Sunday, 8 June 2014

Howl's Moving Castle - and Hello Again!

Ladies and Gentlemen, the Great Wizard Pendragon has seen fit to supply us with technical knowledge of the esteemed King's Airframes for our humble analysis straight from the Grand Library of Kingsbury!

Ha ha, not really, folks, but we've got the next best things - images, guesswork, and a belated return from yours truly. The last few years have seen little occur on my end on this blog, but I thought, in the face of continued (and thank you!) interest, no matter how light, I should produce a few more posts on here. The nature of this blog means it's more for 'reference', realistically speaking, since it's not exactly the sort of subject one can write quick Twitter-style periodicles about, so I've thought of two more blogs to create for your perusal - Howl's Moving Castle, and The Wind Rises. I'd also like to add that, just the same as a few years ago, my aeronautical knowledge isn't, by any stretch of the imagination, certified - if you have thoughts, I beg you add your opinion as a comment or two to fill out any gaps in any part of anything around here.

It's fitting that this year be the centeniary of that awful Great War, undoubtedly the model for a striking pastiche that the Ghibli studio and Diana Wynne Jones ran with in such a resonating fashion. So, without further delay, I present to you: Howl's Moving Castle, and all the wonderful flying machines included within.

Let's start with the first flying machine in the film - the Flying Kayak.

The Flying Kayak appears to be an ornithoptic vertical takeoff and landing capable airframe capable of carrying at least three passengers with power left to spare. It appears to be of approximately 3.8 to 4 metres in length, considerably less - perhaps 2.3 - 3 metres - in wingspan. The sizes seem to change in subtle ways in each scene, however, so these are estimates - in general, however, it seems to have a ration of 1:3 width to length ratio.
Let's start with what we can see, shall we? The control and power surfaces appear to be integrated together into the "wings". The wings themselves are made of two distinct parts each; a spar and a 'rotor'. The spar, despite being extremely thin, can transfer extremely powerful oscillations to the rotors without showing wear over a good length of time - in the film, Sophie is depicted as flying a Kayak from noon until sundown with no breaks. The rotors are longer than they are wide, which would, theoretically, enable excellent lateral and roll responsiveness for an experienced pilot at the expense of lift and stability. To counterract this, the two winglets seen on the edges of the main fueselage may provide some degree of lift, or, at least, some stability due to positive inclination and a basic aerofoil shape. At the extreme rear, along another spar, is the tail rudder.
I've jumped the gun a bit, but let's do some analysis. General layout first - it would be very unstable. Ignoring the questionable lift strategy for now, the rotors are too wide for the single spar that connects them to the rest of the airframe; the spars would bend and warp in all but the gentlest of manouevres, rendering the Kayak unusable. In addition, the lack of a proper tail empennage or forward stabiliser of some kind means that, with the weak spars, pitch would be horrendously difficult to control safely.
Next, we'll take a look at the engine. In the film, a Kayak has its bonnet (or, if you speak American, hood) torn off, and we get a little look at a sketchy inside. Good news! Oil pours out! We know it's powered by some variant of fuel oil. To power an internal combustion engine as such would be a little innefficient - power to weight ratios do tell us why nearly all aircraft built today use paraffin derivatives! The engine would need an extensive and extremely efficient gearing system to power some sort of mechanism that transforms rotary power into oscillating power for the rotors - I would guess a simple flywheel attached onto the gearbox that connects to two rods that push the rotors with a lever mechanism using the end of the spars as the main joint, with a spring (hydraulics?) system to compensate for the wheel demanding changes in length - the spring could also be connected to the wings to swivel them downwards during an upstroke, enabling the ornithoptic system to have some hope of not just flailing wildly and pointlessly, which wouldn't be an awful lot of fun for those upper class tourists we see riding around as passengers!
All of that may make it seem a bit implausible, which, sadly, it is - but, I think, not that bad... Really, all the Kayaks require are 1) A tail empennage, 2) strength in the spars, 3) power, 4) unbelievably low weight. Admittedly, using a tail empennage with horizontal aerilons would result in the VTOL ability being compromised a little - but honestly, I'd much prefer moving along at speed than staggering about up and down in this skinny little aircraft. However, a tail would provide stability and control during forward motion and headwind - any hover ability of the Kayak would be difficult enough to control to warrant its castration. Strength in the spars would, naturally, stop the wings from breaking - it would require, perhaps, a lattice structure or, at the very least, two beams meeting together at the rotor in a triangle. The aim there is to enable tortion/torque from the rotors to be transferred safely to the Kayak proper. Third, power and weight are extremely important on VTOL aircraft - even more so than those laughably boring normal aeroplanes - and the Kayak is no exception. An ornithopter of this design is like a compromise between a helicopter and a fixed-wing aircraft, with, sadly, none of the advantages of either; the wings are too small and too innefficient to work without being virtually weightless and the rotors very, very cleverly designed to produce no downforce on the upswing. It's not impossible, though - I mention back up there somewhere how it could be linked into the drive systems to provide a mechanical means of swivelling the rotors downwards to prevent them from pushing anywhere but up.
So, the doctine - what are these Kayaks used for, why, and would that work in real life? Well, here, we must of course take into account the context of the film, which is the late 19th-early 20th century, at least, as we would probably understand it. So, they would be used as troop transport, material transport, propaganda tools, and, most importantly, scouting and recon roles for the military. They'd be effective at troop transport as they appear to be able to carry up to three passengers; in addition, they could provide close air support during an engagement with a well armed passenger (in the films we see several instances of a rifleman on the rear seat acting as a turret, much like very early two-person aircraft of the First World War). Material transport would be extremely useful, as troops in hard to reach areas could have quick and efficient drop offs of material exactly where needed, as opposed to dragging it up on carts or by hand - a massive help in urban and mountain warfare, of which there would be plenty in the environment of Howl's. Propaganda tools are fairly simple: army/air force sponsored rides around the grand sights of the capital, drag flags around the sky, and generally look impressive enough to get people nice and jingoistic, all ready for a nice big war. We see it perform this role admirably in the film. It should be noted the fact that, in the event of a war where the design was truly tested, I wouldn't be surprised if they modify it to feature armour plating to protect the passenger and pilot.
Well, that about sums it up for the Kayak. It's a design which, I must admit, I like - and, happily, with only some fairly simple changes, it looks sort of - just about - on the edges of the fringe areas of concievably crossing the passing chance of not failing abjectly.

Next up we've got the big boys - the Flying Battleships. These include the smaller, more traditional-looking airships that we see once or twice over the film.

I'd just like to point out that these are designed to look scary because it's a metaphor for how war can warp even majestic flying machines into monsters - peace dudes!
Let's start with the basics of the designs we see, and the common points they seem to share. First, we have size and armaments, both of which are not in short supply. The airships appear to be several hundred metres long, and the winged version that in width. There is a shot of the belly of an airship-type carrying a huge assortment of bombs in an enormous cargo bay, and frequent uses of some sort of ejection system for concripted wizards that have turned themselves into monsters at the whim of their royal masters (more metaphors, people!) so they may act as a mixture of interceptor fighters and ground troops, as seen in the film. The bombs carried by those airships attacking the kingdom that Sophie and Howl claim "allegience" to (but there's metaphors... Oh, I give up) appear to be incendiary rounds designed to destroy the wooden framed buildings present in the pretty world of Howl's (metaphors!) modeled after German towns (metaphors!) that sport French-inspired soldier uniforms (metaphors! Underlying meanings! There's more to this film than you think! Oh dear, my English student-eyness is showing, isn't it?)
Anyway, they're fantastical, and you don't need me to point out the obvious fact that they wouldn't fly particularly well. Well, they'd fly rather like brick. The ornithoptic one would crash because, as we've seen with a brief intrusion inside of it, it's powered by a giant steam engine, which is patently useless for aerospace needs; the lack of a considerable gas chamber or other similar aerostatic lifting body means that, short of magical help, it would crash.
The fact is that these really are more metaphorical allegories for corruption and violence. In the film, we see how not only the Witch of the Wastes, Howl, and Sophie become bewitched and accursed, but also, and most destructively, the two kingdoms that go to war - they come afoul of curses of violence, greed, pride, and hate. These aren't just things that the 'bible' or what have you say not to do, they're the most important thing we can do today - not to engage in conflict over trivial matters.
Anyway, enough of my yakking. You can probably tell from my rambling that it's getting a little late around here! So, I hope that I've given you a little bit of an insight into the aerial world of Howl's Moving Castle, and, maybe, an unexpected side dish of the ever-present philosophy of Hayau Miyazaki.
Oh, one last thing...
I can't go without just saying how crazy awesome those battleships are. I'd also like to say that they're pre-dreadnought inspired ships with many calibres of multiple turrets and carronades, and that they would sink and blow up very, very quickly.
Have a great day!
Shoeburger/shwabonka/mramazingfuntime/maurice/ whatever my name is on here... I don't actually know...

Saturday, 21 May 2011

Castle in the Sky

First, thanks to smellsofbikes for the information about the "mehve" glider - a real life version of Nausicaa's one! Looks great, doesn't it? Here's what smellsofbikes had to say:

"I've not seen any details past what Wikipedia has, but the OpenSky M-02 is a full-size possibly flying replica of Nausicaa's flying wing.
Here's the video:
Clamshell brakes can be used to do somewhat coordinated turns and maintain some roll stability, as seen on numerous Northrop aircraft, but the design suffers heavily, like any flying wing, from the large nose-down pitching moment the wing produces, with no tail to counteract it. Usually that's dealt with by adding a recurved camber on the upper wing surface, which pretty much cancels out all the benefits of not having a tail. Well, except for the coolness factor."

Very nice! Thanks man!

Anyway, Castle in the Sky has lots of flying things in it. Some of them a bit more realistic than others. Some of them impossible but pure awesome. 
I suppose really with Castle in the Sky its a matter of thinking that they have 'Ithirium' which can make things fly, hence Laputa. They must also have some sort of lifting gas that's lighter than hydrogen, because many of the airships in the film would probably just crash normally. I'll keep these things in mind for this one.

This mega huge ultra airborne battleship looks very interesting. In the film it was shown to have armoured machine guns, flak cannons, aircraft on it's belly, what are presumably rotors for extra lift on the top and several series' of contra rotating propellers to drive it through the air. As long as the ship had enough power being driven into the contra rotating propellers then it should have worked well enough. It also has one triplane manouevering surfaces on each side and another load of elevators that are stacked four wings high in the middle. As for the rudders, there are three on each side. Presumably, these would give quite some control, albiet a tad unorthadox. Changing attitude might be a bit difficult on it, and would require some very skillful helming abilities. The airship also looks quite top heavy, with the four lift rotors, propellers, and (what looks like the) bridge. Hope fully all that is cancelled out my the cannons, large gondola and aircraft strapped on underneath. The airship also looks as if it is coated in some sort of metal.
Obviously, all of that weight would never be able to be lifted up using hydrogen or helium. It probably isn't helium either, as when it is eventually taken down by the Laputian robots it quite vividly explodes in a fashion similar to hydrogen. So it's lifted up by something very efficient, and very explosive. Neo-Hydrogen. Oh yeah.

This machine looks like a hybrid aicraft, as it has a pair of wings that have an adjustable angle of attack. It also has four contra rotating propellers near the rear and two enormous propellers/rotors on the end of each wing. It is shown in the film to be largely of metal contruction, although the envelope around the gas looks like it's fabricated. There is a frame underneath thr fabric though, so it is technically a rigid airship. 
I imagine in a straight line it would fly, if it were going fast enough. The wings, coupled with the neo-hydrogen inside of the envelope would probably work well enough. The airship is never pictured hovering, which shows that it possibly would stall if it did so, making it a true hybrid. At any rate, it would be very strange to control, and something that few people in history have ever done. More people have probably walked on the moon than controlled a hybrid airship. Affecting the controls are the rudder and the elevator at the back. I think that whilst the rudder would be large enough to have an impact, the elevator would be too small to work properly. Also, hybrod airships have to be able to bank like an aeroplane. I don't see any aerolons on the wings, so maybe it warps them or they can be rotated independantly of eachother, but as it is, it wouldn't be able to stay upright very well, even with that tank of neo-hydrogen pulling it upwards.

This airship follows a similar plan to Goliath. Perhaps they are related, with Goliath being heavily modified or a military version. I don't know, but it has lift rotors ans contra rotating propellers on the front like Goliath does, and a bridge on the top. 
Aside from being hideously overweight, it looks like it would flip over upside down at the merest provication. Also, at the rear, it has several rudder surfaces on each side (again, like Goliath). It also has a good amount of arms inside, with the crew armed with at least one gatling gun and bolt-action rifles.
The passengers also seem well cared for, as it has a ball room (visible in the picture, it's the bit with the big windows) comfortable electric lighting and openable windows. If neo-hydrogen existed, and this could fly without flipping over, it would be a lovely thing to fly in. Except it has no elevators, which could cause some problems.


Shown being powered by a petrol/diesel engine with ornithoptic wings that allow high manouevrability and speed, this little guy looks rough tough and fun to fly. I assume that all controls could come out of the wings which flap faster than the eye can see in the air, making lift like an insect, less a bird. I don't know what kind of material they used with the wings or the gears they used for making them move that fast, but it must be pretty impressive stuff. The thing can go upside down, loop, roll, dive down and up. Very impressive. On long haul flights, the pilots turn off the rear two wings and only flap the front pair, which saves fuel, I suppose. It also has the ability to carry a passenger.

Umm... It's made of stone, metal and gardens and seems to hold thousands of tons of water in lakes. That can't fly. 
But - there's an enormous chunk of Ithirium in it that lets it fly around. I can't really comment on it. Is it really even an aircraft?
(Can't get a picture, sorry!)
Although only in wooden frame as it was still being built in the film, it looks like an ornithopter. It doesn't look as if it can flap as rapidly as the red ornithopters, but more like how a bird can.
 Once more, since we don't get to see it properly, I can't really comment on it. If any of you have any ideas how it would fly, go ahead and write them in the comments.

Sunday, 24 April 2011

Nausicaa of the Valley of the Wind Aircraft

Well then, Nausicaa is filled with interesting aircraft. From the little jet-assisted glider that Nausicaa herself owns to the great, huge lumbering Tolmekian "Airships", they are all very interesting. Let's have a look.
Nausicaa's little glider is an interesting development. It is possible to achieve, but would be very difficult to control the pitch in flight. The wings are also very short and have a thin camber, which would be unsuitable for such a short wing. The jet system appears to be beyond our technology, able to burst into life and give out great speed when activated. The aerolons look big enough to give a good roll control. There are no rudders to control yaw, so that would undoubtedly make is difficult to control in flight.
So, a would-be analysis:
Handling: Difficult. You would have to stop it from simply falling over and stalling all over the place during flight.
Speed: Quite high. Or high enough for what is like a surfboard in the sky. In the film, it did show to keep up with other, larger aircraft, though.

I don't have a picture of one of these, unfortunately, but let me describe it to you - enormous metal pile of reclaimed scrap.
The wings, which must be at least a quarter of a mile long, eclipse anything made in real life. Ever. They have a low aspect ratio and unbelievably high camber, with the trailing edge about an eighth of a mile behind the leading edge. These would produce, I suppose, in theory, a bit of lift, but would be massively inefficient. The wings have a seemingly random amount of jet-pods containing powerful... well, jets, that shove the unsightly behemoth around the sky. The rest is simply feuselage, containing many decks of metal things. I think it's safe to say that they wouldn't fly very well, if at all.
Would-be analysis:
Handling: Non existant. It would probably collapse under its own weight.
 Speed: Very, very slow.


Once more carrying on the tradition of having no empannage, it would fall backwards or forewards in flight. The wings have a high angle of attack, high camber and interesting tip arrangement, which would probably create a medium amount of lift. The jets, which are all inside the wings, would probably make the wing explode with the pressure as it seems that some of the jet is projected towards the aerolons. Whilst this might create some interesting maneuverability effects, the aerolons would more like than not simply break off. The massive cannons would weigh as much a tank on the nose and probably cause it to simply, hmm, what's the word... snap off.


I don't know exactly what it's called, but it's frigate-like, so that's what I'll call it. With tandem wings in a high camber with a high angle of attack, they would fail. One wouldn't. But two on equal elevation would, as the airflow for the second wing would be disturbed by the front one. Also, it features four jet pods. Once more, if it were simply just the front ones there then maybe it would be alright, but then the Tolmekians decided to plonk another two directly behind them, which would create some very interesting air flow effects. Even if that was alright, it once again lacks a tail so it would simply crash through lack of yaw control.
Would-be analysis:
Handling: Good, as the wings could all work with eachother to achieve movement. Unfortunately, there wouldn't be any lift produced by the rear wing (or at least, none to speak of), so it would probably stall backwards. also, with the front jets pushing directly against the front jets, the rear wing would probably just get yanked clean off.
Speed: Fast, with four high-tech jets pushing that relatively small amount of metal around.

Porco Rosso Aircraft

OK, as this is the first post in this blog, I'd just like to say to whoever looks at it that I'm going to use my fairly quaint knowledge of aeronautics to examine some of the aircraft in the Studio Ghibli films. I know about the designs of airfoil, balance characteristics of aircraft, time period technology, materials, and other such things. I also know that the Ghibli films are only films, and that the aircraft were most likely just drawn down on a piece of concept art paper, but hey, I'm gonna do this anyway. But that's enough of that.
First, then, it's Porco Rosso and the aircraft in that. The most obvious first choice would be the Savoia S.21 that Porco pilots. The material that it is made out of appears to be wood, as seen in that bit when Curtiss picks up a fragment of it for evidence that he shot down Porco. However, it is later shown that when rebuilding the aircraft the women are bending metal sheets, presumably to cover the aircraft. A wooden frame with metal covering is a common strategy of aircraft construction, and offers a fairly light construction with quite strong characteristics.
You can see in the film the aircraft having a middling wing camber on the aerofoil. There aren't any surprising deep camber designs in it, so it would produce a middling lift wing middling drag. For a seaplane, this isn't the most fantastic idea, as it requires plenty of lift to get one off of the water. There are also no flaps on the airplane which would again make it difficult to take off and land. But of course, we have to include that high angle of incidence on the wings. This generally helps jet aircraft be more aerodynamic in the air and help it to maneuver more easily, but on a 1930s seaplane I think that it might have a detrimental effect on the lift produced and the ability to move about at the comparatively low speeds that the plane would be able to achieve. Even in flight, it would stall fairly easily because of the angle of incidence. Also not helping the stall characteristics would be that enormous engine sitting on top of the wing. Let's put this together - the wing is supported above the fuselage by several metal rods, and then the engine is mounted on top of the wing using several more. Whilst having a smaller, lighter engine all that way up would maybe be alright for it's centre of gravity, a big, meaty racing engine would weigh the plane down, pull the nose down when the throttle is touched, and make the centre of gravity somewhere thirty miles above the where it should be. Although, it must be said, having all of these characteristics with enough lift would produce an extremely agile aircraft, but I think that the high angle of incidence on the wings would make the S. 21 overweight even at the highest of speeds. Perhaps if it had a lower centre of gravity and more powerful engine then it would be a little more feasible, but certainly still an... interesting thing to fly.
So, would-be stats:
Handling: Unbelievably difficult to not stall, take off and land, but would probably handle veyr well in flight because of the instability
Speed: Very fast, with that angle of incidence and that enormous engine sitting on top
Ok, so Porco does say it's difficult to take off in the film, and a wonder to handle in the sky. So, I suppose, it's more or less feasible. I'd like to at least see a higher camber and angle of attack on the wings to generate extra lift, and perhaps a lower centre of gravity.
  Alright. Next up is the pirate gang Mamma Aiuto's seaplane, the Dabohaze. Immediately striking is the all-metal construction, the tandem engines and "twice as thick as you think" wings.
So, an all metal construction would make the Dabohaze extremely strong, but very heavy, needing that extra engine. As can be seen in the film, the wings have a high camber and angle of attack and high aspect ratio, which would produce plenty of lift to haul all that metal up into the sky. Those tandem engines, popular on 1920s and 30s Italian flying boats, would create a contra-rotating effect that would cancel out rotational air flow. Oh, but obviously, not very well, because of that huge gap between the propellers. In any case, they would produce quite a lot of power. The floats on the bottom of the aircraft are a bit of a strange addition, and would probably produce more drag than anything else, and probably not do much to stop the ends of the wings from dangling dangerously into the water. But, with all that weight down below, the centre of gravity should be nicely in place near the epicenter of the wing camber, and inside the feuselage, producing stable characteristics when in flight. The tailplane mounted rudders and t-tail configuration empannage is an interesting development, which would produce fairly good pitch and yaw movement. The cockpit, whilst strangely shaped, would give quite good visibility and protection from the elements.
Would-be stats:
Handling: Slow, difficult to take off and land from the primitive aerolons, but sturdy with good protective ability.
Speed: Slow, as the engines would have to haul all that metal up out of a lot of draggy water, with those big floats weighing it down.
Well then, it doesn't look entirely impossible, but I'm not convinced that the tail is far enough away from the wing to create a stable platform. Assuming that was alright, it would be a lot like any other seaplane of the era. A bit slow, but reliable. Of course, the wings would continuously be dipping into the sea when moored up or taxiing, which would create some big problems.

Interestingly, all the other aircraft on Porco Rosso are modeled off of real life aircraft. With a little poking around on the internet, I'm sure you can find out what they are. I'm not giving off any hints :D