Is it possible to design better flight recorders or black boxes?

Tuesday, 8 April, 2014

It may take investigators years to fully understand the tragic fate that befell Malaysia Airlines Flight 370, wreckage of which is believed to have been found in the Southern Indian Ocean. Locating the aircraft’s flight recorder, or black box, will be crucial in this regard, but to date there is no indication as to its whereabouts.

Can the design, and the way flight recorders work, be changed though, to make their recovery easier in the future? Apparently yes, but unfortunately the task isn’t quite that straightforward:

It’s tempting, in the age of streaming data, to call this an archaic, obsolete system – after all, there are better ways of recording and accessing flight data – but they face staggering problems in practice. After an Air France crash in 2009, for example, it took investigators two years to recover the black box. French safety officials drew up recommendations afterward to improve the flight recorders, and the FAA followed suit. Those recommendations included features such as adding a mechanism to catapult a black box into the air when it hit water, and tripling the battery life of the underwater locator beacons to 90 days. Air France incorporated such technologies into its airplanes, but U.S. airlines are lagging behind on the new regulations. Financial hurdles are the most notorious reason for an increasingly parsimonious airline industry. “As with everything, you know the money is always going to be an issue,” Brickhouse says.

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The manila folder paper model Boeing 777 aircraft

Friday, 31 January, 2014

Luca Iaconi-Stewart builds incredibly intricate scale models of commercial aircraft using only glue and… manila folders. If you want an idea of just how detailed his works are, check out the cargo doors on this Boeing 777 he has constructed.

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Is it a plane, or is it a model? Either way it’s impressive

Tuesday, 26 November, 2013

This flight capable scale model of an Airbus A380-800 aircraft is impressive to say the least. At 4.8 metres in length, with a wingspan of 5.3 metres, weighing some 70 kilograms, and powered by actual jet engines, it could easily be mistaken for the genuine article if observed at a distance.

Watch it taxi and take off like any other commercial jet airliner, but marvel at that landing… that remote controlled landing.

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How quickly can a large aircraft be evacuated? Pretty quickly…

Tuesday, 19 November, 2013

It’s a comfort to know an aircraft the size of an Airbus A380, that potentially seats 850 people, in an all-economy class configuration, across two decks spanning the entire length of its fuselage, can be completely deplaned in less than ninety seconds, in the event of an emergency.

Here’s hoping the only time you witness such an exercise is while watching this demonstration.

Via Neatorama.

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On being ejected from a crash landing aircraft and surviving

Friday, 6 September, 2013

The chances of surviving being ejected, or flung out, from a crashing aircraft are pretty remote, though thankfully the chances of being in such a position in the first place are likewise remote, but those few who make it through such a catastrophe alive, often struggle to understand how they withstood the ordeal.

Modern commercial jets can carry hundreds of people 10 times faster than you can safely drive on a city street, which is 10 times faster than you can probably walk. Though millions of people witness it everyday, the transaction of physics between an airplane and gravity is unimaginably violent. If your puny body ever actually came face to face with what lies beyond your window seat, you’d die almost instantly, via several horrible mechanisms – hyperbaric trauma, friction, blunt force, hypoxia – competing to be the thing that actually killed you.

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Landing, the hardest part of flying an aircraft

Wednesday, 31 July, 2013

If you’re flying anytime soon you might want to skip passed this one, video clips of aircraft making – what could be best described as precarious landings – may not make for suitable viewing right now… save this one of a 747 landing at Kai Tak Airport in Hong Kong.

Kai Tak Airport closed in 1998, so even if you’re about to board a flight, there’s no chance you’ll be landing there. As it happens crosswinds, rather than some problem presented by the high rise buildings that all too literally bordered Kai Tak’s runways, were the issue here. Crosswinds at Kai Tak, just what a harried pilot needed…

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Abandoned aircraft wrecks and the stories of how they came to grief

Wednesday, 1 May, 2013

Photo by Dietmar Eckell

Dietmar Eckell, a German photographer based in Thailand, has assembled an impressive collection of images of aircraft wrecks from across the world. The photos are to be featured in a book, “Happy Endings”, that Eckell plans to publish.

As the title suggests, the passengers and crew survived the crashes that brought each of the aeroplanes they were aboard to grief, and its these stories that Eckell now hopes to tell.

Via PetaPixel.

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You cause quite a stir each time the aircraft you’re flying on lands

Monday, 29 April, 2013

The vortex created each time an aircraft lands comes into view as an Airbus A340 touches down on the runway at Zurich airport, Switzerland’s largest international airport, thanks to the presence of fog.

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Do you follow the crowd when deciding where to sit on an aircraft?

Friday, 19 April, 2013

Air travellers have a preference for selecting window seats on the right hand side of an aeroplane, according to an analysis by British Airways of passengers flying on their 747 aircraft.

Window seats are generally favoured over aisle ones, the research found, with six per cent more bookings. It also revealed that fliers will slightly favour the right hand side of the aircraft over the left, with 54 per cent of passengers opting for that side.

This means I’m definitely weird… I’m usually on the left hand side, (it’s just where I seem to end up) and in an aisle seat (which I often request though, especially for longer flights).

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A new way to hitchhike, via private aeroplane

Thursday, 4 April, 2013

Like train-hoppers, freelance travel writer Amber Nolan, is also intent on traversing the US for as little as possible, even if her goal is a tad more ambitious… to move around solely by way of private aircraft. It’s actually not as difficult as it sounds, so long as you’re not too worried about where you might end up landing:

As far as schedule and planning, I more or less going where the pilots go. I try to have a general direction that makes sense based on weather and where I’ve already been. “Anyone going southeast? Anyone going to Idaho?” But it doesn’t always work that way. I was trying to go to California once and wound up in Montana. The few times I’ve tried to plan to get to a specific place at a certain time, it’s been difficult. When I’m completely flexible and open to wherever, things are much easier. Sometimes the pilots give me options like, “I can drop you at one of these fuel stops,” so that I can choose a little based on what I want to see, or if I have a place to stay. But, a big part of the fun is the randomness of it: landing in small towns that I would never have otherwise thought to visit.

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