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raffaele grieco

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Ultralight planes: a possible future for medium to long distance mass trasportation?

Cheap, easy to pilot, easier to mantain.

ULM aircrafts are modern, two seated, car gas propelled planes, usually flown for leisure and turism. An entry level two seated plane can cost as much as a good scooter, costs a fraction of a general aviation plane to buy and mantain, can fly @200kmh at cruise speed, have an average of 500km range and can take off land anywhere from 500 mt grass strips (some can land on river shores and open sea, too). In Italy there are almost 150 privately held airstrips are available mostly free for landing fees, together with all the minor and medium airports open for general aviation planes.

So, why dont think of it as a means of personal and family transportation for medium to long distances? If we consider an average 4 hr car trip, depending of how far your nearest airstrip could be, and another one at your destination point, and commuting from these two places, it could be faster and cheaper to get there by your own plane.

What are the main problems against this idea, today? Weather, because they need good weather to fly; State endorsement: because, as it is, air transport belongs solely to air companies and thus airports and other facilities, even if airspace within a national domain are State properties properties, and also because car industry lead many countries economies like US, Germany, France, Japan and Italy. Security: in aviation, security is a scarecrow that keeps people away, make them spend much more, makes a tragedy of each and every event. The impossible of making a human activity riskless is killing personal aviation, leaving only the big players. If aviation security were applied to cars, they would cost tenfold and a fraction would ever hit the roads.

If proper investment were available, i think a cheap 4-seated all-weather ultralight plane, with a S-trasponder, and enough technology onboard to dumb piloting processes down to those required to drive a car could be within reach in a very short time

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    Aug 27 2013: Having "enjoyed" the spectacle of Naples surface traffic with my jaw open in amazement, I would estimate that with 100,000 napolitani in UL aircraft over the city, 50,000 of them would lie scattered dead across the city within an hour.
    • Aug 28 2013: i thank you for keeping in mind that the proposal is about mid to long range trips, but i would like to remind you that 50,000 people flying over any city would at present be impractical anywhere, not just Naples. You cant use a plane for within city commuting.
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        Aug 28 2013: Point well taken, Raffaele, though in principle they could be used from rooftop to rooftop. I guess it was your reference to a 4 hour car trip that made me think of a Naples commute ...

        But in any case, as a former professional pilot myself, I can't imagine safely accommodating the extra tens of thousands of UL aircraft that would fill the lower airspace. I'm afraid the density would be overpowering and would lead to a great number of accidents, most of them fatal.
        • Aug 28 2013: if there will be that many planes it means there will be even fewer in the upper space, leaving room. changes will not happen overnight and vertical and horizontal spacing, as well as pressurized small planes can kick in if the market explodes.

          As the situation is now there are all the premises to cope with future success problems. Realistically speaking, if there's to make money everything becomes possible.

          The only thing we must accept -as flying enthusiasts ourselves- is the fact that accidents will happen, that "zero accidents" is not the proof that all is well but that no one is flying at all, and that for the sake for the greater good of improved mobility we have to swalow the fact that people will make mistake and that people will die, as they die in cars and bikes and no one can do realistically nothing about it in the way of stopping people from driving or making it harder, because the economy and society demands it.

          As i wrote to another former commercial pilot, below from here, of course a single skilled transportation technician bringing 300 people from point A to point B from time X to time Y will be safer than 300 people going on their own, but the same can be said by a train conductor blaming car drivers for their recklessness. But people may not need to go from point A, or to point B, or their schedules could be different than Y or X. Thats why they dont choose public transportation and use their own personal means of transportation.

          Regional commercial air transport has capped. No more profits can be earned if not asking for subventions to local authorities, or going cheaper on personel wages, security, turnovers and so on. This monopoly cannot go on much longer. IMHO now is the time that short and medium range air travels (i.e. medium and long car travels) will be done by personal planes. If the market asks, the industry will answer.

          Besides, here are only so many cars you can sell a family.

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