So its been a busy few weeks since I was a part of jethead’s interview and podcast. I have just finished my line check with my new airline and can start to settle into the routine of flying the 747. There has been something I have wanted to write about for several weeks now, which I unfortunately had to put on the back burner until the check was out of the way. So here it is. I recently read an article online (linked below) about a Boeing test plane powered by Hydrogen. Have a quick read.
When I read this the first question that came to mind was, where will technology take us by the time I retire? Then I asked, how far have we come since my grandfather took to the skies in the 1930’s?
The first airplane my grandfather flew for Trans Canada Airlines in 1937 was the Lockheed 10A Electra. It weighed a mere 12,500 pounds. The same airplane Amelia Earhart attempted to fly around the world in. It held 10 passengers and could fly for no more then a couple hours at barely 150 miles per hour. I recall my grandmother telling me several times it used to take him a day to fly to Toronto from Winnipeg, with three fuel stops in Northern Ontario. A day to rest, and another day to fly home. Ironically I am on the same type of patters today, except I am traveling from South East Asia to Europe.
The equipment in these old piston airliners of the 30’s was not much more then a morse code signal being broadcast with poor range, and based on the letter you heard, you would know which side of the intended airway you were on. When my grandfather retired in the jet age he was flying the classic Douglas DC-9. He was able to fly to Toronto in the morning and be home for lunch. With much better equipment on board.
My dad entered the airline world on the first turboprop aircraft ever put into airline service, the Vickers Viscount. For it’s day, a terrific airplane with good range, carrying 44 passengers and great engines in the Rolls Royce “Dart”. The viscount flew about 275 miles an hour. The equipment was more modern, cockpits remained cluttered with hundreds of guages. But fast forward 40 years and retire on the 747-400. Glass cockpit, ultra long haul range with 400 plus people weighing 875,000 pounds.
Today I fly the same plane, as our airline approaches retiring this fleet that is almost 25 years old. I think, if all we have done is get bigger, and fly further and faster, what will I retire on? Safe to say The world is much different then it was. We seem to be shifting away from “bigger is better” (despite the advent of the super jumbo A380). The majority of aircraft orders are for twin engine fuel efficient aircraft with excellent range.
That’s where the article caught my attention. Hydrogen powered aircraft. The exhaust of which is water vapour. When you stop and think about this, its truly unbelievable. The list is long of the damages vehicle exhaust has done to our planet and our atmosphere. But imagine a world where the biggest concern vehicle exhaust is higher relative humidity! Now I am sure the environmental effects of that much water vapour being poured into our atmosphere are huge, and I’m also sure people smarter then me have been researching this for years now.
When I look back again at what my grandfather flew in the 30’s and where aviation was then, it was more or less a time when a jet engine was still an idea. It wasn’t until the German’s in late WW2 finally flew a jet powered aircraft. So if my grandfather lived through all of those technological changes, what will I live through? It is a very interesting thing to consider, that perhaps my last flight will be in an airplane that will only leave a trail of water vapour behind it.