GPS to Replace Radar

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Even though the contract to develop GPS (Global Positioning Systems) for the aviation industry was given to ITT by the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration in 2007, it was only in 2009 that the urgency to switch over from radar to GPS was acknowledged. More than two hundred passengers traveling on Air France Flight 477 were lost over the Atlantic Ocean when the radar system failed to located the missing aircraft. Radar can only pick up aircraft that are within two hundred miles from the land, leaving aircraft traveling over the ocean in a vulnerable position.

Not being able to know an aircraft’s exact position makes it difficult for air traffic controllers to assist aircraft in emergency situations, and the necessity to upgrade the seventy year old radar system to new technology has become evident. One of the most valuable features of GPS systems is the fact that it is much more accurate than radar. Not only will ground personnel know exactly where aircraft are but pilots will also be able to see the location of other flights sharing their air space. Over and above having precise traffic information, pilots will also have accurate weather information available to them, promoting safer flights based on correct readings. David Melcher, Senior Vice President of ITT, explained in detail to the press the additional benefits of changing over from radar to GPS, saying: “There are numerous benefits to go to a GPS-based system, including savings of fuel, less carbon-dioxide emissions and better-controlled ascents and descents.”

It will take approximately ten years for the new generation GPS system to be installed in every aircraft, from domestic to private aircrafts, but the infrastructure to begin the transformation will be ready in 2012. Because of the accuracy of the GPS Systems, airplanes will be able to follow more direct routes, as they currently have to fly in winding patterns to allow tracking beacons to record their path. This, in turn, will lower the expenses in air travel as less fuel will be consumed, and less carbon dioxide will be emitted with the reduced flying times. In general, GPS will improve safety and benefit the aviation industry and public on financial levels.

The Taranis Unveiled

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Taranis, the god of thunder in Celtic mythology, is depicted with a Jupiter wheel in one hand and a thunderbolt in the other. It is also the name of the latest project undertaken by the United Kingdom to improve their military capabilities and transform the face of military weaponry. The Taranis is an unmanned stealth aircraft that has been under construction for the last four years, and was recently unveiled to the world. Its unique design and state-of-the-art technology will change the dynamics of long range combat.

BAE Systems, which is located in Warton, has been working tirelessly on the Taranis project, overseeing its design and weaponry technology. It has cost £142.5m to complete this magnificent prototype and flight tests are scheduled to start in 2011. One of the most important features of the Taranis is its ability to fly deep into the territories of the enemy without being detected by ground radar. It will not only be used as a method of attack, but will also be able to gather vital intelligence. The Taranis’ extraordinary aeronautical design has enabled it to take on the same measurements as a light aircraft, and it is also able to reach high speeds to be able to keep up with jet aircraft. As an attack aircraft, the Taranis has been designed to carry a variety of weapons, including missiles and bombs. Due to the fact that the Taranis is an unmanned aircraft, no lives of pilots will be risked, allowing the Taranis to take on missions that are deemed too dangerous for pilots.

The extremely innovative design and construction of the Taranis is a great achievement for the United Kingdom. The Minister for International Security Strategy, Gerald Howarth, commented on the success of the project by saying: “The first of its kind in the UK, it reflects the best of our nation’s advanced design and technology skills and is a leading program on the global stage.” The maintenance and running of the Taranis will also be at a lower cost than manned aircraft, and it is hoped that this spectacular example of UK engineering will pave the way for future military aircraft.

Avian Radar System May Prevent Aircraft Bird Strikes

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Birds have been a cause for concern for airport authorities all over the world for decades, as they inadvertently encroach on airplane flight paths, often with disastrous results. The Federal Aviation Agency (FAA) recently reported that since 1988 world-wide bird strikes have been responsible for 219 deaths and extensive damage to more than 200 aircraft. It is estimated that damage to aircraft in the United States is estimated to be approximately $126 million annually.

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E-2C Hawkeye

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The E-2C Hawkeye is primarily used as an aerial early warning system and a control center for commanders in battle. The United States Navy employs the E-2C Hawkeye as a carrier-based aircraft for the use of the Joint Force Commander and Carrier Strike Group. The E-2C is also used for search and rescue operations, law enforcement, and communications relays as well as for other assorted missions.

The aircraft’s electronic surveillance systems can detect ground and air threats in advance and provide early warnings. The E-2C Hawkeye’s ability to perform well in darkness and in almost any weather makes it especially useful and reliable in difficult conditions.

Though the E-2C Hawkeye first entered service in 1973, it has received numerous upgrades to keep it up-to-date and operational. Upgraded parts have included radar displays, engines, and propellers as well as the passive and active sensors. Continuous upgrades are expected well into the future for the E-2C Hawkeye.

In 2011, the Advanced Hawkeye (AHE) is expected to enter naval service, but will likely not replace the E-2C completely. The AHE aircraft’s design is based on the E-2C Hawkeye but it will have more advanced radar and an improved threat warning system, target detection, and surveillance capabilities.

Besides the United States, the French Navy, Egyptian Air Force, Republic of Singapore Air Force, Japanese Self Defense Air Force, and the Taiwan Air Force all fly the E-2C Hawkeye.

Maximum speed: 338 knots
Cruise speed: 268 knots
Range: 1,300 nautical miles
Ceiling: 30,000′
Length: 57′ 6″
Wingspan: 80′ 7″
Height: 18′ 3.75″
Maximum weight: 54,426 lbs
Engine(s): Two Allison T56-A-427/A turboprop engines (5,100 ESHP each)
Crew: Five
Armament: Surveillance equipment and systems only
Contractor: Northrop Grumman

References: Northrop Grumman and the United States Navy

RQ-4 Global Hawk

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The Global Hawk Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV) began operational service in 2000 and remains in service with the United States Air Force. The Global Hawk is a high-altitude aircraft that has been used extensively for acquiring reconnaissance images in the Iraq War. These high-resolution images are received by battlefield commanders in almost real-time. The Global Hawk flies pre-determined flight plans and has the ability to take off, fly, remain on station, and return for landing without any human operators or assistance. Flight plans can also be modified in progress as the mission demands or personnel require.

The Global Hawk’s first trans-oceanic flight to Europe was in April 2000. It was also used that year in operations that included personnel from numerous branches of the military deployed in various environments, including sea, sub-surface, land, and air.

Equipment used by the Global Hawk includes a cloud-penetrating radar operated moving target indicator and infrared sensors that work together to provide near real-time imagery of up to 40,000 nautical square miles. Total mission time is often for a period of 24 hours after which it can be programmed to automatically return to base. Though its fuselage is constructed of aluminum, nearly half of the Global Hawk is built with composite materials including the wings, wing fairings, its three radomes, the engine intake and cover, and the empennage. The composite construction provides extra strength but weighs less than conventional materials. Because of its lighter weight, the aircraft gains fuel efficiency.

Though the Global Hawk has successfully flown hundreds of missions, it continues to undergo testing in advance of future missions. Manufacturing of the UAV is expected to continue through 2015. Eventually, the Global Hawk will be turned over to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) when the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) takes possession of the airplanes. NOAA will use the Global Hawk to study Earth’s climate changes.

Speed: 340 kts
Range: 12,000 nm
Ceiling: 65,000′
Length: 44′
Wingspan: 116′
Height: 15′ 2″
Maximum weight: 25,600 pounds
Empty weight: 8,490 pounds
Engine(s): One Rolls Royce Allison Turbofan engine
Cruise speed: 404 mph

SR-71 Blackbird

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The SR-71 Blackbird was based on the A-11 as an unarmed reconnaissance aircraft capable of flying at high altitudes and reaching Mach 3 speeds. Lockheed began manufacturing the SR-71 in February of 1963. On December 22 of the following year, the plane completed its first test flight in absolute secrecy, and the work on the airplane continued without the public’s knowledge.

On February 29, 1964, President Lyndon Johnson revealed that a U.S. military aircraft had reached speeds exceeding 2,000 mph during test flights. From then on, though many details about the SR-71 remain classified to this day, but the world knew that a new generation of spy aircraft had been born. The SR-71 is still the world’s fastest aircraft, though rumors persist that it’s been replaced by an even faster plane that has yet to be revealed publicly.

Though intended to be invisible to radar, the SR-71 is anything but that. In fact, it’s easily detectable from several hundred miles away. Because it’s unarmed, the SR-71’s best defense is to fly high and fast. Considering that it can reach an altitude of 85,000 feet and fly faster than Mach 3.3, that’s a pretty good strategy.

The Blackbird’s pilot and systems operator must wear full-pressure suits like the first astronauts used to wear. This allows their bodies to handle the excessive altitudes and high speeds capable by the aircraft. The titanium alloy airframe is necessary to withstand the heat generated at such high speeds. The SR-71’s trademark black paint that gives it its nickname Blackbird was originally intended to absorb radar and the special paint also helps to minimize the surface heat that builds up as the plane increases speed.

The SR-71 was originally retired from service in 1998. It briefly reappeared from 1995 until its final retirement in 1998. At the Museum of Flight in Seattle, visitors can sit inside the cockpit of a real SR-71 and play with the controls and admire the impressive and unsurpassed specifications of this great aircraft:

Maximum speed: Mach 3.3+
Cruise speed: Mach 3.2
Range: 3,200 nm
Ceiling: 85,000′
Length: 107′ 5″
Wingspan: 55′ 7″
Height: 18′ 6″
Maximum weight: 170,000 lbs.
Empty weight: 59,000 lbs.
Engine(s): Two Pratt & Whittney J-58 engines.
Rate of climb: 11,810 ft per minute
Crew: Two
Contractor: Lockheed Aircraft Corporation
Armament: None

If you are a current or former military pilot and would like to submit an article about the SR-71 or any other aircraft (whether military or civilian) then please contact us and we will share your stories and experiences with the thousands of pilots and enthusiasts that visit this site each month.

Vancouver International Airport

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Vancouver International Airport is located approximately 15 kilometers outside of the city of Vancouver in Canada. Second to the Toronto Pearson International Airport, this Canadian airport is extremely busy and accommodates domestic traffic as well as flights to the United States, Caribbean, Asia and to Europe. Throughout the last few years, the traffic to this airport has increased dramatically, with 15.7 million passengers recorded in 2004, 16.4 million passengers in 2005 and 16.9 million in 2006. Approximately 60 000 passengers depart and arrive at this airport daily. This Canadian airport is one of the eight airports in Canada that has facilities to service Border Pre-clearance for the United States.

The Vancouver International Airport operates from three active terminals. The terminal for the International and Domestic flights is housed in one building, but has been divided into two sections. The building that is home to the Domestic traffic was constructed in 1968 but underwent complete renovations to improve the facilities and services. The addition to the building, to house the International traffic, was built in the 1990s. The South Terminal is completely separate, and accommodates the regional airlines. The regional airlines operate in British Columbia for the most part.

There are four runways at the Vancouver Airport. The 08L/26R runway is made from concrete and has a length of 3 029 meters; while the 08R/26L is constructed from asphalt and concrete and has length of 3 505 meters. Runway 12/30 is 2 225 meters in length and is constructed from asphalt and concrete; and the last runway, the 26A, is constructed from concrete and has a length of 1 066 meters. The Vancouver Airport has also installed the Tarsier Foreign Objects Debris system to their runways. This is radar system that can detect debris on the runways no matter what the weather conditions are. They were the very first in the world of commercial airports to have installed and operate this system.

The Vancouver Airport has approximately 400 businesses on their premises that not only employ 26 000 people, but also accommodate international trade. Businesses that are housed here are not only situated at the airport for commerce purposes, but provide services to passengers. Facilities such as book stores, convenience stores, sport shops, gift shops, food stores, pharmacies, dental clinics, medical clinics, postal services, ATMs, banks, foreign exchange services, barbers and even dry cleaning services are available, to name a few.

Transport from the Vancouver International Airport and to the airport is available through taxis, buses and limousines. Parking areas are conveniently situated for passengers that arrive in their own vehicles, and the airport, including the parking area and some taxis, are wheelchair accessible.

Electromagnetic Interference to be Minimized Further

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A team of researchers from the University of York’s Department of Electronics have won a European grant to help aerospace companies try to produce safer aircraft whilst at the same time reducing costs involved. The team will specifically be attempting to tackle the problem of trying to test aircraft equipment against electromagnetic interference during the manufacture process.

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ADS-B Satellite Tracking Of Aircraft Approved

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Few people would argue that flying poses possible risks that make it a somewhat dangerous occupation – even if most aircraft manage to make it back to the ground in safety. Inclement weather and the possibility of mid-air collisions are just two of the risks that aircraft face on a daily basis. Now it seems all that is about to change with the FAA approving satellite tracking of aircraft.

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First F-35 STOVL Aircraft Has Successful First Flight

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Just recently the first F-35B STOVL aircraft took to the skies for its first successful test flight. The short takeoff/vertical landing (STOVL) jet took off from the Fort Worth Naval Air Station in Texas on June 12 and the flight lasted about 45 minutes. The test aircraft was piloted by test pilot Graham Tomlinson and the flight marked the second stage in the development of the next-generation of fighting aircraft.

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