A flight from London to Tokyo, as described by a pilot

Wednesday, 10 June, 2015

An in-depth description of a flight from London to Tokyo, aboard a Boeing 747, written by British Airways pilot, Mark Vanhoenacker… that is quite possibly a more enjoyable experience than flying is, or has become.

It’s been dark for hours now. There are three pilots on a flight this long and now it’s time for my break. A colleague takes my place in the right-hand seat of the cockpit. Before I go to the bunk, located at the rear of the cockpit, I stay for a moment by one of the side windows, to gaze out and up. If you look into the night sky from an airplane for more than a few minutes you may well see a shooting star. My eye catches something. I look, smile and say to myself, There’s another one. I don’t even mention them to a colleague; another will be along soon enough.

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The flight of the model P-51D Mustang, as seen by the model pilot

Thursday, 21 May, 2015

A remote controlled, scale model of a P-51D Mustang, a US single seat fighter and fighter bomber, that first flew in 1940, is outfitted with a camera that films its flight from the perspective of a would-be pilot. Somehow looping the loop, or landing for that matter, doesn’t seem so terrifying here…

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The Cozy Suite, a more comfortable way to fly for middle seat flyers?

Tuesday, 19 May, 2015

Thomson Aero Seating Cozy Suite

Now here’s an airline seating format that could make air travel a lot more comfortable.

The Cozy Suite, developed by Thomson Aero Seating, not only makes sitting in a middle seat less bothersome, it also allows passengers to recline their seat, by way of a forward-sliding pan system, one that doesn’t intrude on the space of the person in the seat behind.

The seat also features a fixed-back shell with a pan seat recline. This means you won’t feel the passenger behind you bumping or kicking your seat and, if you recline, the forward-sliding pan means you won’t be invading that person’s space.

As a bonus, the format also allows more seats to be fitted in an aircraft, surely making them a win for everyone. So, what are the chances of seeing these seats on flights any time soon?

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Flying by open air aeroplane, what a way to travel

Friday, 15 May, 2015

An AirCam is a small, open air, two-seater aeroplane, that somewhat resembles a winged kayak, with a range of four hundred kilometres. Such a craft would surely make for a great way to move about in relatively small hops, something US travel writer Jeff Greenwald experienced recently.

The AirCam has a range of about 250 miles, so we stopped every few hours to refuel. Sometimes there’d be someone to help us; most times Webster would pop the caps on the wing and pump the petrol himself. When it got late in the day we’d pull out our smartphones and book a basic hotel, always close to the regional airport. It was fun to come back the next morning, wheeling our carry-ons, as the desk attendant asked what time our flight was. “Don’t worry,” Webster chortled. “They won’t leave without us.”

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We played mile high tennis and have the photos to prove it

Tuesday, 23 September, 2014

Tennis game, aircraft wing

There’s playing tennis, and then there’s playing tennis on the top wing of a biplane, at an altitude of one kilometre or thereabouts. I wonder how long a rally might last on such a narrow… court?

Via Historical Pics.

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The cabins of long haul cabin crew

Tuesday, 9 September, 2014

Aircraft crew compartment

Aircraft cabin stewards on long haul flights don’t try to steal an hour or two’s sleep from their own fold away crew issue seats, rather they withdraw to small, crawling room only compartments, that are usually located directly above the passenger cabin, on some aeroplanes at least.

This I had not known. Is it possible to score a slot in one these compartments… I’m sure I’d sleep far better on a long haul flight if I could.

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Filming the aerobatic maneuvers of the USAF Thunderbirds

Monday, 21 July, 2014

Sergeant Larry Reid Jr is a photojournalist tasked with recording the aerobatic maneuvers of the USAF Thunderbirds air demonstration squadron. It’s not a job for any photographer though considering you’re moving at speeds of 800 kilometres an hour, at altitude, and your subjects may only be but a mere metre away.

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Photos of the combat aircraft of World War I

Monday, 2 June, 2014

German aircraft over Giza pyramids

World War I in Photos: Aerial Warfare, an In Focus photo collection. The Great War, or World War I, was the first major conflict to see the use of aircraft, yet it seems hard to believe that they were, initially at least, used for only reconnaissance purposes, rather than combat.

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Landing on an aircraft carrier, now that’s landing an aircraft

Friday, 23 May, 2014

I flew small aircraft, really small aircraft, for a couple years once, and if you asked me what the single hardest aspect of flying was, I’d tell you it was landing. As long as you have your wits about you, taking off and cruising are relatively straightforward processes. Almost like driving a car.

When it comes to landing you really have to get a number of things right, and all at the same time. In most cases though you have a nice wide, and long, runway to bring the aircraft down onto. But what about trying to land on an aircraft carrier? That would present a few more challenges, would it not?

Again, you have to get a number of things right simultaneously, but the margin for error is somewhat reduced, as US Navy pilot Tim Hibbetts explains:

You catch sight of the carrier over 20 miles out through a light haze. Even after several years, it still stirs an emotional response. The thing is so big… and so small. It’s big when you have to clean it or paint it, but small if you have a rumor or need to land on it. You’re about 10 minutes prior to your Charlie time (when your hook should be crossing the ramp) and you’ve checked in with the group’s air defense ship. You’re coming down to your marshaling altitude before you pop the 10 nautical mile bubble, so you minimize your chances of swapping paint with someone. Your wingman is now in tight formation, so he’s not helping you look around to clear the airspace. You’re essentially flying both planes, so your head is on a swivel. If you see another aircraft at the last second, you can certainly jerk away to avoid it, but you’re just going to send your wing man to his death, so “vigilance” isn’t just a noun.

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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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