Nuclear-Powered Aircraft Like Thunderbirds' Fireflash?

Nuclear-powered aircraft? I read about those when I was eight years old in one of my favorite childhood books, Our Friend the Atom, a 1958 Walt Disney book about the wonders of nuclear power.

Nuclear-powered bombers were in development in the 1950's; both the United States and the Soviet Union worked on the idea, only to discard it when it appeared that missiles would do the job better.

The intent was to develop an aircraft that could remain on station for weeks at a time, if necessary, without refueling.


(Nuclear-powered B-36 jet bomber [experimental])

Dr. Ian Poll, Professor of Aerospace Engineering at Cranfield university, says that the experiments conducted during the Cold War have shown that nuclear-powered aircraft are possible. And there is a new problem; since the end of the oil era is now in sight, we need an alternative to kerosene-powered aircraft.

“We need a design which is not kerosene-powered, and I think nuclear-powered aeroplanes are the answer beyond 2050. The idea was proved 50 years ago, but I accept it would take about 30 years to persuade the public of the need to fly on them.”

“It's done on nuclear submarines and could be achieved on aircraft by locating the reactors with the engines out on the wings,” Dr. Poll said.

Fans of the series Thunderbirds recall the Fireflash airliner. The first episode shows the nuclear-powered airliner on its maiden voyage from London to Tokyo. At six times the speed of sound.


(Fireflash from Thunderbirds)

Thrill to these scenes showing the takeoff of the nuclear-powered airliner Fireflash in splendid Supermarionation! (Skip to 2:55 if you're in a hurry.)

From Nuclear-powered passenger aircraft 'to transport millions' says expert; thanks to Winchell Chung for the tip and references.

Scroll down for more stories in the same category. (Story submitted 10/30/2008)

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