Sure, There's Rutan And Branson, But Who Else?
If you were hoping for an expose on how the Trilateral
Commission or the Bilderbergers are behind this affront to
isolationism, you've come to the wrong website. But if you want to
know about the amazing technology of this plane and who's behind it
you came to the right place.
Yes, this is Steve Fossett's, Burt Rutan's and Richard Branson's
day, and we will take nothing from them. But let's also recognize
some of the other team members that made this record-shattering
flight happen. I'm sure I'm leaving out somebody important, but
these were all important in one way or another. In
Original in-house code name for the GlobalFlyer. (To count as a
world-circling flight, the aircraft must go at least as far as the
Tropic of Capricorn or Tropic of Cancer -- which are the same
distance, for the geographically challenged. The name Cancer was
probably never considered!) It is also known as Scaled Project 311.
The machine gets some credit, but there would be no machine without
these individuals listed below.
He is responsible for systems, primarily the innovative fuel
system and the control system. Also the pressurization system,
including the bog-simple doors: no hinges, no latches. They just
plug in like a cork (as Steve models, below). The fuel system of
GlobalFlyer is highly automated. The engine always draws from a
single header tank, in the fuselage behind the pilot. The rest of
the fuel is in 12 tanks with a design that uses pumps where
necessary and gravity feed where possible to save weight. The wings
drain by gravity into the booms, from whence the fuel is pumped to
the header tank.
For all its high-tech, the GlobalFlyer has no control surface a
J-3 cub lacks (unless you count the drag chutes): ailerons,
elevators and rudder. All control surfaces are extremely light: 8
ounces per aileron, for example. The hinges were composite; as are
the pushrods and bellcranks. Each one saves a few ounces over a
metal part. There's no trim system. Instead, the plane was designed
so that its enormous weight changes, and its limited configuration
changes (gear, drag chutes) don't require trim.
Backup Mission Control Director, from Virgin Atlantic's
In-flight Weather Briefer. His is a familiar voice to Steve
Fossett, as he did the same job in Fossett's balloon
circumnavigation. Dehenau is a Belgian TV weatherman in "normal"
Early in the project was a co-engineer with Jon Karkow. Later,
he moved to another Scaled project, but his contribution deserves
Crew chief, prepared GlobalFlyer for each of its flights.
He was the shop leader, keeping the project on track and about
20 other staffers busy.
Project engineer and
test pilot for GlobalFlyer, responsible for most of the overall and
detail design (Burt roughed out the concept). Karkow probably
deserves the lion's share of credit, among these listed team
members. A veteran of Scaled coming up on his 20-year point, and a
rarity in that he joined Scaled straight out of engineering school.
By that time, he had already built a Rutan-designed airplane (a
Quickie). During the mission, Karkow flew in the Starship chase
plane at takeoff and landing.(Photo, courtesy Scaled)
Project electrical engineer. Steve Fossett spent most of his
flight reclining, looking at Coleman's fuel system or the panel
Keller designed and built, featuring dual Chelton displays. (He
only sat up with his head in the bubble canopy on takeoff and
landing -- shades of Lindbergh's blind Spirit of St. Louis!).
Keller was also responsible for the space-age (literally: it relied
on Iridium satcom) communications system.
Mechanic, worked with Grassa to prepare the airplane and fix any
Scaled aerodynamicist who formerly worked with John Roncz, found
himself working with Roncz again.
Morgan designed the landing gear. A little known fact about
Scaled is that they have more landing gear design experience than
just about anybody - they do all their landing gear in house. The
gear was also one of the few places in the airplane metal was used
(another was the engine mount). In order to save weight, the gear
didn't cycle normally. It could be blown up with compressed air in
cans - once. And after that, it can come down by gravity -
The drag chutes that convert the GlobalFlyer from the 37:1 glide
ratio of a world class sailplane to a steep enough glide to assure
landing are also one-way: once they're deployed, they can neither
be retracted nor jettisoned. The pilot is committed to land.
The plane is steered by differential braking to save the weight
of nosewheel steering -- and the dual nosewheel has a live axle to
save the weight of a shimmy damper.
Another amazing feature of the landing gear is that, because the
plane has much more span than length, it's stored sideways in its
hangar. Morgan designed the landing gear so that they are freely
castering for ground handling. (They lock fore-and-aft for flight,
Propulsion design. Nichols also served as a flight test
engineer. (Nobody at Scaled gets away with just one job). One of
his contributions was the use of JP-4 fuel (now uncommon) for its
ability to stand up to being cold-soaked without freezing (Jet A or
JP-8 would not fare so well). During the mission, he was in mission
control most of the time.
Legendary aerodynamicist, first came to public attention through
the eponymous canard that solved a peculiar problem of Rutan's EZ
designs. Roncz did detail design on the wing; used an incredibly
complicated computer program to make it happen. Roncz is an
independent consultant, not a Scaled employee.
Designed, and helped build, the ultra-lightweight structure of
Kevlar and carbon fiber, in which the skins, for example, were
principal load bearing members with very, very few bulkheads and
ribs. The entire structure weighs 1,727 pounds (500 of this is the
carbon spar, the heaviest single component). As you might expect
Not just the guy whose record was broken, the elder Rutan
suggested to Fossett that he fly solo round the world -- and
suggested that his brother Burt could design the plane.
Scaled Chief Pilot and Chief of Flight Test was, along with
Karkow, a designated test pilot for the GlobalFlyer (all while
holding down heavy responsibilities on the space program).
Mission Control director during the flight; alternated shifts
with Ian Craft and the versatile Clint Nichols. Stass is a Virgin
Atlantic flight planner.
This firm of quiet professionals provided the FJ44-ATW engine
that made GlobalFlyer go. (It was Karkow's second choice, but the
engine he wanted, the Garrett F-109, was only produced in prototype
quantities for the ill-fated T-46 trainer project).
By assigning these people titles, I fear I have gravely
misrepresented the way Scaled Composites does things. Almost
everyone has more than one job, or, if he has one job, its limits
are fuzzy. It's a fourth-generation knowledge based business.
In true Scaled tradition, everybody did finish work.