When I used to work in San Francisco, I had a lovely office. My window had a breath taking view of the Bay Bridge (this is while the Gap HQ building was under construction so I had a completely unhindered view of the bridge and the bay). One day I was sitting at my desk when I noticed something moving fast out of the corner of my eye. I looked up from my screen to see the magnificent Blue Angels announcing their arrival in San Francisco by flying over and under the Bay Bridge. They were beyond magnificent and gave us all a free show – whetting our appetites for what was to come that weekend … a full on aerial display.
The Blue Angels have always had a special place in my heart and I can’t help but grin like a small child whenever I see them. Now before I make my colleagues too upset, I do admit that the Red Arrows are not so deeply bad either and I wonder if we’ve ever had a fly-off between the two… now wouldn’t that be 10 kinds of awesome?
Whenever I see fighter planes a part of my brain also thinks about their raison d’être and the fact that when these planes go out on missions, sometimes they may need to be refueled in flight. I’m sure this opens a whole can of worms for the engineers designing the various pieces of equipment needed for this accomplishment. So imagine my surprise when I recently came across an article about this topic. In the article titled Flow Analysis of an Air-to-Air Refueling System published in Aerospace Engineering (Oct 24, 2012), John Isaac, writes about the challenges facing the engineers involved in designing air-to-air refueling systems.
According to Mr. Isaac, solving this refueling system would require that the system designed meet three major specifications –
1) Can the system deliver fuel at an acceptable rate to the receiving aircraft?
2) Can the system deliver fuel at an even rate?
3) Can the system handle a rapid disengagement of the plane from the tanker without causing excessive pressure surge (which can damage the system)?
Turns out CFD simulation is a great tool for answering these questions and more. Since I don’t want to duplicate the good work of Mr. Isaac, I thought you may find reading the actual article more interesting. So please feel free to follow this link to the original article. I hope you too find the article interesting.
Until next time,