Down Periscope…

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Deep Flight Challenger, Virgin Oceanic’s “Full Ocean Depth” submarine
On Jan. 23, 1960, Don Walsh and Jacques Piccard made their historic dive to the bottom of the Challenger Deep, 36,201 ft down. They made their eight-hour round trip in the Bathyscaphe Trieste. Since then technology has changed dramatically.
On Apr. 6, 2011, Richard Branson, the billionaire founder of Virgin Galactic, announced his Virgin Oceanic Project. Later this year, Branson and California businessman and entrepreneur Chris Welsh each plan to dive the Challenger Deep in Deep Flight Challenger, bringing the grand total of living visitors to the bottom of the ocean to three. Thereafter, Branson intends to visit the deep spots of all the other oceans: Puerto Rico Trench at 28,232 feet in the Atlantic, Diamantina Deep at 26,401 feet in the Indian Ocean, South Sandwich Trench at 23,737 feet in the Southern Ocean, and Molloy Deep at 18,399 feet in the Arctic Ocean.
Deep Flight Challenger, designed and built by Graham Hawkes, is a completely new kind of submersible. It weighs only 8,000 lbs, compared to as much as 60,000 for other submersibles. Instead of using Archimedes Principle for depth control as do virtually all other submersibles (and even submarines), this sub class retains positive buoyancy, and uses the principles of flight to dive. The Bernoulli wing surfaces are the reverse of an aircraft, because, instead of providing lift to keep the craft in the air, these wings produce a downward force to keep the sub from surfacing. Actually, Deep Flight Challenger is a hybrid vehicle, in that it uses negative buoyancy to get to the bottom, but then releases weight so that it can cruise around using its underwater flight capability.
Deep Flight Challenger is constructed from high-tech materials with a passenger pressure cylinder made of a special carbon fiber with a titanium cap at the nether end and a quartz dome at the front. The lexan fairing in the above photo is for hydrodynamic smoothing. The sub has a top speed of 3 kts, and a duration of several hours with a range of about 10 km. Like other submersibles, it requires a  mother-ship, but because of its light weight, it can deploy on nearly any vessel with sufficient crane capacity.


Steve Fossett, the well-known adventurer perished in a plane crash in 2007, originally promoted this plan. When he died, Bronson took up the challenge. Branson and his friend, Chief Pilot Chris Welsh, supplied the funding, and Hawkes supplied the engineering.


California businessman and entrepreneur Chris Welsh
and Richard Branson with Deep Flight Challenger


Deep Flight Challenger, Virgin Oceanic’s “Full Ocean Depth” submarine


Deep Flight Challenger looks and flies like a plane




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