You may not have heard about the Frigate Ecojet before. Based in Russia, and owned by Rosavia, the program is working on a design that looks disruptive. For a start, this looks very odd for an airliner. The Ecojet concept has its origins back in 1991, but has evolved since then. The program was launched on the initiative of JSC “Rosaviaconsortium”, which was founded only in 1997.
Indeed, the program was preceded by a number of scientific studies for constructive solutions for a wide fuselage. The results of these studies become the basis of the program, however, carried out independently of it. The first official presentation of the Frigate Ecojet Program took place at the X International Aviation and Space Salon MAKS-2011. The LLC Frigate Ecojet was established as the independent company for managing the Frigate Ecojet Program in the 2014.
From the top it looks like this.
If the idea or shape does not look great, know that others are thinking along these lines too. Here is a Boeing concept for a twin aisle design that almost certainly will look something like the Frigate head on.
Boeing filed its patent in 2009. The shape you see in the head on shot above may not be that radical after all.
Frigate is working on a concept they call “open architecture”. They say this “allows attracting and involving new talents, manufacturers and vendors across the globe, as well as selecting and utilizing the solutions that best comply with technical and economical requirements.”
What Frigate is proposing is a short haul widebody jet. Frigate is not an OEM though. Frigate is a design shop which plans to complete the Ecojet design, test the concept and then offer it for sale to others. This idea and approach is, to say the least, highly disruptive.
The Ecojet is planned to seat anywhere from 276 to 358 with a range between 4,000 km to 7,500 km. Frigate sees a market sweet spot at 300 seats and 3,500 km (2,200 Miles) range. At the sweet spot, the Ecojet can also carry 20 LD3 cargo containers. The Ecojet has a three aisle configuration. The world may not be ready for a blended wing body design, but the elliptical shape of the hull on Ecojet is a start in that direction.
Based on the numbers it appears the Ecojet essentially plans to operate in the same segment once used by the 767-200 and A300. While popular for a while, these aircraft were eclipsed by the 757 which had the equivalent seating but was much lighter. Ecojet is focused on the weight of their design as well.
While Frigate appears primarily focused on Asia, the Ecojet looks like offering airlines an opportunity to fly the equivalent of two single aisle aircraft in one. Consequently, one thinks of constrained airports. The recent decision by Air Asia to move from A320 to A321 aircraft is in line with this thinking, albeit not to the same degree. We hear about constrained airports frequently. A design that allows for more traffic from one flight is going to be attractive. Up-sizing is real and in that regard, Ecojet is on target. Its range also fits well with market needs. Once again the 757 comes to mind. The Airbus A330 Regional also comes to mind. There is market recognition of the need for an aircraft of this range and capacity.
The Ecojet is the brainchild of Valentin Klimov, former design head of Tupolev Design Bureau. The Ecojet could have become the TU-304. Currently the Ecojet program is under the guidance of Alexander Klimov. Alexander Klimov wrote to us saying: “This project is currently at the stage of finalizing Conceptual Design phase and getting ready to initiate a Product Definition phase. We are concluding the aircraft power generation / distribution concept, developing initial specifications for main aircraft systems, reviewing technology and manufacturing processes available.”
Frigate wants the open architecture to draw in talent from anywhere – any OEM or company in the aerospace supply chain. The thinking is very different from the way aerospace development works today. Rather than dismiss the thinking, we suggest stepping back and looking at what SpaceX and Blue Origin have accomplished. These firms did not follow the traditional path, and have accomplished incredible results. So why not Frigate?
We posed some questions to the company, their responses verbatim in italics:
- How does Rosavia plan to add partners to the program? (what is the structure for this?)
One of the basic principles of the Program we define the “Open architecture” – that allows us to attract and involve new talents, manufacturers and vendors across the globe.
We actively cooperate and consult with all major global players in the industry and willing to use their expertise. ICF, ThyssenKrupp, ROI and many others are already took part in the Frigate Ecojet Program development.
However, we would like to step over the confines of traditional products and solutions that define the modern aircraft and involve the pioneers of a new technological era who previously were not among the “selected few” equipment manufacturers and systems integrators. Meanwhile, we do not refuse to use the best solutions among classic OEM`s, ITO`s etc.
We present a new platform where your products, solutions, technologies and talents can flourish.
- Have any of the existing OEMs shown interest in the design?
In 2012 we conducted a series of consultations with ICFI on the basis of which a Unit Cost Estimate report was submitted. As result, the OEM`s of components and systems long list was formed for Frigate Ecojet design concept. These materials have also been used as a basis to the requirements catalog for the final assembly line site search.
- What would be the weight of the Ecojet?
In the current design concept the Frigate Ecojet aircraft take-off weight is 129 tons.
- What is being planned for engines? (thrust requirements?)
The ideal that meets the requirements of the current concept of Frigate Ecojet – is an engine with a thrust of 21 tons. But today there are no modern engine thrust in this class existed.
We have consulted with leading international suppliers, considering various engines including PD-18R and PS-90A20 or the latest Rolls-Royce and Pratt & Whitney engines. We are following the developments on this issue, because this problem is a bottleneck for us.
We associate our hopes in solving this problem with the fact that the any product will be in demand as part of the international Middle-Of-Market program by other players.
Another way to solve the problem – to develop the existing aircraft designs for greater traction engines (27 tons). An alternative solution, we also believe elaborate designs for these engines class. The first results of this work, we plan to obtain by September this year.