Previously in Aviation and Music I had written about "yoyoman," who creates interesting audio compositions that incorporate aviation sounds. Well, he's taken another step and merged music with video in his new creation, "Early Morning Landing at Heathrow." You can read more in his message board and view and listen at Flightlevel350. It's a fascinating multi-media creation with an aviation theme.
Wednesday, August 24, 2005
If you love technology tid bits of all sorts, check out Slashdot. They call it "News for Nerds. Stuff that Matters" and that's just what it is.
In Shape Changing Plane In Development, they reference the University of Florida "morphing wing drone" news story, Airborne drones, mimicking gulls, alter wing shape for agility. "The 6-inch- to 2-foot- drones [are] capable of squeezing in and out of tight spots in cities... Their secret: seagull-inspired wings that 'morph,' or change shape, dramatically during flight, transforming the planes’ stability and agility at the touch of a button on the operator’s remote control... If you fly in the urban canyon, through alleys, around parking garages and between buildings, you need to do sharp turns, spins and dives..."
So what would you do with these things? Well, you could "snoop up close in the windows, alleys, corners and other urban crevices of the tight neighborhoods that define many cities." What cities? Those involved in conflicts and war. The U.S. Air Force is very interested in this capability, and, along with NASA, are funding this research.
You'll also find links to images and videos of the craft in the Slashdot piece, and an extensive thread of comments by readers.
Each year, Air Transport World produces a Classic Airliner Calendar with high quality photography suitable for framing, and interesting historical facts. The 2006 edition is now available for purchase.
Industry events are highlighted throughout, along with international holidays and the roll out and first flight dates for historical aircraft.
Tuesday, August 23, 2005
DING! is a software tool that brings live updates of southwest.com offers directly to your desktop, getting you a jump on the latest Southwest sales. You downloadand and install this thing on your computer and watch the exclusive offers come in.
Here's how it works:
1. Once you install the application, an icon representing the Southwest Airlines plane tail will display in your system tray.
2. When Southwest delivers a new message to your DING! application, an envelope will display over the DING! icon.
3. Click on the DING! icon in the status bar to display the offers delivered to you. Also, at any time you can click on the icon to bring up the display window to refer back to the offer and/or navigate to other tools on southwest.com.
The New York Times (free registration) describes this in Your Very Own Personal Air Fare.
This might be a game changer in the way airline fares work. The historic model is to segregate passengers into a number of fare classes, with different restrictions and profit margins. Business travelers have long subsidized discount leisure travelers. It's old, but the May 8, 2003 piece by MSNBC, "Inside the mysteries ofairline fares" provides some insights into this.
In my opinion, the Internet economy, with it's approximation of the theoretical "perfect information" marketplace (remember Economics 101?) causes this old model to break down. As airlines struggle to stop hemorrhaging huge sums of cash, clever ideas like Ding! are bound to emerge.
I wonder what's next?
Sunday, August 21, 2005
akdart.com is an interesting site where you'll find "original content, frank commentary and information you won't find anywhere else."
Of particular interest is the Airline Insanity page which covers "overreaction to the threat of terrorism." "This page is about long lines due to security screening, political correctness overcoming common sense (for example, searching Al Gore as if he was a terrorist threat), head-to-toe xrays of every passenger, strip searches, wanding, groping and probing of people, no matter how obviously harmless, and the extra scrutiny given to people who fit a set of secret parameters."
"This page is also about Big Brother's secret no-fly list. If there is a list of known dangerous people, so dangerous that they can't be allowed aboard an airplane, why aren't those people arrested or deported? What does it take to get on the list? Nobody will say."
As an example of what you'll find there, the Tampa Bay Online carried an AP piece Oh Baby: Infants Among Those Caught Up in 'no-Fly' Confusion:
"Infants have been stopped from boarding planes at airports throughout the U.S. because their names are the same as or similar to those of possible terrorists on the government's 'no-fly list.'"Anyway, akdart is an interesting non-commercial site that is "updated frequently, family friendly, and cookieless. No frames, no banner ads, no shopping carts." It's a good example of that the Web was meant to be.
Friday, August 19, 2005
I think I've mentioned it before, but Composites News turns out to be a great place to find aviation articles, and not just about the increasing use of composites in aircraft. All this from their latest newsletter:
A380 to Perform to 'Survivability' Test
Regulators are imposing requirements aimed at the A380 crashworthiness and evacuations to see that they match existing airliners. U.S. Federal Aviation Administration and European Aviation Safety Agency are proposing that Airbus prove that passengers' chances of survival in an A380 "survivable" crash are equal to or better than in any other airliners such as the 747 and A330.
This new standard may be part of 10 special conditions imposed on certification approval for the A380.
The FAA, it seems, wants to ensure that the full length, double deck layout doesn't present any unique issues that affect passenger safety. Sounds OK to me - we pay those guys to think about those things.
Australian Unmanned Vehicles Offer New Defence Capabilities
Australia's future military operations will be supported by forces of robots and unmanned vehicles which will be highly integrated and controlled by defense personnel from a distance...Pratt & Whitney, Northrop Grumman Begin Ground Tests for X-47B J-UCAS Engine
Pratt & Whitney and Northrop Grumman Corporation have begun ground testing the power plant for the X-47B Joint Unmanned Combat Air System (J-UCAS) at Pratt & Whitney's advanced test facility in West Palm Beach, Florida.
The joint DARPA/Air Force/Navy J-UCAS program will demonstrate the technical feasibility and operational utility of low observability or "stealth" land- and sea-based unmanned surveillance-attack aircraft, and provide the Air Force and Navy the option to acquire these systems early in the next decade.
The engine is a modified version of the F100-220E that powers the F-15 and F-16 aircraft.
Tuesday, August 16, 2005
Composites World reports that:
"Two Joint Unmanned Combat Air Systems (J-UCAS) X-45A unmanned aircraft, built at The Boeing Co.'s (Chicago, Ill.) St. Louis-based Boeing Integrated Defense Systems manufacturing facility, successfully completed a graduation exercise when they flew their most challenging simulated combat mission, Aug. 10, 2005, at NASA's Dryden Flight Research Center, Edwards Air Force Base, Calif."
"...the X-45As departed from the base, climbed to altitude, and autonomously used their on-board decision-making software to determine the best route of flight within the 'area of action' or AOA... The mission involved identifying, attacking and destroying pre-identified ground-based radars and associated missile launchers before they could be used to launch surface-to-air missiles."
"...the X-45A faced a simulated 'pop-up' threat, used evasive maneuvers to avoid it, and autonomously determined which vehicle held the optimum position, weapons and fuel, enabling it to attack the higher priority simulated target. Once the pilot authorized the attack, the unmanned aircraft simulated dropping weapons on the target."
gizmag has more information and several photographs. This is also the same aircraft featured in the movie "Stealth," about a rogue drone that threatens to touch off a war after being struck by lightning.
Thursday, August 11, 2005
I just received the Summer 2005 newsletter from Angel Flight East, a non-profit organization of pilots and volunteers who provide free medical transportation for needy patients. There are a number of these organizations (see Humanitarian & Charitable Aviation Organizations at Thirty Thousand Feet), but AFE is the one I send money to each year.
Anyway, the newsletter describes pending U.S. legislation that provides liability relief for volunteer pilots and organizations. In the event of an accident, the organization, officers, employees, and non-flying volunteers would be exempt from liability. Volunteer pilots would be exempt from any uncovered liability. AFE goes on to note that there are many pilots who decline to volunteer for fear that their potential liability could exceed their insurance limits.
If you'd like to learn more about this and what you can do, The Air Care Alliance (a league of humanitarian flying organizations) has a good Legislation page. There you'll find background information, links to the legislation text, how to take supportive action, and a lot of other data and links.
Take a moment to do something good.
Tuesday, August 09, 2005
USA Today posted a comprehensive article August 8 about the use of "smart-chips" in U.S. and other passports. In Electronic passports set to thwart forgers, USA Today says:
The U.S. passport is joining the digital age. After three years of research and discussion, the State Department has finalized most of the technical and logistical details of new, supposedly tamper-proof passports embedded with a "smart-card" chip.
Proponents say the chip, which will contain the holder's personal data and digital photo, should allow speedier entry at borders for most travelers.
Because the chip's data can't be altered, proponents say, forging passports will be virtually impossible. That, they say, gives authorities a potent new anti-terrorism weapon.
The article goes describes the process and provides some history of the concept.
Previously, Wired News in Passport Chip Criticism Grows, noted that:
Business travel groups, security experts and privacy advocates are looking to derail a government plan to insert remotely readable chips in American passports, calling the chips homing devices for high-tech muggers, identity thieves and even terrorists.
But the U.S. State Department, which plans to start issuing the new passports to citizens later this year, says its critics are overstating the risks. Officials say that the chips will cut down on passport forgery, improve security and speed up border crossings.
The State Department is also adding technical features to prevent the radio-frequency identification devices, or RFID chips, in new passports from being "skimmed" by unauthorized readers...GovExec.com, in Officials disagree over effectiveness of passport chip:
Opponents of the wireless chips in passports have suggested that the technology could make Americans vulnerable to identity theft domestically, and Americans traveling abroad could be walking targets for terrorists. They say that fraudsters and terrorists could purchase scanners to scan crowds to acquire the information contained in the chips.
Frank Moss, State's deputy assistant secretary for passport services, said during a panel discussion that civil libertarians' have overblown their concern that fraudsters and terrorists having the ability to access that data remotely with their own chip scanners and then to commit crimes with that information. The chips can only be read by a machine that is at the most 10 centimeters away, he said.Meanwhile, privacy activist Bill Scannell has launched RFID Kills, a web site designed to discourage the State Department from deploying remote tagging technology in passports.
RFID (radio frequency identification) chips are passive devices - that is, they contain no power source (battery). How do they accomplish a wireless radio transmission? Well, they contain a type of antenna that actually generates it's own electricity by induction when passed through the right electromagnetic field. So there's no danger of zapping yourself with radio waves.
The security concern is with other people who have the equipment and are close enough to activate your passport RFID to read the data. That concern seems to be addressed by design modifications that significantly limit the range of the transmission.
The privacy concern, beyond the unauthorized reading of your passport, is what data the government might embed in the things, and how they'll use that data. If your personal paranoia meter is high, this is a big deal. If you have more mainstream trust of your government, then it's not a big deal.
The RFID passport standard is applicable to all countries. Tech Web reported in the June 2 piece, Germans Opt For Philips Smart Passport Chip, that:
The German government has chosen the Netherlands' Royal Philips Electronics' wireless chips for use in its smart passports.
"Based on sophisticated encryption technology the highly secure chip will be used to hold personal information on the passport holder, reducing fraud and forgery of travel documents and increasing security for travelers," Philips said in a statement.
The Philips chip is said to exceed the specifications for smart passports set by the International Civil Aviation Organization. Philips says it is offering high volumes of 320 micron flat MOB4 chip package for smart passports.
This part is a little scary:
The chip is specifically designed to handle the needs of eGovernment projects, the company says.
I'm not sure what those needs are, but that's something to watch!