RICHARD NOBLE’S DIARY: Gearing up for Farnborough

This month’s update on Richard Noble’s project to create the Farnborough F1, the world’s first single-engine air taxi

In the past month we have taken on four more people, meaning that we now have 32 staff on the payroll of farnborough-aircraft.com. We have a bigger team now, and are growing into a larger organisation. There is a considerable amount of stress on the team as we are still too small, and we are working all hours. But it’s a nice feeling: we feel we have got this right and are getting great support.

On the funding front, things are moving in a very exciting way, with the launch of our share offer to members of the Farnborough Airforce Supporters Club. There are now 603 members -enthusiasts for aviation and what we are doing here – and under new legislation we are able to offer them shares in the company. In just under a month they have committed £145,000, with an average investment of around £2,000 per head.

Meanwhile, the website is continuing to attract considerable unsolicited funds. Over the past three months the average is £118,000 per month. If we can raise the level of awareness then we may well be able to fund the entire project without a major or traditional investor. We are now not far away from our first target of £200,000 per month investment.

On the engineering front, work has centred on fitting the Pratt & Whitney engine into the aircraft. CAD drawings did not exist for this engine, so Rob Stubbings, an ex-Williams Grand Prix engineer who we are lucky enough to have on the team, has created a CAD model on SDRC I-DEAS software, and the other components are being fitted around it.

These include the air intake duct, and the composite beam that supports the nose gear, and raises the possibility that the engine bay may have to be deepened to fit this all in. If that has to happen, the enlarged bay will have to be blended into the rest of the fuselage. Of course we can’t freeze the final shape of the aircraft until this engineering challenge is overcome. We have a very experienced aerodynamicist working on it, but we do need to find a solution to this – and fast.

It is fascinating just how much work is involved designing an aircraft from scratch. We spent almost a whole day talking about what kind of lighting would be required: taxi lights, landing lights, position lights, strobes, tail lights, ice inspection lights, maintenance lights, plus all the interior lighting, no-smoking lights and so on. Now it’s a question of going out to find off-the-shelf items. Of course, the more lights you have, the less engine power is available. Like so much else, more crucial decisions.

A lot of the work is focusing on the wind-tunnel model for the flaps design, but we are also having to put time into finishing the cosmetic mock-up of the aircraft that we are going to be showing at the Farnborough Air Show, so everyone is getting stuck into sanding and polishing.

The air show really is crucial. We are going to achieve major contacts and a very high level of project awareness. We can expect substantial overseas interest as the F1 is designed to be manufactured all over the world.

Catch up with Richard Noble again on 11 August.