Pulse Detonation Engine Flies

The Air Force Research Lab made history Jan. 31 at Mohave, Calif., by flying a manned aircraft powered by a pulsed detonation engine for the first time ever, according to a May 16 announcement of the milestone flight by AFRL. The PDE propelled a modified Scaled Composites Long-EZ aircraft and test pilot Pete Siebold to speeds of more than 120 miles per hour and 60 feet to 100 feet in altitude, producing greater than 200 pounds of thrust. PDEs are unique in igniting fuel and air in controlled explosions inside open-ended tubes to generate thrust. AFRL says these engines hold the promise of expanding flight envelopes for future aerial platforms when combined with other engine types, such as turbines, rockets, or hypersonic scramjets. PDEs can also run on variety of fuels and burn fuel efficiently. The Air Force is now preparing the aircraft for display this summer at the National Museum of the US Air Force in Dayton, Ohio. (Wright-Patterson report by Larine Barr)