MIT's New Battery Tech Shows Promise For Aviation

Researchers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology have come up with a new system for generating electricity that could show promise for powering small airplanes. “The potential energy density of this power source is on the same scale with petrochemical energy sources, and it is orders of magnitude higher than commercial lithium ion batteries,” Michael Strano, an MIT professor of chemical engineering, told AVweb this week. “It definitely has the potential to power airplanes of any size.”
Source: avwebMIT's New Battery Tech Shows Promise For Aviation

FAA Administrator Talks Drones at SXSW

March 14 FAA Administrator Michael Huerta and Sally French, “The Drone Girl,” today led a lively panel discussion about the future of small unmanned aircraft at South by Southwest (SXSW) in Austin on Monday. The panel included a diverse group of innovative thinkers from industry and government.

In his opening remarks, Administrator Huerta outlined recent progress on several important initiatives, including a robust unmanned aircraft system (UAS) registration system that is expected to pass 400,000 registrants this week, the MicroUAS aviation rulemaking committee that will deliver recommendations to the FAA by April 1, and the FAAs B4UFLY app for iOS and Android devices. He noted partnerships among the FAA, industry and other government agencies are key to safely and expeditiously integrating unmanned aircraft into our skies.

“The wide array of industry representatives here today underscores that while we may sometimes have different opinions and ideas, were all coming from essentially the same place: We all view safety as our top priority, and the safe integration of unmanned aircraft is a goal that were committed to pursuing together,” Huerta said.

The panel discussion included representatives from NASA, Amazon Prime Air, Intel, PrecisionHawk, Aerobo and Fresh Air Educators. Topics included steps to speed integration while maintaining todays high levels of safety, future uses for UAS, research on how to safely expand UAS operations, and ways to spread the FAA’s safety message to even more UAS pilots. One message that came through from the participants was that partnerships between government and industry are essential to educating the public on how to fly carefully and to safely integrating unmanned aircraft into the nation’s airspace.

Helping people understand where they can and cant fly their unmanned aircraft is critical and the FAA is counting on industrys support. Many UAS users have no experience with the U.S. aviation system, so they may not be aware theyre operating in shared, and potentially busy airspace.

Huerta announced the Android version of the FAAs B4UFLY app is now publicly available. The app tells pilots whether its safe to fly in their current or planned locations. The Android version includes updates to its beta version based on feedback from drone operators who tested the app. Huerta also committed to making the apps programming and logic available to the general public.

The FAA is committed to the safe integration of unmanned aircraft into the national airspace system. The FAAs website has important information for drone owners on registration, flying guidance for hobby or recreation use, commercial operations, public/government operations, law enforcement guidance, educational campaigns, and more. The FAA plans to publish a rule for small unmanned aircraft this spring. The agency has authorized more than 4,000 exemptions for commercial operations, and works with our research partners through the UAS Center of Excellence, six test sites, and the Pathfinder program.

Source: FAAFAA Administrator Talks Drones at SXSW

Birds do it, but they have a learning curve, too

Osprey in flight. Photo courtesy NASA.

A variety of sources detailing the Wright brothers’ research methods and conclusions prior to the successful first powered flight note their study of birds.

From that study, they observed and identified the ways soaring birds changed their wings’ shape to control the flight path. That data led to conceiving and implementing wing warping, mimicking the birds they observed.

Never mind that wing warping isn’t as efficient or mechanically simple as ailerons, flaps, and other devices humans now use to change a fixed wing’s shape. The important part is the Wrights observed how birds established and maintained control, and transferred that knowledge to a mechanical object.

The Wright Flyer on a North Carolina beach

The Wright Flyer on a North Carolina beach.

I’ve had the opportunity to observe a great many birds over the past few years, too. The view from my back porch features enough water to attract several species, each of which has a different reason to be there.

Some of the things I’ve observed involve the ways birds deal with the same kinds of challenges you and I encounter in our own everyday flying.

One season, I put out the Thanksgiving leftovers to see what would happen. I’d barely walked back to the house before the first turkey vulture started circling. By the time I made it to my favorite vantage point, several had landed. As the first few established a for-real pecking order, others began arriving, gliding right over my head.

The faint wooshing sound the vultures made spoke volumes about the lift being generated as they glided to a landing, using wingtip feathers to change heading and bank in the glide. Then they literally flared to a landing, smoothly increasing angle of attack to stall just above their chosen touchdown point. And they occasionally overshot or made go-arounds when conditions didn’t work out as they planned.

All in all, practical demonstrations of how to execute a landing approach, and what to do when things don’t work out as planned, presented by experts.

Other birds include Ospreys and red-shouldered hawks, which dive from their perches in the surrounding trees and splash down into the water, grabbing prey with their talons. Then it gets interesting.

Osprey in flight. Photo courtesy NASA.

Osprey in flight. Photo courtesy NASA.

Heaving themselves upward from the water, they frantically add thrust to get into ground effect. Once everything more or less is dry, including lunch, they stay low while accelerating in ground — err — water effect.

Often the result is an attempted takeoff beyond their gross weight, though, and they’re forced to jettison their cargo and make another attempt.

My favorites are the hawks with a largish fish forced to make two or three circles to gain enough speed and altitude to avoid obstructions. They eventually fly off to enjoy their hard-won meal, not unlike the rest of us for a $100 hamburger. They do seem to work harder for it, though.

And then there’s a sandhill crane I’ll call Wilbur. Wilbur was hatched in the spring of 2015 by his attentive mother and father from their nest on a small island. Once he was old enough, his parents taught him to swim the 20 yards to shore and all three made daily forays out into the world.

At first, he needed active encouragement, but as his education progressed, he could get in and out of the water by himself, and was only a little slower at swimming back and forth to the island than his parents.

Sandhill Crane and chick. By

Sandhill Crane and chick. Photo by

Soon, the time came for Wilbur to learn flying. I happened to be watching one afternoon as mom and dad basically abandoned him on the shore upon their return from the day’s outing. The clear message was he should fly to the island for the first time, where his parents waited expectantly. As far as I know, it was Wilbur’s first attempted takeoff.

Like a student pilot facing a first solo, there was obvious anxiety, both on his part and his parents. They watched attentively from the island as he reluctantly paced in a circle, checking his controls and for arriving traffic. Then came the big moment: He started running.

At what he thought was the appropriate airspeed, he spread his stubby wings and started flapping, bounced a couple of times, wobbled a bit about his roll axis and…crashed back down, rolling up into a ball at the end of the runway.

It was ugly. If it had been an aluminum airplane, we’d soon be drinking canned beer out of what the insurance company sold for scrap. If it had been a Boeing or an Airbus, CNN would have put up a commemorative logo and abandoned its regular programming for the weekend. The NTSB would have sent a go-team. It was that bad.

I’d have felt sorry for the little guy, but I was pointing and laughing too hard.

Mom and dad flapped their wings a couple of times to arrive at his side. They checked him over, prodded him to his feet and they all swam back to the nest. The day’s lesson was over.

Sandhill Crane flying. Photo By Manjith Kainickara

Sandhill Crane flying. Photo By Manjith Kainickara.

I missed the rest of Wilbur’s primary training. The next time I saw him, he was gamely trying to keep up with his more experienced parents as they taught him flight operations in the real world: Landing area inspection, standard patterns, approaches, landings, ground effect, density altitude. Before long, he was executing safe takeoffs, where the outcome never was in doubt.

He still carried too much airspeed into the flare and used too much runway when landing, but every lesson showed improvement. Eventually, the threesome flew away from the nest and I haven’t seen Wilbur since. But he taught me a few things about flying and flight training.

Perhaps most important is none of us are natural-born pilots. Even birds can get it wrong, and they need training and practice just like the rest of us.

Patient, experienced instruction always helps, too.

And when we metaphorically roll up into a ball on our first attempt at one maneuver or another, we dust ourselves off and get back to it.

With the same basic challenges to overcome, birds do it, and so can we. It just takes us a little longer, and we use more 100LL in the process.

Source: http://generalaviationnews.comBirds do it, but they have a learning curve, too

Three New Possible MH370 Items To Be Analyzed

Experts will examine three pieces of debris found over the last two weeks that might be from the missing Malaysian Airlines flight 370, Malaysia’s Transport Minister Liow Tiong Lai said today. One fragment was found by a South African family visiting in Mozambique. They took the item back home with them, and South African authorities plan to take custody of it and hold it until Malaysian investigators come to get it. The other two items were found on Reunion Island and on a sandbank in the Mozambique Channel.
Source: avwebThree New Possible MH370 Items To Be Analyzed

Germanwings Report: Airlines Should Track Pilots' Mental Health

Officials at the Germanwings airline couldn’t have done anything to prevent last year’s fatal crash, according to the final report issued yesterday, because they were not informed by anyone — “neither the co-pilot himself, nor by anybody else, such as a physician, a colleague, or family member” — that Andreas Lubitz was suffering from mental-health problems at the time of the flight. “In addition, the mental state of the co-pilot did not generate any concerns reported by the pilots who flew with him,” according to the report. In the four months leading up to the crash, at least six doctors saw Lubitz for his mental-health problems, but none of them informed the airline.
Source: avwebGermanwings Report: Airlines Should Track Pilots' Mental Health

Do you want to share your passion for aviation? We are looking for a few people who would like to share. Email