Wednesday, January 30, 2013
Thursday, January 24, 2013
Sunday, January 20, 2013
The Spiroid Winglet
In the late 1990s Aviation Partners Inc. (API), the developer of the blended winglet, began to flight test on a Gulfstream II a completely different winglet shape than anything that had flown before, the spiroid winglet. Theoriginal patent of the closed-loop shape winglet was originally filed in 1992 by one of API's founders. The basic idea of the spiroid winglet is to take the benefits of the blended winglet to their fullest by essentially bringing the blended winglet to loop back onto the wing. The vortices that stream off the wingtips of aircraft are a major source of drag and in the blended winglet, they have resulted in 5-7% increase in fuel efficiency by attenuating those vortices.
The first version of the spiroid winglets flown in the 1990s on the Gulfstream II were more circular in shape than the current incarnation. Flight testing of the first version resulted in refinements to the design that leads to more of an arch design with the inboard section of the spiroid moved farther aft and outboard to bring it closer to the wingtip vortex. The resultant design is now in flight testing on a Dassault Falcon 50 and the winglets and structural strengthening needed add 500 pounds to the empty weight of the jet. It was this Falcon 50 that made its first public appearance at the recent Oshkosh air show. Constructed of polished aluminum and approximately six feet in height, the new spiroids are not just intended to attenuate the wingtip vortex but to attempt to eliminate them altogether. Should this be the case, the leap in fuel savings and efficiency would be tremendous- on the order of 30% over the existing blended winglet design.
One of the side benefits of the spiroid winglet's possible ability to nearly eliminate the wingtip vortex would be in air traffic flow management at major airports. As it is right now, aircraft spacing is necessary to allow for wake vortex dissipation for the following aircraft. Aircraft with spiroid winglets would allow following aircraft to be spaced closer, in effect easing some of the congestion at major airports and improving flow efficiency.
The Dassault Falcon 50 testbed is to begin its formal flight test program this month to explore flutter, stability, and allow precise measurements of the degree of drag reduction. The aircraft will be initially limited to 250 KIAS and 0.70 Mach but as the tests progress, the flight envelope is anticipated to be expanded and may include icing tests.
Posted by Pete Moss at 1/20/2013 11:24:00 PM
Friday, January 18, 2013
Lithium Batteries Leaks Central to Boeing’s 787 Woes
January 17, 2013 8:03 AM
A Boeing 787 Dreamliner operated by United Airlines takes off at Los Angeles International Airport (LAX) on Jan. 9, 2013 in Los Angeles, Calif. (Credit: David McNew/Getty Images)
WASHINGTON— Lithium batteries that can leak corrosive fluid and start fires have emerged as the chief safety concern involving Boeing’s 787 Dreamliner, a problem that apparently is far more serious than government or company officials acknowledged less than a week ago.
The Federal Aviation Administration late Wednesday grounded Boeing’s newest and most technologically advanced jetliner until the risk of battery fires is resolved. The order applies only to the six Dreamliners operated by United Airlines, the lone U.S. carrier with 787s. But other airlines and civil aviation authorities in other countries will be under pressure to follow suit or face possible accusations of taking unnecessary risks with public safety.
Japan’s two largest air carriers voluntarily grounded their 787s on Wednesday ahead of the FAA’s order following an emergency landing by one of the planes in Japan. On Thursday, the European Aviation Safety Agency ordered all European carriers to ground the jetliner. And the Indian government ordered Air India to ground its fleet of six Boeing 787s.
Only hours before the FAA issued its order, Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood reiterated to reporters that he considers the plane safe and wouldn’t hesitate to fly one. LaHood and FAA Administrator Michael Huerta unequivocally declared the plane safe at a news conference last week even while they ordered a safety review of the aircraft.
However, as details emerged of two battery failures only 10 days apart, it became apparent that the FAA wouldn’t be able to wait for completion of its safety review before taking action. An inspection of the All Nippon Airways 787 that made an emergency landing in western Japan found that electrolytes, a flammable battery fluid, had leaked from the plane’s main lithium-ion battery. Investigators found burn marks around the damage. Japan’s Kyodo News agency quoted transport ministry investigator Hideyo Kosugi as saying the liquid leaked through the electrical room floor to the outside of the aircraft.
In the first battery incident on Jan. 7, it took firefighters 40 minutes to put out a blaze centered in an auxiliary power unit of a Japan Airlines 787. The plane was empty of passengers shortly after landing at Boston’s Logan International Airport.
The two incidents resulted in the release of flammable electrolytes, heat damage and smoke, the FAA confirmed. The release of battery fluid is especially concerning, safety experts said. The fluid is extremely corrosive, which means it can quickly damage electrical wiring and components. The 787 relies far more than any other airliner in operation on electrical systems to function.
The electrolyte fluid also conducts electricity, so as it spreads it can cause short-circuits and ignite fires. And its corrosiveness raises concern about whether a leak might weaken a key support structure of the plane, even though the 787 is the first airliner to be made primarily from lightweight composite materials that are less susceptible to corrosion than aluminum, safety experts said.
“Anytime you have leakage of battery fluid it’s a very serious situation,” said Kevin Hiatt, president and CEO of the Flight Safety Foundation in Alexandria, Va., which promotes global airline safety.
The fluid leak identified in the ANA plane was a “very significant finding,” said John Goglia, an expert on aircraft maintenance and a former National Transportation Safety Board member. It’s possible that a leak could interfere with electrical signals, making it impossible for pilots to control the plane, he said.
“There are all kinds of possibilities,” Goglia said. “They need to go in and take a look at it. I guarantee you everybody’s doing that.”
The 787 is the first airliner to make extensive use of lithium-ion batteries to help power its energy-hungry electrical systems. The batteries charge faster and can be better molded to space-saving shapes compared with other airplane batteries.
“Unfortunately, what Boeing did to save weight is use the same batteries that are in the electric cars, and they are running into the same problems with the 787 as the problems that have shown up in electric cars,” said Paul Czysz, professor emeritus of aeronautical engineering at St. Louis University.
The lithium-ion batteries in several Chevrolet Volts used for crash-testing caught fire in 2011. General Motors engineers eventually figured out that the fires were the result of a battery coolant leak that caused electrical shorts after side-impact crash tests. GM retrofitted the car with more steel to protect the battery. No fires were ever reported on real-world roads.
Jim McNerney, Boeing’s chairman, president and CEO, said the company is working with the FAA to resolve the situation as quickly as possible.
“We are confident the 787 is safe and we stand behind its overall integrity,” he said in a statement. “We will be taking every necessary step in the coming days to assure our customers and the traveling public of the 787′s safety and to return the airplanes to service.”
Mike Sinnett, chief engineer on the 787, said last week that the plane’s batteries have operated through a combined 1.3 million hours and never had an internal fault. He said they were built with multiple protections to ensure that failures “don’t put the airplane at risk.”
The lithium-ion design was chosen because it’s the only type of battery that can take a large charge in a short amount of time.
Neither GS Yuasa Corp., the Japanese company that supplies the batteries for the 787, nor Thales, which makes the battery charging system, would comment on the recent troubles.
Boeing and its customers will need to move quickly to resolve the problem. The aircraft maker has booked orders for more than 800 of the planes from airlines around the world attracted by its increased fuel efficiency.
The jet’s lightweight design makes it more of a fuel-sipper; fuel is the largest expense for most airlines. It’s so lightweight in part because it uses electricity to do things that other airplanes do with hot air vented through internal ducts. So a 787 with electrical problems is like a minivan that won’t haul kids. It goes to the heart of what the thing was built to do.
The FAA order had airlines, flight crews and passengers scrambling to figure out what to do next. Stanislaw Radzio, the captain of a LOT Polish Airlines 787 that landed at O’Hare International Airport in Chicago late Wednesday, told The Associated Press he wasn’t sure when the plane would be heading back to Poland.
“We’re grounded like everyone else,” he said. “We are very unhappy with the situation.”
He said he was told of the FAA decision during the flight from Warsaw. A captain and flight instructor at the Polish airline since 1999, Radzio said the 787 is the nicest plane he’s ever flown.
A passenger on the flight, Taras Dukyn, a student at the University of Illinois at Chicago, said he was surprised when told of the grounding by reporters, but would be willing to fly the aircraft again if the problems were fixed.
“It’s a really nice plane. Computers in every chair. It was comfortable, although I was a little hot,” he said.
Posted by Pete Moss at 1/18/2013 12:26:00 AM
FAA Proposal: Pilots Can’t Use Phones, Laptops, iPads In Cockpit At Any Time
January 16, 2013 3:52 PM
WASHINGTON (CBSDC) –- The Federal Aviation Administration is pushing for pilots to heed the advice given to passengers every flight: Turn off all wireless devices.
The FAA is prepared to propose an initiative that would prohibit pilots from using personal wireless devices in the cockpit for the entire flight, aiming to cut down on any distractions. The proposed prohibition comes nearly a year after Congress called for it to be implemented as FAA law.
The FAA’s latest push against personal devices in the cockpit comes after several incidents in the past few years happened as a result of pilots using personal devices, such as laptops, in the cockpit during flights. One incident in particular was the crash of Colgan Air Flight 3407. In that February 2009 tragedy, the co-pilot sent a text message about five minutes before the plane was cleared for takeoff. Shortly thereafter, the plane crashed, resulting in 50 deaths.
But the new law would not eliminate the use of personal devices when it comes to work purposes.
“The proposed rule does not prohibit the use of personal wireless communications devices or laptop computers if the purpose is directly related to operation of the aircraft,” according to the proposal.
Since 2006, the FAA has said that cellphones in the cockpit needed to be turned off once the plane has left the gate, according to USA Today.
The FAA is expected to collect comments about the proposal during a 60-day period.
Posted by Pete Moss at 1/18/2013 12:18:00 AM
Thursday, January 17, 2013
Why Is Boeing's 787 Dreamliner Such A Piece Of Crap?
Amazing new plane keeps catching on fire. Here are the questions you've been asking and the answers you need.
By Dan Nosowitz
Nippon's 787 Dreamliner Wikimedia Commons
Q: What is the 787 Dreamliner and why do we care?
A: The Dreamliner is a massive jet from Boeing, the company's most fuel-efficient airliner and the first major airplane to be made with composite materials--specifically, carbon fiber reinforced plastic. It's made of 80% composite by volume, which makes it much lighter than typical planes without sacrificing strength, and has a lot of nice consumer-facing features--bigger windows, new noise reduction techniques, modular bathrooms, and more space for passengers. It'll hold up to 296 passengers, too--this is a big boy. It's not a revolutionary plane, but we all care about it because it's the next evolution of the planes we'll all take. You probably won't fly on an all-electric plane any time soon, but you probably will fly on a Dreamliner.
Q: Cool! So how come I can't catch one flying out of my local airport tomorrow?
A: Well, here's the thing about the Dreamliner: it's been plagued with more serious problems than any other major new jet line in recent memory. Its batteries have a tendency to catch on fire. Earlier this week, both Japan Airlines and the FAA grounded all Dreamliners under their control until we can get a handle on why these things keep breaking.
Q: What's wrong with them?
The Dreamliner relies on electrical power much more than its predecessor, the 777. Earlier planes used bleed air, which is super-hot, super-pressurized air taken from within the engine, and used it for all kinds of functions, from de-icing to pressurizing the cabin itself. But in order to cut down on energy use, the 787 relies instead on electrical power for that, from some very powerful lithium ion batteries. Those batteries have of late taken up a new hobby: catching on fire and freaking the hell out of all of us.
Q: Wait a second, lithium ion batteries? Like in hybrid/electric cars? And phones and laptops and a million other things?
A: Well, kinda. There are different kinds of lithium ion batteries, using different chemicals and different reactions, and they behave pretty differently. This is a great explanation of what's going on in those batteries, but in short, the Dreamliner uses cobalt oxide batteries, the same kind as what's used in smartphones, laptops, and tablets. It's chosen for all of those purposes because it's got a crazy-high energy content for its size and weight--like, twice that of the batteries used in electric cars--but it also has one very big problem. That would be heat.
Gadget makers have worked for years on cooling methods so their batteries don't catch on fire, and sometimes they do anyway, but these batteries are pretty small and not all that hazardous. The batteries in a Dreamliner, on the other hand, are huge. And on fire.
Q: But planes always have problems at first, right? Aren't these just growing pains?
A: Yeah, that's a common thought, helped along by just about every Boeing exec and anyone else who has a financial stake in the Dreamliner not catching on fire repeating it. And it's not false, exactly. But the problems the Dreamliner is having aren't exactly the same kinds of problems as, say, the Boeing 777. The 777 has had eight so-called "aviation occurrences," which is airplane code for "accidents." But those problems were mostly easy to solve--there were a few issues with the de-icing system, which was subsequently redesigned, and all the other issues were one-offs, like a 2011 cockpit fire that was probably due to "a possible electrical fault with a supply hose in the cockpit crew oxygen system."
The Dreamliner has had many more problems. Cockpit windows have cracked several times. At least three of the 50 active Dreamliners have had overheating problems with the lithium ion batteries, leading to smoke and/or fire. Two planes have had fuel leak problems. These are much more difficult to manage than a de-icing flaw; you can't just swap out the batteries, since there are no other batteries with the same size and energy storage, and as the batteries are a much more integral part of the plane's entire operation, this isn't a small issue. The fact that the Dreamliners have had similar problems is a cause for concern.
Q: How long was this thing in development? How did this slip by?
A: Ah, good question. The Dreamliner has had a very long and tumultuous birthing process, with several redesigns over the years. The Dreamliner is actually several years behind schedule on many of its deliveries; you'd think in that time someone would make sure the thing didn't catch on fire. But nobody really knows how this kind of thing got by; best guess is that with such a new kind of electrical power system, nobody really knew how the Dreamliner would respond with repeated use. On the other hand, Qatar Airlines CEO Akbar Al Baker, among other "airline insiders," has said he's not surprised by the groundings.
Q: What happens now?
A: The FAA and the equivalents in other countries will conduct full-scale investigations into the problems with the Dreamliners. We won't know what the solutions are until we see those findings. So the answer to the sub-question here, "can the battery situation be fixed and how," is "it can probably be fixed, but until we know precisely what the problem is we won't know how." In the meantime, some of the airlines are demanding payment, considering they just spent millions of dollars on a plane they can't fly, and it's possible that others will decide not to continue with their purchases. Boeing has about 800 Dreamliners set to be built; if people start pulling out, the company is going to be in serious trouble.
Posted by Pete Moss at 1/17/2013 06:20:00 PM
Wednesday, January 16, 2013
Sunday, January 13, 2013
Airline crash data group ranks world's safest airlines
Published January 10, 2013
Finnair, has been named the world's safest airline by a European online group that monitors airline safety and crashes. (Reuters)
If you're afraid of flying, you may want to book an Asian or Middle East carrier rather a U.S. airline. That's at least according to a recent report from a website that monitors plane crashes around the world.
Europe's Jet Airliner Crash Data Evaluation Centre (JACDEC) released its list of the world's safest airlines.
According to the report, Finnair is now the world’s safest airline, followed by Air New Zealand, Cathay Pacific and Emirates. None of the top nine ranked airlines had lost an aircraft or had a fatality during the 30-year period, but many had also not been active for the full 30 years. Not one North American carrier made the top 10 list, but none of them made the bottom 10 either.
The center calculates its annual rankings based on aircraft loss accidents and serious incidents over the past 30 years. The resulting index relates that information to the revenue per passenger kilometer (rpk) earned by the airline over the same period.
There were 496 fatalities on commercial passenger flights last year, according to the report, two fewer than in 2011. The most significant involved a Dana Air flight which crashed in Nigeria, killing 169 people, and a Bhoja Air flight which crashed in Pakistan, killing 127.
A total of 30 planes were destroyed and there were 44 “hull losses”, or aircraft write-offs, one less than the previous year.
Here's a look at the best and worst in terms of safety record.
The world’s safest airlines
2. Air New Zealand
3. Cathay Pacific
6. EVA Air
7. TAP Portugal
8. Hainan Airlines
9. Virgin Australia
10. British Airways
The bottom 10
51. SkyWest Airlines
52. South African Airways
53. Thai Airways
54. Turkish Airlines
56. Korean Air
57. GOL Transportes Aéreos
58. Air India
59. TAM Airlines
60. China Airlines
Read more: http://www.foxnews.com/travel/2013/01/10/world-safest-airlines-revealed/#ixzz2HvApXwp2
Posted by Pete Moss at 1/13/2013 11:33:00 PM
Monday, January 07, 2013
NTSB Investigating Japan Airlines Dreamliner Fire
The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) is investigating the cause of a fire in the underbelly of a Japan Airlines Boeing 787 Dreamliner at Boston's Logan International Airport on Monday.
According to airport officials, airline mechanics reported seeing smoke shortly after passengers exited the plane. Firefighters used a thermal imaging device to determine the fire was caused by battery in the auxiliary power unit in the underbelly of the plane that is only used when the plane is on the ground and engines are off.
The fire is the latest problem in a string of incidents involving mechanical and electrical issues with Boeing’s 787.
Back in July, NTSB investigated an engine failure on a 787 that occurred during preflight runway testing in South Carolina, and found the failure was the result of a fractured fan on the engine mid-shaft. In December, FAA issued an airworthiness directive requiring Boeing to inspect all in-service 787s for fuel leaks. Also in December, a United Airlines 787 made an emergency landing due a failed generator.
During an interview with CNBC in mid-December, Boeing CEO and Chairman Jim McNerney referred to the issues as “the normal number of squawks on a new airplane.” More
Posted by Pete Moss at 1/07/2013 04:48:00 PM
Thursday, January 03, 2013
JAN 3, 2013 5:43 PM60,683 244
Not a Blimp, Not a Plane: The Gigantic Aeroscraft Is Ready, and It’s Awesome
This is a new type of rigid aircraft. It's not a blimp, and it's not an airplane, but this thing has the potential to alter the way we understand travel and completely change military transportation. You can see a video of its first move here.
According to the company, "the final configuration and vehicle systems integration functionality testing has been completed as the Aeroscraft subscale demonstration vehicle reaches the finish line." The aircraft will enter a flying tests phase over the next 60 days. After they are done with the testing, they will build the full scale version. Yes, this gigantic aircraft is only a small version of what's coming. Imagine that.
Aeros CEO Igor Pasternak thinks that "this is truly the beginning of a vertical global transportation solution for perhaps the next 100 years." Indeed, it may become just that. Imagine having the capability of transporting huge amounts of material or people across any distance, without the need of any ground infrastructure.
Civilian versions would be able to offer air cruises at any altitude. Just like a cruise ship but over land. Imagine taking the most awesome trip over a three or four days, from New York to San Francisco, slowly flying over the Grand Canyon or the Rocky Mountains, watching the incredible scenery while sipping on a cocktail or comfortably having dinner in a restaurant with huge glass windows. Then, at night, you sleep in your comfortable room. That's what the full-size Aeroscraft will be able to offer and I will be the first one in line to experience it.
There will also be cargo and military versions too, capable of transporting anything from ISO-standard containers—like any cargo ship—to tanks and hundreds of soldiers.
I can't wait to see these giants cruising over Earth's skies. [Aeroscraft]
Posted by Pete Moss at 1/03/2013 11:40:00 PM