October 08, 2002
Proposed Huge Boeing Pelican Aircraft

Its payload would be more than an order of magnitude greater than that of a C-5 Galaxy.

This article has comparisons to other existing aircraft as well:

The Boeing Co.'s proposed Pelican transport aircraft would dwarf the largest plane now flying, the Russian-built Antonov An225.

The An225 has a 290-foot wingspan, which would be more than 200 feet shorter than the Pelican's preliminary wingspan design of 500 feet. It is 275 feet long, compared to the Pelican's projected length of more than 300 feet. And its cargo-hauling capacity, 275.5 tons, would be only a fraction of the Pelican's as-designed 1,400-ton payload.

The Daily Telegraph has an artist's rendering here.

The Pelican will be designed to fly 50 feet above the ocean, using the buoyant aerodynamic effect of flying close to the water to provide its maximum economic range.

The BBC says Boeing hasn't yet committed to building it.

Here's the best article on the prospects for the Pelican.

Update: Some additional clarification from the Pelican Program Manager.

Other than cruising at low altitude above water, the Pelican has little in common with historical Russian wing-in-ground-effect (WIG) aircraft. The Russian WIGs were designed primarily for short range, sea-based military missions. With beefy structure and ample propulsion systems for water operations, they were no more efficient than modern subsonic transports, despite their lower speed.

The advent of computer-based flight controls permits the Pelican to be land-based, so that it can be much lighter and aerodynamically cleaner than earlier WIGs. It appears, remarkably, that land-based WIGs differ little from aircraft optimized for conventional cruising altitudes. This permits a dual-mode aircraft to provide substantial operational benefits in the long-range transport of cargo.

Advanced flight control systems also provide ample maneuverability while automatically maintaining safe clearance from the water.

— Blaine K. Rawdon, Pelican Program Manager, San Pedro, Calif.

Pelican would fly on a cushion of air.

Riding on top of a cushion of air, the Pelican would experience 70 percent less drag than a normal plane, allowing it to travel further while using the same amount of fuel. The wing-in-ground effect occurs at an altitude equivalent to 10 percent to 25 percent of the wing’s width at the point where it joins the fuselage. The phenomenon increases the ratio of lift to drag for a wing.

"It’s an effect that provides extraordinary range and efficiency," says John Skorupa, senior manager of strategic development for Boeing Advanced Airlift and Tankers. "With a payload of 1.5 million pounds, the Pelican could fly 10,000 nautical miles over water and 6,500 nautical miles over land.

Share |      Randall Parker, 2002 October 08 07:38 PM  Airplanes and Spacecraft

Bill Hinds said at December 20, 2002 11:05 AM:

Does the Boeing Co. Have any pictures or drawinga of the proposed Pelican with estimated length and width measurements or comparisons to the Boeing 747 ? Thank You. Bill Hinds. Retired Boeing Wichita

Michael said at January 24, 2003 7:06 PM:

Not that I know of. However, if you look for an issue of Popular Mechanics (Jan 2003). Inside is a schema of the 747 comparison. It makes the 747 look like tweetie bird. Amazing!

Nathaniel said at February 6, 2003 1:55 AM:

All I can say is..........wow.

I hope they build it.

William A. Thomas said at March 1, 2003 11:03 AM:

Hi Bill

I have pix of the proposed pelican if you want to email me. defence@indigo.ie

hey said at March 10, 2003 6:15 AM:

good job! u got that almost all of that from pop sci!

Ed D. Keller said at April 22, 2003 12:52 PM:

I am very interested in any info on the
Pelican aircraft.
Ed D Keller
USAF 49-53

Wubbe Gelling said at May 6, 2003 1:28 AM:

If I'm correct Russia has used this same technology to build the same plane. There prototype has flown in the late 80's. The American study model is bigger, but it remains a study model not a flying prototype.

Paul said at June 22, 2003 3:06 PM:

For more info on these Ground Effect Machines, surf to www.se-technology.com/wig.
The most complete collection of information on Wing In Ground Effect Vehicles anywhere!
Also info on the grand Russian Ekranoplans..



Mukhlason said at August 11, 2003 2:38 AM:

Would You Help me?
I'm a student of aerospace engineering in Indonesia. Could you help me about methods and analysis off take off performance during water section of Wing In Ground effect? I need this for my thesis.

Best regards

Ryan Kennedy said at November 27, 2003 2:47 AM:

I wonder how come they don't use a blended wing body. I would think that would combine two leeding edge cncepts. http://www.dailynews.com/Stories/0,1413,200~20950~1769154,00.html

Richard said at December 20, 2003 4:10 AM:

The article states; "The wing-in-ground effect occurs at an altitude equivalent to 10 percent to 25 percent of the wing’s width at the point where it joins the fuselage." This is of course wrong, he means 10% - 25% of the wing span not its chord.

Fernando Alberton said at February 17, 2004 7:21 PM:

My name is Fernando Alberton. I'm from Brazil. Do you have information the boeing pelican, do you have catalog? Thank you very much.
Fernando Alberton

Rod said at April 5, 2004 6:49 AM:

Amazing technology, I would wonder why that more prototypes have not been built and tested with this facinating concept.

RR said at May 1, 2004 11:18 AM:

This idea was already implemented and real aircrafts build with cargo capacity 1000+ tons by Soviets in the 80's.
The had a fleet of "Ekrano-planes" in the Caspian and Black seas.
Primary task to deliver 1000 troops and 10 main battle tanks across the sea at speeds of 700+ km/h.

I think Boeing is a little lat to be the first but a new plan would not hurt!


Rob said at May 27, 2004 7:39 AM:

to clear up some obvious confusion, the author may well have stated 10 to 20%, but, the true dimension is up to 50% of the span, this is because the function here is to minimise traverse flow, and in doing so, minimising induced drag. Why 50%, because if u are to look at a diagram of the aircraft from the front, the maximum expected flow circulates around the tips to the wing root from bottom to top surface. Clearly the lower u go, the greater the effect. To enhance this capability, two other features are usually apparent.
1. The wing tips are forward swept, as this type of tip has traverse flow that is in reverse from what is normal.
2. The tips are cranked downward, to minimise the distance between the wing tip and the surface.
In line with what is already known about flying boats, which require unusually strong fuselage structures and the associated weight. More weight means less payload, not good if you need to compete with conventional traffic. Hence these later proposals, are intended to utilise land based airstrips and wheeled gear. The resulting machine that has as u would recall, less drag, therefore less engine and fuel, can have a mamoth carrying capacity of around 60% of the gross, where 40% of the gross is the norm for conventional aircraft.

John said at August 26, 2004 6:57 PM:

If you want to see something realy interesting go to see this WIG in Australia
It's different to any other and has a 100% lift capacity of it's own weight !

Hadley said at January 26, 2005 5:46 AM:

Hi Im a glider pilot from the UK, this looks good but why do they not use jets? won't the prop wash disturb the airflow and minimise the ground effect?

Josip M said at March 14, 2005 6:14 AM:

Hey guys, see the russian pages about ekranoplan aircraft, you will find out that the soviets were doing it back from 60-ies.

Demian said at April 29, 2005 11:09 PM:

John, jets are only truly effecient at high altitudes, this is why all jet airliners climb above 30,000 feet, the pelican will probably use coupled turboshafts which are more efficient for their size at lower altitudes, truth is that turboshafts are the most economical way to propell a large plane, the only reason airliners don't to it is because they are slower and somewhat more expensive to maintain (more complex). The only advantage of using jets is that you can easily vector their thrust as was done by the russians with the enormous KM, this helps when you want to take off from water because that way you ram air under the wings and increase lift which unsticks the craft from the water. since the pelican will operate from land this effect is unnecesary. Also, the pelican has to be capable of acceptably efficient true flight up to 20,000 ft and a wing optimized for ground effect will not fly efficiently out of ground effect. I'm not a trained aerodynamicist, but I do know that a big cause of ground effect is the flattening of the wingtip vortex under the wing, with a drooping wing most of this effect is localized near the tip and most of the surface effect would be felt right there, so even if the propwash disturbs the airflow it would do so away from the main area of incidence.

Ernesto J. Dizon said at May 17, 2005 9:18 AM:

Hi! I have an idea for cargo-carrying planes;why not construct a blimp that is round in shape ,but from side view has air-foil for lift? under its belly are cargo holds for container size compartments!by the way this craft can be fill with Helium,and is computer-controlled,in case altitude changes might effect its Helium contents,its very economical,then the "Pelican that is plan to build!inside this blimp has comfortable sleeping quaters for the crew,and a huge Galley-come dining room! The control room or the pilot house is automatic computer controled;but it also have a second computer-ready back-up in case the first computer fail! in emergency it can be manually controled there are four huge jet engines above the top rear of the blimpand worse come to worse tuck inside the blimp is four huge emergency parachute,to settle it down to the ground or water just in case such Emergency is needed.
The blimp has hovering capabilities! a boon2the military,cause it can be use as a plat-form as a gun-ship support or to monitor enemy movement! in case shot at;this blimp is using self-sealing special fabric,akin to Teflon,and will not punture!it can stay aloft for 24 hours,even when the jet-engines are off,or what the needs be.

Kakki Peter said at June 23, 2005 6:30 AM:

The pelican reminds me of a game called Rifts. In that game there is this nation called the CS(Coalition of States, comprised of southeastern US states) and in the CS their main military transport is called the Deathshead transport.

That Deathshead transport of course is completely fictional, but what it allows their military to do is make it very mobile, which they use to hunt down their enemies and generally be very nazi-like in their behaviour.

Be careful lest we find ourselves neighbors of the american empire.

Donald Blake said at October 26, 2005 10:00 AM:

Wing in Ground Effect craft from what I have seen are commercially viable. Even considering high maintenance costs due to exposed parts in a corossive environment these should work quite well in many coastal areas. Unfortuanately I have not come across information where these are actually used in a commercial freight or passenger application. Does anyone know of any WIG craft used in a commercial application? Appreciate any info

Manu said at March 26, 2006 11:06 AM:

It would be still shorter than the russian ekranoplan KM-08 built in the 1960s. KM-08 could lift 500 MT and was 106 metres long!!!!!!!
I don't see Americans coming anywhere close and think this is a PR stunt by Boeing.... Please give credit to the russians.

sdag said at March 29, 2006 7:37 PM:

thats true but the pelican is above water, while the russian plane had its tail creating a wake. substantial drag coefficient dont you think?

KAto said at May 20, 2006 5:21 PM:

There is a small article in Popular Science (Nov. 2003) about it.

Rahul said at July 28, 2006 10:20 PM:

I'm seriously thinking of some mechanism with which this huge "Blimp" can be built to transport atleast 10,000 metric tonnes of material to a range of 500 Kms....this will revolutinise the way we transport ore and coal.
moreover this will be most cost efeective way to transport the material.

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