Studies of an enormous, wing-in-ground effect ‘flying ship' capable of carrying a ultra-heavy containerised cargo load over oceanic distances have been unveiled by Boeing.

Like the bird after which the concept is named, the Pelican aircraft features extended, high-aspect ratio drooped wings with inverted winglets for maximum lift at low Mach cruise speeds.

The aircraft would be powered by advanced turboprops driving counter-rotating propellers, and is configured with a deep fuselage reminiscent of the Saunders-Roe Princess flying boat.

The concept is similar to the Ekranoplan concept developed by the Soviet Union in the 1960s, which involved massive wing-in-ground craft being used as transports and missile launchers, mainly in the Caspian Sea.

The biggest of these was the 400-tonne LUN, an example of which remains unfinished after funding stopped following the collapse of Communism.

The Pelican is being evaluated by the US Army in war games as "a way to beat ships across the ocean", says Boeing's business development director, airlift and tanker programmes Chris Raymond.


Wingspan is limited to fit within the 80m span outlined by previous international high-capacity aircraft studies, and to enable the Pelican to operate on current runways and taxiways. In cruise, the Pelican would fly at 2,000-3,000ft, says Boeing which is studying the concept in concert with the US Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA).

"We are looking at what sort of technologies we will be required to work on," says Howard Chambers, vice-president, airlift and tanker programmes, who adds that baseline studies may not transition to full-up concept studies for another "5-8 years." Projected service entry of a Pelican-like concept would not be for at least another 20 years", he adds.

Source: Flight Daily News