What’s the connection between these two aircraft?
One is the Killer Bee UAV. One is the Eclipse Concept Jet VLJ. Both were built by Swift Engineering, which also built this:
California-based Swift is one of several motorsports companies applying their skills to aerospace.Swift achieved automotive fame designing and building Formula Atantic race cars, then applied its aerodynamics and composites experience to the Killer Bee UAV. Now it has designed and produced Eclipse’s single-engine jet demonstrator in six months, in secret.
Others who have made this leap include the UK’s Lola Group, which has parlayed five decades of race car experience into a composites business supplying tools and parts for aircraft. Another is French-Canadian firm Mecachrome, which machines and assembles Formula 1 engines and is expanding into aerospace manufacturing and subassembly. Germany’s Thielert Group started out making engines for sports cars and now leads the diesel aero-engine revolution.
The aviation and automotive industries have long been connected through the use of windtunnels and computational fluid dynamics to design cars. There have also been a few aircraft powered by car engines. And, from time to time, a car company has owned an aircraft manufacturer.
What is interesting is aerospace’s use of the race-car industry’s engineering and manufacturing skills – honed on developing things rapidly and secretly. Swift was approached by Eclipse because of its aerodynamic design and testing capability – it operates its own windtunnel. Guided by Eclipse, Swift designed and manufactured the ECJ and managed the assembly and completion subcontractors.
Swift conceived and built the flying-wing Killer Bee, then offered the UAV to Northrop Grumman. They parted company earlier this year, and Swift has now teamed with Raytheon to bid for the US Navy and Marine Corps Small Tactical Unmanned Air System contract – a win that would catapult the company into the major league.
Could the next Skunk Works or Scaled Composites emerge from the ranks of Formula 1 or NASCAR contractors?
What next, flying cars? (From The Speculist)