Saturday, August 1, 2015

A look at the gorgeous, antiquated technology running the NYC Subway

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At more than 100 years old, the New York City subway is one of the oldest in the world. Most of it is run by equipment nearly as old.

In a video on its YouTube channel, the Metropolitan Transportation Authority provided a rare look behind the scenes at the New York City subway, highlighting the antiquated tech that powers it and detailing how the MTA is trying to improve it.

The video starts at the West 4th subway stop in Manhattan with a look at the interlocking machine that provides safe travel for subway cars. Wynton Habersham, vice president and chief officer of service delivery for the subway, says that the machine is reliable and safe, but it's 1930s technology Read more...

More about New York City, Transportation, Trains, Subway, and Tech
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A look back at Windows through the ages

It's hard to believe that Windows is 30 years old this year. Originally a graphic shell that sat on MS-DOS, Windows has blossomed over the years to be the visually rich experience it is today. That's not to say it hasn't encountered a few pitfalls al...
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Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Sharing a Passion for Creating Impressive Aviation Art

A classic Continental Airlines Boeing 707-300 - Image: JP Santiago

A classic Continental Airlines Boeing 707-300 – Image: JP Santiago

I suppose I was destined to be doing aircraft profile art from a young age. Many of my notebooks and textbooks had aircraft drawings scribbled on the pages and margins, often to pass the time in class. As long as I can remember, I was always drawing airplanes – on the walls of my room, in the margins of a textbook, scraps of paper and a sketchbook here and there, some of which I’m sure are probably tucked away in my parents’ attic to this day.

As a teen, I even took drafting electives to help with my drawings as they began to develop more details and precision. In high school, I had covered the walls of my bedroom with a series of aircraft profiles all to scale — I’m not sure where they are now, but they were done with technical pen and Prismacolor pencils from large aircraft like the Boeing 747 and B-52 Stratofortress, to fighter jets and World War II aircraft. I had a McDonnell Douglas KC-10 refueling a formation of F-4E Phantoms and F-15 Eagles.

A TWA Boeing 727-100 and 727-200 - Image: JP Santiago

A TWA Boeing 727-100 and 727-200 – Image: JP Santiago

That was probably the start of my interest in “what-if” concepts and unbuilt designs, as there was also a profile of the proposed McDonnell Douglas P-9, a maritime patrol version of the MD-87 powered by unducted fan engines. Through college and medical school I tried my hand at pencil drawings as well, as I was searching for the ideal medium for my artwork. Many of my books were filled with profile art, which I scrutinized, by aviation artist Keith Fretwell.

I was a consummate model aircraft builder (and still am, to some extent, but not to the level of activity that I was before I had kids) which also influenced my own artwork as well. After all, the research I put into a particular model kit had just as much application to my artwork as well. That was probably the first use of the internet for me as an AvGeek.

Around 1993, I discovered the USENET and I’m pretty sure you can find my posts in the rec.models.scale and rec.aviation sections. I still remember my first posting; I was looking for the FS595 colors used for the Mod Eagle camouflage scheme on the F-15 Eagle that was introduced in the early nineties on the Eagles of the Pacific Air Forces before it became standard for the USAF’s F-15 fleet.

One of my early PSP 7.0 projects, a “what-if” subject, a Western Airlines Boeing 767-200 in the “Bud Lite” livery. Before their merger with Delta Airlines in 1987, Western had a small number of 767-200s on order.

One of my early PSP 7.0 projects, a “what-if” subject; a Western Airlines Boeing 767-200 in the “Bud Lite” livery. Before their merger with Delta Air Lines in 1987, Western had a small number of 767-200s on order – Image: JP Santiago

When I started out in private practice in the summer of 2000 here in Texas, I began collecting 1/400 scale diecast commercial aircraft. If you haven’t gotten your hands on these little gems over the years, that’s good and bad. Bad in that you’re missing out on some neat little models but good in that collecting those models is worse than a crack habit.

As I learned more about that particular collecting hobby, I ended up signing up and joining a 1/400 diecast aircraft collectors forum. That was in January of 2001, and that was pretty much the first time I realized there were a LOT of people out there who shared my passion for all things aviation.

This was my interpretation of a Pan Am Lockheed L-2000 SST which I had given the name “Starliner II” (which as far as I know was never a name used officially by Lockheed for their L-2000 design).

This was my interpretation of a Pan Am Lockheed L-2000 SST which I had given the name “Starliner II” (which, as far as I know, was never a name used officially by Lockheed for their L-2000 design) – Image: JP Santiago

My screen name then? It was my old multiplayer screen name from when I played Tom Clancy’s Rainbow Six during residency training (yes, we installed Rainbow Six on the university hospital’s network and would battle it out late at night when we were on call as residents) – “Sentinel Chicken.” I’ll have to save the meaning of that screen name for a future post, but I still use that screen name on several forums as well as on my Twitter and Instagram.

There were two members on the collector forums who were using computers to create profile art that impressed me. They were graphic designers and artists by profession, who shared my AvGeekiness. Being an early fan of their work, it inspired me to start some very basic and rudimentary computer-based art using the default bitmap editor that was part of the Windows operating system.

I’d share my drawings on the forums, get positive comments, and worked on more. I’d hardly call those pixelated drawings anything special but that was a starting point for me where I had discovered a medium that was comfortable. I wish I knew where the files of those drawings were; one of the earliest ones was my interpretation of the Boeing Sonic Cruiser.

This was one of the last profiles I did before converting to Adobe Illustrator- this dates from 2003 and was when the Dreamliner concept was first unveiled as replacement for the Sonic Cruiser. It was still called the 7E7 then and only a few images had been released so I had to extrapolate a lot of the details from those early concept drawings.

This was one of the last profiles I did before converting to Adobe Illustrator – this dates from 2003 and was when the Dreamliner concept was first unveiled as replacement for the Sonic Cruiser. It was still called the 7E7 then and only a few images had been released, so I had to extrapolate a lot of the details from those early concept drawings – Image: JP Santiago

In early 2002, I decided to get more serious about using software for my artwork, but at that point it was still really a leisure activity for my own amusement and for sharing on aviation-related forums. I didn’t have the cash outlay in those days for Adobe Illustrator, so I started out with Paint Shop Pro 7.0. The earliest art that I do have archived was from those days. Given my online involvement on forums that dealt mostly with commercial aviation, most of my early artwork were commercial airline subjects. That year, with a friend, we started our own aviation collectors forum at Airlinebuzz.com which has been one of my online homes for over 10 years now.

This was a 1961 North American Aviation design exercise for an SST based on the technology as well as components from the XB-70 Valkyrie program.

This was a 1961 North American Aviation design exercise for an SST based on the technology as well as components from the XB-70 Valkyrie program – Image: JP Santiago

It sort of became a bit of a joke that I should have had my own company to release some of my conceptual designs and what-if artwork. So in a nod to the Lockheed Skunk Works and my online screen name “Sentinel Chicken”, the name “Chicken Works” was born — that’s how my art studio got its current name.

This was the box design I did for the JANET Airways 737-200 that was released in 2006 by Gemini Jets.

This was the box design I did for the JANET Airways 737-200 that was released in 2006 by Gemini Jets – Photo: JP Santiago

In 2004, I finally made the leap to Adobe Illustrator and that’s still what I use now (I think I’m on my fourth version of Illustrator now with the 2015 version of Illustrator CC). The learning curve with Adobe Illustrator was very steep but it was well worth it, as it opened up new avenues for me in a few short years. One of those avenues was in the box designs for 1/400 scale models from a variety of companies.

March 2007: The first time my artwork appeared in a publication.

March 2007: The first time my artwork appeared in a publication – Image: JP Santiago

The second avenue that opened up for me was my collaboration with German author Andreas Rupprecht. He had seen some of my commercial aviation “what if” artwork of the Ilyushin Il-96 and had shared one in the letters to the editor section of the German aviation magazine Flieger Revue.

There’s 200+ pages that detail the development of Chinese fighter, bomber, and attack aircraft development. The middle profile on the back is my artwork- that's the Chengdu J-9VI-2, a promising twin engine canard delta fighter that was in development from the 1970s to 1980s. While it never left the drawing boards, the effort expended on this design and a single engined version called the J-9VI-1, gave the fighter design groups at Chengdu valuable experience that led to today's designs like the J-10.

There’s 200+ pages that detail the development of Chinese fighter, bomber, and attack aircraft development. The middle profile on the back is my artwork- that’s the Chengdu J-9VI-2, a promising twin-engine canard delta fighter that was in development from the 1970s to 1980s. While it never left the drawing boards, the effort expended on this design and a single-engined version called the J-9VI-1, gave the fighter design groups at Chengdu valuable experience that led to today’s designs like the J-10 – Photo: JP Santiago

Andreas is an expert on Chinese combat aircraft design and development, and he was working on a series of magazine articles for Flieger Revue on many of the unbuilt designs and prototypes that the People’s Republic of China had worked on for many years, which would ultimately influence their current generation of combat aircraft. He asked me to do the artwork for his articles and it was a great experience. His work then moved from Flieger Revue to one of the finest military aviation periodicals ever to be published, International Air Power Review. In the IAPR issues, I’m credited as an artist with my name right next to the name of an aviation profile artist I idolized as a kid — Keith Fretwell!

I have Andreas to thank for what is still one of the best opportunities for me to have as an artist. The work I’ve done for him I’ll have to share later, as it could fill pages and pages, but my work is featured in three issues of IAPR; one issue has my artwork of the development and deployment of the Chengdu J-10 fighter, the second one the development and deployment of the Xian JH-7 fighter-bomber, and a third issue features the Changhe Z-10 helicopter gunship.

Between December 1969 and April 1970, H. Ross Perot chartered three Braniff International flights to bring international attention to the plight of the American POWs held by North Vietnam. The first of the three flights of “Operation Understanding” used N7907 for a Christmas flight to Southeast Asia via several stops on a twelve day tour to bring gifts for the POWs. The Boeing 707-320C had a ribbon decal applied at Dallas Love Field and “Peace on Earth” titles by the aft passenger door for the flight. The decal unfortunately peeled off on takeoff from Dallas.

Between December 1969 and April 1970, H. Ross Perot chartered three Braniff International flights to bring international attention to the plight of the American POWs held by North Vietnam. The first of the three flights of “Operation Understanding” used N7907 for a Christmas flight to Southeast Asia via several stops on a 12-day tour to bring gifts for the POWs. The Boeing 707-320C had a ribbon decal applied at Dallas Love Field and “Peace on Earth” titles by the aft passenger door for the flight. The decal unfortunately peeled off on takeoff from Dallas. – Image: JP Santiago

The third avenue (after box art design and published artwork) were my own prints. My wife had always encouraged me to go this route, Lord knows the poor gal has had to deal with aviation as my mistress all these years! The first print I did was in late 2006, and the subject was of a very special aircraft – N7907, a Braniff International Boeing 707-320C with special markings for the Christmas 1969 season.

A friend of mine, who has long been involved with the ex-Braniff employees of the DFW area, had told me about the Perot charters and thought it would make a great debut print for “The Chicken Works.” He was a valuable resource in making this print possible, sharing what he had found in his own research reviewing archival material. He even arranged for me to meet the last surviving Braniff captain of this flight at his home in North Dallas, where I gave him one of these prints. Captain Phillips passed away in 2012 and I consider myself fortunate to have met him back in 2007. What I didn’t know at the time was that Forrest had also sent a print to Ross Perot himself…who then called me at home out of the blue one evening to thank me for creating the print! I was in the midst of preparing dinner for my kids and had let the call go to voicemail. So when I checked it later, it was Perot himself asking me to call him back, which of course I did right away.

Most of my artwork now falls into one of three categories- commercial aviation, military aviation, and what-if/alternate history concepts. I’d be hard pressed to pick out my favorite one so far – true to my avgeek nature, they all are my favorite! But here’s one from each category:

N603BN was Braniff International’s first Boeing 747SP- the airline had ordered them in anticipation of nonstop route authorities between DFW and the Middle East. The services were never approved and interestingly North Texas would have to wait until the inauguration of Emirates’ 777-200LR services from Dubai a few years ago before we got the nonstop services to the Mideast that Braniff had long sought.

N603BN was Braniff International’s first Boeing 747SP- the airline had ordered them in anticipation of nonstop route authorities between DFW and the Middle East. The services were never approved and North Texas would have to wait until the inauguration of Emirates’ 777-200LR services from Dubai a few years ago before we got the nonstop services to the Mideast that Braniff had long sought – Image: JP Santiago

This is the Convair 58-9 SST- it was based on advanced design studies of more advanced variants of the B-58 Hustler and would have used the same Pratt & Whitney J58 engines used on the SR-71 Blackbird. It would have been an uneconomical design with limited seating capacity but it sure looks cool in the delivery livery used by Delta’s first Douglas DC-8s.

This is the Convair 58-9 SST- it was based on design studies of more advanced variants of the B-58 Hustler and would have used the same Pratt & Whitney J58 engines used on the SR-71 Blackbird. It would have been an uneconomical design with limited seating capacity, but it sure looks cool in the delivery livery used by Delta’s first Douglas DC-8s – Image: JP Santiago

This Lockheed C-141A Starlifter is 66-0177 “Hanoi Taxi” as she looked in February 1973 when she flew the first group of freed POWs out of North Vietnam. She was later modified to the stretched C-141B but before retirement to the USAF Museum was repainted in the old MAC-white top scheme. Despite flying regular missions, she held a special place in the USAF fleet and each crew that operated 66-0177 saw to it that their aircraft’s historical legacy was never forgotten.

This Lockheed C-141A Starlifter is 66-0177 “Hanoi Taxi” as she looked in February 1973 when she flew the first group of freed POWs out of North Vietnam. She was later modified to the stretched C-141B, but before retirement to the USAF Museum was repainted in the old MAC white-top scheme. Despite flying regular missions, she held a special place in the USAF fleet and each crew that operated 66-0177 saw to it that their aircraft’s historical legacy was never forgotten – Image: JP Santiago

These are only a few examples of my work. I have been surprised over the years at how popular my what-if/alternate history concept art prints have been. Usually those are projects I did for myself as a break from real world/historical projects, but they inevitably seem to be very popular when I’ve exhibited my work at local shows.  Over the years as I’ve learned new techniques, I sometimes revisit past works and update them to reflect my latest methods.

You can follow more of JP’s work on his blogFacebook page and Instagram.  

The post Sharing a Passion for Creating Impressive Aviation Art appeared first on AirlineReporter.com.

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How to Tell if That Wreckage Is Really From MH370

How to Tell if That Wreckage Is Really From MH370

Amateur sleuthing aside, authorities are already applying a bunch of analytics to find out if the washed-up plane fragment does belong to MH370.

The post How to Tell if That Wreckage Is Really From MH370 appeared first on WIRED.











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The Regional Pilot Shortage is Real for Republic Airways

By: Seth Miller / Published July 29, 2015

Has the long-rumored “pilot shortage” finally come home to roost?

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Republic Airlines operates a large Embraer E-175 fleet under the American Eagle brand. (Photo Credits: American Airlines)

It appears the answer is a resounding yes as Republic Airways Holdings – parent company of Shuttle America and Republic Airlines – has notified its partner airlines and investors that the regional operator will not be able to meet its contracted schedules over the next 12 months. The move comes as the carrier is fighting with its pilots’ union over renegotiating a labor agreement and also facing challenges in recruiting new pilots. And its obligations to mainline carriers have not decreased much recently. The news of the expected shortfall took an immediate hit on the company’s stock price (it has since recovered a bit), but the true impact may not be felt by passengers for a few weeks yet.

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Republic Airlines stock price behavior after the announcement. (Source: Yahoo! Finance)

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Republic operates 25 Bombardier Q400 NexGen Aircraft for United Express. Retirement has been set for September 2016. (Photo Credits: Wikimedia Commons)

In Q2 2015 the company reported a 4% decrease in block hours flown based mostly on pilot staffing issues. With more than 250 aircraft in operation for Delta, United Airlines and American Airlines/US Airways the potential pain is going to be significant. In theory some of the mainline operators could shift the regional jets to other operators, reducing the burden on Republic Airways, but it is unclear that much headroom exists at the other companies to staff the flights should such a shift occur. Only Delta has exposure on the 50-seat Embraer 145 jets; the others are all flying larger planes. American has more than 100 of the 70-seat ERJ family operating under the Republic umbrella; United has 44 and Delta has 30. The Q400 contract with United is already set to wind down in the next year or so, though Republic may want to accelerate that process. Some had expected Delta to cut that E45 flying from the books, freeing up more pilots for other operations; Delta has other plans, however, renewing/extending that agreement.

And so, in an era where the mainline operators are realizing significant profits, they may quickly find that their regional operations are even less reliable than before. Recently Republic Airways tried to give its pilots a raise, more than a year after the last round of negotiations with the union failed to reach an agreement. That raise was met with a lawsuit from the Union demanding that it be taken back; a unilateral change in contract terms is not permitted per federal law. Just throwing money at the problem is not necessarily a workable solution. And yet that really is the ultimate solution.

The problem the regional airline industry faces is not a shortage of employees. It is a shortage of employees willing to work for so little money. Training and certification costs have increased in recent years (to say nothing of general cost-of-living) and the salary numbers have not kept pace. The mainline companies push to keep the costs down, offering work to the lowest bidder. American recently went through a challenging phase with its Envoy regional subsidiary, pulling aircraft and block hours away from that group following a failed contract proposal. These troubles with Republic could, ironically, see some of the flying shift back to Envoy if operating capacity can be found.

Contracting work out to the lowest bidder is great, right up until that contractor can no longer deliver. And now the industry – and passengers – will feel that pinch.


IMGP2946Seth Miller is an AirwaysNews.com contributor specialized in Loyalty Marketing, Connectivity and Passenger Experience and will drop everything if he gets an opportunity to go flying. Bit by the travel bug 30 years ago, Seth flies ~200,000 miles annually. Follow him on twitter at @WandrMe, or his site at The Wandering Aramean blog.


Editor’s note: Keep up with AirwaysNews by subscribing to our weekly eNewsletter. Every Saturday morning, subscribers get a recap of our top stories of the week, the subscriber-only exclusive Weekend Reads column wrapping up interesting industry stories and a Photo of the Week from the amazing AirwaysNews archives. Click here to subscribe today!

Contact the editor at roberto.leiro@airwaysnews.com

The post The Regional Pilot Shortage is Real for Republic Airways appeared first on Airchive.

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Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Opinion: The Airbus A380NEO is a Good Idea

Anywhere from five to ten years from now, the A380 is going to get even better - Photo: Bernie Leighton | AirlineReporter

Anywhere from five to ten years from now, the A380 is going to get even better – Photo: Bernie Leighton | AirlineReporter

First things first; I am sick and tired of all the A380 hate. I get it; it’s not made by Boeing and doesn’t fit the U.S. major route network. Here’s the thing: that doesn’t make it a terrible aircraft and an absolute aviation sin.

I am tired of reading comments from people saying, “Since Delta never ordered it, it must be too big.” No one also wants to hear your comments about how the A380 only works for “government-subsidized airlines,” or, “how all the other airlines that operate it regret it.” I’m looking at you, Jeff Smisek.

There are two immediate things I’ve always thought were an issue with the A380…well, maybe two and a half. Things that I have wanted Airbus to fix for a while now. Let’s dive in…

The underbelly of a Lufthansa A380 - Photo: David Parker Brown

The underbelly of a Lufthansa A380 – Photo: David Parker Brown

Airbus A380 Fix Number One:

There is too much wing.

The A380-800 as we know it today was always designed to be the baby of the family. In the name of engineering, maintenance, and certification commonality, it was “over-winged” to meet the needs of any potential stretches that could fit within the 80m ICAO code-F parking space at any A380-compatible airport. Thing is, it was long suspected that both the A380 freighter (which was cancelled during the global financial crisis) and the undetermined-length stretched A380-900 would have a maximum take-off weight of 590,000kg (1.3 million pounds). This meant the A380’s wing chord was significantly beefed up to meet an additional 15,000kg demand that was never placed upon it.

An easy, but not cheap, solution: re-profile the wing. Cut the chord down to match the weight of the current needs of the ultra-long-haul A380 operators. Cutting the chord will change the span slightly, but changing the span means than rather than having old-style, but giant, wing-tip fences to fit within the Code-F box, you can add a modern A350-style sharklet.

These changes would not only save weight, they’d also reduce aerodynamic drag. Less aerodynamic drag equates to lower fuel burn. Lower fuel burn and less structural weight can lead to either lower unit cost, or longer range.

Such a thick wing chord for such a small plane. If only they could reprofile it - Photo: Bernie Leighton | AirlineReporter

Such a thick wing chord for such a small plane. If only they could reprofile it. – Photo: Bernie Leighton | AirlineReporter

Even the older A380-842s operated by Qantas can operate Dallas-Ft. Worth to Sydney (with some payload restrictions). Now, imagine that route with no payload restriction?

This is not just about range. Reprofiling the wing and changing its tip device is about increasing payload and reducing operating cost.

It’s no wonder that Airbus has said that if their A380NEO arrives with an EIS of somewhere between 2020 and 2025, they will have done unspecified things to the wing. I suspect the above.

Qantas is the only Rolls Royce powered A380 operator that performs ultra long hauls with their frames - Photo: Bernie Leighton | AirlineReporter

Qantas is the only Rolls Royce-powered A380 operator that performs ultra-long hauls with their frames – Photo: Bernie Leighton | AirlineReporter

Airbus A380 Fix Number Two:

To stretch or not to stretch?

Believe it or not, I think the A380NEO needs a stretch option. Not an extremely technical and expensive A380NEO/R option that can match the range of today’s A380-800. No, not at all. But a 10-frame stretch with no max gross weight changes would be beautiful.

Steven Udvar-Hazy, CEO of Air Lease Corporation, suggested this back around 2007 when the A380 was being introduced into service. An A380-900NEO of that length would allow a 600 or more passenger capacity in even a four-class configuration. That’s a serious contender for hub-to-hub flying, and there are routes that can sustain this. London-Mideastern Hub-Sydney instantly springs to mind. Obviously, it would not be a huge seller, but it would more than pay for its development cost in orders.

Singapore Airlines Airbus A380. Photo by David Parker Brown.

A Singapore Airlines A380 in Tokyo – Photo: David Parker Brown | AirlineReporter

Here’s where I think Airbus needs to do something a little different. Add at least a four frame stretch to the base model 800NEO. Range is not an issue for the current A380-800, but cargo capacity is. Extending the cargo hold forward or aft of the wingbox will make the airframe more competitive and the extra seats will lower unit cost.

Emirates, for instance, could configure a four-frame stretch 800NEO to seat 550, while still being able to fly Dubai-Los Angeles with full payload at a lower trip cost.

Even if there is an economic downturn between now and the EIS of the A380NEO between 2020 and 2025, that will not halt global economic growth and passenger demand for time immemorial there after. There needs to be more seats on this lighter NEO to get the unit cost down to either 777-9 levels or below. I think that it can be done.

Imagine if you could add a few fuselage sections to the A380. It'd be better for everyone - Photo: Bernie Leighton | AirlineReporter

Imagine if you could add a few fuselage sections to the A380. It’d be better for everyone – Photo: Bernie Leighton | AirlineReporter

Airbus A380 Fix Number Three:

New engine?

Well, yes, of course. Airbus has said as much, and that it will be single-source.

How? Every oddly anti-Airbus person I know was cheering when the CEO of Rolls Royce said he didn’t see a market, nor wanted to spend a lot of money developing an engine for an A380NEO. Truth is, he never really said either.

If you actually read between the lines, he didn’t really say anything that would be construed as a comment other than, “If they are willing to pay, I guess?” A lovely and non-commital answer. Truth is, no one is going to do a 100% clean sheet engine until the major engine manufacturers can figure out how to scale geared turbofans to above ~30k pounds of thrust (let alone the 80k you would need to match the current max output of a Trent 900).

The best option for the sole-source engine would be something derived from the Rolls Royce Trent XWB. After all, the lowest-thrust Trent XWB slots nicely into the A380 thrust range as it is. With a new wing, it is less likely to need as much power on takeoff to hurl it into the air.

Though my dream would be a breakthrough in the Pratt & Whitney Purepower program that created an 80k pound geared turbofan. Can you imagine the saved fuel consumption? It would be amazing!

An Etihad Airbus A380 - Photo: Airbus

Just imagine this with new engines, and bigger. It’s amazing – Photo: Airbus

What Airline Would Take the A380NEO?

So who of the existing operators should buy this lighter, more efficient, and maybe larger A380?

Emirates, Etihad Airways, and Qatar Airways. By the time that the A380NEO EIS, they’ll need to replace their old A380-800s. Accounting for growth, that’s at least 200 frames right there. With Dubai World Central, hopefully, opening by then as Emirates’ super hub, Emirates could probably operate 200 on their own. Let’s look in more detail with each airline…

Qantas' first A380-842 operating the now defunct QF31 service from Sydney - Photo: Bernie Leighton | AirlineReporter

Qantas’ first A380-842 operating the now defunct QF31 service from Sydney – Photo: Bernie Leighton | AirlineReporter

Qantas: With the Emirates tie-up to the east and the American Airlines (pending) joint-venture to the West, plus throw in some absurdly long flights where frequency is obliterated by crazy time differences, and you need something big to meet future demand. True, Qantas deferred their last A380 tranche, but deferred is not canceled. Rationalize the A380 to serve merely Dubai, London, Hong Kong, Los Angeles, and Dallas with not a frame to spare and it makes sense to replace them. Lower fuel burn, greater payload.

Lufthansa: Replacement, maybe expansion, but my bet would be on replacement. There is a place for the A380 at Lufthansa, but it will not be used for anything radical.

British Airways: Simple really, Heathrow is not going to get any less crowded, and by 2025, their original A380s are not going to get any younger.

Korean and Asiana: They are both in the same amazing transfer hub of Incheon. Their small fleets will need replacing, maybe even expansion. The Korean economy is hot and those two airlines are forming a nice bridge across the Pacific from the Americas into Korea, Northern China, and the Russian Far East.

Singapore Airlines could benefit from a new engine option for the A380 - Photo: Bernie Leighton | AirlineReporter

Singapore Airlines could benefit from a new engine option for the A380 – Photo: Bernie Leighton | AirlineReporter

Air France, Malaysia Airlines, Thai Airways International: I feel they all need help running an airline. By the time Malaysia Airlines relearns this art, they will have a new name and a regional niche.

Turkish: They do not have any yet, but they should. They’ll have a new super hub replacing the current manifestation IST. They have the end game of being a major connecting carrier, but they also deal extensively in passenger volume. Give them compelling operating economics, when they have an airport where they can fit their fleet at peak times, it’d be good for them. They could even fly it to their more popular European destinations on off-hours between long-haul flights.

Then you have China, which is a strange market. It’s growing ridiculously fast and its airports are starting to become the crowded ramp the A380 was designed for. As we all know, however, China has seemingly infinite money to spend on infrastructure. Crowded airport? Build another one! Just look at Beijing.

By 2025, it will have two giant international airports (Capital and Daxing). The state could either abandon the A380 in favor of filling its new super airports with hundreds of smaller twins, or just order dozens of A380NEOs and hundreds of twins — it will play out in a manner that befits the trade-surplus the central government wants to address.

Cathay needs A380s in the future. Fuel is never going to be this cheap again and frequency achieves diminishing returns on Ultra Long Hauls - Photo: Bernie Leighton | AirlineReporter

Cathay needs A380s in the future. Fuel is never going to be this cheap again and frequency achieves diminishing returns on ultra-long hauls – Photo: Bernie Leighton | AirlineReporter

Cathay Pacific: Hong Kong can only have so much land to park 777s around. Cathay Pacific has four flights a day to JFK, two of which arrive in New York within two hours of each other. Similar story for Los Angeles. They are not hurting on seat factors either. Now yes, the current A380 lacks the freight-train like capabilities that the 777-300ER can offer, but the NEO will offer lower unit cost as well as a more compelling belly-freight capacity. On top of this, frequency on ultra-long-haul flights works when fuel prices are low, but who is to say what a gallon of Jet-A will cost in 2025. As much as the airline dislikes the current A380, the NEO is a different beast. The 777-9 serves a great purpose, slight expansion in capacity on current 777 routes, but it does not solve the problems of crowded airspace and even-more-crowded airports.

Realistically, by the time the A380NEO enters into service, the global economy will be a completely different landscape. More people are going to be flying than ever, and airlines that make no sense as operators right now could easily grow into them.

 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 | bernie@airlinereporter.com

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Delta will now let you upgrade your flight to a private jet, if you're extremely lucky

Private aircraft are typically the exclusive playground of millionaires and billionaires, but Delta is rolling out a new program that might — might — put them within reach of the normals.

The airline is going to start offering private jet upgrades for $300 to $800 to Medallion members (Delta's name for its frequent flyers), but only if the stars align: there needs to be an aircraft that's going to be sitting unused near their starting point, which can happen if, say, someone takes a chartered flight and there's no return flight planned. The upgrade "includes transportation to the airport's private aviation area and complimentary on-board catering," which presumably means something slightly better than a bag of peanuts.

Continue reading…

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This Is Why Virgin Galactic's SpaceShipTwo Crashed, According To The NTSB

NTSB Chairman Hart and investigators inspect SpaceShipTwo crash site

NTSB Chairman Hart and investigators inspect SpaceShipTwo crash site

At a public meeting in Washington, D.C., this morning, the National Transportation Safety Board revealed that a combination of human error and inadequate safety measures caused the breakup and crash of Virgin Galactic’s SpaceShipTwo during a test flight last October 31, killing co-pilot Michael Alsbury and seriously injuring pilot Peter Siebold.

The accident was a tragic loss of life and setback in the nascent space-tourism movement, perhaps the worst among a year of many private spacefaring setbacks. The NTSB investigation —which combined interviews, data analysis, and video telemetry from inside the cockpit— confirmed what many suspected: Alsbury prematurely unlocked the SpaceShipTwo's so-called "feathering mechanism."

Branson maintained the NTSB investigation provided Virgin Galactic "a clean bill of health."

This system, in which the rear tail assembly pivots upward to slow and stabilize the suborbital spacecraft during its descent phase, was meant to be unlocked at Mach 1.4, but Alsbury released it at a lower altitude and speed, Mach 0.92. Because this happened during the full-power climb rather than at apogee—the highest point in the vehicle’s trajectory—intense aerodynamic pressure caused the feather to overwhelm its own motors, fully deploy, and then collapse, resulting in the craft’s breakup. After which, Siebold’s parachute activated. He survived, but with serious injuries.

When the original SpaceShipOne was revealed in 2003, designer Burt Rutan, the now-retired founder of aviation innovator Scaled Composites, described the daring, unconventional re-entry system as a “shuttlecock” configuration meant to create a “carefree” re-entry.

SpaceShipTwo

NASA

As envisioned, a mothership aircraft, White Knight, carries the spacecraft to approximately 50,000 feet, where it’s released. The crews ignite a rocket motor that propels the ship and its 8 occupants—6 of whom are paying customers who’ve shelled out $250,000 for the thrill ride—at supersonic speeds to an altitude of 68 miles, above the border of space. Once there, they’ll experience several minutes of weightlessness and tremendous views before the ship feathers the tail, re-enters the atmosphere, and glides to a landing back at its original airport.

But describing it as a “carefree” entry is misleading. The spacecraft is a complex system—intended to operate as a rocket, spaceship, and glider—that relies on precision timing and deft control inputs from its crew. Furthermore, as early test flights have revealed, the ride both under rocket power and during re-entry is an intense, borderline violent experience. There are plenty of opportunities for things to go sideways.

In the case of the October 2014 crash, though the actual deployment of the feather required both pilots’ participation (via a pair of levers), it could be unlocked by just one of them. The NTSB speculated that the Alsbury might have done this to avoid an abort later, if he was worried about executing the steps in the 26 seconds they had to do it prior to an abort being called. The investigation also determined that Alsbury had no previous experience with the vehicle’s behavior during powered flight, in particular its vibration and loading. This could have affected his judgment and reactions. In a statement released on YouTube, Virgin Galactic CEO Richard Branson said that his company's engineers had "already designed a mechanism to prevent the feather from being unlocked at the wrong time," and added that Virgin Galactic would "continue to prepare and train" its pilots corps. Yet he maintained the NTSB investigation provided the company "a clean bill of health."

Video of Richard Branson Statement 28.7.15

While that may cover the what, the true root causes—the how and why—are the larger and in some ways more important questions, particularly given that commercial space exploration is a new endeavor with many inherent risks. Indeed, the NTSB noted that Virgin Galactic and its partner, Scaled Composites, had inadequate safety mechanisms in place to prevent a single-point failure such as this. The vehicle was not designed with safety mechanisms in place to prevent premature unlocking or movement of the feather, the training system for the crews did not explicitly warn about the risks, and the simulator training did not go far enough to replicate actual flight conditions. For its part, Virgin Galactic has already implemented many changes recommended by the NTSB in its second space vehicle nearing completion now in Mojave, California.

But the NTSB also called into question the nature of the Federal Aviation Administration’s oversight of commercial space travel, suggesting that its role as both a regulator and booster could be problematic.

"Many of the safety issues arose not from the novelty of a space launch test-flight, but from human factors that were already known elsewhere in transportation."

“The FAA’s oversight role in commercial space is different from its oversight role in aviation,” noted NTSB Chairman Christopher Hart. “For commercial space, the FAA does not certify the vehicle. It only certifies the launch, focusing mainly on public safety. Nonetheless, many of the safety issues arose not from the novelty of a space launch test-flight, but from human factors that were already known elsewhere in transportation. We need to ask whether the FAA’s procedures and oversight were effective, and whether they can be improved upon.”

Investigators noted that the FAA should examine its systems for issuing launch permits, and the process by which it grants waivers from human factors and software hazard analysis requirements. In short, it needs to know far more about the vehicles being flown and what the risks are with each type of flight.

The implication, of course, is that commercial spaceflight might be proceeding too aggressively, and that adequate safety, communication, and regulatory systems are not fully in place. As a result, a simple, preventable error by an otherwise skilled and experienced pilot caused a fatal crash and the destruction of a high-profile, passenger-carrying spacecraft. “These two test pilots took on an uncommon challenge: testing technologies for manned commercial space flight, which is still in its infancy,” Hart said. “Human space flight is subject to unique hazards, and test-pilots work in an environment in which unknown hazards might emerge. We cannot undo what happened, but it is our hope that through this investigation we will find ways to prevent such an accident from happening again.”

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Learning Finesse: Pitch vs Power

Today I leave you with a piece from the archives; an ah hah! moment for me as the relationship between pitch and power on landing really came clear (yes, I’m a slow learner). I wrote this in 2009 but rereading it brought it all back…


Flying is hours of boredom punctuated by moments of sheer terror.

When I first started flying, I presumed that the phrase was referring to the take-off and landing. I hadn’t even begun to conceive of things going wrong in the air; flying from A to B was the easy bit. Getting into the air and getting back down, well, that was where I found my heart beginning to race.

Málaga

Now that I am only flying intermittently, I’m very aware that my skill-set is diminishing when I don’t get up into the air regularly. The first sign that I’m falling out of date is the quality of my landings. A simple flight after weeks of sitting on the ground is much more stressful than it should be. Instead of instinctively knowing what’s next, I have to think hard and I fall behind the plane, desperately trying to keep up with everything that needs doing.

A major change that has helped me in the Saratoga is shifting from the traditional approach. Like most PPLs, I was taught to use attitude to control airspeed and power to control height. However, the inertia of the Saratoga and its tendency to sink like a stone at low speed, combined with my inability to nudge the power gently enough to keep my pitch steady, can make this difficult. A bad approach can feel like a ship in heavy weather as I adjust the power back and forth to try to keep my perspective of the runway correct.

North Weald

I flew with a commercial pilot last year and he mentioned that this was not the best system for fast planes. When flying a jet, he told me, pilots always used attitude for height and power to control airspeed.

This is referenced in one of my favourite books, Beyond the PPL

In days of yore, instructors always taught that on the approach you should control airspeed with pitch and maintain the correct glideslope with the throttle.

The technique taught was (and still is) a good device for getting students to co-ordinate properly their applications of pitch and throttle.

[…]

So the old-fashioned technique is not appropriate for a jet and its pilots are therefore taught to adjust speed with throttle and glideslope with pitch control. The need to co-ordinate pitch and throttle remains as before, but the cardinal requirement for the jet pilot is to monitor the speed on the approach to a degree which usually amazes piston pilots at first. You simply HAVE to nail that speed and catch any departure before it has a chance to develop into anything the least bit significant.

Once I started looking into methods for final approach, I found a lot of discussion about pitch and power. It seems clear that attitude for speed and power for height makes for one of the most practical demonstrations of secondary effects. It also works: I was very happy using pitch and power that way in the Cessna 172 that I trained in.

More power!

But the moment I shifted to using power for speed and pitch for height in the Saratoga, my landings improved. After two days of flying touch-and-go over various airfields, I felt confident in my ability to land this way: point the plane at the numbers and hold it there, use the throttle to adjust the speed. My adjustments remained minor and my approaches became smoother than they’d ever been before. My passengers were amazed at the difference.

However, I don’t think that it not simply a case of turning the controls around. The critical factor is that I began to control the plane using both systems. I finally grasped that it isn’t a question of using pitch or power but that they are completely interlinked. I’m sure this was stated a million times in the PPL but I only understood this as a theoretical concept. I didn’t really have an instinctive feel for the fact that you can’t change one without affecting the other.

I love long finals now simply because I can see how perfectly everything works together. I set up my approach and now I’m holding the pitch steady and watching my touchdown point and my airspeed. I can almost visualise a road leading down to the runway and just a tap on the controls to keep me travelling on it. I know the correct approach speed and holding to it has never felt so easy. My interaction with both the controls affecting both height and speed means that I avoid the abrupt power changes and my approaches no longer make people seasick.

Málaga

When I completed my PPL, my instructor told me that my flying was perfectly competent but that I lacked finesse. It’s been a few years but I feel like I’m starting to understand what he meant and that just maybe I’m finally getting the hang of this flying thing. Now, if only I could learn to use a soft touch on the rudder and keep that damn ball in the centre, maybe he’d agree.

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