The Hover Technology That Would Make Your Morning Commute Ridiculously Easy
If you live in suburbia, or a crowded downtown street, wouldn’t it be nice to set off to work in your private aircraft? But wait – you need a runaway, and the streets are lined with cars and neighborhood kids headed to school. What you need is the ability to lift off and touch down in a small spot.
Although you may not be in luck, the U.S. Marine Corps, Royal Air Force and Royal Navy have this very capability in the F-35B Lightning II. This revolutionary aircraft has the ability to take off and land vertically practically anywhere, as well as hover in one place for extended periods of time.
The versatility of the F-35B takeoff and landing technology gives warfighters the ability to accomplish a mission, wherever and whenever.
TAKING OFF FROM THE END ZONE
Think you need a runway to land a plane? With short take-off and vertical landing capability, the world becomes your runway.
The F-35B’s capabilities show how quickly you can get off the ground and how little room is needed to land in a variety of different ways:
First, in a vertical takeoff, the jet goes from the ground, to hovering, to forward motion and then up to supersonic speeds.
Next there’s short takeoff, which, while not completely vertical, is still quite impressive. The F-35B can takeoff in less than the length of a football field.
It can also land vertically, a technology that it uses mostly when deployed at sea. The jet was designed for what’s called austere operations – basically going where no other aircraft can.
“What the F-35B really provides is what we call force projection,” explains Lockheed Martin F-35 test pilot Billie Flynn. “Basically, you can take a small air force on an aircraft carrier and have it operate anywhere on the globe. That’s an unprecedented capability.”
HOW IT WORKS: HOVER TECHNOLOGY
So how does the F-35B’s incredible hover technology work?
When hovering and performing a vertical takeoff and landing, the jet is essentially balancing on four “posts” explains Patrick Haus, an aeronautical engineer and flying qualities team lead for short take-off and vertical landing operations at Naval Air Station Patuxent River, Maryland, where testing for the jet occurs.
The first “post” is the shaft-driven lift fan, one of the major innovations of the F-35B’s hovering capability. This fan is driven by the same power that drives the main engine. A shaft connected to the engine is connected to a gear box that is mounted on the lift fan – and the thrust from the fan goes straight down.
The second post is the engine itself. Thanks to an innovative technology called the swivel nozzle, the engine can bend to a 90-degree angle in order to push air perpendicular to the flight path, therefore creating lift.
The last two posts are in the wings – tiny tunnels that run the length of the wing and take air from the engine through a nozzle directed out the bottom of the wing. The main goal of these is not to necessarily keep the aircraft aloft, but to help provide stability in the air.
Older aircraft required quite a bit of work from the pilot pushing buttons and adjusting nozzles to keep the aircraft steady. Many pilots describe this process as akin to patting your head while rubbing your stomach. But the F-35B is much easier to operate.
“Essentially all I have to do is just press a button and the aircraft does the rest of the work,” explains Flynn.
Unfortunately, your wait for a neighborhood-friendly getaway aircraft isn’t quite over yet. While the F-35B might not be ready worldwide for backyard parking, the aircraft is debuting its short takeoff and vertical landing capability at the upcoming Royal International Air Tattoo and the Farnborough International Airshow.