Archive for the 'science' Category

Airbus A380 Flies On Alternative Fuel

As AirlineWorld has reported last year, Boeing had earlier announced two test flights with alternative fuel to be conducted together with Air New Zealand sometime through 2008 (later a similar plan was announced in cooperation with Virgin Atlantic) . As a slap in the face, Airbus earlier this week announced that they have successfully carried out a similar test one week ago, on Friday, 01FEB2008, becoming the first ever commercial flight using such fuel.

As ATW and Airbus have reported, Airbus operated this test flight using a liquid fuel processed from gas on its new, supposedly currently most eco-friendly super-jumbo, the A380 (test aircraft A380 MSN004). The commercial aircraft was partially powered by an alternative fuel. The Gas to Liquids (GTL) test flight between two of Aribus’s operational bases from Filton, UK to Toulouse, France lasted 3 hr. During the flight, engine number one of four Rolls-Royce Trent 900 engines was fed with a blend of GTL and jet fuel while the remaining three consumed regular standard jet fuel. Shell International Petroleum provided the GTL. During the test flight, they have tested maximum throttle, maximum flight altitude, and maximum speed as well.

Airbus A380 flies on alternative fuel (photo from China Post)

The test, which the manufacturer said was the first of several of its kind that it will conduct, was in accordance with the agreement it signed in November 2007 with the Qatar GTL consortium partners, which include Qatar Airways, Rolls-Royce, Qatar Petroleum, Shell, Qatar Science & Technology Park and Woqod Qatar Fuel Co. “This is the first step of a long-term Airbus testing phase to evaluate viable and sustainable alternative fuels for the future,” the company said. “GTL could be available at certain locations to make it a practical and viable drop-in alternative fuel for commercial aviation in the short term. GTL has attractive characteristics for local air quality, as well as some benefits in terms of aircraft fuel burn relative to existing jet fuel.” GTL is virtually free of sulphur, it noted. Qatar Airways has a target to become the first airline in the world to use such a synthetic fuel in their everyday operations.

Airbus President and CEO Tom Enders called the flight “a great achievement,” adding: “Fuel and environment are key challenges aviation is facing and for which technology and international research collaboration open up new horizons. Our alternative fuels roadmap requires innovation, diversity of ideas and options that need to be explored.

The official video of the test flight by Airbus can be viewed here. 

by balint01

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Bermuda Triangle And Other Geomagnetic Zones Cause Navigation Problems

According to Russia Infor Center, pilots of one of the air clubs of the Omsk Region of Russia have found that flights over the ruins of the Pokrovskaya Fortress often result in failure of flight-navigation instruments and spinning of the compass magnetic needle.
“Frankly speaking, it is not a pleasant feeling as if you get in a reversed world where the habitual physics laws do not work. It is easy to crash here. The situation usually lasts only several minutes, but these minutes are enough to realize how helpless a person can be when comes upon the unexplained”, as one of the air club members Andrey Gagarin admits.

The fortress

Up to now the Pokrovskaya Fortress has been mainly a subject of archaeologists’ interest. This summer the regional enthusiasts joint the scientists. They have examined the fortress territory and draw their attention to the fact that within several kilometres around there are no villages or settlements and that even birds are rare guests here. The explorers also try not to stay in the zone for long complaining that they start having headaches, anxious thoughts and insomnia.

Although the anxious thoguhts and insomnia might have a psychological background rather than geomagnetical activity, it is true that there are similar areas both under oceans and on the mainland. Just to mention the most famous, the Bermuda Triangle area is also thought to be a more active geomagnetical zone.

Geomagnetic field of Earth

Earth’s geomagnetic field is approximately a magnetic dipole, with one pole near the north pole (see Magnetic North Pole) and the other near the geographic south pole (see Magnetic South Pole). An imaginary line joining the magnetic poles would be inclined by approximately 11.3° from the planet’s axis of rotation. The cause of the field is probably explained by dynamo theory. Navigation of both ships and planes were always based on this gemagnetic field. The anomalous zones disturb the regulerity of this field somehow. It is not clear for scientists what causes the anomalies in such zones, but pilots always try avoid them.

I would be grateful if anybody who knows more about the scientific background of geomagnetic zones could give us some more detailed explanation on the topic.

By Szafi

Space Shuttle Atlantis Ready For Launch In December

The launch team at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center and the crew members of STS-122 concluded a successful dress rehearsal Tuesday for the upcoming launch of space shuttle Atlantis.

The real event is targeted for Dec. 6 on a flight to the International Space Station, but astronauts and flight managers and contractors routinely run through a complete practice to get ready for a liftoff.

NASA astronaut Steve Frick led his crew through the same activities they will conduct on launch day, including getting on orange pressure suits, riding to the launch pad in the astrovan and strapping into Atlantis.

Atlantis crew members

NASA astronauts Alan Poindexter, Leland Melvin, Rex Walheim took their places on the flight deck of Atlantis along with Frick.

There are two European astronauts also taling part in the mission. Hans Schlegel and Leopold Eyharts reclined in their seats on the lower deck. “For us Europeans, it is a special event,” Schlegel said. “For me personally, it is an honor and a duty and a joy for this team to bring up this unit and activate it in orbit.”

Atlantis is scheduled to spend at least 11 days in orbit. Three spacewalks are planned while the shuttle is docked at the station, to deliver and install the European Space Agency’s Columbus module to the ISS.

You can read more technical details of the space shuttle as an aircraft in our earlier post.

By Szafi

The Scandalous Road of A380

On 25 October 2007 the first scheduled flight operated by an Airbus A380 takes off from Singapore to Sydney. Tickets for the first flight were sold on e-Bay for USD 1,25 million. The total profit of the first flight will go to charity. Singapore Airlines is a very caring, proud new owner. They took part in the developments from day one. CEO Chew Choon Seng said at the delivery ceremony: “From today there is a new queen of the skies in air travel.”

The Supersize Queen

The Superjumbo is a record from many aspects. The following numbers present how outstanding this giant plane is. It is 73 m long (as a comparison the width of a soccer field is 73 m). Its wingspan is 80 m and its height is 24 m. The operating empty weight is 277 tons, while maximum take off wieght is 560 tons. Usable cabin space: 630 sq m. In the cockpit there are no more rod controls, normal PC joysticks are used isntead. The big lady requires more space on the ground, too. The early studies thought that the A380 will ruin all runways and taxiways, but the first tests show it harms concrete and asphalt less than Boeing 747 as A380 has 22 wheels, while Jumbo has 4 less. It seems that any airport can accept the A380, but still it needs more space on tha apron and during maneuvering in front of the terminal buildings. Bridges designed for double decker planes are also necessary for simultaneous passenger boarding. Naturally the huge engines make bigger turbulance than other frequently used passenger aircrafts, so more space is needed for taking off or landing after an A380.

Airbus A380 nose by Hervé Goussé (from a380delivery.com)

Flying Wonderland

The huge milady is definately luxurious. The new Singapore Airlines fleet member will carry 471 people on board (the plane itself can be seated up to 800, but the standard 3 cabin – economy, business, first – configuration can have 550 seats). The 399 economy seats will feature and a 23 cm widescreen for 100 movies, 180 TV programmes, 700 cd and 22 radio stations to choose from. The 60 business seats on the upper deck will be laid-out in a 1-2-1 formation, with each seat being 86 cm wide. The business seats convert to a fully-flat bed. The First Class Suites look something similar to old classy train cabins rather than airplane seats. They are cabins and not seats with a full size mattress, a wide screen on the wall and they can easily be transformed from a bedroom to a mini restaurant, where first class passengers can invite their first class mates for dinner. First class cabins can be paired up and opened to a bigger suite with a double bed.

A380 Interior as planned by Emirates (Business Class)

It is not just Singapore Airlines that wants to give special services to its high yield passengers. Emirates that has just reseated it 777 fleet with first class cabins resembling the spirit of the old Orient-Express. They are expected to present similar luxury on board their new A380s. They will probably create more social scenes as well, such as a bar or a fitness room at least that is what Virgin Atlantic plans to do, so they must keep themselves competitive. 🙂 Qantas also plans a bar and even their business class seats will have built-in massage function. Lufthansa has just presented the first part of their new First Class concept by opening a new First Class lounge at Frankfurt and Munich.

The long and winding road

Airbus started planning the development of a Megaliner – as they called it at that time. Their goal was to break the dominance of Boeing in the giant planes segment with its very successful 747. Other competitors also tried to enter the market, but they all failed. It was clearly visible that this segment is too small for more than 2 models, therefore Airbus and Boeing joined efforts and wrote a feasibility study of a common plane together. The common development never started, so following the decision of Airbus’ Supervisory Board on 19 december 2000, a EUR 8.8 bllion project was started. The number 8 in the A380 is a symbol of the double deck and in many Far-Eastern cultures it is a lucky number (and as mentioned above, Singapore Airlines took part from the first day). The number was not that lucky in this case though as the project missed its deadline by 1,5 years and overdrafted its budget by EUR 2.2 billion. The first delay was announced in June 2005 blaming the enormous amount (530 km) of cables needed for each oaircraft. The next delay came in June 2006 followed by a 26% drop in the value of Airbus and the owner company EADS shares. At this point there were serious consequences and the CEO of EADS and Airbus and the A380 programme manager had to leave their companies. It was the new CEO who announced the biggest delay in October 2006 and successfully estimating the first delivery to happen a year later. In connection with the delays, a new scandal came into the sight of both the media and the French parliament. It appeared that before the June 2006 delay announcement, EADS and Airbus high level managers sold their shares. They are accused with internal trading and now a legal procedure is on against them.

What is next?

Seventeen airlines have ordered the A380, including an order from aircraft lessor ILFC. Total orders for the A380 stand at 190, of which 165 were firm as of 30 September 2007. Airbus expects to sell a total of 750 aircraft, and estimated break-even at 420 units, increased from 270 due to the delays and the falling exchange rate of the US dollar. In April 2007, Airbus CEO Louis Gallois said that break-even had risen further, but declined to give the new figure. Industry analysts anticipate between 400 and 880 sales by 2025. As of 2006, the list price of an A380 is US$ 296 to 316 million, depending on equipment installed.

CEO’s celebrating the delivery of the first A380 to Singapore Airlines

It is still unprojectable whether the business model of such a huge tin lady will be successful or not. It can be operated profitably by airlines taht have many long haul flights with huge number of passengers on these routes. The number of such airlines is limited and due to travel seasons it is not sure that even on these routes they can always fill this huge bird. Anyway we keep our fingers crossed, because when seeing such scientific development, we can always see our own evolution.

By Szafi and Balint01

Virgin Atlantic Involved in Biofuel Testing

As AirlineWorld reported earlier, Air New Zealand (ANZ), Boeing and Rolls Royce joined efforts to start testing Boeing 747s using biofuel. Although only 1 out of the 4 engines will run on biofuel, it is definately a serious step towards greener aviation.

Now  here is a new initiation from Virgin Atlantic. Virgin Group Chairman Richard Branson said yesterday that Virgin Atlantic plans testing biofuel again on a B 747. This time the other partners involved are Boeing and GE. Although it seems to be top secret, there were hints that this biofuel is different from the one used in the case of ANZ.

Virgin’s 747 as well as ANZ’s will fly without passengers during testing.

By Szafi 

Q400 Safety Issues

As AirlineWorld reported earlier, all Bombardier Q400s were advised to be grounded for a security check following the accident of Scandinavian Airline’s flight to Aalborg on September 9, 2007.

Following the article, we received a comment from Mr Murray Cohen:

“I am a retired flight controls engineer. I have been following the Q400 accidents that occurred in Denmark and Lithuania very closely and consider these accidents to be very critical situations. These failures are giving the aircraft industry a subtle, but urgent warning that must be addressed. I found a report, dated September 15, 2007 online re – Preliminary Report on Danish SAS Q400 accident that included a very useful drawing for analyzing the failure mode. It would also be very useful to review a drawing or sketch of the main landing gear retract/extend actuator, manufactured by the Goodrich Corp. in Tullahoma, Tennessee in order to confirm my analysis of these failures. Please note that a nose gear incident occurred on a Q400 in Japan on March 13, 2007, and I suspect that it is probable that it contains a similar actuator design as the main landing gear system. Another nose landing gear accident occurred in Munich, Germany on September 21, 2007. If this is true, it would be very important to inspect the nose landing gear actuator as well as the main landing gear actuator. In my study of the main landing gear reports, some investigators noted the fact that the jam nut backed off and the lockwire was missing. This condition, could eventually cause a disconnection of the rod end, which was also stated by investigators in preliminary reports. This failure may have actually occurred after 10,000 cycles while coupled with severe impact upon landings. This scenario seems very plausible. Most of the hydraulic actuators used in the aircraft industry contain a locking device to prevent rotation of the actuator piston, and are secured by a jam nut, and lockwired to prevent the jam nut and the locking device from backing off. Early discussions regarding this failure were stated that corrosion in the linkage probably played a major role in the accident. I don’t believe that corrosion played a significant role in these failures. My intention is not to interfere with the official investigation of these accidents, but to offer a feasible scenario to help solve the problem.”

I wrote a letter to Bombardier and I was given the following answer:

“Investigations into the Q400 right main landing gear incidents in Denmark
and Lithuania are
still continuing, as are the investigations into the nose landing gear
incidents in Japan and Munich.

We cannot comment or speculate on the root causes of these incidents until
such time as
the authorities have concluded their investigations and issued  their final
reports. We can however advise
that on the basis of published preliminary reports and comments by the
authorities as to the focus of their
investigations,  there is no relationship between the two nose landing gear
incidents and no relationship
between those and the Danish and Lithuanian incidents.

We suggest you contact the relevant aviation authorities for more
information.”

I think it is a correct answer and naturally we will carry on and contact the relevant authorities. In the meantime Mr Murray has left for holiday, but we are waiting for his comment.

If you are interested in the follow-up of this conversation, please make sure to add our blog’s RSS to your RSS reader!

By Szafi 

Music and Flying II – U2 or U-2?

Some days ago we started a block about music and flying. The first article was about Rammstein. This is the second article of the series.

The Irish rock Band U2 is known probably to most people on this planet. However it is not necessarily known that a military plane manufactured by Lockheed had the same name. It is not official that the band was named after the plane, but taking the fact their biggest idol was Led Zeppelin which also refers to flying, it might have a relationship with it.

So what is U-2?

Lockheed U-2 is also named Dragon Lady. It is a surveillance plane used by the US Air Force. It was developed in the early 1950s, when the cold war made it necessary to know more about each other’s technologies. U-2’s cruising hight is 70 000 feet (jets fly at around 35 000 feet), so it is not vulnerable by missiles and besides that is is outside the reach of radar detection. The plane was designed by Clarence “Kelly” Johnson, who was well known at that time in the US army as he designed more aircrafts active at that time. First it was rejected by the army, but later CIA’s attention was drawn to it and following a personal meeting with president Eisenhower, the US ordered the first 20 aircrafts from Lockheed. The Dragon Lady has large wingspan, which makes it easier to fly high, but it makes the aircraft sensitive for crosswind, so landing is not easy with it.

U-2U-2 cockpitU-2 landing

There is a lot to learn about this very special aircraft, so I collected some links for those interested in it:

Wikipedia’s article about the U-2

About U-2 on the website of Federation of American Scientists

James Huggins’ site – his brother was a U-2 pilot

And what is U2?

Well, there is not too much to tell about the relationship between the band itself and aviation. So if you would like to learn more about the band, the best source is Wikipedia. 🙂

By Szafi

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