A Diesel Airplane with Glider-like Efficiency


Gliders may seem girly, until you consider that we basically landed an entire army with parachutes and gliders during World War II’s Operation Market Garden. So a diesel-powered plane with glider-like efficiency might be just what we need.

With five seats and a 200 horsepower engine, the Synergy concept will tip the scales at just 3,100 pounds. But the real key to its success lies in the wing design, which manages to nearly achieve the efficiency of a glider in a relatively compact package, if preliminary flights with a scale model are to be believed. The designer, John McGinnis, hails from Kalispell, Montana claims that the 32-foot wingspan packs 144 square-feet of wing area,  nearly as much as gliders with a 46-foot wingspan. McGinnis hopes to get a full-scale plane built in order to enter the NASA/CAFE Green Flight Challenge, where $1.5 million is up for grabs for the most efficient airplane design.

Air travel sucks these days, and I think it is because of the scale. We’ve got huge planes jam-packed with people, that require huge airports and terminals which means many smaller cities are simply skipped over when it comes to aviation travel. I’d prefer planes that held between 20 and 40 people, comfortably, didn’t fly quite so high, and were able to land at smaller airports in smaller cities. I think that is the future, and who knows, this weird design might actually come into play. Not sure how the diesel engine will work out, but why not, right?

Source: Wired

Chris DeMorro is a writer and gearhead who loves all things automotive, from hybrids to HEMIs. You can read about his slow descent into madness at Sublime Burnout or follow his non-nonsensical ramblings on Twitter @harshcougar.

About the Author

A writer and gearhead who loves all things automotive, from hybrids to HEMIs, can be found wrenching or writing- or else, he's running, because he's one of those crazy people who gets enjoyment from running insane distances.
  • The joined wing concept promises some amazing performance gains.
    There is some drag reduction, the box wing structures may be stronger and/or lighter than cantilevered wing designs, the wing tip vortexes are captured to generate additional lift. The pusher design puts all the noise behind the aircraft and provides great visibility with a very streamlined frontal area. Throw a Delta Hawk diesel on the thing and it just might be a winner. Question is if the design elements can be scaled up to that 20 – 40 person commuter.

  • Very interesting wing design. What’s the fuel consumption of the diesel engine?

    I kind of disagree with your idea of the 20-40 seat aircraft being cost effective…With fuel prices as high as they are now, this is exactly why airlines are shedding 50 seat RJ’s like crazy. In airline economics, it’s all about the CASM and RASM…Cost per Available Seat Mile and Revenue per Available Seat Mile.

    In a nutshell, you need to maximize the number of paying pasengers that you can carry and spread the cost of the fuel over as many people as possible.

    • @ Dean

      The flip side of that is that much of the cost comes from having to fill these huge airplanes with tons and tons of fuel. In fact, one of the largest weight factors when it comes to flying IS that fuel.

      You’re only going to get so much fuel efficiency out of a huge airplane. Shrink the plane, increase fuel economy, make profit. I’m sure it is more complicated than that, but I do wonder if that might not be a better way to run an airline. Remember, those first propeller-driven planes didn’t carry huge loads either.

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  • Am i looking at an updated version of a BIPLANE???