With electronic devices firmly entrenched as part of daily lives for many travelers, airlines are under pressure to allow passengers to use their tablets, laptops, smartphone, e-readers and other devices without restriction during flights. In the United States, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has been working on a set of regulations to govern the use of these devices on airplanes, but is reportedly far from ready to put any new rules into action, with the delay being attributed to the authority’s desire to put into place a concise set of regulations to deal with current, and even future, technology.
A year ago, the industry working group set up by the FAA noted that, faced with evolving electronic technology, the FAA was reviewing the use of personal electronic devices, excluding the use of cellphones, on aircraft. A full year later the FAA appears to be no closer to resolving the issue and this has drawn sharp criticism from some quarters. Among the critics is Senator Clair McCaskill (D-MO) who recently announced her plans to circumvent the FAA and introduce legislation allowing passengers the freedom to use their electronic devices throughout a flight.
The increasing number of different types of electronic devices brought by passengers onto airplanes is adding to the difficulty of drafting a set of standard regulations. The FAA working group needs to include all these devices and take into account the different modes of operation they offer. Currently a number of electronic devices include an “airplane mode” option, which generally means that they do not send or receive wireless signals, but this is not necessarily standard across all devices with this option. Also, there is concern that FAA’s desire to have rules that will apply to devices of the future may not be realistic given the speed at which technology is developing. The group has apparently also noted concerns over expecting already busy flight attendants to police the use of various devices.
The initial concern with the use of electronic devices on flights addressed, among other things, the issue of possible interference with electronic signals pilots rely on for safe flight. To date, the FAA reportedly has no record of aviation accidents caused by interference from personal electronic devices. Flight attendants note that their main concern is that passengers should not be using electronic devices when the safety measures are presented at the beginning of the flight, as they need to hear and understand what should be done in the event of an emergency.
The FAA anticipates a final report from the working group later this year, with rule changes being implemented by the end of 2013.
With greenhouse gases and climate change continuing to be in the spotlight, over the past decade aircraft manufacturers have made a number of improvements in aerodynamics and the development of lighter construction materials, all of which make a contribution to fuel efficiency. The Airbus A380 entered service with Singapore Airlines in October 2007, and two months later the CEO noted that the plane dubbed by the media as the Superjumbo was performing beyond the expectations of the airline and the manufacturer, by burning up to 20 percent less fuel per passenger than the Boeing 747-400 aircraft in Singapore Airline’s fleet.
While aerodynamics and composite materials play a role in fuel efficiency, the engines powering the planes hold the key to meaningful fuel savings. Engine manufacturers are also in the position to promote the move to sustainable biofuels. In a recently reported interview, Vice President of technology and environment for US-based engine manufacturer Pratt & Whitney, Alan H. Epstein, noted that because the aviation industry has made the drop-in fuel concept a reality, the change to sustainable biofuels can be facilitated without compromising engine efficiency or safety. Epstein pointed out that few people are aware of the fact that jet fuel varies significantly around the world, so when refueling at a foreign airport, an airplane will be making use of different fuel, or a blend of its original fuel and the new fuel. Taking this into account, the biofuel that has been tested may be considered to be a better option than petroleum based jet-fuels, but only if the composition of biofuel around the world is uniform.
The current requirement for biofuel is a 50 percent mix with fossil fuels, and while tests have been run with significantly higher concentrations of biofuels, the 50-50 specification is likely to remain for the foreseeable future. With regard to crops for biofuels impacting negatively on food crops, Epstein noted that defining biofuels as “sustainable” means at the very least that its production will not interfere with food production, food prices and water. Conceding that with current technology it would take land the size of Europe to grow biofuels for Europe’s aviation industry, Epstein said that finding ways of making more biofuel in a sustainable way is up to biological technology, not engine or airplane technology, which is already capable of utilizing biofuels efficiently.
In response to increasing demand from airlines, Boeing has launched an improved version of the popular 737 in which a more fuel efficient engine will be used. The Boeing 737 is cited as the world’s best-selling aircraft for commercial use, and this engine upgrade is one of the measures being taken by Boeing to ensure that it retains its market share. Rising fuel costs have become a heavy burden on airlines struggling to remain competitive in the commercial travel market, and engines offering greater fuel efficiency can translate into big savings for airlines.
The new 737 MAX will be fitted with the Leap-1B engine, manufactured by current engine supplier, CFM International – a joint venture between French company Safran and General Electric. The new engines are expected to be up to 12 percent more fuel efficient than the current engines, with changes including a larger fan and design adjustments to allow more of the air entering the front of the engine to bypass the engine core. Moreover, new materials used in the engines are able to withstand more heat and there will be a reduced gap between the tips of the fan and the shell enclosing the engine. According to associate aerospace engineering professor at Embry Riddle Aeronautical University, Magdy Attia, all these changes will result in the new engine being more fuel efficient than those in the 737 airplanes currently in service.
It has been reported that Boeing had been considering a complete redesign on the 737, but with Airbus due to release its more fuel efficient airplane in 2015 and up to 1,000 already on order, it was decided to keep the current 737 design, and replace the engine. Research has revealed that airlines are quite satisfied with the current design of the 737 and are willing to support Boeing’s changeover to the new 737 MAX. The new version is expected to go into service in 2017 and Boeing already has a commitment from five airlines to buy 496 of the 737 MAX. Boeing executive vice president, and head of Boeing’s commercial airplane division, was reported as saying with regard to the 737 MAX: “Our customers have told us that they want efficiency, and they want it soon, and they want it with certainty, and that’s what this airplane will do.”
There are numerous anxious student pilots out there that cannot wait to get into a cockpit and begin their studies to become a qualified pilot. With so many prospects and a demand for pilots across the world, it is a popular career move. Piloting is not only restricted to commercial airlines but also companies that recruit their own personal pilots, small aircraft piloting, cargo, military pilots and even law enforcement makes use of pilots. Deciding what to do once qualified is a daunting task, but even more serious is finding the right flight school that will suit a student’s needs and that is reliable.
Many smaller flight schools close down without warning for numerous reasons and would-be students are therefore advised to do research on their prospective flight school before signing up. First decide what your long term goal is in regard to taking flight training, and then begin to look for a flight school that can accommodate those goals. If a flight school has been in business for a number of years, for example ten or twenty years, it shows that the business is stable enough to continue running through good and hard economic times.
After deciding which flight schools to look at, there are a few important questions to ask and features to look out for. Flight schools that have achieved high ratings will have certificates to display for their competence, and finding out their safety rate in regard to accidents is also recommended. Visiting the flight school and talking to management, trainers and current students will also assist in accessing the flight school. Pilot Examiners and looking into the qualifications of the trainers could be informative. Prospective students can also make use of the internet to search for any additional information or comments in regard to the specific flight school.
Then there is the cost involved. Flight school is not an inexpensive route, and it is therefore vital that prospective students remember that finding the lowest price is not the most important part of finding a flight school. The quality of the program, the amount of flight hours that are included in the package and the type of flight training available is vital. Once a student has found a school they are completely comfortable with, all they need to do is look forward to working towards making their dreams come true.
The volcanic eruption in Iceland that brought the aviation industry to a standstill in April has raised new questions and kick-started new research. Thousands of travelers remain grounded and airplane companies are suffering great losses due to the threat of volcanic ash, now over Spain and Morocco. This has led engineers and researchers to consider whether there is an alternative technology that will allow jet engines to operate in such circumstances. Understanding the composition of volcanic ash could allow engineers to develop new technologies and eliminate the danger posed to jet engine aircraft.
In 1982 a British Airways flight suffered considerable damage and the airplane was almost lost due to the crew flying through a stretch on their flight path that was filled with volcanic ash. They were not aware that a volcano had erupted and that ash was being carried into their level of flight. All four engines stopped, leaving the aircraft to plummet for twelve minutes before the engines miraculously gained power again and the flight landed safely. Volcanic ash consists of pulverized rock that has glassy particles, and due to its dry composition and the fact that it is always moving, weather radars cannot pick up this change in the atmosphere. Jet engines rely on the air that is sucked in to cool the turbines, and when volcanic ash is pulled into the turbines, ducts are clogged up by the dust and this leads to overheating. As the heat of the engine increases, the glassy particles can also begin to melt, causing further damage to the engine.
Agencies, such as the FAA, or Federal Aviation Administration, are engaged in ongoing studies to determine the limit of engines that have taken in ash. Working in conjunction the European Union, agencies are sharing vital information with each other to find guidelines and solutions to the volcanic ash threat. Although it is not easy to determine what the yield on ash is for a jet engine, authorities hope that their research will assist them in creating safety measures for the future. For now, the aviation industry relies on the Volcanic Ash Advisory Centers that were established by the International Civil Aviation Organization to prevent catastrophe and danger to aircraft.
The organizers of Network Latin America 2009 will be hosting their exhibition from 6 – 8 December 2009 at the Princess Juliana International Airport. It gives airports from across the world, the opportunity to familiar themselves with Latin American carriers, build relationships with operators and meet various tourism authorities. Guest speakers will be discussing global trends, and private meetings between interested parties and the airlines can also be arranged.
Additional information in regard to the organizers, participants and general exhibition information is available on the official website http://www.networklatinamerica.com/.
Date: 6 -8 December 2009
Venue: Princess Juliana International Airport
City: St Maarten
Country: Netherlands Antilles, Caribbean
While airlines have been toying with the idea of in-flight internet access for some time now, decreasing passenger numbers and increasing competitiveness between rival airlines in the US, may prove to be the driving force behind the idea becoming a reality. A number of US carriers, including United Airlines, Southwest Airlines and American Airlines, are either testing or have reached the stage of implementing Wi-Fi access on selected flights, marketing this facility as a draw-card for passengers.
Barcelona International Airport (BCN), also known as El Prat de Llobregat Aeropuerto, or more simply El Prat, is the city’s main airport. Situated just 13km from the center of Barcelona, this airport is the second largest in the country. Numerous airlines fly between Barcelona Airport and a wide variety of destinations. At present the Barcelona International Airport is being expanded and an additional south terminal will be up and running by 2009.
The original El Prat airport of Barcelona was opened in 1918. At first it was the base of the Zeppelin fleet belonging to the Spanish Navy. The airport began dealing with commercial flights in 1927. The terminal was reconstructed in 1968. As the country prepared for the Summer Olympics of 1992 a second terminal was built at Barcelona’s airport. Over time the number of passengers making use of Barcelona International Airport has grown and thus further plans have been made to expand to accommodate these swelling numbers.
Presently, Barcelona International Airport has 3 runways and 3 terminals. Terminal A is used for foreign airline departures as well as international arrivals. Terminal B is for the use of Spanish airline departures, plus European Union arrivals. Terminal C serves Air Shuttle flights and is for General Aviation. The airport in Barcelona has an annual capacity of 27 million. There are 63 gates and 133 check-in desks for the convenience of travelers. Information desks are scattered all through the Airport. Tourist desks can be found in both Terminals A and B. Also located in these terminals are banks, ATMs and a bureaux de change. A variety of other traveler needs are met by means of the post office, pharmacy, medical service, travel agents, tour operators and children’s entertainment areas. Shoppers can take full advantage of duty-free shops, a shoe shop, newsagents, jewelers, tobacconists, a bookshop and a music shop. If you are looking for something to eat or drink, there are several restaurants, cafeterias and bars on offer at Barcelona’s airport. Business people are well catered for with the Sala Europa conference room and various business services, including internet access. The airport in Barcelona also has many facilities for use by the disabled.
Transport to and from Barcelona International Airport is abundant. Taxis in Barcelona are an inexpensive and easy way to travel. The Shuttle bus service runs at regular intervals from the airport to the city and back. Alternatively travelers can make use of the RENFE train from Barcelona Airport to the city center from which you can make use of the metro system. If you prefer navigating through Barcelona on your own, you can hire cars at agents located at the airport. There are a number of top agents for car hire in Barcelona.
The Penang International Airport is located in the Bayan Lepas area of Penang. Because of this, it is also referred to as the Bayan Lepas International Airport. The airport is located just outside of Penang’s capital city of Georgetown and has been in use for quite some time so it is well-established and operations generally run quite smoothly. Penang is seen as being one of Malaysia’s bigger airports and is quite a popular choice for those wishing to fly to this part of the country. However, because the Kuala Lumpur International Airport is newer it is often chosen in preference to the Penang Airport.
The airport is a fairly large public facility that is currently operated by the Malaysia Airports Holdings Berhad. It mainly serves the surrounding areas of Penang and has a relatively low elevation of only 9 ft (3 m) above sea level. The airport has only one runway which is made of asphalt and which measures 11 003 ft (3 354 m) in length, long enough to cater to most types of larger aircraft. When compared to other Asian airports, the services at Penang International are quite limited. However, they do provide for most of one’s basic needs and you will find two duty-free shops, a restaurant, a bank, restrooms, waiting areas, a foreign exchange office and a car rental facility at the airport.
When you arrive at Penang International Airport, you will find that the majority of the airlines that operate from here are of Asian origin. Thus, the vast majority of flights arriving at the airport are from other Asian countries and if you are planning to travel from further away you will most likely have to get a connecting flight to the country. Most foreign visitors choose to take taxis from the airport to their place of accommodation although you may also want to consider making use of the bus services available. You might also consider renting a car if you have been to Penang before and are confident that you can navigate your way around successfully. For those living in Penang, the airport has a long-term parking service and you may leave your car here for the duration of your trip.
Spain’s Madrid Barajas Airport (MAD) is the busiest airport in the country. Statistics state that this fine airport handles some 40 million travelers each year, carrying them to both domestic and international destinations. Just 13 km from the center of the city, Madrid Barajas International Airport is convenient to reach and offers a top-notch experience to passengers. Madrid’s airport deals with transatlantic flights and is actually one of Europe’s main airports for offering flights to South and Central America.
Due to the large number of flights handled at Madrid International Airport, a new terminal was added in 2006 along with 2 additional runways. Madrid Barajas Airport has 4 runways now. Two of these run parallel to each other along the north-south axis. The other two run parallel on the northwest-southeast axis. Because of the design simultaneous landings and take-offs are possible and the airport has the capacity for 120 operations per hour.
Airport parking at Madrid Barajas is offered through 7 parking facilities along with a valet service if wanted. The airport has 4 terminals plus a satellite terminal, each with different airlines and purposes assigned to them. The newest building is Terminal 4 or T4. This new section handles international flights. Madrid Barajas International Airport provides an abundance of facilities for the convenience and comfort of travelers. Airport information desks can be seen throughout the airport. Also look out for the “Skycaps” who will be able to assist you. Tourist desks are found in Terminals 1 and 2. In the airport there are 3 banks, several ATMS and a few bureaux de changes. Passengers can also make use of the post office, nurseries, medical service center, pharmacies, travel agencies and beauty center. Madrid’s airport even has 2 chapels. Business travelers have the use of a business center in Terminal 2 as well as VIP lounges. Whilst waiting for your flight you may wish to engage in some shopping at the music shop, duty-free stores, tobacconist, jeweler, clothing store or sport shop. If you are feeling hungry or thirsty there are some 30 restaurants, cafés and bars in the airport. A variety of services and facilities are available for disabled passengers.
There are a number of transportation options available for people traveling to or from Madrid Barajas Airport. Madrid has an excellent Metro system which runs right up to the airport’s 2nd terminal. Outside of all the airport’s terminals are taxi stands. Madrid has a reliable bus service with various buses making runs between town and the different terminals.