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Steam in the Air book

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Joined: 13 Jul 2003
Posts: 232
Location: UK

PostPosted: Thu Feb 09, 2006 06:53    Post subject: Steam in the Air book Reply with quote

I read this book yesterday, and have a few questions. (it's a nice general book, but does not concentrate on engines: it is written like the Newcomen Society reports, and has the feel of those books reprinted by Dover Press. I don't think it has enough of interest for me to write a review for the AEHS)
Anyway, there is a mention, and a drawing of a Great Lakes amphibian aircraft schemed to be powered by a steam turbine, and another report, mentioning Igor Sikorsky amongst others, who developed a plan/patent for a combined radial petrol/gas aero engine and steam engine/turbine, which used the waste heat from the exhaust manifold, to steam drive a turbocharger, (and provide additional thrust) for the radial engine: do any of our members have any details of these?
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Joined: 13 Jul 2003
Posts: 4

PostPosted: Tue Dec 26, 2006 13:47    Post subject: Atomic Power Aircraft Engine & Airframe project Reply with quote

The SciFi book "Steambird" by Hilbert Schlink is interesting and based to a certain extent on some U.S. projects of the '50s. WS-110-A and WS-125 were what became the B-70 and an Atomic powered aircraft. I forget which WS was which but worked on both in the Lockheed Structures Physical Test Lab in the 1950's. Hilbert Schlink (I hope I've got the name spelled correctly) worked @ P&WA at that time and was involved in the engineering and design of the steam turbines and systems of the Atomic engine which was to power an airframe of mainly 400 series Stainless Steel. Lots of material testing as well as fairly large component elevated temperature testing was done at Lockheed (CALAC) Structures Rsch. Phys. Test Lab.
The B-70 was finally built by North American (Rockwell) but as far as I know there was no airframe fabrication (beyond the test articles) done for the Atomic powered aircraft. Apparently powerplant components were built and tested @ P&WA but I do not know if a reactor was ever incorporated.
Can anyone locate Hilbert Schlink? He could have soe interesting history and comment.
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Joined: 13 Jul 2003
Posts: 51
Location: Auckland, New Zealand

PostPosted: Thu Dec 28, 2006 04:33    Post subject: Reply with quote

I have the Steam in the Air book also, the main problem I have is that in all the many attempts made there was only one that really flew - the Besler. (But thats not the authors fault! Smile)

I have an article "German Fuel Policy and Experimental Engine Design 1890 - 1945" by M.C. Duffy in the 1992 Journal of the International Stationary Steam Engine Society which mentions other aviation ideas that I can't see in the above book. The article is mainly about land-based coal dust burning engines, but there is a brief mention of possible work done on coal-burning aero-engines in WW2 Germany. The author was not able to come up with much evidence, but mentions a few possible ideas, eg the Messerchmidt 264 strategic long range bomber with steam turbine driving a 17.5 ft propellor, fuel being a mixture of powdered coal and petroleum. Possible that the exhaust gas was intended to drive a gas turbine. (Reference to brief comment in "Messerschmidt: The Album" by R.T. Smith). Author can't determine if project was ever completed or tested.
Also mentions a ram jet idea using blocks of resin-bonded brown coal.....

Speaking of atomic power, I was watching some old film recently showing an atomic powered locomotive, Union Pacific I think. It showed these guys explaining the design, but didn't show an actual working unit.
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Joined: 08 Feb 2005
Posts: 20

PostPosted: Thu Dec 28, 2006 12:52    Post subject: Reply with quote

WS-110 was the weapons system for the B-70 Valkyrie...once the ws-110 system was cancelled, the XB-70's were used for research and testing only. The atomic powered aircraft used a gas turbine whose heat came from an air-cooled reactor rather than by burning fuel...the engine was tested (by GE, I think?) and worked, the only problem being that the exhaust was radioactive!! ...All was not lost, however, as the fuel rods had to be encased in a ceramic material to withstand the high operating temperatures...Adolf Coors Company developed this material and now uses a version of it to line their beer vats. Shocked

NASM has a steam aircraft engine that I understand flew in a JN-4...if I remember right it was a v-twin or v-four compound with a flash tube boiler...(I think it is in Hershel Smith's book, "History of Aircraft Piston Engines")

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Joined: 26 May 2004
Posts: 56
Location: Portland, Oregon

PostPosted: Fri Dec 29, 2006 22:45    Post subject: Reply with quote

Two different nuclear propulsion schemes were pursued. Pratt Whitney worked on an indirect cycle engine, but never built a working prototype. General Electric built direct cycle engine ptototype, the HTRE-1. Which still exists. Check out www.atomictourist.com/ebr.htm. Coors built the fuel rods the Tory IIA and IIC ram jet engines used in project PLUTO. This was an entirely different project than the atomic powered bomber. This was an atomic powered cruise missle.
It runs best just before it blows!
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Joined: 10 Sep 2007
Posts: 32
Location: Lakewood, Colorado

PostPosted: Tue Feb 10, 2009 19:04    Post subject: Reply with quote


Some time ago, a friend in Georgia, Dr. James Mahaffey, wrote an article on atomic-powered aircraft for Air & Space magazine, but it has yet to appear.

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Joined: 11 Dec 2009
Posts: 21
Location: E28033; Madrid,Spain

PostPosted: Fri May 07, 2010 08:42    Post subject: Reply with quote

By serendipity, I've found a picture of an steam aircraft engine, it is on show at the Warner Robins Air Force Museum, Warner Robins, GA. There's also a video of the only airplane ever flying with a steam engine in YouTube.
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