Half a croissant, on a plate, with a sign in front of it saying '50c'
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Airbus "Ekranoplan" mode

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(+4, -1)
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Much has been bruited about concerning the advantages and otherwise of ekranoplan (ground-skimming) vehicles. This idea is not about that.

Flying in a commercial airliner is a minor miracle. You are sitting comfortably in a metal tube travelling at 500mph through unbreathably thin air at incredibly low temperatures, pushed along by equivalent of 50 formula-1 cars. And you can even have a G&T whilst doing it.

The problem is, it doesn't _feel_ miraculous. You're at 30,000 feet, and if you can see any features on the ground, they crawl past with tedious slowth.

So, MaxAir is offering a better experience on some of its long-haul flights. When the aircraft is passing over largely uninhabited, mountain-free terrain in good weather, the pilot descends to about 5-800ft AGL, whilst maintaining an airspeed of about 350mph. This is, of course, horrendously expensive - both because of the lower efficiency of the plane at those speeds and altitudes, and because extra fuel is needed to return to cruising altitude afterwards. It also needs a pilot who is not likely to nod off at the wrong moment. But the passenger experience is absolutely awesome.

MaxwellBuchanan, Jan 13 2017


       Preheated ;-)   

       " A wave of panic akin to being caught smoking in the boys' room swept over Tuck, but he couldn't think fast enough to come up with a viable lie. He said, "You haven't surfed until you've surfed in a Learjet."   

       Much to his amazement, Beth Curtis said, "Cool!" and strapped herself into the copilot's seat. "   

       " Isle of the Sequined Love Nun ", Christopher Moore 1997
normzone, Jan 13 2017

       Why not add some giant flaming hoops for the plane to fly through?
Wrongfellow, Jan 13 2017

       //Preheated// Great minds...   

       //flaming hoops// for, [Wrong], anything. Of course, if you fly across Australia at the right time of year...
MaxwellBuchanan, Jan 13 2017

       The holding patterns around major airports should have dedicated aerobatics zones. "fasten seatbelts and rotate your G&T steadily clockwise"
pocmloc, Jan 13 2017

       I would be willing to dedicate quite a bit more of company funds to change a particular flight I take regularly, crossing about 1/3 of Australia - to get them to fly NOE the whole way.   

       The company might not like it so much, but you can't put a price on having happy workers.
Custardguts, Jan 16 2017

       And the extra +/- G-forces in the extra ascent/descent could be put to additional hilarious uses. Bun for you, sir.
absterge, Jan 17 2017

       Why not try to recover some of that lost fuel efficiency by flying *really* low, in ground effect?
DIYMatt, Jan 17 2017

       I think flying with the wheels on the ground might be seen as "driving".
hippo, Jan 17 2017

       I've noticed that major airlines* already drive the first and last miles of the journey, which I think is cheating.   

       (Of course, Ryanair covers the last 50-60 miles by road.)
MaxwellBuchanan, Jan 17 2017

       Flying a few (hundred) miles at low altitude is a valid method of checking the function of the Terrain Awareness and Warning System (TAWS). Piping the "Sink Rate!" and "Pull Up!" warnings into the cabin would reassure passengers that this system was fully operational. As an additional bonus, any flights which do not arrive could signal that unregulated skyscrapers or new volcanic mountains have appeared on the route. As such, the NTSB go team could share a cab with planning officials and volcanologists.
bs0u0155, Jan 23 2017

       Presumably, a couple of crocodile clips could connect the TAWS to the autopilot, allowing safe cruising at altitudes of less than 50 feet.
MaxwellBuchanan, Jan 23 2017

       Shhh!!! military contractors have been doing this for years and selling it as the brutally expensive "Terrain following radar". You do not want to upset military contractors.
bs0u0155, Jan 23 2017


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