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Would it be a Jet?

If the plane is going to be more "alive" and environment friendly. Would it be possible to get away from jet engines and make a plane that would fly in the way a bird would? By flapping its wings. With the 3D printing and all the loss of extra weight, could it be possible?

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    Aug 5 2013: As an engineer I see some challenges.
    1. Birds are extremely light (they have hollow bones) and the wingspan to body length ratio is quite substantial. For a machine that will carry 300 people or some few tons payload will require ungainly long wing spans and that will pose problems for aerodynamic balance.
    2. The power of wing muscles of birds is extremely high for its body mass. For a wing flapping flying machine the power of engines and fuel cost may well make it commercially non-viable.

    But this idea is good for personal flying machines for short hauls (quite akin to family cars -two or three sitters the best). This can however pose problems for privacy (on account of low altitude flying and unregulated traffic ways).
    • Aug 6 2013: Exactly! but also probably the most important is that it would be incredibly slow.
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    Aug 3 2013: The low body weight and aerodynamic construction of a bird creates sufficiently low drag which permits the lift and thrust created by the wings to allow flight. Manned flight by a wing-flapping craft is not impossile, but the wing surface necessary is excessive. The problem is exacerbated by the added power needed to flap such large wings. Bigger wings equals need for more power; more power equals the need for bigger wings. Commercially practical application of wing flapping aircraft technology is highly improbable. Read this: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ornithopter
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    Aug 6 2013: There is a very good reason why there has never been a flying bird that weighed more than about 80kg. Not even in the fossil record. We have structural materials that far exceed the strength of bone but it's highly unlikely that a flapping wing vehicle could lift the mass of a human as a load.
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    Aug 6 2013: What energy source is 'flapping the wings' for it to be environment friendly?

    Technically, the given mechanics and materials aren't capable to mimic natures bird dynamic in airplane design, as well as the 'failure rate' in dynamic parts are significantly higher than those in quasi static conditions.

    Some small models have been build, but the technique is not scaling very well.
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    Aug 4 2013: AS the science of nanotubes, and nano fibers comes along, then you might get there. The materials are just to heavy right now. We're stuck with gliding for now, or weightless flight. Let's rethink, and redesign the Hindenburg? The hydrogen really didn't hurt anyone it was the people that jumped out of the gondola in panic and the ones burned by the diesel fuel that ran the engines for the propeller.
    • Aug 6 2013: ya and then it would take a week to cross the atlantic.
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    Aug 4 2013: Our engineering prowess is totally insufficient for such a task, even given we have a model to reverse engineer. It should make us question where the original design came from in the first place?

    :-)
  • Aug 4 2013: Only in sci-fi but what would be the advantage? Edward has me convinced it's probably not practical.