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Well, who says a jet can't be inexpensive?
Bonded to the walls of Gerry Merrill's Phoenix, Arizona studio is a technical design of an elegant, two-seater private jet with three views. Fine curves, with a V-tail and a single big motor gondola on the stern. A 73-year-old tall, wirey man, Friedrich Merrill, told me that the plane will be flying twice as fast along its walls as today's propeller-driven lightweight aircraft (which he dismiss as "archaic crap"), will have a better gas odometer count, and will be 30 x softer.
He says his suggested line of jet-powered lightweight aircraft will transform the private aircraft industry if he can afford only the $120 million needed to have them Federal Administration certificated and put into manufacturing. From the 1940' onwards, power plants have revolutionised air transport in the army, air and business world. An inexpensive, handy, jet-powered lightweight aircraft for private flyers - Cessna Skyhawk, say, without a prop - has been a mere pipe-dream for decades.
Five or six-seater, $1.5 million to $3 million very lightweight jetliners (VLJs) are currently on the table, but the one- or two-seater jet pricing label version of a VLJ - an eight of the costs of a VLJ - has never become more realistic than three-view sketches stuck to the wall of dreamers' offices everywhere.
Merrill probably knows more about small power plants than anyone else. As a lifeline to the power generation community that has worked on everything from Torpedoes to fun Auto-Dragstern, he has contributed to the development of some 80 power plants, from the General Electric J79 used in U.S. fighter and bomber aircraft in the 1950' and 1960' to the Teledyne CAE J402 used in today's air-to-ground and cruising missile.
However, for more than 40 years his passions have been the notion of a small jet propulsion system for lightweight airplanes. Most of his career was spending jumping back and forth between vendors who weren't willing to put the shop on a non-certified motor and those who didn't want to raise the funding for certifying because the lightweight aviation industry was too volatile.
Results of optimization of a turboprop for low and low speed are at least breathable papers. Merrill figures suggest that his 490-pound theory thruster at 10,000 ft would propel his two-seater Cloudster at 270 milliph, consuming 12 galons of gasoline per 1 mile. That' s 22 mile per gal - about the same level of refuelling as Cessna' two-seater propeller-driven 152, which doesn't even fly half as quickly.
Mount at 23,000 ft and the Cloudster will reach 220 ft while it burns seven gal per hour. How many are there? Merrill says so much about the idea that low level jet engines draw in too much petrol. There are two main reasons for the astonishing low and low power consumption of Merrill turbo fans. They all have very high by-pass conditions and very low ventilator pressures.
This is the amount of compressed oxygen flowing through the ventilator - known as "Cold Thrust" - in comparison to the amount flowing through the combustor or combustor - "Hot Thrust". "The typical rule is that the higher the off-line ratios of an internal combustion engine, the better the mileage. Merrill's Cloudster mounted on his side panel has a sidestream relation of 19, which is five to six times as high as the actual harvest of VLJ power plants, and twice as high as that of the most modern turbofan jetliners.
Calculated at around 0.30 pounds per pound per hour per lb of propulsion, Merrill's engine power is exceptionally low, 50 per cent better than the main VLJ main engine, the Williams FJ33 and the Pratt & Whitney PW600 family. However, the actual breakdown in motors from Mercedes-Benz lies in the low ventilator pressures.
This is a coarse indication of how much power is lost when the cooling fans are passed through. "You have to adjust the ventilator compression to the speed of the air," says Mörill. "He is cautious when it comes to revealing the exact pressure rating of his engine fans, but says it is much lower than that of VLJs.
It is estimated that the costs of a series produced motor are 44,000 US dollars, about as high as the prices of today available reciprocating motors with similar performance. Four-seaters driven by an 800 pound thrust-engine could reach 280 mbph and reach up to 22 mbps. This is better propellant consumption than todayís four-seat propeller planes, which are 100 mbph lower.
According to Marrill, such an aircraft, which was once mass-produced, would be worth about $450,000, approximately the same as a Cirrus SR22 GTS four-seater. His estimate is that his single-seater, which weighs only 320 lbs empty, would cross at 220 mb, get 55 mb and costs only 150,000 dollars.