RETURN OF X-PLANES

April 22, 2017


In the April 2017 issue of “Machine Design” a fascinating article entitled “NASA’S Green Thumb for Green Aviation” was presented. This article was written by Carlos M. Gonzales and encouraged me to explore, at least through NASA’s web site, the status of their “X-Plane” program.  Aviation is definitely a growth industry. Millions upon millions of individuals travel each year for business, recreation, and tourism.  There is no doubt that aviation is the “Greyhound Bus” for the twenty-first century.

The aviation system is the high-speed transportation backbone of the United States and global economies. Global aviation is forecast to grow from today’s three point five (3.5) billion passenger trips per year to seven (7) billion passenger trips by the mid- 2030s, and to eleven (11) billion passenger trips by mid-century. Such growth brings with it the direct economic potential of trillions of dollars in the fields of manufacturing, operations and maintenance, and the high-quality jobs they support.

At the same time, international competition for leadership of this critical industry is growing, as more nations invest in developing their own aviation technology and industrial capabilities. Such massive growth also creates substantial operational and environmental challenges. For example, by mid-century the aviation industry will need to build and fly enough new aircraft to accommodate more than three times as many passenger trips while at the same time reducing total emissions by half from that new hardware. Moreover, large reductions in emissions and aircraft noise levels will be needed, if not mandated. To meet those demands, revolutionary levels of aircraft performance improvements – well beyond today’s technology – must be achieved. In terms of air traffic control and the National Airspace System, maintaining safe and efficient operations is a continuing and growing challenge as the system expands, and especially as new business and operational models – such as unmanned aerial systems – are introduced. Enabling aircraft (with pilots aboard or not) to fly optimized trajectories through high density airspace with real-time, systemwide safety assurance are among the most critical operational improvements that must be achieved.

In looking at global growth, we see the following:

These numbers would be very frightening without the aviation industry deciding to be pro-active relative to the sheer numbers of passenger miles anticipated over the next two decades.  That’s where NASA comes in.

NEW AVIATION HORIZONS:

In FY 2017, NASA plans to begin a major ten-year research effort to accelerate aviation energy efficiency, transform propulsion systems, and enable major improvements in air traffic mobility. The centerpiece of NASA’s ten-year acceleration for advanced technologies testing is called New Aviation Horizons, or NAH. It is an ambitious plan to build a series of five mostly large-scale experimental aircraft – X-planes – that will flight test new technologies, systems and novel aircraft and engine configurations. X-planes are a key piece of the “three-legged stool” that characterizes aviation research.

  • One leg represents computational capabilities – the high-speed super computers that can model the physics of air flowing over an object – be it a wing, a rudder or a full airplane.
  • A second leg represents experimental methods. This is where scientists put what is most often a scale model of an object or part of an object – be it a wing, a rudder or an airplane – in a wind tunnel to take measurements of air flowing over the object. These measurements help improve the computer model, and the computer model helps inform improvements to the airplane design, which can then be tested again in the wind tunnel.
  • The third leg of the stool is to actually fly the design. Whether it’s flying an X-plane or a full-scale prototype of a new aircraft, the data recorded in actual flight can be used to validate and improve the computational and experimental methods used to develop the design in the first place. This third leg makes it possible to lower the risk enough to completely trust what the numbers are saying.

With NAH, NASA will:

  • Demonstrate revolutionary advancements in aircraft and engine configurations that break the mold of traditional tube and wing designs.
  • Support accelerated delivery to the U.S. aviation community of advanced verified design and analysis tools that support new flight-validated concepts, systems and technologies.
  • Provide to appropriate organizations and agencies research results that inform their work to update domestic and international aviation standards and regulations.
  • Enable U.S. industry to put into service flight-proven transformative technology that will solve tomorrow’s global aviation challenges.
  • Inspire a new generation of aeronautical innovators and equip them to engineer future aviation systems. Of the five X-planes, NASA has determined that three subsonic aircraft will be enough to span the range of possible configurations necessary to demonstrate in flight the major enabling fuel, emissions and noise reducing technologies.

The graphic below indicates possible designs for aircraft of the future.  All of these craft are now on the drawing board with computational prototyping underway.

INDUSTRY:

U.S. industry plays an integral role in the NAH initiative, leading the design, development and building of all X-planes under contract to NASA. Industry will be a research partner in the ground test and analysis, as well as the flight tests of the X-planes. Industry also partners in the advancement of the physics-based design and analysis capabilities. Through the lead and partnering roles, U.S. industry will be fully capable of confidently taking the next steps in commercializing the transformational configurations and technologies. The Lockheed Martin Aeronautics Company has already been awarded a preliminary design contract for the Quiet Supersonic Technology demonstrator. As indicated in a white paper published by the Aerospace Industries Association and the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics, “The U.S. government must support robust, long-term Federal civil aeronautics research and technology initiatives funded at a level that will ensure U.S. leadership in aeronautics. Congress should support NASA’s ten-year Strategic Implementation Plan at least at the levels recommended in the fiscal year 2017 NASA Budget request to sustain a strong economy, maintain a skilled workforce, support national security, and drive a world-class educational system.”

UNIVERSITIES:

NASA has already launched the University Leadership Initiative, which provides U.S.-based universities the opportunity to take full independent leadership in defining and solving key technical challenges aligned with the NASA Aeronautics strategy. Solicitations and proposals are managed through the NASA Research Announcement process; the first round of awards will be made in Fall 2016. These awards could lead to new experiments that would fly onboard one or more X-planes. In addition, NASA is formulating new mechanisms for direct university and student participation in the X-plane design, development and flight test process. The objective is to ensure U.S. universities remain the leading global institutions for aviation research and education, and to ensure the next generation workforce has the vision and skills needed to lead aviation system transformation.

POSSIBLE CONFIGURATIONS:

As mentioned above, NASA, industry and universities have already begun looking at possible configurations.  The most promising on-going programs are given below.

As you can see, the designs are absolutely striking and “doable” relative to existing technology.  The key goals are to:

  • Produce environmentally sound or “GREEN” designs lessening air pollution.
  • Create better fuel usage and conservation.
  • Extend flight range
  • Structure designs so minimal airport alternations will be necessary
  • Improve passenger experience

Tall orders but keep in mind NASA got us to the moon and back.  Why do we feel they will not be able to meet the goals indicated?  As always, I welcome your comments.


I do not know if you have a “bucket list” but as you get older you probably will.  At the tender age of seventy-four my list seems to grow and grow as the years go by.  One thing on that list is a visit to the bi-annual Farnborough International Airshow held in the United Kingdom. As you probably know, I’m a card-carrying aviation enthusiast.  I took my check ride when I was fifteen and had to wait one year to receive my pilot’s license.  I LOVE heavier-than-air-devices and make every effort to keep up with the technology both commercial and military.

This marvelous event is a week-long extravaganza that combines major trade exhibitions for the aerospace and defense industries with a public airshow. The event is held in mid-July in even-numbered years at Farnborough Airport in HampshireEngland. The first four days (Monday to Thursday) are dedicated exclusively to trade, with the final three days open to the public.

The airshow is an important event in the international aerospace and defense industry calendar, providing an opportunity to demonstrate civilian and military aircraft to potential customers and investors. The show is also used for the announcement of new developments and orders, and to attract media coverage.  It’s a great show that details potential mergers and acquisitions as well as rumors relative to pending developments in the aircraft industry, both commercial and military.  The UK show is organized by Farnborough International Limited, a wholly owned subsidiary of ADS Group Limited (ADS).

HISTORY:

The Farnborough Airshow has its origins in the annual RAF Airshow at Hendon from 1920 to 1937. On 27 June 1932, the Society of British Aircraft Constructors held an exhibition of thirty-five (35) aircraft by sixteen (16) companies as a showpiece for the British aircraft industry. After World War II, the show recommenced at Radlett (the site of Handley Page‘s airfield) in 1946 and was held there until 1948, when the show moved to its present location of Farnborough, Hampshire, home of the Royal Aircraft Establishment, about thirty (30) miles south-west of central London.

In 1952, thirty-one (31) people were killed (twenty nine spectators, one pilot and one navigator) when a DH.110 jet fighter disintegrated in flight and crashed into the crowd.

At the 1958 show, the Black Arrows executed a 22-plane formation loop which was a world record for the greatest number of aircraft looped in formation, and remains unbroken to this day.

Initially an annual event, the show has been biennial since 1962. It has become an international event that attracts exhibitors from all over the world — with the exception, during the Cold War, of countries behind the Iron Curtain.

From 1996 the show has had its own official radio station operated by the staff and students of nearby Farnborough College of Technology, although it did not operate in 2012.

2016 STATISTICS:

Let’s now take a very quick look at the “stats” for the air show this past July.

Airshow(1)

As you can see, there were a tremendous number of exhibitions for the air show representing fifty-two countries. Seventy-one (71%) of the exhibitors are international. $124 billion US dollars in aircraft ordered by various countries and companies.  This show was deemed a remarkable success just by the sheer numbers of orders taken.

Airshow(2)

Once again, the interest shown demonstrates how successful Farnborough was this past July.

Now, the great success was the number of individuals in attendance at the show.  These are people just like you and me, in other words, non-military or commercial.  Let’s now take a look at the fly-bys and the static demonstrations.

THE SITE

Farnborough Site

This is an aerial view of the Farnborough site itself.  You can see the demonstration aircraft parked by the airstrip.

Aircraft--Closer Look

This is a closer look at the aircraft and how they are aligned along the taxi ways of the airport.

THE AIRCRAFT ON DISPLAY—STATIC AND AIRBORNE:

F-22 RAPTOR

Everyone by now must recognize the F-22 Raptor.  One of the most remarkable air planes our country has ever designed and produced.

British Red Arrows Team

This is the British Red Arrows aerobatic team—equivalent to our Blue Angles or Air Force Thunderbird teams.

AIRBUS A 380

Airbus and the new A 380.  One of the largest commercial passenger planes ever built.  On display and looking good.

FRENCH

The country of France demonstrated their fighter aircraft as well.

GULFSTREAM

You might expect Gulfstream to have a major exhibit at Farnborough.

Chopper

There were several helicopters demonstrated at Farnborough also.

FUN

The entire event was about having fun and looking at the latest in aviation hardware.

CONCLUSIONS:

Hope you enjoyed this one.  I certainly hope to be at Farnborough two years from now to witness the latest in aviation.  As always, I love hearing from you.

QUADCOPTERS

June 5, 2016


Several days ago I was walking my oldest grandson’s dog Atka. (I have no idea as to where the name came from.)  As we rounded the corner at the end of our street, I heard a buzzing sound; a very loud buzzing sound.   The sound was elevated and after looking upward I saw a quadcopter about one hundred feet in the air going through a series of maneuvers in a “Z” fashion.  It was being operated by a young man in our “hood”, a young man of nine years.  His name is Dillon; very inquisitive and always with the newest toys.  The control he was using was a joy-stick apparatus with two thumb wheels on either side.  Simple but effective for the flight paths he put the copter through.  The JPEG below will give you some idea as to the design.(NOTE:Dillon’s copter did not have a camera in the body.  He was not recording the subject matter the device flew over.)


QUAD COPTER(2)

A quadcopter, also called a quadrotor helicopter or quadrotor, is a multi-rotor helicopter, as you can see from above, lifted and propelled by four rotors. Rotor-craft  lift is generated by a set of rotors  or vertically oriented propellers.

Quadcopters generally use two pairs of identical fixed pitched propellers; two clockwise (CW) and two counter-clockwise (CCW). These use independent variation of the speed allowing each rotor to achieve the necessary control. By changing the speed of each rotor it is possible to specifically generate a desired total thrust and create a desired total torque, or turning force.

Quadcopters differ from conventional helicopters which use rotors capable of verifying their blades dynamically as they move around the rotor hub. In the early days of flight, quadcopters (then referred to as ‘quadrotors’) were seen as possible solutions to some of the persistent problems in vertical flight such as torque-induced control as well as efficiency issues originating from the tail rotor.  The tail rotor generates no useful lift and can possibly be eliminated by counter-rotation of other blades.  Also quadcopters are designed with relatively short blades  which are much easier to construct. A number of manned designs appeared in the 1920s and 1930s. These vehicles were among the first successful heavier-than-air vertical takeoff and landing (VTOL)vehicles.  Early prototypes suffered from poor performance  and later prototypes required too much pilot work load, due to poor stability and limited control.

In the late 2000s, advances in electronics allowed the production of cheap lightweight flight controllers, accelerometers (IMU), global positioning system and cameras. This resulted in a rapid proliferation of small, cheap consumer quadcopters along with other multi rotor designs. Quadcopter designs also became popular in unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV or drone) research. With their small size and maneuverability, these quadcopters can be flown indoors as well as outdoors. Low-cost motors and mass-produced propellers provide the power to keep them in the air while light weight and structural integrity from engineered plastics provides durability. Chip-based controllers, gyros, navigation, and cameras give them high-end capabilities and features at a low cost.  These aircraft are extremely useful for aerial photography.   Professional photographers, videographers and journalist are using them for  difficult, if not impossible, shots relative to standard means.  A complete set of hardware may be seen below.

QUADCOPTER & CONTROLS

One of the most pleasing versions of a camera-equipped quadcopter is given as follows:

QUAD COPTER

SAFETY:

As with any new technology, there can be issues of safety.  Here are just a few of the incidents causing a great deal of heartburn for the FAA.

  • At 8:51 a.m., a white drone startled the pilot of a JetBlue flight, appearing off the aircraft’s left wing moments before the jet landed at Los Angeles International Airport. Five hours later, a quadcopter drone whizzed beneath an Allegiant Air flight as it approached the same runway. Elsewhere in California, pilots of light aircraft reported narrowly dodging drones in San Jose and La Verne.
  • In Washington, a Cessna pilot reported a drone cruising at 1,500 feet in highly restricted airspace over the nation’s capital, forcing the U.S. military to scramble fighter jets as a precaution.
  • In Louisville, a silver and white drone almost collided with a training aircraft.
  • In Chicago, United Airlines Flight 970 reported seeing a drone pass by at an altitude of 3,500 feet.
  • All told, 12 episodes — including other incidents in New Mexico, Texas, Illinois, Florida and North Carolina — were recorded  one Sunday of small drones interfering with airplanes or coming too close to airports, according to previously undisclosed reports filed with the Federal Aviation Administration.
  • Pilots have reported a surge in close calls with drones: nearly 700 incidents so far this year, according to FAA statistics, about triple the number recorded for all of 2014. The agency has acknowledged growing concern about the problem and its inability to do much to tame it.
  • So far, the FAA has kept basic details of most of this year’s incidents under wraps, declining to release reports that are ordinarily public records and that would spotlight where and when the close calls occurred.
  • On March 29, the Secret Service reported that a rogue drone was hovering near a West Palm Beach, Fla., golf course where President Obama was hitting the links. Secret Service spokesman Brian Leary confirmed the incident. He declined to provide further details but said the Secret Service “has procedures and protocols in place to address these situations when they occur.”
  • Two weeks later, just after noon on April 13, authorities received a report of a white drone flying in the vicinity of the White House. Military aircraft scrambled to intercept the drone, which was last seen soaring over the Tidal Basin and heading toward Arlington, Va., according to the FAA reports.
  • On July 10, the pilot of an Air Force F-15 Strike Eagle said a small drone came within 50 feet of the fighter jet. Two weeks later, the pilot of a Navy T-45 Goshawk flying near Yuma, Ariz., reported that a drone buzzed 100 feet underneath.

REGULATIONS:

For public safety, the FAA has promulgated regulations that MUST be adhered to by those owning drones such as quadcopters.   Anyone owning a quadcopter or drone weighing more than 0.55 pounds must register it with the Federal Aviation Administration if they intend to fly outdoors.   It will cost those owners $5.00.  If the copter tips the scales at over fifty-five (55) pounds, including any extra equipment or cameras attached, the FAA no longer considers it a model aircraft or a recreational Unmanned Aircraft System and a very long list of additional regulations apply.  Model aircraft also cannot be used for commercial purposes or for payment.    They can only be used for hobby and recreational uses.   A few FAA guidelines are given as follows:

  • Quadcopters or any unmanned recreational aircraft cannot be flown above four hundred (400 ) feet.
  • They must remain in site of the operator.
  • Quadcopters cannot fly within five (5) miles of any airport without written approval of the FAA.
  • Quadcopters cannot fly over military bases, national parks, or the Washington D.C. area and other sensitive government buildings; i.e. CIA, NSA, Pentagon, etc.
  • The FAA has extended the ban on planes flying over open-air stadiums with 30,000 or more people in attendance.

PRIVACY:

Privacy concerns can lead to hot tempers. Last year, a Kentucky man used a shotgun to blast a drone out of the air above his home. A New Jersey man did the same thing in 2014, and a woman in Seattle called the police when she feared a drone was peeping into her apartment. (The drone belonged to a company conducting an architectural survey.) And in November, repeated night-time over-flights by a drone prompted calls to Albuquerque police complaining of trespassing—the police concluded that the flyer wasn’t breaking any laws.

State laws already on the books offer some privacy protections, especially if a drone is shooting photos or video. Erin E. Rhinehart, an attorney in Dayton, Ohio, who studies the issue, says that existing nuisance and invasion-of-privacy statutes would apply to drone owners. If you could prove you were being harassed by a drone flying over your house, or even that one was spying on you from afar, you might have a case against the drone operator. But proof is difficult to obtain, she says, and not everyone agrees on how to define harassment.

Some states are trying to strengthen their protections. In California, nervous celebrities may benefit from a law signed by Governor Jerry Brown this past fall. The meat of the legislation reads, “A person is liable for physical invasion of privacy when the person knowingly enters onto the land or into the airspace above the land of another person without permission…in order to capture any type of visual image, sound recording, or other physical impression of the plaintiff.” And a similar privacy law in Wisconsin makes it illegal to photograph a “nude or partially nude person” using a drone. (Dozens of states have passed or are considering drone-related laws.) The point being, people do NOT like being the subject of peeping-toms.  We can’t, for the most part, stand it and that includes nosey neighbors.  The laws, both local, state and Federal are coming and drone users just as well need to get over it.

AERION

February 27, 2016


Aerospace Defense and Technology, February 2016 publication, presented a fascinating article on joint engineering efforts provided by Aerion and the Airbus Group relative to a new supersonic business jet. This team has dedicated design and production planning since 2014, which has definitely been productive with a mid-November announcement from Flexjet ordering twenty (20) aircraft.  Aviation Week made the announcement as follows:

“Flexjet has placed a firm order valued at $2.4 billion for 20 Aerion AS2 supersonic jets, with delivery to begin in 2023. First flight is expected in 2021.

Flexjet CEO Kenn Ricci said the company will use the supersonic jet for overseas flights and also in China, which does not have restrictions on sonic booms.

Customers are already excited about the jet, he said. They immediately began citing city pairs where they would like to fly. But no one wants to fly it sub-sonically, Ricci said. The AS2 can fly sub-sonically over land in the U.S., Europe and areas where the boom is restricted. But it won’t be cost-effective to do so.

The three-engine jet will burn a high amount of fuel, roughly 1,000 gal. Per hr., and its long length will restrict its use at some airports, Ricci said. “It’s still going to be an expensive plane to operate,” he said. Still, with the aircraft traveling at Mach 1.2, its boom will not touch the ground, Ricci said. Because of that, regulators may be able to be convinced to allow the jet to fly supersonically across the country, he said. Even so, the aircraft can be placed at points on the Atlantic and Pacific for international travel.”

The digital photograph below indicates the basic airframe and shows the three engines designed into the fuselage.

Aeron AS2

Kelly Johnson, leader of the famous Lockheed “Skunk Works” stated years ago; “If it looks like it will fly, it will fly.  Well, this one looks like it will fly.

This biz jet will hold eight to twelve passengers and will have an intercontinental-capable range of 4,750 nautical miles at supersonic speeds.  At these speeds, three hours will be cut from traveling across the Atlantic and more than six hours on longer trans-Pacific routes.  It could get you from London to New York in 4 hours and 24 minutes. It takes a normal jet about seven hours to make that trip. The typical flight time from Los Angeles to Sydney, Australia is about 15 hours and 30 minutes. On the Aerion AS2, the flight time would be just ten hours.

The AS2 will fly at a speed of Mach 1.5, using supersonic laminar flow technology.  The wing design will allow for lighter fuel consumption and increased travel ranges by reducing aerodynamic drag by twenty percent (20%).  NASA has issued a contract to model supersonic boom at ground level to ensure no issues result from supersonic flight.   New noise regulations coming in 2020 caused Aerion to change design from two to three engines to meet upcoming noise specifications.

The three-engine jet will make its first flight in 2021 and enter service in 2023.

As you can see from the digital below, the design is definitely cutting edge.  Other specifics are as follows:

 General characteristics

  • Crew: 2
  • Capacity: 8–12 passengers
  • Length: 170 feet (51.8 m)
  • Wingspan: 61 feet (18.6 m)
  • Height: 22 feet (6.7 m)
  • Wing area: 1,350 ft² (125 m²)
  • Empty weight: 49,800 lb (22,588 kg)
  • Max. takeoff weight: 121,000 lb (54,884 kg)
  • Powerplant: 3 × turbofans (low bypass ratio), 16,000 lb s.t.
  • Cabin size: 30 feet long, 6’2″ high, 7’3″ wide (9.1 * 1.9 * 2.2 m)

Performance

  • Maximum speed: Mach 1.5 (1140 mph) 1837 km/h
  • Cruise speed: Mach 1.4
    • Mach 0.95 at lower altitudes to minimize noise
    • Mach 1.1–1.2
  • Range: 4750 nautical miles  to 5300 nautical miles (8797 km to 9816 km)
  • Controls: Fly-by-wire flight controls
  • Structure: Ten (10) spar carbon fiber wing structure, fuselage and empennage structures.
  • Landing Gear: Articulating main landing gear system that minimizes space requirements when stowed.
  • Fuel System: A fuel system that is integrated with the digital fly-by-wire control system for control of center of gravity

Aerion and Airbus are presently working to specify the engines for the AS2 while keeping in mind the upcoming noise requirements.  Their goal is to provide acceptable fuel usage just below MACH 1.

Specifics

The interior is an absolute dream, as you can see from the next two JPEGs.  Talk about first class.

Interior

Interior (2)

This aircraft “ain’t “cheap but will serve a very specific function and is targeting a very small clientele.  Of course, there are no figures on how much this mean ride will cost relative to operating expense or maintenance but payback will have to result or there will be issues with cash flow and continued operation.  This one will be fun to watch.

“CONNIE”

November 21, 2015


One of the most gifted engineers in our nation’s history was Mr. Bill Lear.  Lear was born in Hannibal, Missouri on 26 June 1902 and over a forty-six (46) year time period produced one hundred and twenty (120) patents.  He founded the LearJet Corporation.  The Lear jet is without doubt one of the most beautiful aircraft ever conceived.  From one memorable life came one memorable quote, as follows:

“If an airplane looks like it will fly—it will fly”.

He was talking about profile, lines, curvature while imagining the “slip-stream” created by the leading edges and the flight surfaces.  One other airplane that fits that description is the Lockheed Constellation or “Connie” as the design came to be known.  A remarkably beautiful aircraft.

My very first flight was in 1969. My father, sister and I departed Lovell Field in Chattanooga, Tennessee heading to Atlanta.  We flew to Atlanta in a DC-3, twin engine propeller-driven aircraft.  (I’m sure after death I will have to change planes in Atlanta before arriving in heaven.  Some things never change.)  Moving from arrival gate to departure gate during the very early years of commercial aviation took a minimal amount of time.   The Atlanta Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport was not the city within a city that exists today.  Upon arriving at our departure gate, I saw for the very first time a marvelous aircraft meeting all of the descriptive points Mr. Lear had in mind. Let’s take a look.

LOCKHEED CONSTELLATION:

Lockheel Constellation

The Lockheed Constellation (“Connie”) was a propeller-driven, four-engine airliner built by the Lockheed Corporation between 1943 and 1958 at the Burbank, California Lockheed facilities. The Constellation’s fuselage is shaped like an airfoil to add lift.   It curves upward at the rear to raise the triple tail out of the prop wash and slightly downward at the front so the nose-gear strut did not have to be impossibly long. Lockheed decided that the airplane’s admittedly large propellers needed even more ground clearance than did Douglas or Boeing on their competing transports, which resulted in the Connie’s long, spindly gear legs.

It was known as “the world’s best tri-motor” because it had so many engine failures it often flew on three.  There were large numbers of engine fires during the Constellation’s early development, but many airline pilots flew it for years without ever feathering an engine.

The Constellation was one of the first pressurized airliners with the Boeing 307 Stratoliner being the very first.  Cabin pressurization was absolutely required to improve the service ceiling of commercial aircraft and make flying above the “weather” a very welcome reality.  During WWII it was discovered that flying about 10,000 feet required oxygen to preclude issues with dizziness.  It was no different for commercial flying.

Lockheed built 856 aircraft using numerous model configurations—all with the same triple-tail design and dolphin-shaped fuselage. Most were powered by four 18-cylinder Wright R-3350s. The Constellation was used as a civil airliner and as a military and civil air transport, seeing service in the Berlin Airlift . It was also the presidential aircraft for Dwight D. Eisenhower.   At the present time President Eisenhower’s Air Force One is resting in a field at Marana Regional Airport.   Dubbed Columbine II in honor of the state flower of first lady Mamie Eisenhower’s native Colorado, the plane was state-of-the-art in its time.  It’s a real shame this early version of Air Force One is not on display.

The Constellation’s wing design was close to that of the P-38 Lightning, differing obviously in size.  The triple tail kept the aircraft’s height low enough to fit in existing hangars, while features included hydraulically boosted controls and a de-icing system used on wing and tail leading edges.  The aircraft had a maximum speed of over 375 mph (600 km/h), faster than that of a Japanese Zero fighter, a cruise speed of 340 mph (550 km/h), and a service ceiling of 24,000 ft (7,300 m).  At the time the service ceiling was a significant breakthrough in aviation technology.

According to Anthony Sampson in Empires of the Sky, Lockheed’s Skunk Factory and Kelly Johnson may have undertaken the intricate design, but Howard Hughes’ intercession in the design process drove the concept, shape, capabilities, appearance, and ethos.   These rumors were discredited by Kelly Johnson. Howard Hughes and Jack Frye confirmed that the rumors were not true in a letter in November 1941.

After World War II the Constellation came into its own as a very fast civil airliner. Aircraft already in production for the USAAF as C-69 transports were finished as civil airliners, with TWA receiving the first on 1 October 1945. TWA’s first transatlantic proving flight departed Washington, DC, on December 3, 1945, arriving in Paris on December 4 via Gander, Nova Scotia and Shannon, Ireland.

Trans World Airlines transatlantic service started on February 6, 1946 with a New York-Paris flight in a Constellation. On June 17, 1947 Pan American World Airways opened the first ever scheduled round-the-world service with their L-749 Clipper America. The famous flight “Pan Am 1” operated until 1982.

As the first pressurized airliner in widespread use, the Constellation helped to usher in affordable and comfortable air travel. Operators of Constellations included the following airlines:

CABIN:

For its time, the cabin represented the ultimate in luxury with comfort and room to spare.

Cabin

Cabin (2)

Maybe someone can comment on a statement I have heard more than once.  In the early days of commercial aviation, all of the cabin crew had to be registered nurses.  Do you know if that is a fact?

COCKPIT:

Notice from the digital below, all of the flight systems were analogue. No digital in those days.  Also notice, the aircraft was meant to be managed by a three-man flight crew; i.e. pilot-in-command, co-pilot and flight engineer or navigator.  The right side of the cockpit was designed for a navigator.

Cockpit

Two fairly large fans, one left and one right, kept the flight crew reasonably comfortable.

Times have certainly changed from my first flight in 1969.  No more analogue or two-man flight crew and now air travel is the “new” Greyhound.  It’s affordable, at least to some degree.

As always, I welcome your comments.

SAFETY FIRST

August 22, 2015


Flying remains one of the safest, if not THE safest, modes of transportation when going International or cross-country.  The U.S. Department of Transportation tells us that 815.3 million scheduled passengers traveled on U.S. airlines and airlines coming from foreign countries to the United States in 2012.  This equates to 580,501,000 passenger miles. 2013 numbers approach 600 million.  We have all been in situations where we wish we were “down there”, but those are mostly weather-related and we did survive.   I used to fly two and sometimes three times per month and in the forty plus years in the air there was only one incident where mechanical difficulties or weather took us down.  I was flying from Atlanta to Sao Paulo on business when we lost an engine.  This was over Brasilia.  This pilot, to his credit, was very calm and indicated we needed to make an unscheduled stop.  We landed and deplaned for a four hour wait until repairs were made.  No panic.

If we examine the most-used modes of transportation, we see the following:

AUTOMOBILE:

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) gives us the following statistic:

“In 2010, there were an estimated 5,419,000 crashes (30,296 fatal crashes), killing 32,999 and injuring 2,239,000 individuals.  The 32,479 traffic fatalities in 2011 represented the lowest in sixty-two (62 years) (1949). Records indicate that there have been a total of 3,551,332 motor vehicle deaths in the United States from 1899 to 2012.”  Each year just about the same number of fatalities demonstrates the stark reality that driving is, by far, the most dangerous way to travel.

AIRLINE:

If we look at the total number of airline crashes on a global basis, we see the following.

AIRLINE CRASHES

RAIL:

Transportation by rail is very safe although hundreds of individuals die each year from walking on rails, running barriers when trains are approaching, and other weird occurrences.  The Federal Railroad Administration issued the following news release:

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Apr. 13, 2015 – Latest safety statistics released by the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) in April confirmed 2014 was the safest year on record for freight train operations in the United States.

Highlights of FRA freight rail safety data (per million train miles):

Since 2000, the train accident rate is down 45 percent, a new low, and the 2014 train accident rate was down 7 percent compared with 2013.

The track-caused accident rate has dropped 54 percent since 2000 and 12 percent from 2013.

The equipment-caused accident rate has dropped 44 percent since 2000 and 6 percent from 2013.

The rate for human factor-caused accidents has declined 44 percent since 2000 and 4 percent from 2013.

“The freight rail industry is working all out to prevent any train incident, large or small. It is an ongoing 24/7 commitment and our goal remains zero accidents,” said Edward R. Hamberger, president and CEO of the Association of American Railroads. “Freight railroads are always looking to further advance safety and will continue to move forward with safety-focused initiatives and cutting-edge research and development.”

BOATING:

  • In 2012, the Coast Guard counted 4515 accidents that involved 651 deaths, 3000 injuries and approximately $38 million dollars of damage to property as a result of recreational boating accidents.
  • The fatality rate was 5.4 deaths per 100,000 registered recreational vessels. This rate represents a 12.9% decrease from last year’s fatality rate of 6.2 deaths per 100,000 registered recreational vessels. • Compared to 2011, the number of accidents decreased 1.6%, the number of deaths decreased 14.1% and the number of injuries decreased 2.6%.
  • Almost seventy-one (71) percent of all fatal boating accident victims drowned, and of those, almost eighty-five (85) percent were not reported as wearing a life jacket.
  • Almost fourteen percent (14) of deaths occurred on boats where the operator had received boating safety instruction. Only nine (9) percent of deaths occurred on vessels where the operator had received boating safety instruction from a NASBLA approved course provider.
  • Seven out of every ten boaters who drowned were using vessels less than 21 feet in length.
  • Operator inattention, operator inexperience, improper lookout, machinery failure, and excessive speed rank as the top five primary contributing factors in accidents.
  • Alcohol use is the leading contributing factor in fatal boating accidents; it was listed as the leading factor in 17% of deaths.
  • Twenty-four children under age thirteen lost their lives while boating in 2012. Ten children or approximately forty-two (42) percent of the children who died in 2012 died from drowning. Two children or twenty (20) percent of those who drowned were wearing a life jacket as required by state and federal law.
  • The most common types of vessels involved in reported accidents were open motorboats (47%), personal watercraft (19%), and cabin motorboats (15%).
  • The 12,101,936 recreational vessels registered by the states in 2012 represent a 0.59% decrease from last year when 12,173,935 recreational vessels were registered.

With this in mind, let’s consider the airline industry and what lists represent the best and the worst.  The following lists were taken from http://www.planecrashinformation.com/cause.html.  Very good site and one I keep up with PRIOR to any foreign travel.

We all fly, at least occasionally, so let’s look at the best and worst airlines relative to safety.  This list was provided by the site previously mentioned and CNN. We won’t examine schedule reliability or lost bags at this time, just safety.

THE WORLD’S SAFETIST AIRLINES:

  • QUANTAS
  • New Zealand
  • British Airways
  • Cathy Pacific Airways
  • Emirates
  • Etihad Airways
  • EVA Air
  • Finnair
  • Lufthansa
  • Singapore Airways

TOP TEN (10) SAFEST LOW COST AIRLINES:

  • AirLingus
  • Alaska Airlines
  • Iceland Air
  • JetBlue
  • Jetstar
  • Kulula Airlines
  • Monarch Airlines
  • Thomas Cook Airlines
  • Tulfly
  • West Jet

THE WORST AIRLINES RELATIVE TO SAFETY:

I’m listing the worst airlines and a very brief bio of each airline. PLEASE NOTE:  Depending upon your final destination, there are other airlines with good to great safety records that will get you there.  It is always recommended you do your research relative to availablility.

  • TARA Air—TARA Air is the newest and biggest airline service provider in the Nepalese mountains. This company has started business with the mission of helping develop the rural Nepal. Accordingly, their service is concentrated in the hills and mountains of the country from the Far East to the Far West.
  • Nepal Airlines— Nepal Airlines Corporation (NAC) was incorporated on 1 July 1958 through enactment of Nepal Airlines Corporation Act. 2019 with the following main objective:  to provide air transport service to any person, agency or organization who need such service for transportation of men or materials from one airport to another, either within or outside the country.
  • Kazakhstan Scat Airlines— SCAT Airlines, legally PLL SCAT Air Company, is an airline with its head office on the property of Shymkent Airport in ShymkentKazakhstan. It operates services to all major cities of Kazakhstan and to neighboring countries. Its main base is Shymkent Airport, with hubs at Oral Ak Zhol AirportAqtau Airport,Astana International AirportAtyrau AirportKyzylorda Airport and Almaty International Airport.
  • Kazakhstan Kam Air— Kam Air is headquartered in Kabul/Afghanistan. It operates scheduled domestic passenger services and international services to the Middle East, Asian republics and from August 2010 also to Vienna (Austria) and London/Gatwick (United Kingdom) in Europe. Its main base is Kabul International Airport.
  • Malaysia Airlines— Malaysian Airline System  is a major airline operating flights from Kuala Lumpur International Airport and from secondary hubs in Kota Kinabalu and Kuching to destinations throughout Asia as well as a handful of destinations in Europe and Oceania. Malaysia Airlines is the flag carrier of Malaysia and a member of the One-world airline alliance. The company’s headquarters are located on the grounds of Sultan Abdul Aziz Shah Airport in Subang, Selangorand Greater Kuala Lumpur.
  • Malaysia Philippines Airlines— Philippine Airlines (PAL), Asia’s first airlines and the national flag carrier of the Republic of the Philippines, showcases the best of the Filipino people and the country – warm hospitality, refreshing smiles, attentive service, and eagerness to help.
    PAL serves 31 destinations in the Philippines and 39 destinations overseas in Southeast and East Asia, the Middle East, Oceania, North America, and Europe from Ninoy Aquino International Airport’s Centennial Terminal 2 in Manila and the Mactan International Airport in Cebu.
  • Air India Express— Air India is the flag carrier airline of India owned by Air India Limited (AIL), a Government of India enterprise. It is the third largest airline in India after IndiGo and Jet Airways in domestic market share, and operates a fleet of Airbus and Boeing aircraft serving various domestic and international airports. It is headquartered at the Indian Airlines House in New Delhi.  Air India has two major domestic hubs at Indira Gandhi International Airport and Chhatrapati Shivaji International Airport, and secondary hubs at Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose International Airport, Kolkata and Chennai International Airport. The airline formerly operated a hub at Frankfurt Airport which was terminated becauseof high costs. However, another international hub is being planned at the Dubai International Airport.
  • ASKY Airlines— ASKY Airlines is a passenger airline founded on the initiative of West African governments, and has its head office in LoméTogo. It operates across several West and Central African countries, operating out of its hub at Lomé-Tokoin Airport.
  • Avia Traffic Company— Avia Traffic Company is an airline with its head office in BishkekKyrgyzstan.  Its flights operate from Manas International Airport. The airline is on the List of air carriers banned in the European Union. The list of air carriers banned in the European Union is a list of airlines failing to meet regulatory oversight standards of the EU, and which are banned from entering the airspace of any member state.  The first version of the list was published in 2006, on the legal basis of the Regulation No. 474/2006 of the European Commission, issued on 22 March of that year. The current version of the list was published on 25 June 2015.
  • Blue Wing— Blue Wing Airlines n.v. is an airline with its head office on the grounds of Zorg en Hoop Airport in ParamariboSuriname.  The airline started operations in January 2002 and operates charter and scheduled services from Paramaribo to destinations in the interior of Suriname,GuyanaBrazilVenezuela and the Caribbean area. Its main base is Zorg en Hoop Airport.  The airline was on the list of air carriers banned in the EU; however, they were removed from the list as of 28 November 2007. As of 6 July 2010, however, the airline was once again on the blacklist and remains on the blacklist to this current day. In 2014 the airline was ranked as one of the worlds least safe by Airline Ratings.
  • Camair Company— The Cameroon Airlines Corporation, trading as Camair-Co, is an airline from Cameroon, serving as flag carrier of the country, a role which was previously filled by the now-defunct Cameroon Airlines.   Camair-Co is based in Douala and operates out of Douala International Airport.  Camair-co was created on 11 September 2006 by decree of Paul Biya, the President of Cameroon, as a company aimed at replacing Cameroon Airlines, the country’s national airline at that time. Cameroon Airlines was shut down in June 2008, but it took until 2011 for Camair-Co to launch flight services. The inaugural flight from Douala to Paris via Yaoundé took place on 28 March.
  • Cambodian Ankor Air— Cambodia Angkor Air is the national flag carrier airline of Cambodia, headquartered in Phnom Penh. It commenced operations on 28 July 2009. The airline is owned by the Cambodian government (51%) and Vietnam Airlines (49%), the latter allowing for code-share flights. All of its planes are leased from Vietnam airlines
  • Daallo Airlines— Daallo Airlines is a Somali-owned airline based at Dubai Airport Free Zone in Al GarhoudDubaiUnited Arab Emirates.  With its main hub at the Djibouti–Ambouli International Airport, the airline operates scheduled services in the Horn of Africa and the Middle East.   Daallo briefly ceased all operations in March 2010, but resumed operations later in the year.
  • Drukair Royal Bhutan— Drukair Corporation Limited operating as Drukair — Royal Bhutan Airlines, is the national airline of the Kingdom of Bhutan, headquartered in the western region of Paro.  Founded in 1981, ten years after Druk Gyalpo Jigme Dorji Wangchuck gradually began to open up the kingdom from self-imposed isolation, and seven years after welcoming its first foreign visitors, the airline commenced operations in 1983 with flights from Calcutta to Paro utilizing Dornier Do 228aircraft. A switch to BAe 146-100 equipment occurred in November 1988, and in order to meet increased demand, those aircraft were replaced in 2004 with two Airbus A319s.Drukair operates a modest scheduled flight network within the South Asian region from its base at Paro Airport and currently consists of eight destinations in five countries.
  • Fastjet— Fastjet Plc is a low-cost airline aimed to provide a pan-African service. The airline was initially created with the acquisition of Fly540, an airline operating in East Africa, and flights in Fastjet’s own name commenced in November 2012.  Fastjet had been in negotiations to acquire the assets of failed 1time Airline, but those talks were put on hold.  Fastjet had entered into a memorandum of understanding to form a joint venture with JetLink Express, but that, too, was put on hold.
  • Fly 540– Five Forty Aviation Ltd, trading as Fly540, was a low-cost airline which commenced operations in 2006 and is based in NairobiKenya, that operates domestic and international passenger and freight services.  The airline had two subsidiary airlines Fly540 Ghana (suspended in May 2014) and Fly540 Angola (suspended in February 2014) but has since focused its business expansion plans on East Africa.   All of these companies are majority stake-holder owned by the London-based African investment group Lonrho Ltd.  Fly540 was acquired by Fastjet Plc and began operating in November 2012.
  • Iraqi Airways Iraqi Airways Company, operating as Iraqi Airways, is the national carrier of Iraq, headquartered on the grounds of Baghdad International Airport in Baghdad.  One of the oldest airlines in the Middle East, Iraqi Airways operates domestic and regional service. Its main base is Baghdad International Airport.  Iraqi Airways is a member of the Arab Air Carriers Organization.

As you can see, the worst airlines in the world are operated mostly by regional, third-world carriers.  Africa, the Middle East and the Far East seem to operate regional carriers with significant issues; mostly maintenance-related.  Training is also a huge problem with these regional carriers.  If you are traveling and don’t have information regarding the carrier—LOOK IT UP. Get their safety record for the past five, maybe ten years.  Remember—it’s better to be down here wishing you were up there than up there wishing you were down here.

Just a thought.

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