Friday, March 28, 2008

Super Sonic - The next step for aviation

I love my job. I work around some of the greatest and most technologically advanced machines ever created. The aviation market has produced some beautiful and powerful machines. I work mostly with the business aircraft that carry 4-12 passengers. I have my favorites: Cessna's Citation 10, Beechcraft King Air 350, and the Lear 45. But even with these amazing aircraft coming in and out all day, I greatly look forward to the day when I see my first Super Sonic Business Jet. Called SSBJs, They have been in the works for a couple years now. The leading contenders are Supersonic Aerospace International's (SAI) QSST (Quiet Super Sonic Transport), and Aerion. SAI has the benefit of getting all of its design from Lockheed Martin's Skunk Works. This is the same team that developed the F-22 raptor, and the F-35 Lightning II. Their design is a highly impressive looking aircraft that boasts speeds up to Mach 1.8. SAI doesn't have the backing of a team like Skunk Works, but they boast of over 22 new patents that boost super sonic performance and fuel economy. Gulfstream and Cessna are also thinking about building SSBJ's, but their plans aren't as far developed.

The biggest obstacle in making a SSBJ, is the issue with Sonic Booms. This isn't the feeling in your gut after eating at the drive up fast food chain. According to US Law and law in many other locations of the world, it is illegal to break the sound barrier over land because of how disruptive it can be (I've heard that they used to break the sound barrier over Wright-Patterson and it often would shatter the large living room windows in Dayton). SAI believes that they have found a solution to this barrier. Through advanced technology they have developed ways to reduce the force of a sonic boom. They claimed it would sound about as loud as a car traveling 70 mph on the freeway from 100 yards. The company believes that when they can prove to the FAA that sonic booms don't have to "boom", then they will gain the ability to fly supersonic over land too. Until then they will still travel at Mach .99 which is much faster than the .85 Mach of the fastest business jets today. One of the contenders claimed it could even travel just over the sound barrier without producing a Sonic Boom that would reach the ground. Which of course would be even better for those time crunching business people.

Why do we need a super sonic business jet? I don't, but there are some business people who could greatly benefit from going to London and back from NYC within a day, and still have a solid day of work in London. One website claimed that a group could leave Paris at 8AM for a breakfast meeting in NY. It is amazing. A flight around the world to Dubai would save up to 14 hours. The other reason is the more obvious one: because we can. The business aircraft industry has been virtually stagnant for the past 40 years. Yes, newer technology has made business jets quieter, more fuel efficient, etc, but there haven't been any major advancements. This is the next big step, and corporate carriers are ready.

Orders have been made. The first SSBJ's will be built between 2011 and 2013. At that time, the FAA will certify it, and they could be mass produced by as soon as 2015. That would be cool. Until then, I'll keep pumping gas into the plain old multi-million dollar Gulfstreams, Lears, Citations, and Falcons.

Monday, March 24, 2008

Google Sketchup - CAD for the masses

In recent years, Google has created a plethora of online and downloadable programs.  Blogger is one, Google books, Google Earth, etc.  One of these programs that quickly became one of my favorites is Sketchup.

Sketchup is a Computer Aided Design (CAD) program created by Google.  Sketchup has been designed to be a fully functional CAD program that combines a wonderful ease of use with a low price tag of  $0.  I found Google Sketchup when I was getting my military training in Pensacola FL.  I just searched for freeware CAD programs and was stunned to find one backed by a company as notable as Google.  I immediately downloaded it and began "sketchup-ing."

When I first started I took the introductory tutorials and then began experimenting.  One of my weaknesses is that I would rather figure things out by trial and error than by just reading the instructions.  This made Sketchup much more difficult for me than it had to be.  It really was as easy to use as they claimed.

Don't mistake ease of use with lack of features, however.  Google packed Sketchup with tons of features including easy texture application, shadow and fog control, style and backdrop settings, and integration with Google Earth.  There are few features in the Pro (bought) version that are not in the free version.  All the features are for various uses from simple scribbling of ideas to movie-set creation complete with scene and shot control.  Google Sketchup has made a stunning program to make CAD available to virtually anyone.

You may have even noticed some of the benefits of Sketchup without even knowing it.  People have used Sketchup to create plans for furniture.  Sketchup has also been used in architectural renderings of future buildings, such as the freedom tower being built on ground zero, etc.  Even the set of the movie "Good Night, and Good luck", directed by George Clooney, was completely designed using Sketchup.  Probably one of the most viewed uses of Google Sketchup however has been its creation of the 3d Warehouse.

The 3d Warehouse is the place for all the Sketchup-ers in the world to upload their designs.  It is a great way to get feedback on your ideas, and a great place to download excellent designs by others.  Whirlpool has uploaded every model in their lineup for people to "try out" when using Sketchup for re-modeling ideas.  As people upload quality renditions of real buildings, they are then added to the database for Google Earth.  In recent editions of Google Earth, 3d Warehouse support has been added.  This has made the Google Earth experience so much better.  You can also add your own designs to your personal copy of Google Earth.  This is great to kind of get an idea of how jealous the neighbors might get when you upgrade to a double-wide.  All told, the 3d Warehouse has added a new dimension to CAD.

Simply put, Sketchup is Amazing.

After several months I created this "house," and this afternoon I downloaded the Arc de' Triomphe.  If you have any desires to design a dream home, remodel your house, create a movie set, do some novel landscaping, etc., then download your copy of Sketchup.  It is the ideal program for the average Joe to do any of these things and more.

Sunday, March 23, 2008

Welcome to the Eclectic Blog.

This blog is not intended as a snapshot of my life.  Instead, I want to discuss some of my favorite topics.  These range from Architecture, Technology, Travel, Aviation, Finances, and much more.  I want to write on here some of my ideas, thoughts, and aspirations about these topics.  However, I want my posts to read more like magazine articles than journal entries.  I may not be fully unbiased as in most magazines, but this is done simply to generate discussion.  Please comment as much as you would like.  If the post becomes a hot topic, I might incorporate it into newer posts.  If there is a topic you would like me to address, just let me know.