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In-flight refueling for airliners? Worth a look!

It's long been routine for heavy bombers and other military aircraft, and researchers are now looking at the possibility of in-flight refueling for passenger liners. Pluses cited are the ability to cover greater distances without having to haul huge loads of fuel; less need for extending runways, because lighter planes can use shorter runways; and leveraging the last fact to make it possible for long-haul flights to use airports now too small for them.


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This ARTICLE in online magazine The Conversation has a lot more details; it's written by a mechanical engineering professor at Queen's University, Belfast and cites work done by, among others, the German Aerospace Center and the Dutch National Aerospace Laboratory. Some of the work has been large-scale on simulators with actual pilots.

The best part of every trip is realizing that it has upset your expectations

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Existing planes can travel half way around the world now, without refueling.  For example, from Texas to Singapore.


I'm not sure I see the point to this.  Having a plane full of fuel flying around waiting to refuel another craft has to be expensive, and while the low risk of fire and such for the military might be acceptable, I'm not sure it is for commercial aviation.  I'd rather have my plane refueled in the usual manner.

Twitter: @DrFumblefinger

"We do not take a trip, a trip takes us".  John Steinbeck, from Travels with Charlie

I agree on the preference for not being refueled that way...I'm not going to be sitting in an ejection seat with a parachute attached.


But the reason they're interested in doing this is not without merit. The idea is that the plane that flies that long route could take off on a shorter runway (reduce load on existing airports, more operations per hour, use other airports that are not now long enough), or replace fuel weight with payload (cargo or passengers).


The tankers, obviously, wouldn't fly those long routes; they would go up when the plane was passing over a refueling point located along the route—exactly the same methodology of the old coaling stations that served steamers, and for that matter, the coal tips and water towers that stood next to the old steam railroads.

The best part of every trip is realizing that it has upset your expectations

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