British airline carrier easyJet has announced plans to introduce the use of drones as part of routine inspection and maintenance on its Airbus A319 and A320 fleet, noting that the use of drones will reduce aircraft down time, thereby cutting costs and minimizing delays. For some time now various industries have been using drones to inspect hard to reach areas, and as drone technology advances it is likely that this will become more commonplace. easyJet plans to make use of drones to scan and take 3D pictures of areas that are currently inspected by engineers. The images will be viewed and analyzed by engineers, who will then take the appropriate action. By being able to inspect areas that are difficult to access, much quicker and possibly more thoroughly than a human could, the use of drones will free up time for engineers to focus on urgent issues.
Head of aerial robotics at the Bristol Robotics Laboratory, Arthur Richards, notes that drones are well suited to aircraft inspection as they are able to retrieve accurate data from awkward places. Bristol Robotics – a partnership between the University of Bristol and the University of the West of England – will be working with easyJet on developing the drones to meet the specific requirements of aircraft inspection.
easyJet has also announced that it is investigating the feasibility of using virtual reality glasses to convey what a pilot or engineer is seeing to a remote engineering team with the know-how to diagnose technical issues. It is anticipated that this will be particularly useful in the airline’s more remote destinations. Moreover, the airline is investigating options to create paperless environments for engineers and pilots through technology.
Based at London Luton Airport, easyJet is the United Kingdom’s largest airline measured by number of passengers carried. It operates international and domestic flights, covering more than 600 routes in 32 countries. The publicly traded company is a constituent of the FTSE 100 index on the London Stock Exchange.
In the ongoing quest to cut costs, as well as reduce air and noise pollution, the aviation industry has been looking at using electric-powered vehicles to tow airplanes to a holding area at the start of the runway in preparation for takeoff. During this process, the airplane’s engines would be off, thereby reducing pollution, and cutting fuel and maintenance costs. In Frankfurt, Lufthansa is currently testing a vehicle dubbed the “TaxiBot”, an electric-powered tow truck developed by Israel Aerospace Industries, which fits under the nose wheel of an airplane and is controlled by the pilot in the cockpit just as he would if taxiing the plane. Once the airplane is positioned near the runway, the pilot starts the engines and prepares for takeoff, while the driver in the TaxiBot drives it back to the terminal for its next pickup.
The driver facilitates the coupling with the plane by sliding the TaxiBot under it and raising the nose wheel off the ground. After that the pilot and the TaxiBot’s navigation system take over to guide the airplane to the runway. Because the TaxiBot’s navigation system is familiar with the layout of the airport, it will automatically slow down when there is a sharp curve which is likely to reduce wear on the airplane’s brakes. Also, because number of hours of use are the basis for engine overhauls, airlines will save money on maintenance. Moreover, with airplanes not starting their engines at the terminal, the very real problem of litter being sucked into engines at this point will be minimized.
Director of marketing in the engineering unit of Lufthansa, Gerhard Baumgarten, notes that using a TaxiBot to tow a Boeing 737, for example, to the runway can save up to 35 gallons of jet fuel costing more than $100, while the savings on an Airbus A380 could be up to 130 gallons of fuel costing nearly $400.
A partnership between American conglomerate company Honeywell International and French aerospace company Safran is working on their EGTS – Electric Taxiing System – which reportedly has Airbus and Air France as their supporters. The EGTS was demonstrated at the Paris Air Show last summer, reportedly receiving a positive response. Using electric motors mounted on the airplane’s main landing-gear wheels, the EGTS backs the plane away from the boarding gates, allowing the pilot to use the plane’s tiller to steer it to the end of a runway. Make use of the EGTS should result in a fuel saving of up to 4 percent, according to the manufacturers.
While developers focus on the economic and environmental advantages of towing vs taxiing at airports, passengers will no doubt be pleased that listening to the roar of the airplane’s engines while still on the ground may soon be a thing of the past.
In the world of aviation, glory and hero welcomes are reserved for brave pilots who return from battle or save lives through their skills. But many lives are carried safely across the skies of the world every day, partly because of the pilots and partly due to the efforts of the mechanics and maintenance workers that keep the aircraft in working condition. No-one ever really thinks twice about the maintenance crew while planes fly safely from one destination to another. But one mechanic was recognized for his contributions in aviation, namely Henry Anholzer.
Aviation became a part of Henry Anholzer life at the very young age of five, when he witnessed the achievements of Charles Lindbergh. Model airplane building became his escape through a variety of difficult times in his life, and remained a vital part of his adult life. Finding himself in the wrong crowd of friends almost cost Anholzer his education, but a dedicated teacher noticed his passion for model airplanes and his general love for aviation, encouraging him to enroll at the Manhattan High School of Aviation Trades. His aviation career began in 1941, at Pan American Airways, and he remained there until he retired in 1982.
As in any job, Henry Anholzer had to work his way up at Pan American Airways, and started in the sheet metal shop which was located in New York. Working on survey aircraft, such as the Bermuda Clipper, he gained experience in the repairing of flying boats. No-one can forget the date 7 December 1941, when Pearl Harbor was attacked by the Japanese, and the aviation industry changed dramatically. Flying boats became vital to the war effort and soon Anholzer found himself in San Francisco working on Martin 130’s and others at the Treasure Island facility, after which came Honolulu, where luxury aircraft were stripped for their careers as military cargo planes. Henry Anholzer and his fellow mechanics were to keep the war effort going by keeping the aircraft in the sky.
After spending exciting and adventurous years with Pan American Airlines, Henry Anholzer retired and spent his remaining years at the Cradle of Aviation Museum volunteering his time to repair and restore the historical aircraft on display. In his biography, which he wrote some years later, Anholzer recounts his years for PAA, and reflects on his experiences. He was also was also given the Charles Taylor Master Mechanic Award. Henry Anholzer’s story reminds us that there is more to aviation than just the airplane and pilots, that the mechanics and machinists also play a vital role in our safety and that of the aircraft crew.
Brazilian aircraft manufacturer Embraer is set to challenge an increasingly crowded marketplace with its Very Light Jet (VLJ), the Embraer Phenom 100. It is anticipated that the availability of the Phenom 100 in mid-2008 will open up the convenience of luxury private jet ownership to a broader customer base.
The HAI Heli-Expo is the largest gathering of helicopter fanatics and aviation industry members of the year. This annual event attracts hundreds of exhibitors and spectators, and with each passing year the popularity of the HAI Heli-Expo grows. The organizers of this spectacular aviation expo, HAI, or Helicopter Association International, ensure that the expo has a wide variety of stalls and activities, and that the expo is comprehensive, to cover all aspects of the helicopter and aviation industry.
In response to the increasing demand from cargo operators worldwide for a long-range, efficient, high-capacity freight airplane, in May 2005 the Boeing Company launched the Boeing 777 Freighter. Delivery of their launch order from Air France is expected to take place in the final quarter of 2008, with additional orders coming in from Emirates, Air Canada, China Southern Airlines, FedEx, GE Capital, Korean Air, Qatar and India-based cargo carriers, Flyington Freighters.
One of the mostly costly undertakings in maintaining a military aircraft is the painting of the aircraft. After a few years, or flights, the paint needs to be stripped off and the aircraft needs to be repainted. No mechanical work can be done to the aircraft during this procedure, so the mechanical and cosmetic maintenance is done separately. Not only does this take time and money, but every part of painting and repainting aircrafts has a negative effect on the environment. There is, however, a solution to the problem. It is Paintless Aircraft Technology.