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Plane-less Wing-Walking

For those who have a wing and a prayer
 (+6, -2) [vote for, against]

In the early days of aviation, a daredevil called a "wing walker" would sometimes climb onto the upper wing of a biplane, usually using some cords to maintain stability, while the pilot did some aerobatics.

Nowdays we don't see that so much any more, but the modern popularity of extreme air sports can offer us a variation on that theme.

Imagine jumping out of a plane with a wing. You stand on the wing and control its attitude with various cords, not to mention your physical position, while gliding all the way down to the ground. An expert should not need a parachute (just a prayer).

How large does the wing need to be? Start with a calculation involving paragliders. They are somewhat wing-shaped and quite sufficient to gently land the user; how much surface area do they have to interact with the air? What if it was doubled?

Weight is a factor, of course. A wing stiff enough to stand on will not be made of fabric only, and the extra weight will require more total surface area for the wing.

Modern materials include a lot of carbon-fiber composites, which are quite appropriately strong and lightweight. You can assume the following descriptions will make significant use of it.

I'm imagining a central platform on which the user can stand and move about somewhat. It does not need to be especially wide, because standing off-center will be adequate to tilt the wing one way or another. The cords that the rider would handle can allow the "dihedral" of the wing to be adjusted.

I'm also imagining a telescoping design, to allow the wing to take up a small space when carried onto a plane by the jumper. Sections would telescope in both directions away from the center, of course.

The extension of the wings, from the central platform, logically works against the usage of the cords. It will be necessary for each section that telescopes outward to lock into place after doing so. Methods for extending the wings can be as simple as being pulled out by the jumper, while in free-fall, or as complicated as being pushed out by springs (but that adds weight).

I'm going to suggest a mechanism that uses air flow, to extend the wings. The user would stand on the platform as soon as possible after jumping out of the plane. The flat face that encounters air, below the rider, offers an excellent collection area for air, to inflate/extend the wings. If the wings were swept back slightly, that would help, too.

If the entry for that air was valved and controlled by the rider, then the total wing span could be adjusted (toward being wider) at any time during the fall/glide. The initial part of the jump can therefore be very much like the existing sky-surfing sport, offering a familiar starting point for this divergence from it.

Also, the construction design should arrange that each section be valved, and each valve should automatically open only as the previously telescoped section locks into place. The rider only needs to control the first valve for the initial sections.

There is a particular design of airfoil that would be greatly accommodating for this Idea. It is called the "Klein Fogelman" airfoil (see link). It offers a flat place onto which to walk, integral to the overall design, and the "rib" sections of the design are much simpler and easier to manufacture than the standard airfoil shape (they will weigh less, too). The design also naturally allows for extension of the "chord" of the wing, offering an easy way to increase the total surface area that interacts with the air.

Although the telescoping tubes of this wing, and the rib sections attached to the tubes, would be made of hard material, in-between them can be ordinary wing or parachute fabric material, that becomes taut as the sections telescope outward and lock into place. I'm estimating that the total tip-to-tip span of the wing may not need to exceed 7 meters.

Skids would be appropriate, for when the wing finally reaches the ground.

 — Vernon, Apr 21 2009

Dihedral http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dihedral
As mentioned in the main text [Vernon, Apr 21 2009]

Klein Fogelman wing design http://diydrones.co...nefogelman-airfoils
As mentioned in the main text [Vernon, Apr 21 2009]

Wing chord http://en.wikipedia...ki/Chord_(aircraft)
As mentioned in the main text [Vernon, Apr 21 2009]

Skysurfing has been around for a long time. Is this what you had in mind? They use a parachute to get down eventually and there are no strings and the thing is as big as a skateboard. But admit it, this is the ultimate evolution of what you had in mind. [zeno, Apr 22 2009]

See what I mean grandpa? (I mean that in the nicest way) [zeno, Apr 22 2009]

"The FX Studio at MPC duplicated the sheep using multiple passes which were composited together to create the big walking sheep and the ‘video game’ scene using After Effects, Boujou and Shake." [jutta, Apr 22 2009]

 — blissmiss, Apr 21 2009

[21 Quest], sorry, I haven't seen much of Spiderman in quite a few years. And if the idea is so old, why haven't I heard about anyone trying something like it for real (with a parachute in case something goes wrong, of course)? As far as I can tell, the most likely problem with this Idea is instability; "flying wing" aircraft are known for it; ordinary aircraft have that rear stabilizer for a reason. I've got an intuition, though, that a flying swept-back wing (not a delta shape) could be a rather more stable version of a flying wing. That's not necessarily good for an up-front rider (center-of-balance issues).
 — Vernon, Apr 22 2009

 The stability issues you foresee will be rather big ones. An upright human does create quite some drag - I concur with [zeno] that skysurfing is one evolutionary development of your idea, and i suggest paragliding is another : standing on a wing that constantly stalls, people decide to sweep the wings ever more back/upwards, until the ends meet above the head: a ring-wing, the cords stabilising the human go everywhere, but soon it is discovered they only need to go up. And as the human can sit on these, the plattform is not needed anymore.

You found the missing link between skysurfing and paragliding! [+]
 — loonquawl, Apr 22 2009

[zeno], no, skysurfing is just the starting point for what I had in mind.
 — Vernon, Apr 22 2009

Your idea is to skysurfing what sheepherding is to extreme sheepherding. (link)
 — zeno, Apr 22 2009

 [21], I was under the impression that "baked" meant already exists in the real world.

For things envisioned in science fiction, but not yet realized, I prefer the term "preheated".
 — normzone, Apr 22 2009

 I prefer it if we didn't make up terms that need to be explained and argued over every time they are used. Let's just say what we mean, okay?

To summarize. There's someone in fiction well known to be standing on a triangular wing. Vernon wasn't thinking of that particular character and (correctly) doesn't think that particular form is feasible in reality. So, the Green Goblin is a bit of a red herring.
 — jutta, Apr 22 2009

plane-less ? pain-less landing?
 — wjt, Apr 22 2009

//well known to be standing on a triangular wing//
Well known only if you saw Spiderman the Movie... I vaguely recall Captain America flying on his shield on one comic-book cover.
 — FlyingToaster, Apr 22 2009

 I'm trying to work out what your problem is lately, [21], still haven't worked it out.

 — Custardguts, Apr 23 2009

[Vernon] what exactly is the difference between this and skysurfing ?
 — FlyingToaster, Apr 23 2009

This is as much green goblin's flying machine as a pancake is a waffle.
 — daseva, Apr 23 2009

The Green Goblin is standing on a mixture between something like a VTOL mini-wing and a rocket. [Vernon]'s idea, as i understand it, is like sky-surfing with a wing, as opposed to just a small board.
 — loonquawl, Apr 23 2009

 [FlyingToaster], a skysurfing board is pretty small, and you must open a parachute or equivalent to land safely. This wing is intended to be large enough that a 'chute would not be needed. Also, there is the matter of orientation; a skysurfing board is oriented basically the same as a water surfing board, but this wing was imagined as being oriented like a typical wing. I admit it might be interesting to see if a wing-sized skysurfing board, oriented in the usual surfing way, could let one land safely...(of course then [21 Quest] would complain about resemblance to something in the "Silver Surfer" stories).

The problem remains regarding packing a large wing of any sort onto an aircraft for a skydiver. Has anyone here enountered descriptions of telescoping wings anywhere for any other purpose?
 — Vernon, Apr 23 2009

Vernon, do you find yourself getting caught up in the details? The idea is complete without hashing through these logistics, in my opinion. However, there exists a problem with using air drag to force your telescoping extensions. The drag won't be uniform, or reproducible, for any jump. I think this error is too unpredictable to rely on for your mechanism. Half your jumpers will die.... Well, saftey chutes will have to be worn, either way..
 — daseva, Apr 23 2009

[daseva], if air resistance is inadequate to inflate/telescope the wings, there is always the alternative method of using springs, as mentioned in the main text (it just means the wing will weigh more and need to be larger). I suggested air resistance simply because this IS the HalfBakery, so why not use a less-likely possibility?
 — Vernon, Apr 23 2009

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