Saturday, March 28, 2015

Der Supra: East Meets West in the Toyota/BMW Sports-Car Partnership

Der Supra: East Meets West in the Toyota/BMW Sports-Car Partnership

From the April 2015 issue

You can see why Toyota and BMW would choose the code name “Silk Road” to describe their collaborative effort to build a new generation of sports cars. East meets West and all that. We will forgive the companies the minor historical inaccuracy—the Silk Road trade route never extended to Japan or Germany—because we greatly prefer sports cars to silk. And this alliance will result in the next BMW Z4 and the return of Toyota’s long-lost Supra.


According to leaks out of Germany, the Supra coupe will appear in two years as a 2018 model. Why would the Germans be leaking Supra details? Because underneath the Toyota-specific body will be mounted a turbocharged inline-six BMW engine. And, if that’s not enough sacrilege, the coupe’s rear-drive chassis will be developed largely by BMW, too.


So what will Toyota contribute to the party, other than the body? Well, money, for one. Toyota also will let BMW in on some of its expertise in inexpensive hybrid technology, although there’s currently no indication that the Silk Road cars will offer hybrid options. BMW will certainly develop a four-cylinder variant for the Z4 while Toyota is unlikely to offer the smaller engine.

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Toyota tipped its hand on the Supra’s styling with the FT-1 ­concept car it unveiled at the Detroit auto show in 2014. With its Viper-like dimensions, the FT-1 concept is larger than the eventual production car will be. Scale the concept down about 10 percent or scale the current Z4 up a bit and you’re in the realm.


There were early rumors that the Toyota-BMW cooperation also would result in a replacement for the slow-selling Scion FR-S, but it’s hard to imagine Toyota seeing enough demand in the U.S. for two distinct rear-drive performance coupes. That noted, the platform should have enough powertrain and dimensional flexibility to be used for other BMW variations and possibly a Lexus model.


Der Supra: East Meets West in the Toyota/BMW Sports-Car Partnership - Photo Gallery

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Friday, March 27, 2015

Storm’s A-Brewin’: Aston Martin Serves Papers to Fisker Over Thunderbolt

Galpin Auto Sports Thunderbolt by Henrik Fisker

Henrik Fisker’s Thunderbolt, at Amelia Island

Astons are nothing if not beautiful, and like every car manufacturer out there, the company holds its intellectual property—in this case, its designs—very dear. So Aston Martin did not particularly appreciate its former designer, Henrik Fisker, rolling into the Amelia Island Concours d’Elegance with the Thunderbolt, an admittedly gorgeous “design study” that looks an awful lot like one of Aston’s own cars. In fact, it was one of its cars, the Vanquish, which Fisker mildly re-bodied, making it look an awful lot like another one of its cars, the vaunted, million-dollar One-77.


Enter lawyers, stage left.


“Today Aston Martin filed a lawsuit in the state of California to protect its valuable trade marks, designs and intellectual property rights,” said Aston Martin’s official statement, written in British. “This lawsuit centres on Henrik Fisker’s creation and promotion of automobiles that Aston Martin contends infringes Aston Martin’s rights, by an improper and unauthorised attempt to exploit and free-ride off them. Aston Martin regards such conduct as wholly unacceptable and reserves all rights available at law to challenge it.”



Aston Martin’s One-77 (above), Fisker’s Thunderbolt (below)

According to Aston Martin spokesman Matthew Clarke, Fisker’s people tried to get Aston’s blessing before showing the car, but Aston did not provide it. “He reached out early on in the process and we clearly expressed concerns and were led to believe the concept would head in a different direction.”



From another angle, this time with the Fisker at the top and the Aston at the bottom

For the record, Fisker and production/distribution partner Galpin Auto Sports presented the Thunderbolt a “design study.” If there was sufficient interest in a production model, said a Galpin spokesman, a slightly different version of the car would be produced with changes meant to appease Aston Martin in the end, (see the red car, below) whilst presumably looking at least something like the design study that garnered interest in the first place.


Galpin Auto Sports Thunderbolt by Henrik Fisker


Clearly, that didn’t appease Aston Martin—you can read the whole complaint here—and the company doesn’t mince words:


“Specifically, the Thunderbolt prototype car featured confusingly similar variations of Aston Martin’s grille and side vent trademarks as well a facsimile of its wings logo, all of which infringe Aston Martin’s trademark rights. But this was only part of Fisker’s calculated plan to improperly exploit Aston Martin’s proprietary rights and free-ride off its reputation for his own gain. Fisker has also employed and continues to employ illegal ‘bait and switch’ marketing tactics to sell his Thunderbolt prototype car. Fisker’s advertising pictures a vehicle with confusingly similar variations of Aston Martin’s grille and side vent trademarks and wings logo, but the vehicle Fisker actually intends to sell is a different car entirely (which also infringes Aston Martin’s proprietary rights). Additionally, Fisker has repeatedly referred to the Thunderbolt prototype car as being based on Aston Martin’s VANQUISH automobile, when that is simply not true. Fisker has even gone so far as to intentionally and willfully induce a long-time Aston Martin dealer into participating in his scheme, thereby causing the dealer to breach its dealer’s agreement with Aston Martin to sell and promote only genuine Aston Martin vehicles and to not use Aston Martin’s trademarks to sell non-Aston Martin automobiles. Fisker’s motives are clear—by associating the Thunderbolt with an Aston Martin dealer, consumers will be further duped into believing that the Thunderbolt is an authorized and genuine Aston Martin automobile, even though Fisker never obtained Aston Martin’s permission to publicly display the Thunderbolt, and Aston Martin repeatedly and strenuously objected to Fisker’s promotion and sale of the Thunderbolt.


“Not surprisingly, although it has only been a week since Fisker introduced the Thunderbolt prototype car, many automotive enthusiasts and the press have already mistakenly identified Fisker’s Thunderbolt as an Aston Martin vehicle because of the Aston Martin design features Fisker took from Aston Martin and Fisker’s deceptive and misleading advertising used to promote and sell his vehicles—advertising that is chock-full of Aston Martin’s trademarks, statements closely associating the unauthorized Thunderbolt prototype car with Aston Martin’s authorized dealer and the authorized Aston Martin vehicles sold by the dealer, and misstatements about the characteristics of the prototype, including regarding the ‘donor’ car used. Unless and until Fisker’s infringing activities and false and deceptive advertising are enjoined, Aston Martin will continue to suffer damage and irreparable harm.”

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It’s a shame that something so pretty can cause a situation that’s so ugly. We’ll be watching to see how the legal wrangling unfolds. Meantime, it appears that the Thunderbolt will remain a design study and only a design study for some time to come.

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Slack beefs up security after data breach with two-step authentication

When you've got a hot new online platform, you inevitably become a target for hackers. That's the lesson Slack, a popular business collaboration tool, learned when it discovered an intrusion in its systems last February. As a result, the company is n...
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Flashback Friday: The Boeing 737 NG Family

By Luis Linares / Published March 27, 2015

737 NG Rollout

The Boeing 737-700 was the first NG to rollout of Boeing’s Renton pant:  Photo courtesy of Boeing

The Boeing 737 family of airplanes has been flying passengers around the world since 1968.  In addition, Boeing has delivered almost 8,500 of these airplanes from over 12,700 orders.  These numbers encompass four generations of the 737, including the future MAX variants.  The most successful of the first three generations of is the “Next Generation” (NG), which entered service in 1997, with more than 5,300 deliveries, and almost 1,600 on order, with a current production rate of over 42 airframes per month.  On this Flashback Friday, we look back at the history of the iconic 737 NG.

Development and Testing

In the mid-1980s the first major upgrade of the Boeing 737 family began to enter service.  This series, known today as the “Classic” consists of the 737-300, -400, and -500.  The most visible differences between the “Classic” and original -100/-200 models were newer, more efficient engines, a different tail design, extended wings, and cockpits fitted with the Electronic Flight Instrumentation System (EFIS), which was a new technology at the time.

Two members of the “Classic” generation – Boliviana de Aviación Boeing 737-300 (L) and Vision Airlines (operating for Miami-based charter Havana Air) Boeing 737-400 (R):  Photos by Luis Linares / AirwaysNews

The 737 family had been challenged by significant competition since the first aircraft entered service on February 10, 1968.  However, on April 18, 1988, European manufacturer Airbus introduced the A320 into service, marking the beginning of a historic rivalry in the narrowbody market that continues to this day.  The A320, which incorporated the latest technologies of the time, forced Boeing to reevaluate the 737.

EXTRA:  Inside Boeing’s 737 Renton Factory as They Take It to the “MAX”: Part One

EXTRA:  Inside Boeing’s 737 Renton Factory as They Take It to the “MAX”: Part Two

Boeing consulted with potential customers on the future of the 737, and this led to the launch of the NG program on November 17, 1993.  The NGs would come in four different lengths with the series designators (from shortest to longest) -600, -700, -800, and -900.  The basic fuselage shape of the original 737 would incorporate the most significant upgrades of the family, such as a new and larger wing, as well as new quieter and more efficient engines.

EXTRA:  Boeing 737 NG Memorabilia and Marketing

737 NG Brochure

Brochure from 2002 depicting the 737 NG family: Image courtesy of AirwaysNews

The new improvements would make NG a brand new aircraft in terms of performance, especially greater range that would allow transcontinental flights in the U.S. and Canada.  The new wing allowed for a greater typical cruising speed from the Mach 0.74 on the “Classic” to a faster Mach 0.78.  Furthermore, on the inside, the NG adopted some of the features of the Boeing 777, which entered service in 1995.  For example, the passenger cabin would have larger storage bins and curved ceiling panels.  Finally, a new glass cockpit incorporated the modern primary flight and navigation displays of the 777, but could be reprogrammed to display the EFIS gauges common in the “Classic,” allowing crews in airlines with “Classics” and NGs to operate both aircraft.

The first NG rolled out on December 8, 1996.  The prototype was a -700 series, essentially a replacement of the -300, first flew on February 9, 1997.  The -800, intended to replace the -400, rolled out on June 30, 1997 and first flew a month later on July 31.  The “flying football,” the -600, which would replace the -500, rolled out on December 8, 1997, and had its maiden flight on January 22, 1998.

In 1997, as the initial variants rolled out, Boeing launched the -900, the longest model of the 737 family.  The first -900 rolled out on July 23, 2000, and flew for the first time over a week later on August 3.  Boeing also planned for private and military variants of the NG.

The Boeing 737 NG Family



WestJet Airlines Boeing 737-600: Photo by Luis Linares / AirwaysNews

The -600 entered service with Scandinavian Airlines on October 25, 1998.  The -600 can seat 108 passengers in a typical two-class layout (the same as a -500) and can travel up to 3,050 nmi (3,509 mi or 5,648 km), 21% more than the -500.  Its CFM 56-7B20 engines provide 22,700 lbf (101 kN) of thrust each.

Boeing only produced and delivered 69 -600s, with the last delivery taking place in 2006.  Economics contributed to the short production life of the “flying football.”  Customers could fly the larger -700 with more passengers and cargo for essentially the same cost, while generating additional revenue.


Southwest Airlines was the first airline to fly the -700, on January 18, 1998.  In a standard two-class arrangement, the -700 can seat 128 passengers, like the -300 it replaced.  The -700 has a range of 3,365 nmi (3,871 mi or 6,230 km), a 32% increase compared to the -300.  The CFM 56-7B26 powers the -700, and each of these engines provide up to 26,300 lbf (117 kN) of thrust.

Southwest Airlines is the launch customer and biggest operator of the Boeing 737-700:  Photos by Luis Linares / AirwaysNews

Launch customer Southwest Airlines has the largest fleet of -700s with 441, plus 20 on order and 37 options.  Boeing also designed a -700C (convertible) version that can quickly be configured to all-passenger or all-cargo with the help of a side cargo door on the left side.  Furthermore, the C-40 is the designation for the VIP and military transport variant used by the U.S. Air Force and Navy, and other air forces around the world fly the 737 AEW&C (Airborne Early Warning and Control).  To date, Boeing has delivered more than 1,050 commercial passenger -700s.


The -700 entered a niche market in the form of the -700ER on February 16, 2007.  All Nippon Airways launched this variant with the intent of transporting customers much farther than the -700, either in a 38-seat all-business class setting or a 24 business/20 premium economy layout.  The design is based on the business variant (BBJ – Boeing Business Jet) of the -700, and the airplane can fly up to 5,510 nmi (6,334 mi or 10,200 km), thanks to an additional fuel tank.


The -800 is by far the most successful member of not just the NG, but of the entire 737 family, with more than 6,000 orders – more than 4,800 of those orders currently in service.  German airline Hapag-Lloyd (today part of the TUI group) introduced the -800 into service on April 24, 1998.  Furthermore, from the late 1990s to early 200s, the -800 became a popular replacement for the 727-200, especially for U.S. operators Alaska Airlines, American Airlines, ATA Airlines, Continental Airlines, and Delta Air Lines.


Out of all the Boeing 737 variants, since introduction in 1968, the -800 has been the best seller” with over 6,000 orders:  Photos by Luis Linares / Airways News

The -800 is much more than a replacement for the “Classic” -400.  For instance, it is 10 ft (3 m) longer and carries 160 passengers in a standard two-class arrangement, 14 more than the -400.  In addition, its maximum range of 3,060 nmi (3,520 mi or 5,665 km) is 25% better than that of the -400.  Furthermore, with airlines focusing more on bottom lines, the -800 has become far more preferable than the -700 since it can fly more people and cargo for roughly the same cost of a -700, but with higher revenue.

Irish ultra-low-cost carrier Ryanair has the largest -800 fleet, with more than 300 examples in service and over 170 unfulfilled orders.  Boeing also derived the U.S. Navy’s P-8 “Poseidon” from the -800.  Moreover, the company made a business jet version, designated the BBJ-2.


The -900 is the longest of the NG family, and launch customer Alaska Airlines entered it into service on May 27, 2001.  The -900 can carry 17 more passengers than the -800 is a typical two-class configuration, but this means a lower range than the -800.  This range penalty and other limitations contributed to only 52 -900s being delivered.


Boeing did not sit back and let the -900 go down as a failure.  Instead, it launched the -900ER on July 18, 2005, and this would be a vast improvement over the -900.  Indonesian airline Lion Air became the launch customer and began service with the -900ER on May 1, 2007.


Delta Airlines Boeing 737-900ER:  Photo by Luis Linares / AirwaysNews

Boeing added an additional exit row between the over-wing exits and the rear entry door on each side of the fuselage.  The manufacturer also installed a flat rear pressure bulkhead.  This resulted in a seating capacity of 180 passengers in a typical two-class setting.

Two CFM 56-7B27 engines power the -800 and -900 variants of the 737 NG, and each provides 27,300 lbf (121.4 kN) of maximum thrust.  With two auxiliary fuel tanks, the -900ER can fly 3,200 nmi (3,681 mi or 5,925 km).  There are over 500 -900ERs in service with more than 200 on order.  The business variant of the -900ER is the BBJ-3.

EXTRA:  PHOTO SLIDESHOW: AirwaysNews Explores Boeing’s Renton Plant

Continuous Improvement


Gol Airlines Boeing 737-800: Photo by Luis Linares / AirwaysNews

Boeing has been very proactive in looking for ways to make the NG even better.  For example, loyal Boeing customer Gol Airlines approached the manufacturer about improving the performance of the NG at Brazilian airports with short runways, notably Rio de Janeiro’s Santos Dumont Airport, where the two parallel runways measure 4,341 ft (1,323 m) and 4,200 ft (1,260 m).  In 2006, Boeing began to deliver Gol Short Field Performance Package (SFP)-equipped 737-800s with upgrades such as sealed leading edge slats that allowed the aircraft to take-off from the smaller airports and increased flight spoiler deflection for better landing performance.  Boeing offers the SFP as an optional upgrade for existing NGs, and the company made it standard on all -900ERs.

With improved navigation technology and Traffic Collision Avoidance Systems (TCAS), Boeing began to roll out later NGs without the “eyebrow” windows on top of the cockpit.  This also helped prevent fatigue in that part of the fuselage.  Basically, by having a more continuous shape without the two cut out window sections, there is less susceptibility to cracking over time.

In July 2008, Boeing changed the brakes on the NG.  By introducing new carbon brakes in place of steel ones, Boeing saved airlines 500 to 700 lb (250 to 320 kg) of weight, or up to 0.5% reduction in fuel burn.  Moreover, in 2010, the manufacturer introduced the “Boeing Sky Interior” on all new NGs, and it features a smaller version of the curved, pivoting overhead bins originally introduced on the 777 in 1994.  This interior enhancement also includes new sidewalls that make windows appear to be bigger and LED mood lighting.

The 737 NG received ETOPS-180 certification, a 60-minute bump from its original ETOPS-120, in 1999.  This allowed NGs to be three hours from a suitable airfield, in case of emergency scenarios like engine failure or cabin decompression.  This enabled U.S. carriers to fly their NGs from the West Coast to Hawaii.  Boeing also began to offer a Head Up Guidance System (HGS) on the right seat of the cockpit to give the captain full situational awareness in one screen, especially during take-off and landing.

Another important improvement on the NG was the introduction of blended winglets manufactured by Aviation Partners Boeing (APB) on passenger NGs, except the -600, in 2000.  These were already standard on the BBJs.  The winglets provide aerodynamic improvements, such as better climb performance, and also deliver fuel savings and a range increase of 75 nmi (87 mi or 140 km) on the -700 and 55 nmi (62 mi or 100 km) on the -800.  Blended winglets come standard on all NGs and are a retrofit upgrade for NGs built before their introduction.

The visual difference between APB blended winglets (L) and split scimitar winglets (R):  Photos by Luis Linares / AirwaysNews

The next major upgrade for the 737 family is the MAX, which will enter service in 2017.  Among its key features are new CFM LEAP-1B engines and APB split scimitar winglets.  These enhancements will result in a 10 to 12% improvement in fuel burn over the NG.  The MAX will compete with the Airbus A320 neo (new engine option) family, and its design also provided the NG with an additional improvement since APB now offers split scimitar winglets for the -800 and -900ER.  Blended winglets offer the NG a 3.5% fuel savings, while split scimitar ones offer an improvement of up to 5.5%.


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New Daimler Supertruck boasts incredible 115% mpg improvement

Filed under: Design/Style, Green, Emissions, Fuel Efficiency, United States, Emerging Technologies, Technology, Truck, Commercial Vehicles

The Daimler entry into the Department of Energy Supertruck program beats the original goals by 115 percent. The semi uses a massive amount of tech to get an average of 12.2 miles per gallon.

Continue reading New Daimler Supertruck boasts incredible 115% mpg improvement

New Daimler Supertruck boasts incredible 115% mpg improvement originally appeared on Autoblog on Fri, 27 Mar 2015 19:01:00 EST. Please see our terms for use of feeds.

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Thursday, March 26, 2015

Watch a U.S. Marine Corps KC-130J refuel two F-35B Joint Strike Fighters

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The Big Picture: Russia readies Soyuz rockets ahead of ISS mission

When American astronaut Scott Kelly Russian Cosmonauts Mikhail Kornienko and Gennady Padalka leave Earth for their 12 month stay on the International Space Station, they'll be riding this Soyuz TMA-16M spacecraft. The launch is scheduled for this Fri...
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Russia's New Military Transport Plane Set to Make Its Maiden Flight in 2017

Ilyushin Il-112The Ilyushin Il-112, Russia's brand new light military transport plane, is slated to make its maiden flight in 2017, said Yury Borisov, a Russian Deputy Minister of Defense.

The aircraft's mass production is expected to be launched in 2019.

The twin-engine turboprop plane, developed by the Ilyushin Aviation Complex (JSC IL), will be manufactured by the Voronezh Aircraft Production Association at an aircraft plant in Voronezh, located some 400 kilometers (250 miles) south of Moscow. It will replace the Antonov An-26.

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“Living in the Age of Airplanes” Is a Visually-Stunning Aviation Film for All Ages


I recently had the opportunity to attend a pre-release screening of National Geographic’s new IMAX film, “Living in the Age of Airplanes.” I first saw the trailer last fall and was immediately excited to see it. Being the aviation geek that I am, I held high expectations, and I’m happy to be able to say they were met.

The project was produced and directed by Brian J. Terwilliger, who is also known for the aviation film “One Six Right.” The runtime of the show was 47 minutes, and the producers maximized every minute with absolutely stunning cinematography, paired with majestic music tracks by Oscar-winning composer James Horner and narration by Harrison Ford. The show opened in the famous “Airplane Graveyard” in Mojave, California, with sad, parted-out 747s as Ford spoke about how air travel is now taken for granted.
Movie - SFO Overhead
Next, we are taken down a timeline of human transportation. Beginning 200,000 years ago, humans had only one mode of transportation – our own two feet. Then roughly 5,000 years ago, the wheel was invented, and we began having animals pull us along. Fast-forward to the 1600s, when sailing ships took us across the seas and expanded our globe. In the 1800s, steam trains, and later, steam ships, propeller planes, and finally, the Jet Age.

Movie - Cargo Plane Interior
Another focus of the film is the importance of the global air cargo network. To demonstrate this, we see a bouquet of long-stemmed roses make its way from the grower in Kenya, to the wholesale market in Amsterdam, to a vase in Alaska in just over seventeen hours. We also see how our homes are a melting pot for produce, garments, and housewares from all over the globe.

In the final scene, we’re given a look at our own perspective as travelers. When we fly, we often sit there without realizing we’re going anywhere, Ford says. But taking a look out the window, from 35,000 feet; we see more of our Earth in one glance than most of our ancestors saw in their whole life. This window seat perspective is what I love most about aviation.
Movie - Float Plane
The cinematography alone makes this film worth seeing. A few scenes that come to mind: a United Boeing 777 traversing the taxiways at SFO as the camera ascents straight up to give a view of the whole Bay Area. A montage of Airbus A380s on takeoff. Seaplanes landing on azure waters in the Maldives.

If I could improve anything about the film, it would be two things. First, I wish it were longer. Those 47 minutes really flew by, no pun intended. However, the movie’s reps on Twitter said the run time is right in the “sweet spot” for IMAX films. I would also have liked to see some content on the manufacturing process. So many advances have been made in the past couple of decades, including composite fuselages, glass cockpits, and eco-friendly fuels.

Perhaps a follow-up film will cover how planes are built and tested. I’ve been fortunate to tour the assembly lines where some commercial aircraft are built, and it never ceases to amaze me the amount of knowledge and effort that goes into building planes.

Everyone should see this film. It is appropriate for all audiences, from interested kids to the jaded million-mile flyers. It is my love and fascination of planes, put into images – and it’s incredible.

All photos are screenshots taken from the video, cited to National Geographic. 

 Paul Thompson – Contributor 

Paul Thompson is an airline industry veteran, specializing in airlines, general aviation, aircraft manufacturing and the travel & hospitality industry. He has also written for Airline Passenger Experience magazine, Airways News, NYC Aviation and Runway Girl. He lives in Denver, Colorado and is always looking for his next aerial adventure.


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Facebook’s Aquila Drone Will Beam Down Internet Access With Lasers

Facebook drone As the second day of its F8 conference began here at Fort Mason, Facebook announced the first hardware it plans to use to beam Internet down to billions of people around the world. Codenamed Aquila, the drone has a wingspan comparable to a Boeing 767 yet uses lightwight materials that allow it to weigh less than a car. Read More
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