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Ikaros: A way out of the crisis

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Economic crisis, which has affected all sectors of the economy, has not spared the air travel industry either. Airlines struggling to cope with the ever increasing costs and falling demand seek for any possible way to survive. A revolutionary solution to the industry's problems is on the way. The idea may sound insane to a layman but the expected 40% cost reduction speaks for itself.

A revolution in air passenger transport

Information regarding this cutting-edge project named Ikaros reached to our office this week. It appears TryAir is the very first to hit the nail on the head. The smart guys at TryAir came up with the first ever towed airliner.

One aircraft towed by another. A simple idea that has been used for years, just in a smaller scale. Is it possible to transfer this idea to large jet airliners? The engineers at TryAir say yes.

The Ikaros project is soon to be used by lowcost airlines. 40% cost reduction expected. The Ikaros project is soon to be used by lowcost airlines. 40% cost reduction expected. (Photo taken during test flight)

The towed aircraft lacks all engines and is fully dependent on the plane towing it. Both aircraft are joined using a detachable cable. The capacity of the towed aircraft is fully used for the cargo.

How Ikaros works

The towed aircraft, nicknamed appendix, features a simplified cockpit fitted with a specially modified autopilot. There is no need for a human pilot under normal circumstances. The technical details were revealed to us by chief engineer Howard Failson “One of the stewards aboard the appendix would be given a basic pilot training. He or she will oversee the cockpit during takeoff and landing. The haul rope can be detached in case of an emergency allowing the appendix to glide safely to the nearest airport.“

Once the appendix is in service, the engineers recommend it to be used for cargo, dogs and men only in the initial phase. „Women and children are advised to travel in the towing aircraft. I am in no way suggesting the appendix is not perfectly safe. This is just a measure aimed at making sure that the more vulnerable passenger groups, such as children, feel comfortable and secure. That is why they are suggested to fly aboard the towing plane until this new way of traveling becomes common.“ assures one of the TryAir technicians.

What are the cost savings

Following the introduction of this extraordinary aircraft model, the fuel consumption is bound to be reduced substantially, less personnel is needed and we may expect a considerable reduction in fees associated with the Air Traffic Control. “This is a painless method of increasing the capacity on the busiest routes. Especially when there are no more free slots available at the largest airports.“ adds Howard Failson.

Airlines could save up to 40 percent on operating expenses. Such a reduction will affect the airfares fundamentally. For example, let us have a look at Sydney Auckland route. While there is an average fare of AUD 130 today, it could easily go down to AUD 90. “This is a great innovation. We will definitely be interested in Ikaros once it is fully tested and proven to be safe.“ said George Flywell, the spokesman of Ontime Airlines.

Ikaros project is the focus of interest particularly for low cost airlines. Harry Flycheap of Cost Less Airlines says “Using Ikaros I assume we would be able to offer 50% lower special fares on our busiest route Sydney Melbourne. Our marketing department is already working on a preliminary price list to be submitted for consideration in the coming weeks.“

Michael O'Leary, chief executive of the Europe's infamous low cost airline, is said to be very interested in the project. Ryanair is well known for its fierce cost cutting efforts.

The first passenger flight

The precise date of the first passenger flight is yet to be announced. TryAir says the project is moving forward rapidly. According to the expert we addressed, this could happen no sooner than in the second half of 2015.

Currently, the large main airports pose the most visible obstacle for the Ikaros project. The service companies in charge of the airports are unwilling to modify the existing infrastructure. On the other hand, this is a great opportunity for the alternative airports. “Trial runs are scheduled to begin during the spring of 2013. Till then we will be focused on debugging the concept.“ Failson finished.

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