Archive for June, 2013

Ever Wonder How to Fly a Blimp?

Posted on: June 28th, 2013 by Erin Weir No Comments

The flying lesson begins at about 12 minutes in…

Connecticut Senate passes bill writing Wright Brothers out of history

Posted on: June 25th, 2013 by Erin Weir No Comments

We all grew up learning about the Wright Brothers and their place in aviation history.   Well, the Connecticut Senate passed a bill that would change that history!  They voted to give credit for the first powered flight, not to to Orville and Wilbur Wright as we have all learnt, but to Gustave Whitehead.

John Brown, an historian of aviation, claims he has photographic proof of Whitehead flying over Connecticut in 1901, putting him a full two years ahead of the famous Wright brothers flight.  The Wrights certainly were not the only ones to be testing the bounds of aviation at the time, but they were believed to be first to build a successful flying machine.

Since Brown’s photo surfaced a controversy has surrounded the subject.  However, most historians continue to believe that the first powered flight belongs to the Wright brothers.  It’s hard to know without being able to see all the evidence for ourselves, but I for one like to believe that the Wright brothers are deserving of their place in history.

Read more at www.foxnews.com

Finally, a successor to the Concorde takes shape

Posted on: June 24th, 2013 by Erin Weir No Comments

It’s finally happening.  The successor for the Concorde is on its way. Fuji Heavy Industries Inc., and Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency and begun work on a prototype for a passenger plane which travels faster than the speed of sound.  The prototype will undergo testing later this year in Sweden.

The Concorde – the original supersonic passenger jet, which was put out of use ten years ago – got a lot of flack for how much noise it produced.   There is hope that this model could be up to 75% quieter than the Concorde.

Personally, I was a big fan of the Concorde and I’ve always been a bit sad that I never got to be a passenger on one.   Hopefully this will give me a second chance!

Read more at www.io9.com

Our reporter confirms rumors of long lines at U.S. Customs entry, to his chagrin

Posted on: June 20th, 2013 by Erin Weir No Comments

Summer is upon us and that means lots of people will be traveling abroad.  Those people can expect to wait in excruciatingly long lines at border control and customs this year, according to Dallas Morning News reporter James Osborne.

Travel officials have been warning that the wait through Customs and Border Control would be long this summer due to budget cuts, and the U.S Travel Association have been attempting to convince Congress to direct more funds their way so that they can hire more officers and reduce wait times.

On James Osborne’s recent trip through DFW International, however, he waited at least an hour and a half at customs, and things looked much worse for non-U.S citizens.  We can only assume that, unless Congress manages to provide funding to the U.S. Travel Association that things will get decidedly worse as the summer travel season reaches its peak.

#Avgeeks: The new warriors on terror

Posted on: June 19th, 2013 by Erin Weir No Comments

Meet a group of people who have taken plane spotting to a whole new level.  They call themselves the ORD Airport Watch, and they’re using their love of tracking aircraft to help protect you by working with the FBI, the Transportation Security Administration and others to stop terrorists at Chicago O’Hare International Airport.

Police spent many years in contention with plane spotters – especially after 9/11.   Police would feel they had to waste time making sure that plane spotters weren’t terrorists, while plane spotters would feel like they had to allude police.   However, this program aims to have the two work together.  The first such program was launched in Minneapolis in 2008 with only 10 volunteers.  Chicago’s program has 162 who have logged over 5,000 hours last year.  A similar program may soon be launched in Phoenix.

While these volunteers may be spending time doing something they really enjoy, they’ve also undergone strict background checks and diligently trained to notice and report suspicious behavior.   While they are plane spotting they must carry an ID badge issued by the police station and wear an official orange vest.

Ian Hardie, ORD Airport Watch President and former air traffic controller with the Royal Navy, feels that the program should be implemented across the U.S.  He helped create a similar program in Scotland.  Frank Soto, who is village president of Bensenville, claims the program has helped reduce crime by 6% in his area and other neighboring communities around the airport.  He thinks it may be responsible for reducing crime as much as 54% since 2009.

These kinds of programs are a win-win for everyone.  They allow plane spotters to do what they love while keeping an extra pair of eyes on the ground and helping everyone else feel safer.

Read more at www.cnn.com


“All You Can Fly” Concept About to Finally Take Off?

Posted on: June 14th, 2013 by Erin Weir No Comments

Surf Air is launching a revolutionary concept to passengers in California. For a monthly membership fee they will offer passengers unlimited flights between four cities in California.

The airline promises no hidden fees with their membership, and all members receive first-class seats and service along with their unlimited flights, along with complimentary guest passes (provided enough notice is given), no wait times at airport security, free parking at the airport and complimentary Internet.

At this time Surf Air will be servicing Los Angeles, Santa Barbara, Monterey, and San Francisco.   They plan to expand service to several other California cities as well as Las Vegas.  Eventually they may include the Eastern corridor, Texas, the Pacific Northwest, and Florida.

This is a very interesting concept, especially with commercial airlines structured the way they currently are.  There seems to be a market for this, especially if Surf Air expanded their service or if similar services started to spring up.

Why smaller airports are shrinking

Posted on: June 13th, 2013 by Erin Weir No Comments

Have you noticed? Since 2007 we’ve seen the closing of many smaller airports.  It’s easy to attribute this to the economy, but that isn’t necessarily the only reason, and it’s kind of a boring answer.

For many airlines, increasing fuel costs meant that shorter trips – like those usually made by small aircraft to small airports – were not as lucrative as they once were.  Rising fuel costs aren’t the only culprit.  Mergers with larger airlines (which focus on serving bigger airports in order to be cost-efficient) has also shifted focus away from small and medium sized airports.  Combine this with the fact that there has been almost a 9% drop in domestic flights from the U.S’s busiest airports since 2007, and the 21.3% decline we’ve seen at smaller airports in the same time makes a lot of sense.

Read more at www.economist.com

The future of in-flight Wi-Fi

Posted on: June 12th, 2013 by Erin Weir No Comments

America’s Federal Communications Commission has announced that it plans to expand the amount of bandwidth available for in-flight ground-to-air wi-fi services.  Theoretically this will lead to a faster, more reliable internet connection while in-flight.  Currently, however, only about 10% of customers are even willing to pay for in-flight wi-fi because of how unreliable and slow it is.  Will this really fix the problem?

Read more at www.economist.com

How human error can cause a plane crash

Posted on: June 11th, 2013 by Erin Weir No Comments

In April two pilots flying a Lion Air Boeing 737 into Ngurah Rai Airport undershot the runway and crashed into the ocean in Bali.  The investigation is still open, but preliminary findings did not find fault with the aircraft and suggest that it may have been a poorly trained pilot who made an error.

Pilot error is any decision or action that a pilot takes that leads to or plays a part in an accident.  It could be due to inebriation, inexperience, fatigue, operational problems, or perhaps even poor training.  In the the case of the Lion Air crash, a lack of training and inexperience both seem to have been factors.

According to Boeing, close to 80% of commercial airline accidents are cause by pilot errors.  There are no universal guidelines in place to reduce the chances of pilot error, though there are policies at every airline for how long a pilot can fly, how many co-pilots must be on-board, how many breaks they need to take, etc.  There are also varying requirements for hours of training needed before a pilot can obtain their licence.

Lion Air may need to be revising some of their guidelines set to prevent pilot error soon, or at the very least do more rigorous checking to see that their pilots have been properly trained.

Read more at www.bbc.co.uk


Speeding Customs

Posted on: June 10th, 2013 by Erin Weir No Comments

The Chicago Department of Aviation announced that Chicago O’Hare International Airport will be installing 32 Automated Passport Control machines and have them in use by July 1st.  It will be the first airport in the U.S to implement the new technology, which is intended to speed up customs clearance.  Travelers with U.S passports will be able to move through border clearance by using a self-service kiosk to enter their passport information and information from their paper declaration cards.  The technology is already in use at Vancouver International Airport.

Read more at www.nytimes.com