Monday, May 30, 2016

Cathay Pacific Takes Delivery of its First Airbus A350

Cathay Pacific's first A350 sits at the companies maintenance facility for the delivery ceremony.

Cathay Pacific’s first A350 sits at the companies maintenance facility for the delivery ceremony.

Photos and story by Brandon Farris in Hong Kong: / Published: May 30, 2016

Cathay Pacific has officially taken delivery of its first Airbus A350-900 this week, unveiled in a spectacular ceremony in Hong Kong where employees, media and distinguished guests were introduced to the newest member of Cathay Pacific’s fleet.

“We understand that for our passengers, sleeping well, enjoying first-class entertainment and using products that have been designed with them in mind are of the utmost importance. The new A350 will provide the very best of all these,” Cathay Pacific Chief Operating Officer Rupert Hogg said. “The lower cabin pressure and noise levels combine with our new features to set passengers up for the best sleeping experience possible in the skies. We have gone all out to provide the best inflight entertainment too. All seats come with the latest high-definition touchscreen personal TVs and a greater selection of movies, TV shows, live news channels and music. Inflight Wi-Fi is also available to connect passengers to family, work and world events, if they choose. We could not be more excited with what we’ve seen so far of the A350 and I’m sure that our passengers will feel the same way once they step onboard.”

Updated Interior

Overall the aircraft will have 280 seats in a three class layout on the A350 with 38 business class seats, 28 premium economy seats and 214 economy seats. Cathay Pacific is also launching an all-new premium economy and economy seat on the A350.

The aircraft will feature and updated look to its Zodiac business class seat designed by Studio F.A. Porsche, but it is still very close to what is seen on the carriers 777-300ER’s currently. The new features include an increased pitch from 43” to 45” along with an increased personal TV size from 15.4” to 18.5” wide. Other new features will include extra stowage space along with space with a new personal service offered by a “Do Not Disturb” and “Wake Up Call” function in the entertainment system. Layout will be 1-2-1 on the A350 for business class.

The business class seat lied flat. The updated look on the business class panel. The new location for the plug in ports in the Zodiac business class seat. Belly camera seen on the A350.

The premium economy and economy class seats also received a number of new features including a dedicated tablet holder that make it easy for passengers to enjoy entertainment content on their own devices.

Premium economy will be configured in a 2-4-2 layout with the seat pitch increasing from 38” to 40” along with an increase in recline from 8” to 9”. Also, in previous aircraft, only the front row would feature a full length leg-rest, but on the A350 it will be on all seats. The personal TV size is also increased from 11.1” to 12.1”.

Last but not least in economy class, it is 9-abreast in a 3-3-3 configuration with the personal TV being the main highlight in improvement from 9” to 11”, otherwise pitch remains the same as it is on the 777-300ER at 32” with 6” of recline. However, the seat width has gone down from 18.5 inches to only 18 inches.

Updated Premium Economy Seat Economy Class Seat The new adjustable headrest featured in economy class. The 3-3-3 layout seen in economy.

Wi-Fi is fitted on the carriers A350 and will be the first aircraft in the entire fleet to have inflight internet on Cathay Pacific’s international fleet, but it is expected to be expanded to the rest of the fleet in due time. The Wi-Fi will be accessible gate-to-gate for $12.95 for flights that are six hours or less and $19.95 for those flights longer than 6 hours. Only need that Wi-Fi for a short time? Cathay Pacific will also offer you a single hour for $9.95.

Cathay Pacific’s Initial A350 Plans

“This superbly efficient aircraft will help us further expand our global network and strengthen Hong Kong’s reputation as an international aviation hub,” Mr Hogg added. “Helping to oil the wheels of commerce and trade in our home city.”

Cathay Pacific has become the third Asian operator of the Airbus A350 XWB but first in China, and plans to launch it on regional routes to Manila and Taipei to begin crew familiarization of the new aircraft before it puts it on its first long-haul flight to London-Gatwick on September 2nd, and will eventually be followed up with Dusseldorf and Auckland.

The aircraft arrived Sunday morning May 29th in Hong Kong from Toulouse, and Cathay Pacific is putting it straight into service with the first flight scheduled for Tuesday May 31st as Cathay Pacific 901 to Manila, the airline said. Starting with the A350, all deliveries from Airbus will be fueled by bio-diesel in a 10%-90% ratio with the 10% being the bio-diesel.

Cathay Pacific becomes just the sixth operator worldwide of the A350. The aircraft had its first delivery in December of 2014 to launch customer Qatar Airways, along with fellow operators LATAM, Finnair, Singapore Airlines and Vietnam Airlines.


The new Cathay Pacific brand with the old one behind in the background.

The new Cathay Pacific brand with the old one behind in the background.

The A350 will be the first fleet to launch with Cathay Pacific’s new refreshed brand identity that was announced last November when the carrier rolled it out on a Boeing 777-300ER. The scheme is being rolled out fleet wide and eventually all 150 aircraft will be seen in the new look.

It seems fitting that the first delivery of the A350 to Cathay Pacific comes after the Hong Kong based carrier took delivery of its last Boeing 777-300ER it had on order in 2015. However, while the aircraft are direct competitors, they are actually very compatible with one another. On a market that is possibly struggling, the carrier can pull off the larger 777 if needed and dispatch the slightly smaller A350 on it while still offering the carriers spectacular international product.

Cathay Pacific has 48 A350’s on order with 22 of those in the -900 variant and 26 in the -1000 variant. The carrier expects to take delivery of 12 -900’s in 2016. The final 10 on order will come in 2017 with the first six A350-1000 expected in 2018, followed up with 10 in 2019 and 10 in 2020.

The main mission for Cathay Pacific’s A350 family will be to replace the aging and less fuel efficient A340, 747 and 777-200. We also learned from the event that as Cathay Pacific calls Hong Kong home and its hub, the airport will begin construction on its third runway beginning August 1st, which will continue to increase capacity at the world’s busiest airport.


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Editor’s noteOur readers now have access to our weekly eNewsletter, which includes a recap of our top stories of the week, along with the subscriber-only exclusive Weekend Reads column and Photo of the Week from our extensive archives. The newsletter comes out every Saturday morning. Stay in the know; click here to subscribe today!

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Friday, May 27, 2016

SpaceX successfully lands a Falcon 9 rocket at sea for the third time

SpaceX just successfully landed the first stage of its Falcon 9 rocket on a drone ship in the Atlantic Ocean. It was the third time in a row the company has landed a rocket booster at sea, and the fourth time overall.

The landing occurred a few minutes before the second stage of the Falcon 9 delivered the THAICOM-8 satellite to space, where it will make its way to geostationary transfer orbit (GTO). GTO is a high-elliptical orbit that is popular for satellites, sitting more than 20,000 miles above the Earth. The 3,100-kilogram satellite will spend 15 years there, helping to improve television and data data signals across Southeast Asia.

After landing, SpaceX CEO Elon Musk said that there would be "some risk of tipping" as the rocket...

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Acer's new 4K monitor has almost no bezels

Unless you're a diving watch aficionado, you probably hate the word "bezel." And by extension, you probably love the idea of this 4K monitor from Acer, which looks like it might be the best implementation yet of the company's "ZeroFrame" branding. Designed for video and graphics professionals, the BM320 has a 32-inch panel that covers 100% of the Adobe RGB color gamut, and Acer says its lack of bezels on three sides allows for a "seamless visual experience" when multiple units are used together.

No word on price or availability, but we'll try to find out more at Computex Taipei next week. Or at least just stare at the thing for a real long time.

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Thursday, May 26, 2016

A Former Virgin Atlantic 747-400 Is Up for Sale on E-Bay

By: Staff / Published: May 26, 2016

Ever fancied having a Boeing 747 as an ultimate man-cave?

Now, you may become the owner of a former Virgin Atlantic Boeing 747, which has been offered for sale at with an opening bid reserve of just $299,000, or you can buy it now for $900,000 (transportation and labor costs not included.)

According to Concord Aerospace, the seller of the airframe, Lady Penelope (G-VFAB /MSN 24958/LN 1028) was retired “after a illustrious career in the skies for the past 25 years as a part of the Virgin Atlantic fleet.”

VS744-1Being the first of the 747-400 series to join Virgin Atlantic, Lady Penelope was delivered to Virgin Atlantic in 1994. After retirement, the aircraft was sent to Goodyear in Arizona, where it is now available for sale, although it is not in flyable condition as the engines, avionics and Auxiliary Power Units (APUs) have been removed.

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“We have all of the capabilities to disassemble and transport the plane in sections. It is also possible to section out the plane out if you only require the fuselage, cockpit or the wings,” the seller said.

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Virgin Atlantic is known for their marketing flair, but this was not their idea nor do they necessarily endorse it, according to a statement from the airline “As part of our ongoing investment in newer, more fuel-efficient aircraft, some of our older models are now retiring from the fleet. We handed G-VFAB back to the lessor in the condition required, and regrettably what it chooses to do with it after return is not in our control.”  Virgin adamantly points out that the airline’s branding and the livery will be removed from the exterior of the aircraft prior to the sale.

While the Boeing 747-400 seems to be vanishing from the fleet at several carriers, some of them, such as Lady Penelope, are finding its way to a second life.

Editor’s noteWhat are the benefits of subscribing to our weekly newsletter? You’ll get a summary of our top stories of the week, along with our exclusive Weekend Reads column and a Photo of the Week from the extensive AirwaysNews archives. The newsletter comes out every Saturday morning. Click here to subscribe today!

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Volvo’s Latest “Twin Engine” Plug-In Hybrid Powertrain Explained

Volvo T5 Twin Engine CMA platform


Volvo’s Twin Engine plug-in hybrid branding might not be completely accurate—so far, each iteration of the theme has incorporated only a single engine, as well as an attendant electric motor or two—but the newest version is quite novel nonetheless. While the “T8” Twin Engine setup in the XC90 SUV carries two electric motors, one fitted between the engine and the transmission and another powering the rear axle, the “T5” variant destined for Volvo’s new compact 40-series cars has only one electric motor aiding a turbocharged three-cylinder engine in a crafty way.


Volvo T5 Twin Engine CMA platform


As is the case for most hybrids, the transmission is among the most critical components in Volvo’s setup. The seven-speed dual-clutch automatic is bolted to the end of Volvo’s all-new turbocharged 1.5-liter three-cylinder engine, just as it would be in a non-hybrid application, and its output shaft turns a differential and two unequal-length driveshafts that spin the front wheels. So where’s the electric motor? Unlike pretty much every other front-wheel-drive, transverse-engine hybrid out there, the Twin Engine T5 system hangs the electric motor off the top of the transmission—it’s mounted externally—and delivers its torque to the transmission’s output shaft via one of the dual-clutch’s two input shafts.


Volvo T5 Twin Engine CMA platform


In case we’ve lost a few of you, here’s a quick refresher on dual-clutch automatics, so that you have an idea of what we’re talking about when describing those input shafts. A dual-clutch transmission is almost like two manual transmissions in one, carrying its even-numbered gears on one input shaft and its odd-numbered gears on another; the two shafts are concentric (meaning one spins around the other—think one pipe slipped over another), and the shafts are alternately engaged via separate clutches (hence the “dual-clutch” moniker). Starting from rest, the transmission selects first gear, and the clutch between that input shaft and the engine is engaged; meanwhile, second gear is pre-selected so when it’s time to upshift, the clutch on the odd-numbered gears’ input shaft disengages while the clutch on the even-numbered gears’ input shaft engages simultaneously. There is no efficiency-robbing fluid coupling, like with the torque converter of a conventional automatic, therefore dual-clutch autos can be more efficient than their planetary cousins.


The Twin Engine T5 setup takes advantage of the dual-clutch automatic’s layout by linking the electric motor to one of the transmission’s input shafts (the one for second, fourth, sixth, and reverse gears) after the clutch. Put another way, both of the transmission’s input shafts spin with the output shaft all the time, regardless of whether the clutches are open or closed; the clutches simply control which shaft receives engine torque depending on which gear is engaged. According to Volvo’s engineers, when the electric motor contributes power in hybrid mode, it does so either through second or fourth gear, even when the engine torque is directed to first, third, fifth, or seventh gears on the other input shaft. For example, when the transmission is in third gear—as in, the clutch for the input shaft handling first, third, fifth, and seventh gears is engaged and fed power from the gas engine—the electric motor adds power to the other input shaft with second gear engaged.


When running on electric power alone, with the engine off, the electric motor sends power to the drive wheels via second or fourth gear; since reverse is on the same input shaft, Volvo’s system allows for pure electric travel backward. (In pure electric mode, neither of the dual-clutch automatic’s two primary clutches are engaged.) When coasting or decelerating, the electric motor captures energy to store in the onboard lithium-ion battery pack.

- -

Volvo’s setup isn’t new—Honda employs a similar layout for the front half of the Acura RLX Sport Hybrid’s V-6/electric motor/dual-clutch automatic powertrain—but it’s no less clever for it. For now, it seems the Twin Engine T5 powertrain is designed specifically for the new CMA-platform “40-series” Volvos, meaning the brand’s smallest cars. (The larger 60- and 90-series Volvos ride on a different platform dubbed “SPA.”) Volvo has yet to decide which body style the plug-in hybrid setup would appear in (crossover/XC40, sedan/S40, or hatch/V40), but designed it to fit in any CMA car. The battery is positioned lengthwise down the center of the chassis, where the transmission tunnel in a rear-drive vehicle would be, and the engine and transmission are fitted transversely, as you’d expect.


Volvo T5 Twin Engine CMA platform


We extracted a few preliminary details about the Twin Engine powertrain, including the engine’s output (180 horsepower), the electric motor’s output (55 kW, or 74 horsepower), total system output (250 horsepower), and battery capacity (9.7 kWh). While final specifications could change, Volvo is adamant that the Twin Engine T5 powerplant will be capable of  31 miles of pure-electric driving range and class-leading CO2 emissions in Europe. Those figures not only place the T5 powertrain on equal or better footing in terms of output against Audi’s A3 sedan, BMW’s four-cylinder 2-series, and Mercedes-Benz’s CLA250, but its hybrid and electric-only capability should deliver competitive fuel economy.

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FenSens makes it easy to add parking sensors to your car

If you've ever tried to add parking sensors to your vehicle, you know it's not a particularly easy endeavor. Most of the cheaper systems don't work well and the good — and very expensive — setups can require advanced installations that the average person isn't capable of doing without assistance. Enter FenSens (short for fender sensor), a company that made a smart license plate holder and an app that can give your car all the parking sensors you need.

Installing FenSens is simple: install the license plate cover with a screwdriver, pair it with the companion app using Bluetooth, and you're no longer backing into trash cans. The license plate holder can detect objects within 10 feet and the app will beep and give...

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Blue Origin will intentionally crash its spaceship during the next test flight

Blue Origin is planning the next test flight of its reusable New Shepard rocket, but CEO Jeff Bezos just revealed a twist: the empty crew capsule, which sits on top of the rocket, will crash-land on purpose.

"On this upcoming mission we also plan to stress the crew capsule by landing with an intentionally failed parachute, demonstrating our ability to safely handle that failure scenario," Bezos writes in an email update that was sent out this afternoon. "It promises to be an exciting demonstration."

Blue Origin wants to find out what happens if the parachutes fail

New Shepard is the company's flagship rocket, one that it hopes to use to send tourists to space starting in 2018. Those trips, if and when they happen, will be short — Blue...

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Google Dodges $9 Billion Bullet


Google just won a major court battle with software giant Oracle over Google’s use of elements of Oracle’s Java programming language. If Google had lost, it could have held major ramifications for the ways in which almost all software is developed. Oh, and Google would have had to cough up $9 billion in damages.


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Wednesday, May 25, 2016

“U.S. spyplane almost hit two passenger jets over the Sea of Japan” Russia MoD says

Operation Enduring Freedom Rivet Joint air refuelingAccording to the Russians, an American RC-135 flying close to Russia’s eastern border nearly collided with two civilian flights. According to a statement from the Russian Ministry of Defense, a U.S. spyplane flying over the Sea of Japan, in international airspace, near Russia’s eastern border, was involved in two near collisions with passenger planes in […]
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Supercomputers supercharge NASA’s simulated storms and improve hurricane forecasts

nasa_gmao_guy Understanding the complex order behind the apparent chaos of a tropical storm or hurricane is no easy task, but it’s worthwhile to try — such storms deal death and destruction globally, and the better we know them, the better we can prepare for them. Read More
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