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Retired Aircraft In WiG Role? Is It Possible?  
User currently offlineGolfOscarDelta From India, joined Feb 2008, 172 posts, RR: 0
Posted (8 years 5 days 20 hours ago) and read 6701 times:

Can retired aircraft be modified to be used as ground effect aircraft?

Assuming that a majority of the airliners are retired mainly due to the toll on their fuselages from repeated pressurization-depressurization cycles; can these aircraft still be used if they don’t have to undergo pressurization cycles, i.e. can they be used if they are required to fly only a few feet off the ground thus avoiding the pressurization issues?

Next question: is it possible to modify a MD-8X(DC-9X) or a 727 or any other rear engined airliner to take pontoons instead of landing gears? (Assuming that suitable pontoons are designed and suitable structural reinforcements can be made)

If the answer to my above two questions is yes, can such a modified aircraft be used as a wing in ground effect aircraft?

My ultimate point is, a lot of MD-8X’s will be retired in the next few years and so will most of the remaining 727’s. So if such a modification as described above is possible and my initial assumption (regarding retirement of airliners) is right, then can these modified aircraft be used as inter-island/port to port/coast to coast, ground effect aircraft/ferries? Potentially replacing watercraft.

Would they be attractive enough in terms of cost?
Will they have a CASM comparable to ferries? Considering that the modified aircraft has been bought for a fraction of its original price since it has paid for itself and going to be retired

The challenges involved (that I can think of):

Technical Challenges:
1. Modifying the aircraft to take on pontoons instead of landing gear
2. Corrosion on engine parts and other aircraft parts due to salt water
3. Wings are optimized to be most efficient at higher speeds, hence lower efficiencies (if the wing can be replaced with a purpose designed wing then even better)

Operational Issues:
1. An aircraft with pontoons will probably have its max speed limited to a speed even lower than the gear down velocity (faster than a watercraft but still not fast enough)
2. Navigation w.r.t water based traffic viz. other watercraft
3. Passenger boarding, baggage handling, fueling, misc. airport related operation issues.
4. Noise both inside aircraft and to the surroundings, due to jet engines being so close to the ground

Given this much:
Now is all this possible?
If it is possible what other challenges (technical/operational/other) could be faced in implementing such an idea?

Also another question at this juncture, why haven’t WiG aircraft caught on commercially? Are any technological breakthroughs or technologies required to make them an operational reality?

For those of you new to WiG here are a hew references:
Introduction to WiGs:
Caspian Sea Monster, Ekranoplans & WIG Vehicles (by Starship Mar 11 2000 in Civil Aviation)
A Wingship Would Crush The A3XX. (by MD-90 Jul 28 2000 in Civil Aviation)

Commercial Aspects of WiG:

Does what I say make sense or have I been smoking something?

5 replies: All unread, jump to last
User currently offlineAvioniker From United States of America, joined Dec 2001, 1109 posts, RR: 10
Reply 1, posted (8 years 5 days 19 hours ago) and read 6676 times:

I think you'll find that the reason for retirement of the aircraft you mention is more on the lines of economics dictated by the engines rather than airframe fatigue.
There's plenty of life left in the MD80 series fleet but the engines burn too much fuel when compared to the next generation aircraft and the upcoming noise and carbon emission standards won't be easy to meet for any reasonable cost.
I also think you'll find the stresses on an aircraft in ground effect are not minor by any measure and the Boeing aircraft, in particular, will be hard put to meet the demands. Plus the engines on the 727's would have to be upgraded again at prohibitive cost to make them feasable at all.

Just one old gray hair's opinion mind you. . .

One may educate the ignorance from the unknowing but stupid is forever. Boswell; ca: 1533
User currently offlineHAWK21M From India, joined Jan 2001, 31851 posts, RR: 54
Reply 2, posted (8 years 5 days 11 hours ago) and read 6621 times:

Its always economics that grounds an Aircraft permanently most of the time.
the checks due to keep the Aircraft airworthy is not worth the expenses hence its works out better to sell the Aircraft or scrap it.
Any Aircraft wanting to fly will need to be Airworthy on paper too.

Think of the brighter side!
User currently offlineDw747400 From United States of America, joined Aug 2001, 1275 posts, RR: 1
Reply 3, posted (8 years 22 hours ago) and read 6420 times:

Keep in mind aircraft are optimized for the flight levels as well. A B737, for example, burns twice as much fuel going from BWI to CLT at 2000 feet (I don't know about terrain, this is just theoretical) as it does at FL400. The L/D benefit of staying in ground effect might help some, but I doubt it can make up for those numbers.

CFI--Certfied Freakin Idiot
User currently offline474218 From United States of America, joined Oct 2005, 6340 posts, RR: 9
Reply 4, posted (8 years 20 hours ago) and read 6402 times:

Quoting HAWK21M (Reply 2):
Its always economics that grounds an Aircraft permanently most of the time.

Which is it Mel, "always" or "most of the time"?

User currently offlineMX757 From United States of America, joined Aug 2005, 628 posts, RR: 10
Reply 5, posted (8 years 16 hours ago) and read 6372 times:

Quoting GolfOscarDelta (Thread starter):
Next question: is it possible to modify a MD-8X(DC-9X) or a 727 or any other rear engined airliner to take pontoons instead of landing gears? (Assuming that suitable pontoons are designed and suitable structural reinforcements can be made)

Probably not. If pontoons were installed on the nose and main landing gear the resulting rooster tail from take off and landing would more than likely go directly into the engine inlets causing flame-out. This is an inherent problem with tail mounted engines. I have spent many times in the inlets of DC-9/MD-80s and 727s repairing or changing fan blades (disk change) due FOD being thrown into engines from the main gear tires.

Then again anything is possible if somebody wants to spend the money. scratchchin 

Is it broke...? Yeah I'll fix it.
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