Saturday, October 17, 2009

The falcon that did not fly

The US cable news networks were covering a story about a kid named Falcon Heene who floated from his backyard in a helium balloon that his dad made. Planes and helicopters were sent up and no kid could be seen attached to the balloon. The balloon started to deflate and after four hours it landed hundreds of miles away and the kid could not be found. A massive hunt was started to find out where the kid landed and possibly perished. It turns out the kid was hiding in his home and the whole thing was a non event except that now the parents are being questioned if this was a publicity stunt. The parents appeared on Wife Swap last year a reality TV show and I guess they needed more coverage so to speak. The kid and his parents were interviewed on the Morning Show the next day and the kid started puking on live TV. Here is the headline from the San Francisco Examiner on October 15 the day this happened: "Helium balloon floats away with boy,6, inside: After landing, child is missing from balloon"

All this helium balloon stuff got me thinking of the Hindenburg and dirigibles. With the help of Bill an extra smart engineer who studied at Caltech, we have decided that hydrogen not helium should be used in lighter than aircraft and that diesel should be the fuel of choice for the engines. Hydrogen got a bum wrap for causing the Hindenburg fire. Aluminum oxide, static electricity and shellac ignited the fire and hydrogen then burned. I am pretty sure I would not travel in a new Hindenburg that I may design but I would use it to deliver heavy equipment to remote areas like the North Slope of Alaska. The pilot would get double pay for hazardous duty or perhaps the dirigible could be remote controlled just like the drones the Air Force uses.

The National Hydrogen Association had a piece on a remote controlled drone that was powered by hydrogen fuel using a half horsepower fuel cell that stayed aloft to almost a day. The puny little drone might be able to carry a pea sized camera but my green machine could lift a tank. The National Hydrogen Association should go back to physics 101 and realize they have a massively buoyant chemical and a puny fuel. As for Falcon he may become forgotten like a Ford Falcon the car that certainly could never fly.


  1. They should call Falcon's dad Walking Eagle. Because he's so full of sh*t he can't fly.

  2. Yeah American Motors once had the Eagle. It was a Renault. Falcons Dad is Walking Eagle and perhaps soon to be Sitting Eagle as he sits in Jail

  3. Hey, that's funny Lindsay. The National Hydrogen Association did take physics 101. It's why we know how to make small, efficient planes, vehicles that go over 300mph, fuel cells that can power a building, silently with no emissions and cars that travel over 400 miles on one tank and fill-up in 2-5 minutes. You don't have to slanderize and badmouth other technologies to promote your own. There's room for innovation from everyone. You can disagree all you want, but let's place nice, like gown-ups.

  4. Hey Patrick Glad you read the piece. OK so you guys powered a 25 pound drone with 4 pounds of hydrogen and kept it aloft for 23 hours. A fuel cell vehicle like the Honda needs about 0.3 kwh per mile. This means we need 0.5 kwh of hydrogen as the FC is 60% efficient. The production of H2 is 75% efficient so we need 0.67 kwh of natural gas for the vehicle to go a mile. A gallon of gasoline has 33.7 kwh so your Honda fuel cell vehicle get 50 mpg equivalent. Same as the Prius on Gasoline. The prius is sold (not leased) for $22,000 and the Honda fuel cell vehicle costs Honda over $400,000 to produce. Patrick get real and you should stop playing games nicely. I could have taken the 4 pounds of hyrogen that were burned in keeping the drone aloft and used them in a ballon to displace 28 pounds of air and therefore lifted 24 pounds of balloon plus load. Let's say the balloon weighs 4 pounds so I can lift 20 pounds. The lighter than air blimp will need about 1/3 the fuel to go the same distance as the drone as I do not need thrust for lift and only need thrust for propulsion. Now that you have learned physics 001 please go to Congress for another $3 billion of my tax money so It can be wasted on repulsion instead of propulsion