Where No One's `Flown' Before
JUST BEFORE NOON ON OCT. 24 GRAHAM Hawkes is slated to pilot Deep Flight I on its maiden flight--under water. Deep Flight is a new breed of flying submarine. It sports upside-down wings that pull downwards so the sub can sail at up to 12 knots, or 14 mph.
Eight years and $1 million in the making at Hawkes Ocean Technologies in San Anselmo, Calif., the craft is really just a prototype for Deep Flight II, a one-man hydroplane that Hawkes intends to fly to the deepest spot on earth: the Marianas Trench, located 200 miles south of Guam. There, the sea floor lies 37,000 feet below the surface, where the water exerts an incredible pressure of 16,000 pounds per square inch. Humans have visited this place only once: The bathysphere Trieste spent 20 minutes there in 1960.
To withstand the pressure, Deep Flight II will be made from a new alumina ceramic developed by the U.S. Navy. The current Deep Flight is made from a glass-fiber-epoxy composite and can't go much below 3,000 feet. Hawkes, who has designed most of the subs built since 1970 for civilian research and industry, admits the new ceramic "is still experimental enough to make me a little nervous." But his biggest concern is raising $7 million to build the sub. Once that's in hand, the job should proceed swiftly, because the design data have already been captured on an Autocad system from Autodesk Inc.