Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Ukrainian Su-27 Flanker reportedly shot down during special operation against separatists

One Su-27 Flanker aircraft supporting a special operation to regain control on a military airfield taken from pro-Moscow separatists was reportedly shot down.

On Apr. 15, Ukrainian armed forces launched a special operation to recapture the airport near the town of Kramatorsk, in the Russian speaking east, taken by pro-Moscow separatists.

The operation involved several Ukrainian troops disembarked from helicopters and supported from the air by at least four combat planes: two Su-27 Flanker fighter jets and Su-25 Frogfoot attack planes.

Noteworthy, videos and photographs taken a Kramatorsk during the attack show the aircraft fully armed with live missiles.

Su-27 downed Ukraine

Image credit: via RT

Here below is a footage showing a Su-27 circling at low altitude, relatively low speed, over Kramatorsk: a quite easy target for trained soldiers using MANPADS (Man Portable Air Defense Systems) or other Anti-Aircraft weaponry.


The news of the Su-27 shot down was spread along with a video allegedly showing the Su-27 (or generally speaking, a Ukrainian aircraft) being shot down even if that was actually footage shot in Syria last year.



H/T to Steppen Wolf for providing additional material.


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Photo of Alleged Front Panel from Larger-Screen iPhone 6 Surfaces [Updated]

An alleged photo of what appears to be a front panel from Apple's larger-screen iPhone 6 has surfaced on Chinese microblogging site Weibo (via, Google Translation).

The image appears to show an individual in a factory-type setting holding up an iPhone 5s next to a much larger front panel that contains similar characteristics, including cutouts for a front-facing camera, ambient light sensor, ear speaker, and home button. However, the front panel also features a notably thinner bezel, which is consistent with previous rumors about the iPhone 6's slimmer design.

While the validity of the image cannot be confirmed, the leak is the latest among a number of others recently. This past weekend, several photos reportedly showed the details on manufacturing molds for the iPhone 6, which was followed by a photo yesterday that hinted at a 4.7-inch display.

Last month, Japanese magazine MacFan published alleged design drawings of what appeared to be 4.7-inch and 5.6-inch iPhone 6 models, with a photo showing cases for the larger iPhone surfacing shortly afterward.

Apple is expected to launch the iPhone 6 later this year, which may ship in two different sizes: 4.7 inches and 5.5 inches. Recent reports have indicated that the smaller 4.7 inch version will ship first in the fall, while the larger version may ship later this year or in early 2015 due to manufacturing challenges.

Along with a larger screen, both models of the next-generation iPhone are rumored to include a new A8 processor, Touch ID fingerprint sensor and an upgraded camera featuring optical image stabilization. A report yesterday from Jefferies analyst Peter Misek also stated that Apple is negotiating with wireless carriers to raise the price of the iPhone 6 by $100.

Update 8:07 AM: A second comparison photo has also been discovered on Weibo, showing the iPhone 6 panel next to an iPhone 5 or 5s that is turned on. The image is of relatively low quality, but does offer a fairly straight-on view that shows the larger iPhone accommodating a screen of approximately 4.7 inches.


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“And the Winner is…” – Taking a Closer Look at the 2014 Airline Quality Rating Report

The First Virgin America A320 With Sharklets

The first Virgin America A320 with Sharklets – Photo: Virgin America

This story was written by John Cameron for AirlineReporter…

The 2014 Airline Quality Rating report was released last week and, for the second year in a row, Virgin America was ranked #1 amongst major US carriers. How did the other airlines fare? Who received the dubious distinction of being ranked worst? You’ll have to read on to find out.

But first, a bit of background information.

The Airline Quality Rating (AQR) report has been published annually since 1991. Yes, 24 years. That’s a long, long time in the commercial aviation industry. To put that into perspective, consider that the AQR predates the prohibition of in-flight smoking in the US (1998), the Embraer ERJ family (1995), the Boeing 777 (1994), the Airbus A330 (1992), and even the ubiquitous Bombardier CRJ (which took to the air one month after the inaugural AQR report was released).

Back then, as the 1990s were just dawning, professors Brent Bowen and Dean Headley realized that the majority of existing airline rating systems relied heavily on subjective surveys of customer opinion that were infrequently collected and largely unreliable. What was needed was a timely, objective, and quantitative rating system that could be used to compare airline performance from year to year.

Thus, the Airline Quality Rating was born.


According to the authors, the AQR is “a multi-factor, weighted average approach” that utilizes “data that reports actual airline performance on critical quality criteria important to consumers and combines them into a rating system. The final result is a rating for individual airlines with interval scale properties that is comparable across airlines and across time periods.”

That’s a fancy way of saying – “we’re going to examine legit airline performance and satisfaction data, and see which airline serves its customers the best.

You may already see a flaw in this approach. After all, considering the fierce competition and razor-thin profit margins of the airline industry, what CEO in his/her right mind would willingly divulge the type of data that is required to compile this kind of report?

Fortunately, professors Bowen and Headley had an ally in their corner – the United States government. More accurately, the Department of Transportation (DOT). Thanks to a little-known federal regulation (or, well, “little known” outside of the airline industry), the professors wouldn’t have to beg the airlines for the data – the airlines, themselves, are required to report it to the DOT each and every month (if they have an annual revenue of at least 1% of the total revenue for all domestic airlines.)

The report utilizes numerous weighted metrics for measuring on-time performance, involuntary denied boardings, mishandled luggage and various types of customer complaints to arrive at a final AQR score.

The formula for all of this?

This the AQR formula.

This the AQR formula

Don’t worry, math was never my favorite subject either. Luckily, we have professors Bowen and Headley to sort it  out for us. All we have to do is sit back and take advantage of their hard work.

So, let’s get into the details of this year’s report.

We’ve already established that Virgin America is the champion for the second year in a row. It’s worth noting that they actually improved their score from last year, although their on-time performance took a slight hit – falling from 83.5% to 82.1%. Surprisingly, Virgin America’s customer complaint score of 1.28 per 100,000 passengers is a little above the industry average. However, the rest of their scores were enough to make up for that one blemish.

A JetBlue A320 - Photo: cclark395 / Flickr CC

JetBlue A320 – Photo: cclark395 / Flickr CC

Second place goes to low-cost carrier JetBlue, who overcame a slight worsening of their on-time performance (vs. the previous year) with a stellar score for denied boardings (or, more accurately, lack thereof) and a solid track record of making sure customer baggage gets where it needs to go.

The rest of the top five include Hawaiian Airlines (best on-time performance of all major airlines, but amazing weather helps), Delta, and Alaska Airlines.

Which airlines have some work to do? Well, out of the 15 carriers included in the report, the bottom three include ExpressJet in 13th place, SkyWest in 14th, and American Eagle bringing up the rear with a distant 15th place ranking (and an on-time performance score of 72.1% combined with 5.9 mishandled bags per 1,000 passengers – the worst ranking in both categories).

Many of the findings jump right out of the pages and are easily interpreted from the numbers:

  • You want an on-time flight? Go with Hawaiian, Alaska, Delta, Virgin America, or US Airways.
  • Want to make sure you don’t get bumped from your flight? Go with JetBlue, Virgin America, Hawaiian, Alaska, or American.
  • Concerned about your luggage getting to your destination? Fly with Virgin America, JetBlue, Frontier, Delta, or Hawaiian.

The report is full of interesting statistics and offers noteworthy insight into the industry as a whole. Best of all, it’s free to download.

It just might make your next travel decision an easy one.

The post “And the Winner is…” – Taking a Closer Look at the 2014 Airline Quality Rating Report appeared first on

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Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Google nabs drone company Facebook allegedly wanted to buy

For a moment, it seemed like Google and Facebook were about to pursue two different techniques to deliver internet signals from the sky: Google with weather balloons, and Facebook with high-flying drones. But now, it seems that Google will own drones as well. Google has just bought Titan Aerospace, the very company that Facebook was rumored to be acquiring.

According to The Wall Street Journal, the Titan Aerospace team will work with Google's existing Project Loon ballon team, as well as the Makani airborne wind turbine power company that Google acquired last year. But rather than be assimilated into the Google collective, Titan's employees will stay in New Mexico under existing leadership.

Continue reading…

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Solar Impulse 2 — More Details

Editor’s Note: as a follow-up from my coverage of the Solar Impulse 2 unveiling, which included exclusive videos and an interview with co-founder Bertrand Piccard, below is a Gas2 post with some more technical details. A slideshow from the unveiling and an interview with the other co-founder, André Borschberg, are also on the way. Stay tuned!

Originally published on Gas2.


The Solar Impulse made some record-breaking flights, and the improved Solar Impulse 2 will try to fly around the world solely on sun power. That’s a tall order and a daring mission for the Swiss designers, and it could usher in a new era of of high-tech flight.

So far, the Solar Impulse crew has completed an intercontinental flight between Spain and Morocco, as well as a cross-continental flight with its journey from Los Angeles to New York City. In total, the first Solar Impulse plane broke eight world records, all without using a single drop of fossil fuel. But the next challenge is a mighty one, travelling all the way around the world using only solar power.

Designers André Borschberg and Bertrand Piccard have unveiled a new design with a massive 263-foot wingspan, the same as a Boeing 747. Yet even with that massive wingspan loaded with more than 17,000 monocrystalline silicon solar cells, and more than 2,000 pounds worth of lithium-ion batteries, the entire plane weighs in at just over 5,000 pounds. This allows the 17.5 horsepower to push the Solar Impulse 2 along at a maximum speed of… 35 MPH.


That means that epic journey around the world will take quite some time, requiring Piccard and Borschberg to get comfy in their cozy cabin. Specially-designed seats will serve as cots, work stations and toilets, and an autopilot system will let the Solar Impulse 2 fly for several hours unmanned. But there won’t be a lot of privacy on this long journey, and in the event of an emergency, a small survival kit and life raft will be the pioneers’ only saving grace.

Here’s hoping they don’t have to use them. Their epic journey begins in March 2015, and will hopefully conclude five months later in July. Want more? Check out some exclusive videos over on our sister site CleanTechnica.

  • HB-SIB construction_ SolarPanelsInstallation _Revillard
  • solar-impulse-2-6
  • solar-impulse-2-5
  • HB-SIB construction_ SolarPanelsInstallation _Revillard
  • solar-impulse-2-4

Source | Images: Solar Impulse

Solar Impulse 2 — More Details was originally published on CleanTechnica. To read more from CleanTechnica, join over 50,000 other subscribers: Google+ | Email | Facebook | RSS | Twitter.

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Big Pic: Robonaut Is Getting Legs

photo of Robonaut 2 holding a handrail with one of its feet
Robonaut Grips Handrails With Its Feet

Update, 4/14/14: The SpaceX launch that was supposed to bring Robonaut 2 its legs has been postponed. The Falcon 9 rocket has a helium leak, NASA tweeted. R2 responded to the news on Twitter:

Looks like I'm waiting a few more days for those legs Next SpaceX opportunity 3:29pm ET Friday #SpaceX3 #AllIWantForEasterIsMyTwoFrontLegs

— Robonaut (@AstroRobonaut) April 14, 2014


. . .


The International Space Station's humanoid robot is getting a pair of legs. The fresh gams are scheduled to go up to space today aboard a SpaceX-operated resupply mission.

Before this, Robonaut 2—the first humanoid robot in space—did not have legs. It was just a torso mounted on a short post. The new limbs will give R2 a decidedly spidery nine-foot "leg span." The legs are also a bit more flexible than most humans'. They have seven joints each, plus pincer-like feet that are able to grip handrails and sockets inside and outside the space station. The feet even have small cameras to help them identify grips. So now R2 will be able to move around the space station and work with both hands while keeping itself in place in microgravity using its feet.

photo showing a Robonaut 2 with its legs
Robonaut 2's New Legs

Researchers are developing Robonauts to perform repetitive or dangerous tasks aboard the space station, so human astronauts don't have to. Humans can tele-operate the robot or program it to do some things autonomously. Kind of like an intern, however, R2 is both working and learning at the same time. Since it first flew to space in 2011, it hasn't done a lot of helpful tasks. Instead, it's undergone a number of experiments checking its ability to push buttons, flip switches, and use tools that people normally operate. In 2012, NASA announced R2 did its first helpful bit of work, checking air flow in the ship. It's also used the station's RFID inventory scanner.


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BMW to follow Honda back into F1?

Filed under: Motorsports, BMW, Ford

BMW Sauber F1.09 at Interlagos

The economic downturn wrought devastating effects on motor racing. Formula One alone lost half its engine suppliers when Honda left at the end of the 2008 season, and both BMW and Toyota followed at the end of 2009. But things are looking up again. Cosworth may have dropped out this season, reducing the engine suppliers to three: Ferrari, Renault and Mercedes, the latter of which admits that it may have left had the engine formula not changed. But Mercedes has stayed and is dominating the championship. Honda is coming back next season. And word around the paddock is it may not be the only one.

According to Giancarlo Minardi - founder of the team now known as Scuderia Toro Rosso - BMW engineers have been conspicuously spotted lately at F1 test sessions and grands prix, lending to speculation that the new engine regulations may entice the Bavarian automaker back into the series. According to Minardi, BMW's marketing division is pushing for the automaker's return to F1, with the board slated to make a decision in May. BMW would be more likely to consider an engine-supply deal rather than taking a team over like it had with Sauber, but with which team or teams it might collaborate remains a big question mark at this point.

As if that's not enough, Ford is said to be considering taking over Cosworth's aborted V6 turbo engine program to take both outfits back into the sport as well. Cosworth supplied F1 engines under the Ford banner for years, but returned under its own name for four seasons from 2010 through 2013 before shuttering its program to develop an engine to meet the new regulations adopted this season.

With Honda, BMW and Ford back on the grid, F1 would be back up to six engine suppliers like it had been in the 2008 season that marked the highest level of participation from automakers in decades.

BMW to follow Honda back into F1? originally appeared on Autoblog on Mon, 14 Apr 2014 09:30:00 EST. Please see our terms for use of feeds.

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Sunday, April 13, 2014

What's up with this Bugatti Veyron spied at the Nürburgring?

Filed under: Spy Photos, Convertible, Performance, Videos, Bugatti

Bugatti Veyron prototype at the Nürburgring

It's been sixteen years since Volkswagen acquired the Bugatti name and started showing off successive concept cars to preview the Veyron that followed. It's been eleven years since the first Veyron prototype started testing, and nine years since it entered production. But soon - probably sometime next year - Bugatti will have sold the last of the Veyrons it will ever build. And considering that the Veyron is the only model it offers, it will need something else to take its place, lest the marque effectively go dormant once again.

Having ruled out the prospect of doing a less expensive sports car years ago and, more recently, the production prospects for the Galibier super-sedan, Bugatti is committed to further the concept of a super-sports car that will, in all likelihood, be lighter than the current Veyron - which may seem like a no-brainer, considering the car weighs over 4,000 pounds - but with an engine that is, by every metric but output, twice the size of the one you'd find in, say, a modern McLaren, trimming weight will be no mean feat.

That does appear, however, to be what Bugatti is seen testing at the Nürburgring in this video clip below. Going by the handle fastsportscardriver, the videographer/uploader doesn't seem to know what he has captured here, but the Grand Sport prototype he's spotted seems to be wearing some sort of metal frame over the exposed engine, suggesting something's at work here. Just what that is, we don't know. But when you're dealing with an engine that already produces upwards of a thousand horsepower, whatever they're working on, it's got to be good.

Continue reading What's up with this Bugatti Veyron spied at the Nürburgring?

What's up with this Bugatti Veyron spied at the Nürburgring? originally appeared on Autoblog on Sun, 13 Apr 2014 11:59:00 EST. Please see our terms for use of feeds.

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