The United Kingdom Lost 40% of its Domestic Airline Flights Today

Flybe (airline) logoThis may not be on your radar, but it’s a big thing in Europe.  Flybe, the largest regional airline serving the United Kingdom, collapsed yesterday, after failing to secure a rescue bridge loan from the UK government.  All of their planes are grounded and all flights cancelled.  They have defaulted on all carriage contracts, including those pre-paid.

This is a catastrophe for many small communities in the British Isles, for which Flybe provided the only feeder service to the major hubs for long-range flights.  Flybe accounted for around 40% of all domestic flights in the United Kingdom.  Imagine the consequences if 40% of all domestic airline flights in your country were cancelled for an indefinite period and with no warning.... [Read More]

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The “Trumpster” was in my home town…

The only problem is my timing. We went to eat at our local watering hole at 4:15, 1615 for the rest of the world and our military friends. We were returning at 5:25, (that’s 1725), or should I say, attempting to return.

Continue reading “The “Trumpster” was in my home town…”

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Never Mind Cameras; What is This Airplane?

Dad was in OSS in China in 1945.  At debriefing in D.C. immediately post-war, Donovan ordered them all not to talk. (I have that letter now.)  So he didn’t talk, just bore with his memories in silence.  The exceptions were a brief outline of the tale, and a scrapbook of photos that we looked at often, but never were taught details about what we saw.... [Read More]

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Crosswind Landings in this Winter’s Storms

Really impressive windstorms continue to come in one after another in Europe this year.  When one hitting the UK makes the news, in Switzerland we know it’s around 24 to 36 hours before it gets here.  I’m still waiting for the tree felled in my yard by Ciara to be cut up and removed, and Dennis is on the way.  With high winds come severe crosswind landing conditions at airports not lucky enough to have runways that align with the wind direction.  Crosswind landing is one of the most demanding operations in flying, especially for large transport aircraft.  Here is an Etihad Airways A380 landing in a strong crosswind during Storm Dennis at Heathrow Airport in London on 2020-02-15.

... [Read More]

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Butterfingers! Airbus A350s Lose Engines after Drinks Spilled

Airbus A350 console with coffee stainTwo Airbus A350 XWB airliners on international flights, one last November and another on January 21st, 2020, had their starboard Rolls-Royce Trent XWB engines shut down en route and fail to restart when pilots attempted the recovery procedure.  The most recent incident was on a Delta A350 bound for Seoul, which diverted to and landed safely in Fairbanks, Alaska after the engine failure.  The airline which experienced the failure in November 2019 has not been identified, but is believed to be a Korea-based Asiana A350 flying from Seoul to Singapore, which diverted to Manila on November 9th.

In both cases, the engines shut down some time after a pilot spilled a drink on the centre console where engine controls are located.  The Delta flight lost its engine 15 minutes after a drink was spilled on the console, and the suspected Asiana’s engine shut down an hour after tea was spilled on the console.  In both cases, the flight recorder indicated the electronic engine controller had closed the high-pressure shut-off valve after receiving inconsistent output from the control panel.  In both cases the integrated control panel and electronic engine controller were replaced and the planes returned to service.... [Read More]

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Saturday Night Science: Sonic Wind

“Sonic Wind” by Craig RyanPrior to the 1920s, most aircraft pilots had no means of escape in case of mechanical failure or accident. During World War I, one out of every eight combat pilots was shot down or killed in a crash. Germany experimented with cumbersome parachutes stored in bags in a compartment behind the pilot, but these often failed to deploy properly if the plane was in a spin or became tangled in the aircraft structure after deployment. Still, they did save the lives of a number of German pilots. (On the other hand, one of them was Hermann Göring.) Allied pilots were not issued parachutes because their commanders feared the loss of planes more than pilots, and worried pilots would jump rather than try to save a damaged plane.

From the start of World War II, military aircrews were routinely issued parachutes, and backpack or seat pack parachutes with ripcord deployment had become highly reliable. As the war progressed and aircraft performance rapidly increased, it became clear that although parachutes could save air crew, physically escaping from a damaged plane at high velocities and altitudes was a formidable problem. The U.S. P-51 Mustang, of which more than 15,000 were built, cruised at 580 km/hour and had a maximum speed of 700 km/hour. It was physically impossible for a pilot to escape from the cockpit into such a wind blast, and even if they managed to do so, they would likely be torn apart by collision with the fuselage or tail an instant later. A pilot’s only hope was that the plane would slow to a speed at which escape was possible before crashing into the ground, bursting into flames, or disintegrating.... [Read More]

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This Week’s Book Review – Heavy Date over Germany

I write a weekly book review for the Daily News of Galveston County. (It is not the biggest daily newspaper in Texas, but it is the oldest.) After my review appears on Sunday, I post the previous week’s review here on Sunday.

Book Review

‘Heavy Date’ offers a look at war through a young man’s eyes

By MARK LARDAS... [Read More]

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Dawn of the Era of Reusable Rockets !!!

Us Texans not only can boast of making the U.S.A. energy independent for the first time in seven decades , we also are home to SpaceX launches in Boca Chica, and Blue Origin launches in Van Horn, Texas (Culberson County, West Texas ).

Wed. Dec. 11 at 9:00 AM CST / 15:00 UTC, a Blue Origin, New Shepard launch is scheduled, WATCH IT AT BLUEORIGIN.COM AND BE A PART OF THE DAWN OF A NEW ERA OF REUSABLE ROCKETS !!!... [Read More]

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This Week’s Book Review – From Kites to Cold War

I write a weekly book review for the Daily News of Galveston County. (It is not the biggest daily newspaper in Texas, but it is the oldest.) After my review appears on Sunday, I post the previous week’s review here on Sunday.... [Read More]

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“Does anybody know how to land this plane?”

Garmin Autoland systemWhen flying in small, single-engine aircraft, passengers have two persistent worries: what happens if the engine quits, and who’s going to land the thing if the pilot keels over?  Modern aircraft engines, especially turboprops and turbofans, rarely fail (the ubiquitous Pratt & Whitney Canada PT6  had, as of 2016, an in-flight shutdown rate of one per 651,126 hours, which means that if you were to fly in a single-engine plane powered by one 24 hours a day, 365/66 days a year, you’d only experience an in-flight engine failure, on average, once every seventy-four years).  Besides, most engine failures would occur in cruise, when there’s plenty of altitude and velocity to glide to a sufficiently open and flat area that the plane can be landed, if not totally intact, entirely walkable-away-from by those onboard.

As improbable as it may seem, incapacitation of the single pilot may actually be the more probable circumstance.  Garmin, developers of a wide variety of GPS units and avionics, have just announced the latest update to their G3000 integrated avionics suite for light aircraft, which incorporates “Autoland” technology.  When the avionics detect that the pilot has become unresponsive or a passenger presses the (flip-up guard protected) “Emergency Autoland” button, the system takes control of the plane, identifies a landing strip sufficiently long and within range, contacts air traffic control, navigates to the landing strip, avoiding terrain, lands autonomously and shuts down the engine on the runway.  Here is a demonstration of the system.... [Read More]

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Book Review: Always Another Dawn

“Always Another Dawn” by A. Scott Crossfield and Clay BlairThe author was born in 1921 and grew up in Southern California. He was obsessed with aviation from an early age, wangling a ride in a plane piloted by a friend of his father (an open cockpit biplane) at age six. He built and flew many model airplanes and helped build the first gasoline-powered model plane in Southern California, with a home-built engine. The enterprising lad’s paper route included a local grass field airport, and he persuaded the owner to trade him a free daily newspaper (delivery boys always received a few extra) for informal flying lessons. By the time he turned thirteen, young Scott (he never went by his first name, “Albert”) had accumulated several hours of flying time.

In the midst of the Great Depression, his father’s milk processing business failed, and he decided to sell out everything in California, buy a 120 acre run-down dairy farm in rural Washington state, and start over. Patiently, taking an engineer’s approach to the operation: recording everything, controlling costs, optimising operations, and with the entire family pitching in on the unceasing chores, the ramshackle property was built into a going concern and then a showplace.... [Read More]

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Airbus A320neo: A Matter of Balance

Airbus A320neoIn the never-ending effort to squeeze more passenger revenue from a given capital cost and fuel burn, Airbus is now making their A320neo and A321neo single-aisle airliners available with what they call the “Space-Flex” cabin interior option.  This relocates the galley and toilets, which were previously at the front of the cabin, to the very rear.  This, combined with relocation of some doors, allows six more passenger seats in economy without changing seat spacing, expanding standard seating to 189 and the certification limit to 194, which makes it a close competitor to the Boeing 737-8 / MAX 200, which is marketed for a two class configuration of 178 (12 business, 166 economy) with maximum certification for 200 passengers.

The toilets and galley are heavy, and placing them at the back of the plane shifts the centre of gravity aft near the point where the plane would be unstable.  This is particularly a problem in European two class configurations, where business has the same seats as economy but the centre seat is never occupied, resulting in less mass near the nose of the plane.... [Read More]

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