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Boeing's Pelican

From Popular Science, an article on Boeing's Pelican, a proposed plane weighing "as much as seven fully loaded Boeing 747s", designed to fly "a mere 20 feet off the water at 300 mph":

Today, engineers at Boeing are designing a cargo plane that... is designed to skim just above the water like a large sea bird. It's dubbed the Pelican, because it will use the same "wing-in-ground effect," or WIG, that the awkward bird does to glide almost effortlessly above the water. When applied to man-made flying vehicles, WIG aerodynamics represent a critical exception to a long-held rule of aviation -- altitude equals efficiency. The reason most long-range airplanes are high-altitude jets is that flying in thick air at lower altitudes normally takes significantly more fuel. But if you get extremely close to the surface -- around 50 feet or below, as a WIG vehicle would -- a cushion of air generated by the plane's velocity helps support it in flight, so that the plane cruises even more efficiently than a high-altitude jet. The WIG aircraft['s] wingspan is about the width of the front of the Capitol. Boeing engineers are counting on the notion that enormous wings will provide more opportunity for the air below them to gently lift and propel the vehicle, allowing it to skate a mere 20 feet off the water at 300 mph.

The idea of an airplane that weighs as much as seven fully loaded Boeing 747s, and that doubles the distance it can travel by scooting over the ocean surface like a waterbug, may seem far-fetched. But the engineers at Phantom Works, the secretive Boeing think tank, have begun designing this enormous machine because the Pentagon has a major problem that has defeated many less harebrained efforts over the past 40 years. That problem? Mobility. The U.S. Army is a powerful force, but it is too large and has too much heavy equipment to move at a pace suitable for a fast-expanding conflict...

But the Pentagon may not be the biggest market. The Boeing team's commercial-airplane colleagues have informally discussed the Pelican with commercial cargo operators. The airplane carries 10 times as much payload as any current craft -- as many as 180 standard 8- by 8- by 20-foot containers -- and is 10 times faster than a ship. Unlike a ship, it could deliver cargo directly between major cities, eliminating sea-to-land transfers.

An end-run around archaic seaport bottlenecks? Sounds good to me. But I wouldn't be eager to fly in a plane skimming 20, 50, or even 100 feet from the surface of the sea, computer control or no. Can you say "rogue wave?" I thought you could.


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I think that this is a very awesome plane. I heard that it can hold up to 17 M1A1 Abram battle tanks. i believe that them things weigh about 74 tons or so. I love Boeing and I would love to see that thing take off!

I was wondering if you all could send some informaion on this huge plane. Thanks.

Age 14


The idea is great. Aside from efficiency, the Pelican would considerably unclutter the airways.
Somehow, though, I suspect that is what it will remain...an idea.

My name is Fernando Alberton. I'm from Brazil. Do you have catalog the Boeing Pelican. Thank you very much.
Fernando Alberton


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