To commemorate the centenary of powered flight in Hong Kong, the Hong Kong Space Museum presents a new Omnimax show, "Legends of Flight", to be shown until October 31.
The show traces the art and science of aircraft design as it evolved from early airplanes to today's super-efficient Boeing 787 Dreamliner. It also takes the audience on a Boeing 787 Dreamliner test flight with Boeing's chief test pilot, revealing the research and development behind this iron bird of a new generation.
Aerial flight has been mankind's dream since ancient times. Two Americans - the Wright Brothers - became the first to fulfill this dream when they made the first manned, powered flight in the early 20th century. For more than 100 years since, the aviation industry has experienced tremendous development and expansion.
The early piston engines were a marvel of ingenuity and simplicity and made possible an enormous variety of flying machines. One such was the Stearman bi-plane. Although its engine produced limited power, its multiple wings, good aerodynamics, lightweight fabric and wooden construction enabled this early aircraft to become airborne.
From the 1940s to 1960s, the piston airliner, Super Constellation, was the "big seller" for Lockheed. There were no computers installed in this four-engine turbo aeroplane, so pilots really "felt" the plane by using pulleys and cables, which were connected to all the control surfaces of the plane. Later, jet engines used a design and technology simpler than that of the old piston engine. Jet engines produce a much greater power-to-weight ratio. For example, The British-designed jet engine fighter, the Hawker-Siddeley Harrier, managed something once thought impossible. The fighters could fly both very fast and very slow. They were able to accelerate to 1,100km an hour in an instant, but they also consumed enormous amounts of fuel and made an ear-splitting noise, so they were not suitable for use as airliners. However, General Electric, Pratt-Whitney and other engine manufacturers were at work on new engines for a future generation of quieter, and considerably more efficient aircraft.
In the 21st century, the industry has already taken a great leap forward in respect of aircraft design and technology. The European Airbus A380 is currently the largest airliner, with a maximum carrying capacity of 853 passengers. In 2003, the US' Boeing made the momentous decision to produce the 787 Dreamliner, ushering in a new era of carbon fibre rather than aluminum airline structures.
Carbon has been called the "enchanted" element. Twisted into threads, and then woven together, carbon fibre can be made into the strongest yet lightest material on earth, stronger for its weight than any metal. The carbon fibre design has all kinds of advantages. It doesn't corrode like aluminum, so the cabin can be more humid and can be kept at higher pressure for passenger comfort while the windows can be made much bigger.
Additionally, using carbon fibre the wings can be longer, thinner and more efficient, just like gliders. In order to reduce stress on a much longer, thinner wing, engineers envisioned something they have called the "smart wing". Sensors read air currents and send data via a series of computers to wing surfaces that will react continuously to dampen turbulence. All these developments are intended to make aeroplanes more energy-efficient and longer lasting.
The 42-minute Omnimax show, "Legends of Flight", will be screened at 3.50pm and 7.20pm daily at the Museum's Stanley Ho Space Theatre. Additional shows will be scheduled at 12.20pm on Saturdays, Sundays and public holidays. The Museum is closed on Tuesdays (except public holidays). Tickets are available at the Space Museum Box Office and at all URBTIX outlets for $24 (front stalls) and $32 (stalls). Full-time students, senior citizens and people with disabilities will receive a half-price concession.
The Space Museum is located at 10 Salisbury Road, Tsim Sha Tsui, Kowloon. For further information, please call 2721 0226 or visit the website at http://hk.space.museum.
Ends/Tuesday, May 3, 2011
This glider is made of lightweight composite materials that have no power device. It relies on long thin wings to increase lift and reduce air resistance, enabling it to glide in the sky.
A perspective drawing of a jet engine. Jet engines are commonly used in modern airliners. Its design is simpler than that of the piston engine used in older planes and it produces a much greater power-to-weight ratio.
The wings and fuselage of the Boeing 787 Dreamliner are made of carbon fibre threads, as seen in the photo.