Designer Airliners - Ice Road Flying

It is appropriate, perhaps, for the grandson of the inventor of the snowmobile to turn his hand to designing an aircraft specifically for operations in the Arctic. That person is Canadian industrial designer Charles Bombardier, and his design is a ground-effect cargo aircraft called the Nunavik Arctic Express.

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Inspired by Russia's wing-in-ground-effect Ekranoplan - and watching episodes of Ice Road Truckers, it seems - the Nunavik is designed to fly at up to 200mph, 15-50ft above the sea, ice and tundra as it moves cargo between Arctic locations in support of drilling and mining operations, as well as border patrol and search-and-rescue missions.

The concept is powered by four 1,500shp Pratt & Whitney Canada PW100 turboprops and has a boxy cargo-friendly fuselage similar to the Shorts 360 -- inspired by is hardly the right phrase -- carrying up to 36 LD2 containers accessible by forklift via large side doors. The airframe would be composite for lightness and ruggedness, Bombardier says.

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He acknowledges some challenges with the design, including maneuvering at such low altitude in airspace beyond radar coverage. He suggests fitting an autopilot using radar and laser altimeters and flying corridors determined by the regulatory authorities. Taxiing also needs to be tackled (the concept has skis) and Bombardier is looking at a water takeoff capability.

Bombardier the grandson is an industrial designer, not an aircraft (or snowmobile) engineer, and seems pretty open to constructive comments on his concepts, only a few of which are aircraft - like the Antares STOL airliner we featured recently on Things With Wings. So be sure to visit his website and let him know what you think.

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Concept art by Robin Ritter for Charles Bombardier

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