Mar 23, 2009

It's a Car! It's a Plane! It's Car-o-Plane!

Every attempt to produce a flying car has resulted in a vehicle that wasn't very good in either medium. Will this one finally break that mold? Recently the high cost of gasoline has led to easements in road regulations allowing for experimental electric vehicles. Perhaps the timing will be just right to allow exceptions for a roadable aircraft as well.

But, should your tastes lean towards a sportier, flying "motorcycle/ATV!" check this:

Mar 21, 2009

Pull up and go around!

During flight simulator tests one of the maneuvers we fly is a so-called "aborted landing." That is, we must suddenly break off our landing attempt, usually from a low altitude, low airspeed configuration. Sometimes we'll already be flying with one engine shutdown. Other times an engine failure during the go around adds to the excitement.

When we initiate a Go Around from close to the runway the wheels will momentarily touch down. One of the key factors in the drill is to not raise the landing gear until we are safely established in a climb. Another important factor is to not become distracted from flying the aircraft. It's disorienting to feel the wheels rolling along the ground while your brain is still in "flying" mode.

Simulator instructors have various scenarios they throw at us to trigger this exercise. One of the favorites is to issue an ATC instruction like: "GooseAir One - vehicle on the runway - pull up and go around!" (*see note below)

In fact vehicles do from time-to-time invade our landing space, but this one is a little unusual:

Runway driving lesson causes near disaster

A passenger plane narrowly avoided a crash in the Philippines - after a man teaching his girlfriend to drive sped across an airport runway.

The Cebu Pacific plane, with 80 passengers aboard, briefly touched down at Legazpi airport, but took off again as the van crossed the runway.

"That van could have turned us into a fireball had I not successfully aborted landing," pilot Christopher Nowioki told the Philippine Star.

The newspaper says the culprit was actually the son of the airport manager Frisco Sto. Domingo who has now been sacked It's thought that the driver may have thought all the flights to the airport were completed for the day, and decided to use the runway to give his girlfriend a driving lesson. However, a recent increase in the number of scheduled flights, combined with poor visibility, caught him out.

* The phrase "Go around," is aviation jargon meaning historically, circle around the airport's traffic pattern and come back for another approach. In practice, it means, "Discontinue your approach and landing. Climb back up to a safe altitude because there's currently a problem ahead. Synonymous expressions often used are, "Pull Up," or the less frequent, "Abort."

Mar 20, 2009


While "leaders" at failing corporations like AIG and Nortel pay bonuses to the people that are destroying the companies, other Leaders have a different way of doing things - (Airline executives should take note!):

Three months ago, FedEx announced broad-based cost cuts including a 20 per cent pay cut for CEO Smith, a 7.5 to 10 per cent cut for other executives and a five per cent cut for thousands of others. The company also froze retirement plan contributions for a year, among other cost-saving measures. FedEx employs about 290,000 people worldwide.

... FedEx shares rose $2.05, or 4.8 per cent, to close at $45.10 Thursday.

Mar 18, 2009

Thirst in Spaaaaaaaace?

A little "ewwww!" excerpt from a report on the latest space shuttle mission:

Urine recycling system fix

The other major delivery to the station is a replacement distillation assembly for the station's water recycling system, which converts urine into drinking water for the station's astronauts.

The space shuttle Endeavour delivered the recycling system to the station in November 2008, but the distillation assembly, which removes impurities from the urine in the early stages of the recycling process — failed not long after the shuttle departed and returned to Earth.

Hmmm... gets me thinking. Would the CEO of low-cost carrier Ryanair, who is apparently thinking of installing pay toilets on his planes, also be thinking of saving money by installing this system next?

Double ewww!

Okay - enough of the 12-year-old-boy jokes. Back to serious stuff! humph ...

Mar 7, 2009

Unusual Publicity.

The hull of U.S. Airways flight 1549 was recently towed through city streets to the site of the continuing investigation. What is interesting is that U.S. Airways has chosen not to paint out the company name and logo. Generally after an accident this is one of the first things that companies do to limit the damage to their corporate identity (see the China Airlines photo above for an example). I guess someone at U.S. Airways decided this event had a more positive spin?

U.S. Airways Flight 1549 Being towed to Harrison N.J. from Anthony Quintano on Vimeo.

Mar 4, 2009

I'm Flying! I'm Flying!

Hilarious and oh-so-true, especially his comments about airline flying:

Everything is Amazing - Nobody is Happy!

Schiphol - more "Who's Flying the Airplane?"

Every aircraft is a complex system of faults waiting to happen. Ironically (in light of some comments being spread across the internet subsequent to the Hudson river ditching), the Airbus automation contains specific safe-guards against loss of airspeed in flight. Would that have prevented this accident? Who knows.

Our best chance of avoiding accidents comes from alert, well-trained pilots recognizing an approaching disaster and taking appropriate action.

This seems to be an authentic bulletin from an aviation site -- and it also illustrates why the media should refrain from quoting 'expert' sources about the cause of an accident before the investigation is complete. At this point it looks like windshear is ruled out and there were some anomalies in the automated flight systems. Why an experienced pilot would let the situation deteriorate to this point is the next big question that needs to be addressed.

Every accident is a complex alignment of contributing factors. These usually coincide with opportunities along the way for us carbon-based units to recognize the growing danger and avoid it.

From Boeing
TO: MOM [MESSAGE NUMBER:MOM-MOM-09-0063-01B] 04-Mar-2009 05:29:01 AM US PACIFIC TIME
Multi Operator Message

This message is sent to all 737-100,-200,-300,-400,-500,-600,-700,-800,-900,-BBJ customers and to respective Boeing Field Service bases, Regional Directors, the Air Transport Association, International Air Transport Association, and Airline Resident Representatives.

SERVICE REQUEST ID: 1-1228079803
ACCOUNT: Boeing Correspondence (MOM)
DUE DATE: 10-Mar-2009
PRODUCT: 737-100,-200,-300,-400,-500,-600,-700,-800,-900,-BBJ
ATA: 3400-00

SUBJECT: 737-800 TC-JGE Accident at Schiphol Airport, Amsterdam - 25 February 2009

/A/ 1-1222489391 Dated 25 February 2009

Reference /A/ provides Boeing's previous fleet communication on the subject event. The US NTSB, FAA, Boeing, the Turkish DGCA, the operator, the UK AAIB, and the French BEA continue to actively support the Dutch Safety Board's (DSB) investigation of this accident.

The DSB has released a statement on the progress of the investigation and has approved the release of the following information.

While the complex investigation is just beginning, certain facts have emerged from work completed thus far:

- To date, no evidence has been found of bird strike, engine or airframe icing, wake turbulence or windshear.
- There was adequate fuel on board the airplane during the entire flight.
- Both engines responded normally to throttle inputs during the entire flight.
- The airplane responded normally to flight control inputs throughout the flight.

The Digital Flight Data Recorder (DFDR) data indicates that the crew was using autopilot B and the autothrottle for an ILS (Instrument Landing System) approach to runway 18R at Amsterdam Schiphol airport. During the approach, the right Low Range Radio Altimeter (LRRA) was providing accurate data and the left LRRA was providing an erroneous reading of -7 to -8 feet. When descending through approximately 2000 feet the autothrottle, which uses the left radio altimeter data, transitioned to landing flare mode and retarded the throttles to the idle stop. The throttles remained at the idle stop for approximately 100 seconds during which time the airspeed decreased to approximately 40 knots below the selected approach speed.

The two LRRA systems provide height above ground readings to several aircraft systems including the instrument displays, autothrottle, autopilots and configuration/ground proximity warning. If one LRRA provides erroneous altitude readings, typical flight deck effects, which require flight crew intervention whether or not accompanied by an LRRA fault flag, include:

- Large differences between displayed radio altitudes, including radio altitude readings of -8 feet in flight.
- Inability to engage both autopilots in dual channel APP (Approach) mode
- Unexpected removal of the Flight Director Command Bars during approach
- Unexpected Configuration Warnings during approach, go-around and initial climb after takeoff
- Premature FMA (Flight Mode Annunciation) indicating autothrottle RETARD mode during approach phase with the airplane above 27 feet AGL. There will also be corresponding throttle movement towards the idle stop. Additionally, the FMA will continue to indicate RETARD after the throttles have reached the idle stop

Boeing Recommended Action
- Boeing recommends operators inform flight crews of the above investigation details and the DSB interim report when it is released. In addition, crews should be reminded to carefully monitor primary flight instruments (airspeed, attitude etc.) and the FMA for autoflight modes. More information can be found in the Boeing 737 Flight Crew Training Manual and Flight Crew Operations Manual.

Operators who experience any of the flight deck effects described above should consult the troubleshooting instructions contained in the 737 Airplane Maintenance Manual. Further, 737-NG operators may wish to review 737NG-FTD-34-09001 which provides information specific for the 737-NG installation. Initial investigations suggest that a similar sequence of events and flight deck indications are theoretically possible on the 737-100/-200/-300/-400/-500. Consequently the above recommendations also apply to earlier 737 models.