Streamlining Air Traffic Management with GBAS

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With the aim of simplifying air traffic management and making the airport more efficient, Australia’s Sydney Airport recently unveiled its ground-based augmentation system (GBAS) manufactured and marketed by Honeywell as the SmartPath® Precision Landing System. As a joint project of Qantas and Airservices, the GBAS has been tested on more than 750 Airbus A380 and Boeing 737-800 approaches since December 2012, leading up to the launch of the system which was attended by Australia’s Deputy Prime Minister Warren Truss, Airservices acting CEO Mark Rodwell, Quantas chief financial officer Gareth Evans, Honeywell Aerospace representative Brian Davis and Sydney Airport CEO Kerrie Mather.

Evans noted that the system would be beneficial to Quantas, which was the first airline to take delivery of a GBAS-enabled aircraft in 2005. With Sydney Airport receiving international and domestic Quantas flights around the clock, it is anticipated that, over time, the fuel savings to the carrier will be significant. As the system is installed in other airports around Australia, these savings will become even more meaningful.

Using a ground-based transmitter, the GBAS provides GPS positioning data to the GBAS-enabled flight management system of approaching aircraft, allowing for precision approach and landing, within a meter of the runway center line. One GBAS has the capability of facilitating up to 26 instrument approaches simultaneously within a radius of 42 km. Also, the GBAS is not prone to noise signal interference, with maintenance being less expensive than the current instrument landing system (ILS). The use of this state-of-the-art technology promises increased airport capacity, a reduction in weather-related delays and a decrease in air traffic noise, all of which translates into reducing costs for the aviation industry.

In the United States, the Federal Aviation Authority (FAA) is working with the International GBAS Working Group (IGWG), as are numerous other countries, in standardizing certification and procedures for the use of GBAS around the world.

Drone Technology for Airplane Inspection and Maintenance

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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.

The Airbus Beluga Super Transporter

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With production centers in a number of different locations throughout Europe, each specializing in the manufacture of sections of aircraft which are later assembled, Airbus needs reliable methods of transport between its various factories. For twenty years the Airbus A300-600ST (Super Transporter) has played a major role in this transport network. Airbus operates five of these super transporters, nicknamed “Beluga” because of their shape being similar to the Beluga whale.

When Airbus decided to create its own transport system to keep up with the growing demand for airplanes in the early 1990s, designers modified the frame of the Airbus A300-600 – an airplane with a proven track record of reliability. The aircraft’s top section was cut and a bubble-shaped fuselage section was added, while the cockpit was lowered, allowing for the loading and unloading of cargo to take place through the front of the Beluga. The Beluga’s payload is 47 tons, and while there are other aircraft with a higher maximum payload, the Beluga’s spacious cargo hold makes it perfect for transporting unwieldy and odd-shaped cargo that is not excessively heavy. For example, the Beluga can transport an A340 airliner’s wings, or even the A350 wide-body aircraft’s fuselage section. It does have limitations, however, and larger parts, such as those for the A380 Super Jumbo, are transported by road, boat or barge.

In the five years since its first commercial flight, the double-decker Airbus A380 has become a familiar sight at the world’s largest airports, some of which had to widen and strengthen their runways to accommodate the huge aircraft. The airplane’s parts are made in different manufacturing plants. The wings are made in Broughton, Wales; the forward and middle fuselages in St Nazaire, France; the rear fuselage in Hamburg, Germany; and the horizontal tailplane in Cadiz, Spain.

As the demand for airplanes continues to increase, and taking into account that Airbus has become more globalized with assembly plants in Alabama and China, the company is reportedly looking at cargo aircraft designs to replace the aging Belugas. The new aircraft, currently referred to as the Beluga XL, will be able to carry heavier payloads and have a longer range. It seems very likely that the characteristic “Beluga” shape will remain relatively unchanged.

Airplanes vs Cars on Energy Efficiency

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According to a recent report by the International Air Transport Association, the number of airplane passengers is likely to grow by a third in the next four years, to 3.9 billion. As more and more people travel greater distances, often as a matter of routine, the issue of energy efficiency of different modes of transport has been investigated by the University of Michigan’s Transportation Research Institute, with some interesting results. While people tend to think that driving a car is easier on the environment that flying in an airplane, the advanced technology of new airplanes is making them increasingly fuel-efficient.

To match the fuel-efficiency of some newer airplanes, cars would need to be able to get 33.8 miles per gallon, or carry more than one passenger. Current average fuel consumption is 23.8 miles per gallon, meaning that fuel-efficiency must improve by as much as 57 percent to challenge the performance of commercial airline flights. Also, current number of people per car is 1.38, which should be increased to at least 2.3 people to improve fuel-efficiency data for cars. While car-pooling is a concept long embraced by environmentally (and cost conscious) people, there are still a large percentage of cars that travel with only the driver in them, whereas airplanes are generally crammed to the limit with passengers.

Due to huge price increases over the past decade or so, fuel remains the single largest expense for airlines. Associated Press reports that in 2013, US airlines spent up to $50 billion on fuel. In the past five years airlines have been replacing older airplanes with the latest model airplanes from aircraft manufacturers Airbus and Boeing, designed to be 15 percent more fuel-efficient than before. In fact, the purchase of new aircraft has been at a higher rate than ever before, with 8,200 being ordered in the past five years. Currently up to 24 planes are manufactured each week, an impressive increase over the 11 per week of a decade ago.

While increased fuel efficiency, reliability and extended range are all motivating factors in the recent airplane buying spree, there are other reasons airlines are upgrading their fleets. Some of the old planes still have ashtrays in the arms of the seats, which clearly are redundant now, plus passengers expect the modern amenities such as power outlets and USB ports that older airplanes don’t have.

Carbon Fiber Composites in Aviation

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As the aviation industry attempts to reduce fuel costs by reducing the weight of aircraft, lightweight composite materials with extraordinary strength continue to be developed and improved. Carbon-fiber composites have been created that can match the strength of titanium and aluminum, while being much lighter in weight, to the extent that aircraft using these composites materials can weigh of up 20 percent less than they would otherwise. Both the Boeing 787 and Airbus A380 contain carbon-fiber composites.

Researchers looking at creating even stronger and lighter materials are working with carbon fibers that are coated with carbon nanotubes. When arranged in specific configurations, these tiny tubes of crystalline carbon are hundreds of times stronger than steel while being only around one-sixth of the weight of steel. Until recently scientists faced the problem that when growing carbon nanotubes on carbon fibers the underlying fibers have lost some of their strength. The root cause of this fiber degradation has been identified by a team of researchers from MIT, and techniques have been devised to preserve the strength of these fibers.

Associate professor of aeronautics and astronautics at MIT, Brian Wardle, notes that up until now one part of the material was being improved at the expense of the underlying fiber, but the new technique does away with this trade-off situation, with both the carbon nanotubes and carbon fibers maintaining their integrity.

Upon visiting carbon-fiber production plants in Germany, Japan and Tennessee, researchers found that the manufacture process required fibers to be stretched close to breaking point and heated to high temperatures, which had not been replicated in laboratory conditions. Upon replicating these conditions in the laboratory and carrying out a series of experiments it was discovered that the main cause of fiber degradation was a mechanochemical reaction resulting from a lack of tension when heating carbon fibers at a high temperature.

Having identified the problem, researchers coated the carbon fiber with a layer of alumina ceramic to ensure the iron catalyst would stick to the fiber but not degrade it. However, the alumina kept flaking off. Undaunted, the research team developed a polymer coating with both hydrophilic and hydrophobic components and coated the fibers with it, allowing them to grow nanotubes without damaging the fiber. Further experiments resulted in growing nanotubes at lower temperatures, thereby avoiding damage to the underlying fiber. Patents have been filed for the nanotube growing techniques and hopes are high that these new composite materials will have a wide range of applications in the aerospace industry.

Boeing and Airbus Dominate Global Market

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With Boeing and Airbus dominating a global market valued at US$100 billion annually, the two aircraft manufacturers continue to vie for first place in this lucrative business sector. First quarter results for 2012 reveal that Boeing appears to be on course to recapture the top spot, as it delivered 137 commercial airplanes, compared to the 131 delivered by Airbus. Airbus has held the coveted number one spot since 2012, and with both manufacturers intent on increasing production of their best-sellers – the Airbus A320 and Boeing 737 – they will be competing in emerging markets where medium-haul airplanes are becoming more in demand.

Boeing’s position was aided by the launch of its Boeing 787 Dreamliner and the enhanced version of its Boeing 747 – both of which had encountered major production delays. Among the airplanes delivered by Boeing were six Boeing 747-8s and five of the innovative carbon-composite Dreamliners. European manufacturer Airbus delivered four of its A380 superjumbos and has recently begun assembling its competitor to the Boeing 787 – the A350 – in its factory in Toulouse. It is anticipated that the A350 will enter service in mid-2014.

While airlines snapped up the fuel efficient model of the A320 in 2011, Boeing is reportedly ahead of Airbus in new orders for 2012. Furthermore, Airbus may lose some of its orders placed by China if the current conflict over emissions between the European Union and a group of countries including China is not resolved.

Just this week London Heathrow became the 200th airport welcome the Boeing 747-8, after having determined that the new airliner meets requirements for operating safely within an airport environment. Currently the Boeing 747-8 is the only airplane with a capacity of more than 400 seats approved by over sixty airports worldwide.

While cost-cutting may be a priority for commercial air travel, the world’s super-rich are offering Boeing and Airbus a new source of revenue. In early March this year a bespoke Boeing 747-8, dubbed the 747-VIP, took off from Paine Field near Seattle for delivery to an unnamed customer in the Middle East. Airbus is reportedly working on an A380 for the Saudi prince Alwaleed bin Talal, with the original plans making provision for transporting two Rolls-Royces, horses and camels, and a rotating prayer room which will always point toward Mecca. Business people in emerging and fast-growing economies such as China and Russia are also entering the market for larger long-range planes providing direct service to their destinations.

eGenius at International Aero Expo

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The 2011 International Aero Expo in Friedrichshafen, Germany, was host to a variety of exhibitors that attended the show to display their latest products and aircraft to buyers and to the public. The expo ran from 13 April to 16 April, and featured a diverse collection of aviation products, which included the new eGenius. This technology demonstrator was the project of Airbus, while the designers and builders of the prototype were from the University of Stuttgart. The presentation of the eGenius aircraft was a breakthrough for both Airbus and the university.

Airbus has been looking into developing ideas and prototypes of airplanes that can be developed and promote greener aviation solutions. The eGenius is a two-seater aircraft, which is propelled electrically, and is the start of a project managed by Airbus to investigate the possibilities of introducing electricity into aircraft as an alternative source of power and energy. The eGenius has been constructed with a fuselage large enough to spaciously accommodate two pilots, and has a wingspan of 16.86 meters. It has an engine power output of 60 kW and can reach a maximum cruising speed of 235 kilometres per hour. It also has a flight range of four hundred kilometres.

Airbus Senior Vice President of Product Strategy and Market Forecast, Christopher Emerson, commented on the vision that Airbus has with the development of the eGenius aircraft, saying: “It is our European Aviation Vision 2050 to reduce CO2-emissions by 75%, NOx by 90% and noise by 65% compared to levels in 2000. Airbus is therefore carefully studying all technologies available today for future alternative aviation energy-sources. By sponsoring experimental projects like the ‘eGenius’, we are gathering valuable experience and data for our further analyses and research activities in this area.”

Over and above the electric propulsion development project, Airbus has also been working with universities to create other alternative sources of energy, such as the fuel cell technology project that will hopefully be lead to aircraft being able to operate on the ground without emissions being released. With the development of the eGenius, Airbus is able to further their research and their development of alternative energy sources, striving to make the aviation industry environmentally friendly.

New Exhibit for Carolinas Aviation Museum

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On 15 January 2009, US Airways Flight 1549 started to taxi down the run away. The massive Airbus A320 was given permission to take off by the LaGuardia Airport in New York, but shortly after lifting off the runway, near tragedy struck. A flock of geese ended up in the flight path of the aircraft, causing all the engines to fail and leaving pilot Chesley “Sully” Sullenberger no choice but to perform an emergency landing. With not many options available to him, he decided to put the plane down as gently as possible on the Hudson River.

This incident captured the attention of many people around the world, as it is so rare that a successful emergency landing is performed on water. The actions of Sullenberger saved the lives of his crew and passengers, and the incident became known as the “Miracle on the Hudson”. All one hundred and fifty-five lives on board the flight that day were saved, with only five injuries being reported.

A warehouse in Kearny has been home to the airplane for the last two years, but after numerous negotiations the Carolinas Aviation Museum has managed to secure the purchase of the plane for their establishment. Reassembly of the aircraft will take some time, and the museum hopes to have US Airways Flight 1549 on the floor by May 2011. The president of the museum, Shawn Dorsch, commented on their plans for the aircraft, saying “It’s a fantastic piece of history. It has everything from the dents from the birds to the Coke cans and the food carts to the markings from the NTSB investigation on the aircraft. It’s just fascinating to walk around the aircraft. Except for the passengers’ belongings, it’s like a time capsule.”

Founded in 1992, the Carolinas Aviation Museum has been dedicated to the history of aviation. A display such as this, that pays tribute to the successes of the aviation industry, is not only memorable but exciting for all those who visit. The museum hopes to increase its visitors from thirty thousand to a hundred thousand through this additional exhibition, and will be able to share the Miracle on the Hudson with future generations from all over the world.

Farnborough International Airshow Set to Be a Success

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Taking place in the UK, the world-renowned Farnborough International Airshow attracts large numbers of aerospace industry participants every two years. This year’s event began on a positive note on Monday, 19 July 2010, as rival companies Boeing Co. and Airbus reported that they had received new orders totaling almost $18 billion already. This is hopefully indicative that the aviation industry is on the rise again.

As carriers emerge from the economic crisis of recent years, the demand for planes is set to increase. Airplane-leasing companies are in the market for airplanes and there are certain to be a variety of important leasing orders placed during the Farnborough International Airshow. Boeing already boasts an order from Emirates Airlines for thirty 777-300ERs, to a value of $9.1 billion. On top of that, GE Capital Aviation Services has made a $3 billion order for forty Boeing 737-800s. Airbus, on the other hand, received an order from Air Lease Corporation for fifty-one A320s, valued at $4.4 billion. Aeroflot, will be purchasing eleven A330-300s, and GECAS has ordered an additional sixty A320s from Airbus. This is certainly a fantastic way to kick-off this exceptional event.

What can visitors to the Farnborough International Airshow expect? The trade show features approximately 1 300 exhibitors from 38 countries. Participants from the commercial, private, civil and military sectors will display a variety of aircraft, technology and equipment. The trade show is designed to create opportunities for meetings, negotiations and the announcement of transactions. One of this year’s highlights is the Boeing 787 Dreamliner’s debut. There is also a themed conference program aimed at trade visitors.

The Farnborough International Airshow will also be introducing a program on Futures Day, 23 July 2010, aimed at young people between 7 and 21 years of age. Futures Day will include workshops, presentations, a treasure hunt, opening ceremony, Tri-Nation Rocketry Final and other activities.

On the weekend of 24 and 25 July, the airshow will be open to the public. A great selection of attractions will keep everyone in the family entertained. Visitors can look forward to the air display, static aircraft displays, the Space Pavilion, the Bloodhound supersonic car, fun rides, the Crafty Arty Party, flight simulators, and much more.

So whether you are in the aerospace industry, or are simply an aviation enthusiast, the Farnborough International Airshow is the place to be this week.


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Heading off on vacation or going on an important business trip? You will likely be flying on a commuter aircraft. Commuter airplanes vary in size from those which seat just a few passengers to those which seat over 100. All commuter planes have a cargo hold in which baggage and other goods are stored during flight.

Commuter aircraft are fitted to ensure the comfort of commuters over both short distance flights (nationally) and long distance flights (internationally). Commuter planes have developed to the point where refuelling on certain long journeys is unnecessary thus making such flights quicker and more convenient.

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