news to the Frenchman Cl


  • BillW@honeywell
    BillW@honeywell Member Posts: 1,099
    The Graf Zepplein....

    and the Hindenburg as well as other dirigibles were powered by Maybach Diesel engines. The engineers actually rode in the nacelles with the engines, and walked a very narrow catwalk back to the ship when their watch changed. They also slept in hammocks, and I bet they tied those knots with great care...only fabric between you and eternity! The "good old days"...YIKES!
  • Aidan (UK)
    Aidan (UK) Member Posts: 290
    steam aeroplanes

    I believe that in the '50s the US had a programme to develop a bomber with steam turbine engines powered by nuclear reactors. The plan was to have a nuclear strike airborne for weeks or months at a time, much as nuclear submarines would remain at sea for months.

    I don't think they flew, the prototypes are parked in some desert emitting radiation. I'll have to check the facts, I can't recall where I heard this yarn.
  • Constantin
    Constantin Member Posts: 3,796
    How about air powered reactors in drones...

    I saw a Discovery Channel special on un-manned drones that were built to superheat air directly, and fly at very high speed over enemy territory. First, to deliver nukes, then to switch into "pollution mode", flying 8-track patterns over the enemy country until the fuel gave out (for extra radiation).

    Lots of trouble testing the things as the super-high speeds had to be simulated on the ground. Long tracks in the desert and all that. All full of radiation now. IIRC, chemical rockets were supposed to get the things to speed in the first place. One of the scariest aspects was the guidance system, which was supposed to work despite being irradiated for months on end.

    I'm glad these systems were never put into the air.
  • You win, Con

    I can't think of anything scarier than an unmanned, unguided nuclear sprinkler.

  • Christian Egli
    Christian Egli Member Posts: 277
    Stories about boilers and high flying stuff

    The seats on the Wright Flyer must have provided just as much of a roller coaster thrill as the engine nacelle on the Zeppelin. My guess is you can't beat the view.

    I just don't know if it would be more worrisome than sitting next to a nuclear reactor.

    I know an engineer here who once interviewed for a job on the nuclear plane project. He did not think it would fly for too long and so he went to work for an air conditioner manufacturer (smart). He's retired now, so that would date the project to 1950-1960. There were concepts for nuclear powered automobiles. Monsanto developed nuclear batteries for powering space crafts. The things look like ordinary thermos bottles, I'm guessing it could be used for residential applications... why not? Hospitals use all kinds of radioactive stuff and it does not seem to be a problem. There are hospitals everywhere.

    But, so far, nothing comes close to what a gas or oil powered steam boilers do as far as operating cost efficiency.

    Thanks, Noel, for passing on the link to the helicopters. I like the model that is tethered to a steam boiler on the grounds. Neat pictures, they add to the genius of the Wright brothers, note how all the propellers look like screws. The way they are for boats. The brothers tried that approach, like everyone else, but they were the first to realize that water flow characteristics have not much to do with air flow. They had to come up with entirely new data which they obtained from the very first wind tunnel, which they built. It turned out, a propeller is nothing more than a rotating wing, but they were the first to figure that out.

    And of course, all this went on to apply to steam turbines. There is a connecting thread.

    By the way, all the museums and stuff to see in Dayton about the history of aviation is really neat. This is a shameless pitch, sorry, but thanks anyway for reading.

  • Weezbo
    Weezbo Member Posts: 6,232
    That was worth the read:)))

This discussion has been closed.