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One emerging (ha!) aircraft is getting a lot of air time these days. The Sky Cruise, a creation of brilliant CGI artist (and terrible aircraft conceptualizer) Hashem Al-Ghaili, is a concept for a nuclear-powered craft the size of a cruise ship that would fly around with thousands of guests aboard to see the world. And is it ever special. The craft would never land (how it takes off is not addressed), and jets both commercial and private would “dock” with it (again, the details of such a dramatic meet-up are omitted); and ferry passengers back to earth, errr, I mean land.
But is it even possible? Here are a few big questions that need to be answered.
How much does it weigh? Let’s talk airplanes. The biggest plane ever, the Antonov An-225, weighed in a max takeoff weight of around 1,500,000 (1.5 million) pounds. That’s a lot. To get there, it’s powered by six 50,000-pound-thrust engines. Those are big engines. The Sky Cruise is way bigger than the An-225, and it would weigh at least 100 times more than that, about the size of a small cruise ship or mid-sized (10-stories) brick apartment building. We’re talking 100,000,000 pounds.
How would it ever be able to take off? It wouldn’t. Modern jumbo jets require many thousands of feet of runway to accelerate to 150 mph or so before they can take off. How many hundreds of miles would it take for this behemoth to get airborne? There’s not enough concrete in the world.
How would it stay aloft? It wouldn’t. Aircraft require a goodly percentage of their available thrust to stay level, the heavier they are, the more power required. The proposed “20 nuclear engines” of the Sky Cruise, even if they were rated at an unprecedented 100,000 pounds of thrust apiece, wouldn’t even get the beast moving on the ground.
How much would it cost to build it? Let’s see, how much does it cost to build a small nuclear power plant? Around $5 billion. And that’s just for the juice? The rest of it? It’s all guess work, because the Sky Cruise is made up stuff to begin with, but a trillion dollars all in, including the support and maintenance and training and development costs, seems a low estimate.
How could anyone afford to operate it? They couldn’t.
When will it first fly? Never, that’s when.
In short, the Sky Cruise, while it’s presented as a product or a project, isn’t either. It’s a far-fetched notion that stands less than a zero percent chance of ever having part one produced. The video is fantastic, but presenting it as anything other than total fantasy is just plain silly and more than a little misleading.