Network: My Technology - Passionate about planes

The architect of the Thrust supersonic land-speed record, Richard Noble, talks about the technology behind his plans to launch a fleet of 13,000 low-cost "air taxis"

I AM currently working on the first executive taxi aeroplane. This will make us a number one in the world; it's a completely new market. We are now at the stage of building the first type of turbo-prop aircraft, with a single engine that can take on the business travel market.

We want point-to-point travel; you book the aeroplane over the Internet, turn up at the airfield, and go straight to your destination.

We are using a lot of new technical concepts. For instance, the design Cad software, SDRC I-Deas, which is about 10 times more productive than other Cad systems; faster, and with a lot more options.

Global Positioning Systems are going to be important to us. At the moment if the weather is bad the large airfields have expensive systems for landing. Now there is the GPS Approach systems or R-Nav (Area Navigation), which an aeroplane can carry on board.

Our website also makes this possible by helping to change people's views on airline travel. Imagine in the old days how we could do it as a small company without any money for advertising. The website for this project is already 100 pages. We are telling the whole story of how it was developed, and also running a completely live case study for schools, educational establishments or anyone interested in following the design of the aeroplane as it happens.

It's also going to be an interactive website; when we are stuck we will ask if anyone has some bright ideas. We were the first to do online trading on the Internet when we were doing the car speed project and went to our community on the Internet to buy fuel.

When speaking recently at a conference for Dell, a computer company in Barcelona, they said they lose $10 million per annum simply because their people are travelling around by airlines and the schedules simply don't match up.

We believe there is an enormous market. Plus the manufacturing cost comes right down because you are not running two engines, not using as much fuel. It's lighter and will only need one pilot.

There are a huge number of airfields that can't be used by conventional aeroplanes, which our aeroplane will use. There are 7,807 operational airfields in Canada, Scandinavia and America, but only 18 per cent have runways long enough for a normal business jet. We could use these airfields.

Personally, I love flying. I am a pilot and have a 20-year-old French plane. I use the aeroplane like a car unless the weather is really bad, like icing, thunderstorms or thick fog.

This project is needed ever more because of the Internet and IT. Global communication now means that product life becomes very short, people have to work very hard, and they also have to travel a lot.

And over the last decade or so airline activity has begun to outgrow facilities. We come in because conventional airline travel is becoming more and more difficult. The business people are wasting time driving down congested roads to get to airports, the planes are always late, the checkout procedures and tickets haven't changed since the Fifties.

People nowadays like to take responsibility for their business and actions and they don't want to be messed around.

Flying is extremely low-stress compared to driving at 90mph in traffic. And very fast. My little aeroplane is equivalent to travelling at 180mph average on the roads.

Rachelle Thackray

For more information on Richard Noble's project, you can contact him at richard@thrust.demon.co.uk or visit the websites at www.thrust.com or www.Far- nborough.Aircraft.com

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