WHERE WERE YOU

September 11, 2017


Do you remember where you were on September 9, 2001?  At 8:46 on the morning of September 9, 2001 Mohammed Atta and other hijackers aboard American Airlines Flight 11 crash the plane into floors 93-99 of the North Tower of the World Trade Center, killing everyone on board and hundreds inside the building.

Seventeen (17) minutes later at 9:03 am – Hijackers crash United Airlines Flight 175 into floors 75-85 of the WTC’s South Tower, killing everyone on board and hundreds inside the building.

The WTC buildings, before their demise, are pictured in the digital picture below.

The first crash is shown as follows:

I was in the “cube farm” working as a mechanical engineer for the Roper Corporation, Inc when Duane Lee came over and indicated his wife had just called telling him a small plane had crashed into one of the towers of the World Trade Center in New York.  I have a private pilot’s license so my first impression was a student pilot had gotten into heavy winds and mismanaged the controls allowing the plane to veer into the tower.  Maybe mechanical problems with the aircraft.  Maybe a medical emergency.  None of these really seemed plausible because there are very specific FAA regulations regarding airplanes relative to structures.

91.119 Minimum safe altitudes; general

“Over congested areas – Over any congested area of a city, town, or settlement, or over any open-air assembly of persons, an altitude of 1,000 feet above the highest obstacle within a horizontal radius of 2,000 feet of the aircraft.”

” Over other than congested areas – An altitude of 500 feet above the surface except over open water or sparsely populated areas. In that case, the aircraft may not be operated closer than 500 feet to any person, vessel, vehicle, or structure.”

I think we can all agree; downtown NYC is a significantly congested area so one thousand feet (1,000) above and two thousand (2,000) feet within a horizontal radius would be the norm.  Something did NOT add up.  I called one of my sons and asked him if he had heard about the small airplane hitting the tower.  SMALL—not small, an airliner.  As we were speaking, the second plane hit the south tower.  It became very obvious that we were under attack.   That fact was confirmed when at 9:37 am – Hijackers aboard Flight 77 crash the plane into the western façade of the Pentagon in Washington, D.C., killing fifty-nine (59) aboard the plane and one hundred and twenty-five (125) military and civilian personnel inside the building.

At 9:42 am – For the first time in history, the FAA grounds all flights over or bound for the continental United States. Some three thousand (3,300) commercial flights and twelve hundred (1,200) private planes are guided to airports in Canada and the United States over the next two-and-a-half hours.

The resulting destruction is given with the following three pictures:

 

At 10:07 am – After passengers and crew members aboard the hijacked Flight 93 contact friends and family and learn about the attacks in New York and Washington, they mount an attempt to retake the plane. In response, hijackers deliberately crash the plane into a field in Somerset County, Pennsylvania, killing all 40 passengers and crew aboard.

For me, this was one of the worst days in my not-so-short life.  By noon, it was obvious we were at war.  With whom, I had no idea but payback was in order and with President Bush in office that payback would be assured.  Only cowards kill innocent civilians—ONLY COWARDS.

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THE USS GERALD R. FORD

July 28, 2017


This past Saturday the U.S. Navy commissioned its most powerful warship yet: the USS Gerald Ford.  The nuclear-powered aircraft carrier is outfitted with state-of-the-art technology and capacity for more aircraft and weaponry than ever before. A digital photograph of the carrier is given below.  As you can see, it is a massive vessel with a length of 1,106-feet; comparing to the size of approximately three football fields. The extra room allows for an expanded flight deck making it easier for jets and drones to maneuver. Additionally, it features a better-positioned “island” structure, giving the captain of the ship improved visibility.

It features an electromagnetic launch system and advanced arresting gear for faster and more efficient take-offs and landings. The vessel is outfitted with touchscreen navigation display in place of a traditional throttle and is equipped with a reactor plant that can power the ship for up to twenty (20) years without refueling. Imagine, twenty (20) years without refueling!

With more than double the electrical capacity and automated equipment, means the ship can sail more efficiently with at least six hundred (600) crew members. Once officially deployed in 2020, it will house 2,600 sailors.  The Navy says this manning level will save more than four ($4) billion over the ship’s fifty (50)-year lifespan.

Built by Huntington Ingalls Industries, the Gerald R. Ford (CVN 78) is the first new aircraft carrier design since USS Nimitz (CVN 68), or the first new design in about forty (40) years.  The Navy has ordered three of these Ford-class carriers -combined price tag approximately forty-two ($42 billion) of which this is the very first.

This first CVN 78 is named after former U.S. President Gerald R. Ford to pay tribute to his lifetime of service to the nation in the Navy and the U.S. government. During World War II, Ford was a Navy lieutenant commander serving on the light carrier USS Monterey (a CVL 26).

The Ford class is designed with sailors and safety in mind. The design incorporates features to improve quality of life on board and to make maintenance easier. A great deal of consideration was put into improved survivability against a wide range of current and anticipated future threats.  Obviously, that helps keeps sailors safer.  The digital photograph below will give you some idea as to areas of improved survivability.

The military will be able to launch about 33 percent more aircraft than it can from the older carriers. The more aircraft the military can launch, the more bombs it can hit a target with.

SPECIFICATIONS:

I have a sneaking feeling there are other marvelous improvements but those are certainly classified.  All-in-all, this is one mean machine and with our ageing fleet of naval ships, a very welcomed addition.

DUNKIRK

July 22, 2017


My wife and I love to go to the movies. Please note, I said GO to the movies.  We don’t really enjoy downloading a “flick” and watching at home although admittedly, sometimes it is very convenient.  Due to a serious illness our oldest son, today was our first movie in eleven (11) weeks.  We chose to see the movie DUNKIRK.  I’m a little embarrassed to tell you I had to pull up a map to see exactly where Dunkirk is.  Take a look.

The evacuation of troops trapped on Dunkirk, was called a “miracle” by Sir Winston Churchill. As the Wehrmacht swept through western Europe in the spring of 1940, using Blitzkrieg, both the French and British armies could not stop the onslaught. For the people in western Europe, World War Two (WWII) was about to start for real.

The advancing German Army trapped the British and French armies on the beaches around Dunkirk. 330,000 men were trapped in this location and they were definitely a convenient target for the Germans. Admiral Ramsey, based in Dover, formulated Operation Dynamo remove from the beaches as many men as was possible. The British troops, led by Lord John Gort, were professional soldiers from the British Expeditionary Force; trained men that British could not afford to lose. From May 26th 1940, small private ships transferred soldiers to larger ones which then brought them back to a port in southern Britain.

The beach at Dunkirk was a shallow slope so larger boats could not get close enough to rescue the men where they were. Therefore, smaller boats were needed to take on board men who would then be transferred to larger vessels based further off shore. Eight hundred (800) legendary “little ships” were used. It is thought that the smallest boat to make the journey across the Channel was the Tamzine – an eighteen (18) foot open topped fishing boat now on display at the Imperial War Museum, London.

Despite attacks from German fighters and bombers, the Wehrmacht never launched a full-scale attack on the beaches of Dunkirk. Panzer tank crews awaited the order from Hitler which never came. In his memoirs, Field Marshall Rundstadt, the German commander-in-chief in France during the 1940 campaign, called Hitler’s failure to order a full-scale attack on the troops on Dunkirk his first fatal mistake of the war. That 338,000 soldiers were evacuated from the beaches at Dunkirk would seem to uphold this view.  One of the reason for his reluctance in not ordering an attack was the belief Britain had suffered from the might of the Wehrmacht once and this experience would be sufficient for the island country to come to peace with Hitler. The total destruction of the British Expeditionary Force might have created such a climate of revenge in Britain that involvement would be prolonged. We will never know the true reason.

THE MOVIE:

I definitely enjoyed the movie but if you go expecting a “shoot’em up” you may as well stay at home and watch the national news.  There is very little dialogue in this picture but, in my opinion, this does not detract from the movie itself.  It is meant to be a visual experience which it certainly is.  No blood and gore, either which I feel was intentional on the part of writer/director Christopher Nolan.

Dunkirk was filmed on large format 65mm by cinematographer Hoyte Van Hoytema and, in my opinion, is incredible.  Even more impressive, there are virtually no computer effects in this one.  Instead of opting for digital effects including real images of battleships going under and planes crashing; an image of men trying to escape from an ocean engulfed by oil and fire feels as claustrophobic and horrific as it sounds. Also on display is Nolan’s fascination with time, each story living in different chronologies — a week, a day, an hour — that eventually come together and overlap. Technically speaking, Dunkirk is as impressive by any standard.

I have no idea as to how this movie will do at the box office but I was very surprised that Carmike Cinemas chose to show it in one of their smaller theaters.  There is significant competition right now at the movies with several very good offerings.  I just hope the production team gets a fair return on their investment. I definitely can recommend it to you.

As always, I welcome your comments.

THE BONE YARD

January 24, 2017


I entered the Air Force in 1966 and served until 1970.  I had the great fortune of working for the Air Force Logistics Command (AFLC) headquartered out of Write Patterson Air Force Base in Cleveland, Ohio.  Our biggest “customer” was the Strategic Air Force Commend or SAC.  SAC was responsible for all  ICBMs our country had in its inventory.  My job was project engineer in a section that supported the Titan II Missile, specifically the thrust chamber and turbopumps.  I interfaced with Martian, Aerojet General, Raytheon, and many other great vendors supporting the weapons system.   Weapons were located at the following sites:

  • 308 Missile Wing—Little Rock Air Force Base
  • 381 Missile Wing—McConnel Air Force Base
  • 390 Missile Wing—Davis-Monthan Air Force Base
  • 395 Strategic Missile Squadron—Vandenberg Air Force Base.

Little Rock, McConnel, and Davis-Monthan each had two squadrons or eighteen (18) per site.  There were fifty-five (55) operational Titan II missiles in the SAC inventory, each having atomic war heads.  This, by the way, was also the missile that launched the Gemini astronauts.

During my four years in AFLC, I had an opportunity to visit Little Rock AFB and Davis-Monthan AFB for brief TDY (temporary duty assignments). Each time the “mission” was to oversee re-assembly of turbopumps that had been repaired or updated. The seals between the turbopumps and the thrust chamber were absolutely critical and had to be perfectly flat to avoid leakage during liftoff.  Metrology equipment was employed to insure the flatness needed prior to installation.  It was a real process with page after page of instruction.

An underground missile silo is a remarkable piece of engineering.  A city underground—living quarters, kitchen, adequate medical facilities, communication section, elevators, etc.  You get the picture.   All of the Titan II sites were decommissioned as a result of the SALT (Strategic Arms Limitation Treaty) during the mid 1980s.

OK, with that being said, one remarkable area located at Davis-Monthan AFB is the “resting place” for many, if not most aircraft that are no longer in the operational inventory.  This is where they go to retire.  While at Davis-Monthan, I had an opportunity to visit the boneyard and it was a real “trip”.

THE BONEYARD:

Davis-Monthan AFB’s role in the storage of military aircraft began after World War II, and continues today. It has evolved into “the largest aircraft boneyard in the world”.

With the area’s low humidity– ten to twenty percent (10%-20%) range, meager rainfall of eleven inches (11″) annually, hard alkaline soil, and high altitude of 2,550 feet, Davis-Monthan is the logical choice for a major storage facility.  Aircraft are there for cannibalization of parts or storage for further use.

In 1965, the Department of Defense decided to close its Litchfield Park storage facility in Phoenix, and consolidate the Navy’s surplus air fleet into Davis-Monthan. Along with this move, the name of the 2704th Air Force Storage and Disposition Group was changed to Military Aircraft Storage and Disposition Center (MASDC) to better reflect its joint services mission.

In early 1965, aircraft from Litchfield Park began the move from Phoenix to Tucson, mostly moved by truck, a cheaper alternative than removing planes from their protective coverings, flying them, and protecting them again.

The last Air Force B-47 jet bomber was retired at the end of 1969 and the entire fleet was dismantled at D-M except for thirty (30) Stratojets, which were saved for display in air museums.  In 1085, the facilities’ name was changed again, from MASDC to the Aerospace Maintenance and Regeneration Center (AMARC) as outdated ICBM missiles also entered storage at Davis-Monthan.  In the 1990s, 365 surplus B-52 bombers were dismantled at the facility.

AMARG:

The 309th Aerospace Maintenance and Regeneration Group (AMARG), or Boneyard, is a United States Air Force aircraft and missile storage and maintenance facility in Tucson, Arizona, located on Davis-Monthan Air Force Base. AMARG was previously Aerospace Maintenance and Regeneration Center, AMARC, the Military Aircraft Storage and Disposition Center, MASDC, and was established after World War II as the 3040th Aircraft Storage Group.

AMARG takes care of more than 4,400 aircraft, which makes it the largest aircraft storage and preservation facility in the world. An Air Force Materiel Command unit, the group is under the command of the 309th Maintenance Wing at Hill Air Force BaseUtah. (NOTE:  My time in AFLC was spent at Hill Air Force Base.  I was specifically assigned to the Ogden Air Material Area or OAMA.)  AMARG was originally meant to store excess Department of Defense and Coast Guard aircraft, but has in recent years been designated the sole repository of out-of-service aircraft from all branches of the US government.

In the 1980s, the center began processing ICBMs for dismantling or reuse in satellite launches, and was renamed the Aerospace Maintenance and Regeneration Center (AMARC) to reflect the expanded focus on all aerospace assets.  A map of the boneyard may be seen below.  The surface area is acres in size.

map

As you can see from the following digital pictures, aircraft of all types are stored in the desert at Davis-Monthan AFB.

bone-yard

The aircraft below are F-4 Phantom fighters that served in Vietnam.

f-4-phantom

The view below shows you just how many acres the boneyard requires.

bone-yard-2

 

AIRCRAFT INVENTORY USED BY AMARG:

AMARG uses the following official “Type” categories for aircraft in storage:

  • Type 1000 – aircraft at AMARG for long-term storage, to be maintained until recalled to active service. These aircraft are “inviolate” – have a high potential to return to flying status and no parts may be removed from them. These aircraft are “represerved” every four years.
  • Type 2000 – aircraft available for parts reclamation, as “aircraft storage bins” for parts, to keep other aircraft flying.
  • Type 3000 – “flying hold” aircraft kept in near flyable condition in short-term, temporary storage; waiting for transfer to another unit, sale to another country, or reclassification to the other three types.
  • Type 4000 – aircraft in excess of DoD needs – these have been gutted and every useable part has been reclaimed. They will be sold, broken down into scrap, smelted into ingots, and recycled.

STORAGE PROCEDURES:

There are four categories of storage for aircraft at AMARG:

  • Long Term – Aircraft are kept intact for future use
  • Parts Reclamation – Aircraft are kept, picked apartand used for spare parts
  • Flying Hold – Aircraft are kept intact for shorter stays than Long Term
  • Excess of DoDneeds – Aircraft are sold off whole or in parts

AMARG employs 550 people, almost all civilians. The 2,600 acres (11 km2) facility is adjacent to the base. For every one dollar ($1) the federal government spends operating the facility, it saves or produces eleven dollars ($11) from harvesting spare parts and selling off inventory. Congressional oversight determines what equipment may be sold to which customer.

An aircraft going into storage undergoes the following treatments:

  • All guns, ejection seat charges, and classified hardware are removed.
  • All Navy aircraft are carefully washed with fresh water, to remove salty water environment residue, and then completely dried.
  • The fuel system is protected by draining it, refilling it with lightweight oil, and then draining it again. This leaves a protective oil film.
  • The aircraft is sealed from dust, sunlight, and high temperatures. This is done using a variety of materials, including a high-tech vinyl plastic compound that is sprayed on the aircraft. This compound is called spraylatafter its producer the Spraylat Corporation, and is applied in two coats, a black coat that seals the aircraft and a white coat that reflects the sun and helps to keep internal temperatures low.  The plane is then towed by a tug to its designated “storage” position.

The Group annually in-processes an undisclosed number of aircraft for storage and out-processes a number of aircraft for return to the active service, either repainted and sold to friendly foreign governments, recycled as target or remotely controlled drones or rebuilt as civilian cargo, transport, and/or utility aircraft.  There is much scrutiny over who (civilians, companies, foreign governments) can buy what kinds of parts. At times, these sales are canceled. The Air Force for example reclaimed several F-16s from AMARG for the Strike Fighter Tactics Instructor Courses which were originally meant to be sold to Pakistan, but never delivered due to an early-90’s embargo.

CONCLUSIONS:

I have absolutely no idea as to how much money in inventory is located at D-M but as you might expect, it’s in the billions of USD. As always, I welcome your comments.

US CYBER COMMAND

August 4, 2016


It is absolutely amazing as to the number of “hacks” perpetrated upon Federal agencies of the United States.  This statement could also be made for non-Federal institutions such as banks, independent companies, and commercial establishments from Starbucks to Target to the DNC.  Let’s see if we can quantify the extent by looking at just a few relative to our Federal government.

  • Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), August 2014.
  • White House, October 2014.
  • National Oceanic and Atmospheric Agency (NOAA), November 2014. 
  • United States Postal Service (USPS), November 2014.
  • Department of State, November 2014.
  • Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), April 2015. 
  • Department of Defense, April 2015.
  • St. Louis Federal Reserve, May 2015.
  • Internal Revenue Service May 2015. 
  • U.S. Army Web site, June 2015.
  • Office of Personnel Management (OPM), June 2015. 
  • Census Bureau, July 2015.
  • Pentagon, August 2015. 

The list is very impressive but extremely troubling. QUESTION:  Are top U.S. government leaders serious about cyber security and cyber warfare, or not?  If the answer is a resounding YES, it’s time to prove it.  Is cyber security high enough on the list of national defense priorities to warrant its own unified command? Clearly, the answer is YES.

Two major breaches last year of U.S. government databases holding personnel records and security-clearance files exposed sensitive information about at least twenty-two point one (22.1) million people, including not only federal employees and contractors but their families and friends, U.S. officials said Thursday.

The total vastly exceeds all previous estimates, and marks the most detailed accounting by the Office of Personnel Management of how many people were affected by cyber intrusions that U.S. officials have privately said were traced to the Chinese government.

Think twenty-two (22.1) million names, Social Security numbers, telephone numbers, and addresses being held by the Chinese government.  So again, clearly the time for an independent Cyber Security Command is upon us or approaching quickly.

DoD COMMAND STRUCTURE:

At the present time, there are nine (9) unified combatant commands that exist today in the United States Department of Defense.  These are as follows:

  • U.S. Africa Command based in Stuttgart, Germany
  • U.S. Central Command based at MacDill Air Force Base, Florida
  • U.S. European Command based in Stuttgart, Germany
  • U.S. Northern Command at Peterson Air Force Base, Colorado
  • U.S. Pacific Command at Camp H.M. Smith, Hawaii
  • U.S. Southern Command in Doral, Florida
  • U.S. Special Operations Command at MacDill, Florida
  • U.S. Strategic Command at Offutt Air Force Base, Nebraska
  • U.S. Transportation Command at Scott Air Force Base, Illinois

Placing Cyber Command among these organizations would take it from under the U.S. Strategic Command where it resides today as an armed forces sub-unified command.

PRECIDENT FOR CHANGE:

Over our history there have been two major structural changes to our Federal Government certainly needed for added security and safety.

UNITED STATES AIR FORCE:

World War II had been over for two years and the Korean War lay three years ahead when the Air Force ended a 40-year association with the U.S. Army to become a separate service. The U.S. Air Force thus entered a new era in which airpower became firmly established as a major element of the nation’s defense and one of its chief hopes for deterring war. The Department of the Air Force was created when President Harry S Truman signed the National Security Act of 1947.

Lawmakers explained why they felt the U.S. needed to evolve the Army Air Corps into an independent branch in a Declaration of Policy at the beginning of the National Security Act of 1947: To provide a comprehensive program for the future security of the United States; to provide three military departments: the Army, the Navy, and the Air Force; to provide for their coordination and unified direction under civilian control and to provide for the effective strategic direction and operation of the armed forces under unified control.

General Carl A. Spaatz became the first Chief of Staff of the Air Force on 26 September 1947. When General Spaatz assumed his new position, the first Secretary of the Air Force, W. Stuart Symington, was already on the job, having been sworn in on 18 September 1947.  He had been Assistant Secretary of War for Air and had already worked closely with General Spaatz.  The new Air Force was fortunate to have these two men as its first leaders. They regarded air power as an instrument of national policy and of great importance to national defense.  Both men also knew how to promote air power and win public support for the Air Force.

HOMELAND SECURITY:

Eleven days after the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, President George W. Bush announced that he would create an Office of Homeland Security in the White House and appoint Pennsylvania Governor Tom Ridge as the director. The office would oversee and coordinate a comprehensive national strategy to safeguard the country against terrorism, and respond to any future attacks.

Executive Order 13228, issued on October 8, 2001, established two entities within the White House to determine homeland security policy: the Office of Homeland Security (OHS) within the Executive Office of the President, tasked to develop and implement a national strategy to coordinate federal, state, and local counter-terrorism efforts to secure the country from and respond to terrorist threats or attacks, and the Homeland Security Council (HSC), composed of Cabinet members responsible for homeland security-related activities, was to advise the President on homeland security matters, mirroring the role the National Security Council (NSC) plays in national security.

Before the establishment of the Department of Homeland Security, homeland security activities were spread across more than forty (40) federal agencies and an estimated 2,000 separate Congressional appropriations accounts. In February 2001, the U.S. Commission on National Security/21st Century (Hart-Rudman Commission) issued its Phase III Report, recommending significant and comprehensive institutional and procedural changes throughout the executive and legislative branches in order to meet future national security challenges. Among these recommendations was the creation of a new National Homeland Security Agency to consolidate and refine the missions of the different departments and agencies that had a role in U.S. homeland security.

In March 2001, Representative Mac Thornberry (R-TX) proposed a bill to create a National Homeland Security Agency, following the recommendations of the U.S. Commission on National Security/21st Century (Hart-Rudman Commission). The bill combined FEMA, Customs, the Border Patrol, and several infrastructure offices into one agency responsible for homeland security-related activities. Hearings were held, but Congress took no further action on the bill.

CONCLUSIONS:

From the two examples above: i.e. Formation of the USAF and Homeland Security, we see there is precedent for separating Federal activities and making those activities stand-alone entities.  This is what needs to be accomplished here.  I know the arguments about increasing the size of government and these are very valid but, if done properly, the size could possibly be reduced by improving efficiency and consolidation of activities.  Now is the time for CYBER COMMAND.

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.

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