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.
New Zealand boasts a number of top-class airports, offering travelers fine facilities as they move from one destination to the next. Long distance international flights are mainly operated from Christchurch International Airport and Auckland Airport. Intermediate and domestic flights, with limited international flights, are operated from airports such as Dunedin International Airport, Hamilton International Airport, Queenstown International Airport, Wellington International Airport and Palmerston North International Airport. Domestic flights are serviced by smaller airports, for example Greymouth Airport, New Plymouth Airport, Wanaka Airport and Gisborne Airport, to name a few.
The Auckland Airport is managed by Auckland International Airport Limited, and is by far the busiest and biggest of the New Zealand airports. This airport annually accommodates more than 13 million passengers and is situated near the business district of Auckland. Airlines that operate from the Auckland International Airport, includes Air New Zealand, Emirates, Qantas, Thai Airlines, Virgin Blue, Malaysia Airlines and Jetstar Airways.
The other long distance international New Zealand airport is Christchurch International Airport that was established in 1935. Even though this airport is not as big as Auckland International Airport, it still has just under 6 million passengers walk through its doors in a year, and also has major airlines such as Air New Zealand, Air Pacific, Emirates, Jetstar, Qantas, Virgin Blue and Singapore Airlines operating from its terminals.
Airports such as Palmerston North International Airport are domestic airports with limited international flights. Palmerston North International Airport for instance, handles approximately 550 000 passengers in a year, with about 700 monthly scheduled flights. They have a limited number of airlines that operate from their terminals, such as Air Nelson, Air New Zealand, Freedom Air, Eagle Airways and Mount Cooke Airline.
Wanaka Airport, for example, is a domestic airport. It has a daily flight, once a day, to and from Christchurch, but concentrates mainly on chartered flight operations, chartered helicopter flights, helicopter training facilities and recreational facilities for privately owned aircrafts and skydiving and parachuting enthusiasts.
Airports in New Zealand:
Gatwick Airport started out as a modest little airfield in 1931, that was privately owned by Home Counties Aviation Services, later being taken over by Airports Limited. Once in hands of Airports Limited, the aprons, taxiways and a terminal were constructed. Gatwick opened its doors to passengers in 1936, and passengers were able to reach the airport by train, walkways and subways. Its operations were abandoned due to not having a paved runway in 1938, and Gatwick eventually served as a base to the Royal Air Force during the second world war. In 1946, it was commissioned for civil use again, but still had a grass runway. Changes only came in 1953 after it was declared the second London airport, and was closed for renovations until 1956. Traffic slowly started increasing over the following years and extensions were built to the terminal. In 1978 this London airport became a gateway to transatlantic travel and by 1980, passenger traffic had grown to 10 million. By the year 2000 Gatwick had increased its passenger records of 32 million, and is the second largest airport in Britain.
Gatwick operates two runways, both constructed of asphalt, with one measuring 3,316 meters (10,879), and the other measureing 2,565 meters (8,415 feet). Operations and traffic at Gatwick is directed from two terminals, namely the South Terminal and the North Terminal. The North Terminal deals with airliners such as Aer Lingus, British Airways, Delta Air Lines, Air France and other commercial airlines. As charter flights are not permitted at Heathrow, the bulk of the charter flights are made to and from Gatwick Airport, and the North Terminal. Restrictions, in regard to transatlantic flights, are also enforced by Heathrow and therefore, Gatwick receives most of the traffic between the United States and Britain. The South Terminal deals with most of the traffic that comes in and out of Gatwick, including international, charter and domestic flights.
Both the North and South Terminals have convenient parking that is divided into Long Term, Short Term, Fast Track and Business Parking. Parking facilities for disabled and wheel chair passengers are reserved exclusively for their use. Gatwick Airport also accommodates a wide variety of passenger facilities such as foreign exchange services, ATM’s, smoking areas, postal services, restaurants, book stores, bars, shoe and clothing stores, gift shops, jewelry stores, fast food stores, pharmacies, luxury goods stores, designer boutiques and health stores.
The Managua International Airport was formerly known as the Las Mercedes International Airport when it opened in 1968. It was later renamed to Augusto C. Sandino International Airport at the time of the Sandista regime. In the 1970s the airport building was remodeled to offer background music, air conditioning, restaurants and conveyors belts. The changes also brought about the recruitment of customs inspectors, health inspectors and immigration officers. By 1975, the airport was able to accommodate three airplanes simultaneously, and led to airlines such as Airline of Nicaragua, Pan Am Airlines, Lanica Airlines and Iberia Airlines to operate flights to and from this airport in Nicaragua. Refurbishments were done to airport in 1996, and it was renamed to the Managua International Airport.
This airport in Nicaragua is managed by the EAAI,or Empresa Administradora de Aeropuertos Internacionales. Many factors such as alliances, airline infrastructure and globalization have led to the success of the air traffic industry. The EAAI have broadened their outlook on future of the Managua International Airport by implementing long term and short term goals and strategies.
The Managua International Airport has one asphalt runway that is 2 442 meters in length, and can easily accommodate airplanes such as Boeing 767’s, Boeing 707’s, DC10’s, Boeing 727’s, Boeing 757’s and the Boeing 737’s. The airport employs about 350 Nicaraguans, who oversee and assist the daily running of the airport and create a safe and pleasant environment for passengers. Airlines that have flights running to and from the airport include Delta Air Lines, TACA, Air Transat, Copa Airlines, American Airlines, Continental Airlines and Aero Caribbean.
The facilities in the terminal of the Managua International Airport include restaurants, banking facilities, gift shops and postal services. Taxi, bus and shuttle services are available to passengers to get to the airport, or to leave the airport by. Car rental companies such as Argus Car Hire are located in the airport building.