Other Current and Previous Research

Some of the studies we have carried out since 1991 are listed below. Click on the link for a short description.

The Application of Chaos Theory to Computational Fluid Dynamics

The Electrostatic Theory of Aerodynamics

The Advanced Propulsion Systems Study

The Market Potential for the Supersonic Business Jet

SSBJ II: Airline and Fractional Markets

The Market for a 550 Seat Aircraft

Market Potential for the 30 Seat Jet

The Application of Chaos Theory to CFD
It is not generally known that digital computers and calculators are inherently inaccurate and subject to"random" fluctuation in the results they produce - or more accurately, they are subject to Sensitive Dependence on Initial Conditions.

This means that the repetitive or iterative numerical methods widely used today in science and engineering to solve the differential equation models of engineering problems are fundamentally flawed. With these methods, the aim is to "converge" on a final solution to the problem after running many iterations of supposedly more and more accurate approximations to the solution.

In reality, very small differences in the initial estimate of the correct answer that is fed into the computer to start with can create enormous divergences in the results after a number of iterations. Different computers will produce different results when running the same problem; different mathematical formulations of the problem, which may be mathematically equivalent, are not necessarily computationally equivalent and will give diverging results. If the problem solver does not already have a rough idea of what the final result should be, he will not know if the result the computer produces is valid or not. Just because the iterative procedure converges to a result tells us nothing about where it converged from - i.e. whether the "result" that is produced correlates to the problem we posed or another one.

Our research in this field is on-going.

The Advanced Propulsion Systems Study
This study presents a review of current leading edge research and technology development in the field of aerospace propulsion - both in atmosphere and space propulsion. The study present recommendations for the future research avenues that should be pursued.

In addition, the study gives a summary of a number of less well known or overlooked technologies such as Electrokinetics, the Bladeless Disk Turbine, Circulation Control Wing and colloidal fuels.

An updated version is previewed for the end of 2005 or 2006.

The Electrostatic Theory of Aerodynamics
It is well known that the mathematical treatment of plane potential flows is identical with that of electrostatics. Since the interaction of a fluid with itself and with a solid body immersed in it is fundamentally a matter of electrostatic repulsion and attraction - as the outer electrons in the molecules of fluid interact - this is theoretically understandable.

We have developed a comprehensive theory that would allow modelling of fluid flows by considering the electrostatic nature of the interactions. As a first step we are developing a digital computer simulation of this modelling approach, before proceeding to an analogue computational model.

The Market Potential for the Supersonic Business Jet
In 1999, we carried out a comprehensive study into the potential market and technical requirements for a future Supersonic Business Jet (SSBJ). The study was carried out on behalf of business aircraft manufacturers and potential risk sharing partners.

We interviewed over 60 major operators of business aircraft in Europe, North America and the Middle East to ascertain:

  • The worldwide potential market for a Supersonic Business Jet
  • The maximum acceptable price for an SSBJ
  • The performance characteristics of an SSBJ required and the price/performance sensitivity of the market to different potential SSBJ concepts.

A key finding was that an SSBJ must be capable of overland supersonic flight if it is to be viable. Overwater operations alone will not be acceptable.

Some sample pages are available for download: P27 P29-30 P43 P53-54

SSBJ II: Airline and Fractional Markets
In 2000, we followed up the above study with a study into the potential airline market for an SSBJ or small Executive Supersonic Transport that could be used to serve a premium market on long haul routes. It would effectively replace First Class on subsonic airliners, a product which has greatly declined in popularity in any case during the 1990s. The study also looked at the wider potential fractional market for an SSBJ and the environmental constraints on operating a fleet of supersonic aircraft in the 21st century.

The study showed that there is a significant world market for the airlines to use a fleet of small SSTs (20 to 50 seats) on premium long haul routes. The airlines would be faced with either competing with the fractional aircraft providers, to whom they have already lost some of their premium/ first class market, or leaving the premium passenger market entirely.

Since we did the study, Lufthansa have pioneered premium transatlantic business services using a 50 seater A319 operated on their behalf by PrivatAir. Other airlines have also studied the concept and are continually evaluating it. These services will be the forerunner to the next generation SST to replace Concorde. This will be a much smaller aircraft than Concorde, with 50 seats at the most, which must be capable of overland supersonic flight.

The Market for a 550 Seat Aircraft
In 1997, Airbus and Boeing were engaged in a war of words over the future market demand for a "Superjumbo" or an aircraft significantly larger than the 747-400. Boeing were studying a number of stretch derivatives of the 747, known as the 747X. Airbus were considering launching a 550 seater aircraft, the A3XX. Boeing changed their Market Outlook published that year to reduce the forecast market demand for large aircraft and favour smaller 300 - 400 seat aircraft. This cast some doubt on Airbus' plan to leapfrog Boeing and finally compete against them across the entire range of aircraft sizes.

As potential risk sharing partners considered whether to join the A3XX programme or not, including US suppliers who were under pressure to support the Boeing position, Meridian International carried out an independent assessment of the market for an aircraft larger than the 747-400. The study showed unequivocally that a large market exists for an aircraft larger than the 747-400 and that in particular, airport capacity constraints leave no choice other than to use larger aircraft in the Asia Pacific region. Asia Pacific will represent two thirds of the market for the A380, mirroring the market pattern for the 747-400.

The study showed that a stretched derivative of the 747 generated little market enthusiasm: the airlines wanted an all new aircraft designed for optimum efficiency, with a 15% - 20% reduction in Seat Mile Cost over the 747-400, which currently sets the benchmark for long haul ticket prices.

The study also analysed the market views and preferences for a Next Generation SST with reference to a New Large Subsonic Aircraft (NLA). This showed that if, contrary to expectations, an economically viable 200 seat SST arrived on the market within a few years of the A3XX/A380, many airlines would prefer to operate the SST and increase passenger density on their existing subsonic fleets, rather than operate an even larger subsonic aircraft.

The Boeing "Sonic Cruiser" was clearly an economic impossibility, in offering only a modest speed and productivity increase over a subsonic aircraft for a significantly higher fuel burn. One wonders why Boeing promoted it. Some observers felt it was a "stalking horse" for a fully fledged SST. The forced landing of a restored Boeing Stratoliner in Puget Sound in 2002 may have been part of a supersonic technology validation effort. It was also in 1997 that Boeing signed a long term agreement for the supply of titanium from a Russian supplier. While large quantities of titanium would certainly be used on supersonic aircraft, its use on subsonic aircraft is limited.

Finally, the study assessed the airlines views on the possible incorporation of a number of new technologies on the aircraft: the best known example of this is the use of GLARE material to manufacture sections of the fuselage panels.

Sample page available here.

The Market for a 30 Seat Jet
In 1996, the US Regional Airline industry was on the edge of a revolution: the almost wholesale replacement of turboprop aircraft with small 50 seat jets. While the 50 seat jet segment had been pioneered by Bombardier's CRJ since 1992 (itself a spiritual descendant of a Shorts 50 seat concept from the 1980s) the 50 seat jet market was strongly stimulated by the low price of the Embraer EMB-145, priced at only $14 million.

This revolution was driven by a sea-change in customer attitudes to "propellor" driven turboprop aircraft. Always viewed as "old fashioned", they became viewed as unsafe following a number of accidents, particularly the Roselawn incident in 1994. As all of the regional airlines discovered, "Passengers Prefer Jets. Period."

The next possible candidate for conversion to turbofan propulsion was the 30 seat segment, made up of turboprops such as the Saab 340, Jetstream 41, Dornier 328 and EMB-120. A number of manufacturers were considering developing a 30 seater jet if it could be done so economically. Embraer had already tried a step in this direction with its abandoned 19 seater CBA-123 high speed pusher turboprop in the early 1990s. However, Embraer had over 100 Letters of Intent to purchase this aircraft before tehy abandoned the programme. The market had moved on.

The study showed that there was a significant market for a 30 to 35 seater jet in North America, but it was rather price sensitive as would be expected, due to the small size and therefore limited revenue generating potential of such an aircraft.

In the event, two somewhat sub-optimal 35 seat jets were produced: the ERJ-135 which was a shortened version of the ERJ-145 and the Do 328jet.

The ERJ-135 has achieved some sales, mainly due to its commonality with the larger ERJ-145. In fact, the artificial market constraint of Scope Clauses led Embraer to produce another intermediary aircraft as well, the ERJ-140. Ultimately, these were only niche aircraft. The ERJ-135 was too heavy for its size and relatively expensive in comparison with a 50 seat ERJ-145.

The Do 328jet was a re-engined conversion of the Do 328 turboprop. It could have been an almost ideal 30 seat jet if Dornier had not decided to retain (for development cost reasons) the straight low speed wing of the Do 328 turboprop. This compromised its speed and reduced the aircraft's performance. For the North American market, which is the main market for regional aircraft, STOL capability is not a high priority. Dornier would have been better advised to make the investment in a swept high speed wing to raise cruise speed closer to 500 knots.

It will be interesting to see as small executive jets develop whether in future a viable small commuter jet can be produced to provide small communities in North America and other large land masses with direct air service. With small jets being promised for $1 million or less, the economics of a small 19 seat commuter jet may become attainable - if the oil is still available to fuel them. On the other hand, the concept of direct point to point service with Eclipse VLJs being promoted by Dayjet Inc may see rapid growth if air travel becomes the preserve of the rich and business travellers again, as it was in the 1960s.


Copyright 2007 Meridian International Research
Last updated 25/07/07

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