Saturday, August 30, 2014

This May Be The Best Look Yet At The New iPhone

103017kyrmsc36ssszsuyc It’s happening. Apple’s invitation to a September 9 event has officially gone out. At least one next-gen iPhone will be unveiled in a few short days. However, new photos have emerged on Chinese site WeiFeng that appear to show components that match up almost identically to previous leaks for a 4.7-inch iPhone. If these numerous leaks are to be trusted as the real deal, and we are,… Read More
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The New Alienware Area-51 Is the Weirdest Gaming PC I’ve Ever Seen

The New Alienware Area-51 Is the Weirdest Gaming PC I’ve Ever Seen

Alienware is famous for two things. One: selling ever more powerful gaming computers. Two: making them look like they were designed by aliens. But its latest full-size desktop gaming PC isn't just another box sculpted to look like it's out of this world. In fact, the new Alienware Area-51 is trying to challenge the assumption that PC gamers need a "box" at all.


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Big Pic: Stunning Images From The Worlds Sharpest Commercial Satellite

Madrid From Space.

The WorldView-3 satellite, which launched on August 13, has sent back its first images. They’re gorgeous, and kind of creepy.

The new satellite can see to a resolution of 31 centimeters. That means each pixel of the camera captures one square foot of land, which is sharp enough to see home plate at Yankee Stadium, to map crops by pattern and type, to identify the type and speed of cars and trucks, and measure population density, all from 383 miles above the Earth’s surface. 

WV-3 isn’t the sharpest satellite ever--some military satellites have a resolution of 15 to 20 centimeters--but it does have the highest resolution of any commercial satellite in the world. (The previous record-holder, GeoEye-1, had a resolution of 46 centimeters.) 

But WV-3 is important for another reason. Up until now, U.S. regulations prevented companies from selling images with resolutions finer than 50 centimeters to anyone but the military. But WV-3’s maker, DigitalGlobe, has been granted tentative permission to break that rule. Starting six months from now, they’ll be able to sell images with a 30-centimeter resolution to anyone who’s willing to buy.

The images shown here have a resolution to 40 centimeters, because the company isn’t allowed to start showing the 30-centimeter images until the six-month waiting period is over.

Bayan Obo Mine, China
Airport in Madrid, From Space
You can even see the people in the swimming pool.

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Xiamen Airlines Takes Delivery of First Wide-body Jet

By Jeremy Dwyer-Lindgren / Published August 29, 2014

Xiamen 787-1EVERETT, WA: Xiamen Airlines took delivery of its very first wide-body jet, a Boeing 787 Dreamliner, on Friday.

The airplane is outfitted for a passenger count of 236; four first class, eighteen business class, and 214 economy seats.

First class is configured 1-2-1 across with the Zodiac Apollo seats. Each is lie-flat with 6.4 feet of leg room, and a 15.4 inch wide screen. Business is also set up in a 2-2-2 across. The eighteen seats are split between a cabin of two rows and second, smaller cabin of only one row. The product is Zodiac’s Aura Lite. Economy will be arranged in a 3-3-3 configuration with 33 inches of pitch each and a 9-inch touchscreen. All seats appeared to have at least one power & USB port. The IFE system will run on Panasonic’s eX3 system.

Xiamen 787-5 Xiamen 787-2
Xiamen 787-3 Xiamen 787-4

The airline will fly the jet home to China on Saturday. Like many first-time operators, the carrier will utilize the aircraft on domestic routes before transitioning to long-haul down the road. Initial schedules will see the jet operating between Xiamen, Fuzhou, and Beijing in the first weeks of September.

Xiamen President Che Shanglun says the Dreamliners will be used to replace the carrier’s fleet of Boeing 757-200s, which currently operate near-international routes to southeast Asia, as well as Seoul, South Korea, and Osaka, Japan. Presently the carrier operates only domestic Chinese and regional international routes, primarily with Boeing 737s.

Che-1 Jeremy Dwyer-Lindgren / Airchive 2014The addition of Dreamliners to its fleet brings the capability to expand beyond its current perimeter. Indeed the carrier’s own press release noted that it expects to deploy the jet to Australia, Europe, and North America. But Mr. Shanglun wouldn’t was reluctant to share any details on exactly where or when such expansions might take place. “That’s top secret,” said Mr. Shanglun, adding that it will be taking “measured steps” toward a more global network in the coming years. Likely destinations, at least for North America, could include New York City, which has a heavy concentration of Chinese from the Fujian region where the carrier is based.

The carrier has five more 787s on order, expected to be delivered by the end of 2015. It also has a number of 737s, including the MAX 8, on order as well. The new jets will contribute to a 200-plus strong fleet by 2020. China Southern owns a 51% majority in Xiamen.

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Friday, August 29, 2014

Airbus tables another radical seat idea; are new designs certifiable?

Airbus’ patent application for saddle-type seats for short-haul flights has received a tremendous amount of media attention of late. Travelers are wondering, quite rightly, just how far airlines are willing to go to squeeze more passengers into their aircraft. But are these seats and others of their ilk – which would position passengers in a semi-stand-up position – even certifiable?

Judging from the drawings, see immediately below, the saddle seats don’t deliver much in the way of back support for passengers. Yet, regulations require that all new seats be able to withstand tests that simulate loads of an impact-survivable accident, i.e. 16Gs in the forward direction.

We reached out to the president of aircraft interiors specialist KYDEX to get his thoughts on the matter. “If they had passengers fly backwards, they could handle 16Gs,” notes Ronn Cort. And while he doesn’t know of any carrier eyeing a backwards configuration, the long-time industry veteran notes, “Anything is possible.”

Airbus wow 2

Airbus’ saddle-type seat concept

Airbus is clearly preparing for any eventuality, with a company spokeswoman telling the LA Times that, “Many, if not most, of these concepts will never be developed, but in case the future of commercial aviation makes one of our patents relevant, our work is protected.” Interestingly, in 2006, the New York Times reported that Airbus was quietly pitching stand-up seats to Asian carriers, but Airbus flatly denied the report, reportedly going so far as to call it “crap”.

But a lot can happen in nine years, and indeed a lot has happened. Slimline seats have become standard in economy class; legroom has generally gotten tighter, and both Airbus and Boeing are modifying their narrowbodies to accommodate more seats. Additionally, passengers still expect to pay rock bottom fares when they fly, which some airlines seem to take as license to put the squeeze on them.

KYDEX’s Cort believes airlines could do a better job in managing the expectations of economy class passengers. “Tell passengers – you’re essentially flying Greyhound. The airlines should show people how much it really costs to fly. When people complain that they are jammed in the back, but still want to pay $169 dollars between Newark and Charlotte” it’s hard to sympathize.

That’s why we probably shouldn’t be surprised that Airbus is seeking patent on yet another super slim seat designthis time a folding passenger seat concept with integrated luggage compartment that could conceivably be positioned so that passengers fly backwards as well, while seated on their luggage. See image at very top and below.

Airbus fold seat

Airbus seeks patent on folding seat concept

To be fair, Airbus isn’t the only company eyeing radical new aircraft seat designs. During this year’s Aircraft Interiors Expo in Hamburg, Zodiac Aerospace revealed a three-row seat that flips the middle seat backwards. These seats are still in the concept phase – in other words, they haven’t made it to prime time just yet. Perhaps they never will. Airlines are already managing to fit the maximum number of seats for which aircraft are certified without resorting to these measures by using regular slim seats, including Zodiac’s Dragonfly seat, B/E Aerospace’s Pinnacle seat and Recaro’s BL3520, pictured below.

“Over the past years, we have received a number of large orders from this market for our successful BL3520 product,” said Recaro Aircraft Seating CEO Mark Hiller during a ceremony to commemorate a 10-year partnership with Airbus at Recaro’s Fort Worth, Texas facility. Customers in North and South America include Alaska Airlines, LAN, United Airlines, WestJet and many others.

That’s why Recaro has boosted the manufacturing capacity of its Fort Worth plant up to more than 40,000 seats per year. And as Airbus’ new A320 assembly line in Mobile, Alabama takes shape, Recaro is preparing to directly support the line with aircraft seats manufactured at its newly expanded Texas facility.

It’s abundantly clear that the demand for regular slim seats is nothing short of fierce. If the industry goes a step further, by making seats smaller and turning us backwards, it’s plausible that the backlash from passengers would also be fierce.

Recaro’s 3520 seat (pictured being manufacturing at Recaro’s new China facility)

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Solved: Mystery of Death Valley's "Sailing Stones"


Scientists have now solved, through observation, the mystery of the "Sailing Stones" that travel across Death Valley's dry lakes. Read the rest

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Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Behold… The Worst Airline Livery Ever

A brand spanking new Boeing 777-300ER at Paine Field showing China Eastern's new livery- Photo: Bernie Leighton

Brand spanking new 777-300ER at Paine Field showing China Eastern’s new livery – Photo: Bernie Leighton | AirlineReporter

Behold. This is probably the worst airline livery that I have ever seen.

China Eastern didn’t have the best livery to begin with. But at least it was a livery. Their new colors, shown off on this 777-300ER, look more like a leased plane where they don’t want to spend the money to paint the plane than an actual livery.

But what you are looking at here is China Eastern’s official new livery. It will be going fleet-wide (unless they come to their senses). This is the first of 20 new 777s that the airline plans to take delivery of.

China Eastern Airbus A330 in current livery - Photo: Bernie Leighton

China Eastern Airbus A330 in current livery – Photo: Bernie Leighton | AirlineReporter

I am not quite sure how a company can conclude that this is a good idea. Let’s not bother with a creative design down the side or even care about having more than three colors. Let’s just workshop some horrid livery in Microsoft Word and call it a day.

I really, really hope that the airline re-considers this design. Please.

What do you think of this livery?

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Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Yesterday we discussed some of the basic mechanics of a frisbee...

Yesterday we discussed some of the basic mechanics of a frisbee in flight. Although frisbees do generate lift similarly to a wing, they do have some unique features. You’ve probably noticed, for example, that the top surface of a frisbee has several raised concentric rings. These are not simply decoration! Instead the rings disrupt airflow at the surface of the frisbee. This actually creates a narrow region of separated flow, visible in region B on the left oil-flow image. Airflow reattaches to the frisbee in the image after the second black arc, and the boundary layer along region C remains turbulent and attached for the remaining length of the frisbee. Keeping the boundary layer attached over the top surface ensures low pressure so that the disk has plenty of lift and remains aerodynamically stable in flight. A smooth frisbee would be much harder to throw accurately because its flight would be very sensitive to angle of attack and likely to stall. (Image credits: J. Potts and W. Crowther; recommended papers by: V. Morrison and R. Lorentz)

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Thursday, August 21, 2014

Cathay Pacific Concludes 747 Service to North America

Cathay Cabin crew lined up to bid farewell to their North American 747 operations. Photo - Cathay Pacific Airways

Cathay cabin crew lined up to bid farewell to their North American 747 operations – Photo: Cathay Pacific Airways

On August 13, 2014 Cathay Pacific Airways operated its last 747 flight of any sort to North America. This is an iconic moment, as Cathay Pacific has been flying the 747 to North America, starting with San Francisco, since 1986. That’s 28 years of daily 747s. Cathay itself has been in the commercial 747 business since August 3, 1979.

Cathay Pacific's 747-400 Farewell luncheon took place in San Francisco Airport's museum. Photo - Cathay Pacific.

Cathay Pacific’s 747-400 farewell luncheon took place in San Francisco Airport’s museum – Photo: Cathay Pacific Airways

Cathay was not going to let this event pass without fanfare. At San Francisco Airport, they hosted a luncheon to celebrate the 747′s service in Cathay’s fleet.

Saying goodbye to Cathay's 747s in North America. Photo - Cathay Pacific Airways

Saying goodbye to Cathay’s 747s in North America – Photo: Cathay Pacific Airways

The aircraft has been replaced by Cathay’s growing fleet of 777-367/ERs which also feature their award-winning version of the Zodiac Cirrus seat.

A Cathay Pacific 777-367/ER departing for delivery from Paine Field. Photo - Bernie Leighton | AirlineReporter

A Cathay Pacific 777-367/ER departing for delivery from Paine Field – Photo: Bernie Leighton | AirlineReporter

Cathay still operates the 747-400 on Asian routes, such as to Ngurah Rai airport in Indonesia on Mondays, so you can catch one if you are feeling nostalgic.

Unfortunately for enthusiasts, as Cathay’s 747s exit the fleet, they go on to Bruntingthorpe, United Kingdom (a burgeoning scrapman’s haven). These aircraft are all relatively high-cycle and sometimes that’s just how things go.

Some have heralded Cathay’s 747 exit as the end of 747 operations in America. End of my favorite, yes – but the era has not ended yet. Out of San Francisco alone, United Airlines operates swathes of routes. British Airways still operates the 747 to North America, and so too does Lufthansa. It will be a sad day when the last 747-400 concludes its passenger service, but we are probably a decade away from that. Either way, I’ll be there.

 Bernie Leighton – Managing Correspondent 

Bernie has traveled around the world to learn about, experience & photograph different types of planes. Bernie will go anywhere to fly on anything. He spent four years in Australia learning about how to run an airline, while putting his learning into practice by mileage running around the world. You can usually find Bernie in his natural habitat: an airport.

 @PowerToTheThird | Flickr

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Wednesday, August 20, 2014

NASA's Greased Lightning Tests Vertical Takeoff

NASA's GL-10 Greased Lightning Vertical Takeoff Test Drone
NASA Langley/David C. Bowman
The space missions get all the credit, but the Aeronautics branch of NASA does really cool stuff. Today is National Aviation Day, and to celebrate, NASA shared a picture of their GL-10 Greased Lightning drone. Consider it the little sister to the military's V-22 Osprey. It has a ten-foot wingspan and boasts ten electric engines all on tiltwings. Seen here, the wings are pointed up, letting the drone take off and land like a helicopter. Once airborne, they'll tilt forward, making the plane much faster. It's a best-of-both-worlds configuration, and NASA wants to make it better.

Greased Lightning is part of a NASA program to make efficient hybrid-electric Vertical Takeoff and Landing aircraft. It's one of four concepts, and is the most conventional of the bunch. According to NASA, it recently flew while tethered, and untethered flight tests are planned for this fall.


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