With a wingspan of 500 feet, 12 engines, 56 wheels and a carrying capacity of 2,3 million pounds – this plane was five times more powerful than an Antonov An-225 and could be listed as the most insane cargo plane ever designed. But it would never be built.
When the US government opened up northern Alaska to the oil industry, there was a question of how to get the resources from the far icy north down the refineries in the south. Boeing realized that air transportation would be the solution for this stranded oil and that earlier engineers had overlooked two very important factors.
Firstly, that the oil wouldn’t have to go from Alaska to California, but rather it could go from Alaska to the shipping lanes near the Canadian border, traveling the rest of the way by boat.
Another mistake was basing the sortie times on commercial operations, like the Boeing 747. As the plane wouldn’t be transporting passengers, but instead crude oil, it could fly at any time of the day – performing up to 18 sorties in a rolling 24 hour cycle.
To begin, they started with the Boeing 747. Turning one into an oil transport wouldn’t be hard, and initial designs showed that it could do it. The plane would turn its wing fuel tanks into oil tanks, as it didn’t need the fuel for the short-range. Boeing presented this 747 idea but as the plane made a profit of one dollar per barrel, the companies were not interested.
In 1970, Canada looked into opening up the arctic archipelago as part of the great plains project, for resource mining and extraction. Any railway would need to be built over frozen tundra and a pipeline would be considered extremely expensive.
The team opening up the region became aware of Boeing’s recent 747 oil tanker proposal and got in touch to see if they could use the same principle to carry mined ore rather than oil. This one design changed spurred Boeing to create a completely new aircraft, one that was up to the job and would be called the resource carrier. It would have other nicknames, such as the brute Lifter, or the Flying Pipeline!
Oil would be loaded in gigantic pods fitted to the side of the plane’s massive 500 foot or 150-meter wingspan. This would allow quick turn arounds, as the pods could be loaded off the plane, installed, and then flown to the destination. On arrival, the pods would be deposited onto existing train cars, and the plane would return with the empty pods.
To spread the heavy load out on the wings, the plane would need eight sets of landing gears. However, this had a problem for when the plane would turn on the ground, limiting a swept wing. This means that the plane would use a straight wing. This means a slower speed of Mach 0.7. But this was a fair compromise, as the flights would be short and the engineers could focus on a low-speed high-lift wing design.
This would mean that the plane would have a short-range, fully loaded of 1,000 miles, 1,610 km respectively. The plane would weigh around 985,000 pounds (447,000 kg), or double the weight of an An-225.
The Canadian plains project also had one more request – that the aircraft use a gas fuel as opposed to jet fuel. It would have a huge fuselage with nothing in it, the heavy cargo was in the pods. These fuel tanks would carry as natural gas, which could also now be transported in the same tanks.
The team believed that a fleet of 50 aircraft would be required for the project, with 15 of the aircraft being used as spares to ensure 24-hour service. At then $72 million, $439 million today, a pop, this was not a cheap operation. For oil, this would mean 86 cents per barrel – a good dollar difference from the previous 747 proposals.
To achieve the required sortie rate needed to make the “flying pipeline” concept work, Boeing designed an airport around the aircraft. This featured three parallel runways that would operate at the same time. Aircraft landed on the two outer runways and then taxied along with large operational aprons at either end of the runways. Here they dropped their cargo pods onto trains and picked up empty ones for the return flight.
A huge advantage of this proposal was that the planes could be reconfigured. From transporting oil, gas, ore, and more, they could be moved at a moment’s notices throughout the region and would mean new areas could be exploited.
So why was it never built?
In 1972, Boeing who had already put in 500,000 into the project presented the final design. The Canadians took it to the oil firms, confident they could get the $15 million needed to build a small-scale demonstration model.
Then in 1973, the oil crisis struck. The Boeing resource carrier was no longer profitable, and all design plans for it were totally abandoned – bringing the end to the insane journey of what could have been the world’s biggest cargo aircraft.
UAV DACH: Beitrag im Original auf https://www.uasvision.com/2021/03/05/boeing-resource-carrier-one-flying-oil-tanker/, mit freundlicher Genehmigung von UAS Vision automatisch importiert. Der Beitrag gibt nicht unbedingt die Meinung oder Position des UAV DACH e.V. wieder. Das Original ist in englischer Sprache. Für die Inhalte ist der UAV DACH e.V. nicht verantwortlich.