Archive for the ‘Technology’ Category
The world is moving on, the pressure to train pilots is piling up on nations and airlines. Despite the economic woes we are all facing, they are churning them through in ever increasing numbers. China particularly is supplementing their undersupply with a steady stream of pilots from the battered US community.
Quite how that training is delivered is my point of discussion here. Face to face (f2f) methods have their benefits, but they are an inefficient and expensive way of delivering volume learning in a high bandwidth, networked world.
You may be enthusiastically working your way through the delights of Air Law, Navigation or Meteorology, but if you are driving for an hour or two to get to a classroom then doing the reverse at the end o the day, every dollar you slop into your gas tank is another you cannot spend getting nearer your license goal. And if you with an airline changing types on the company tab, the time and money spent on the motorway could be better spent elsewhere – our planet might breath a little easier too (the irony?).
Enter the Virtual Learning Environment – the ‘VLE’ There are plenty around, some good, some awful, but over the coming weeks I will be feeding into this blog some of the discoveries I am making during an Open University degree I have been working through since early February, an MA in Online & Distance Education (ODE).
VLE’s are not a magic bullet for all learning needs, they are simply a focus point for materials and collaborative learning – the new paradigm gradually sweeping its way through higher education. Within aviation ‘blended learning’, a mix of f2f and eLearning is obviously the way we do it.
If you have any comments or experiences to relate, I would be delighted to hear from you either through the comments facility here or via email. With your permission I will even use the results in my projects, either anonymous or quoted – all within internal, closed discussion groups within my OU cohort. Strictly not for external publication and no ‘creative’ use of your email address either.
‘Fancy sharing your experiences? Please use 777globalnomad at gmail dot com
Every now and again a project comes along that captures the eye and the imagination. Not just because it involves a spectacular flying machine or even a daring mission fraught with danger. No, this project tweaks the mind because it’s audacious in its proposal and generates a massive challenge to those taking part. Put simply, when the project started the proposal was seen as impossible.
In a world depending on fossil energies, the Solar Impulse project is a paradox, almost a provocation: it aims to have an airplane take off and fly autonomously, day and night, propelled uniquely by solar energy, right round the world without fuel or pollution. An unachievable goal without pushing back the current technological limits in all fields…
When times were better the promise of high tech tools on the modern flight deck was an exciting prospect. Having a moving map taxiway chart centred on aircraft position was the promise as was continual display of the same on area charts. Really useful… but arguably not something that would show a ‘demonstrable improvement’ in safety or, dare I say it, a cost saving. Ahhh, I just knew you would cringe just a little with that one.
Before setting out on a review I think it’s important to define what I would consider to be the ‘Holy Grail’ qualities for a headset used within long haul operations. It is within this arena that any quirk, discomfort or flaw will be magnified by extended wear.
Whilst they have improved slowly over time (like the comfort of the seats be place our butt against for hours on end) the ubiquitous headset’s pace of development just hasn’t matched other areas where operator benefits are felt. Having had our heads squeezed and a groove progressively worn behind each ear by sunglasses has become irritatingly normal, so when I saw the tbone you can understand why I became a little excited.
I want a headset that is going to leave my head free to move unencumbered by cables that catch and tug on any obstruction in my vicinity. Bang & Olufsen sound quality would be great, the partial suppression of flight deck environmental noises would be another plus. The tones pushed out across the airwaves from my jet should be sent sharp and clear through my microphone so that every read-back digit is clearly understood by our friends on the ground. With that quality will come pleasing conversational exchanges in the cockpit as we while away the hours leaping continents and the odd ocean in a single bound.
I realise that this is asking a lot but to get it I am prepared to pay a premium price if I have to. When my evaluation tbone headset arrived I was delighted at the prospect of at last achieving audio bliss and cranial comfort. Did we achieve this lofty ambition?
Just a passing note, I hope to be able to review soon the new tbone noise canceling headset from Denmark. It has high tech additions that might just answer a few of the clarity and comfort issues that we face on todays long haul flight deck.
Have a look for yourself and wait for the review later.
We are getting plenty of opinion and comment about the 787 and its wing box woes. It is clear that there are serious problems with the structure of the beast and they are causing angst and delays in first flights and production. The problem is nothing new and its roots were being reported in 2008.
Dreamliner-The wing began to break
June 24, 2009 – 10:52 am, by Ben Sandilands
Getting the truth out of Boeing is a real struggle. This issue that the company is trying to represent as something minor that can be patched internally was the wing starting to delaminate at something less than 120% of the maximum design load….. More
Interestingly, EADS during their weight reduction program for the A380 asked Broughton UK to reduce the weight of the A380′s wing.
They responded by saying that, “You produced a specification and we deigned a wing. It is as strong as it needs to be with no extra weight included within it. No, we will not take weight out as this would compromise strength.”
Not verbatim and a simplification of course, but very much in the spirit…. and you get the drift?
We are tribal – we live in camps. My tribe is Mac, yours may be PC but as an aviator in the 21st Century your bag like mine must have got progressively heavier over the years. Change is woven into aviation’s fabric and change equates in my office to paper – and lots of it. Are you getting as tired as I am of having to be an administrator of some energy to put it all into the right trays?
There is a controversy brewing over the durability of carbon fiber structures that has been kicked off by a (sacked) engineers conviction that they are ‘not safe’. Tempting though it is to point at this and ridicule the industry, we must not ignore the fact that research has been done and a judgment made.
There must be structural engineers who had a childhood like mine. I spend hours building plastic Airfix kits of WW11 combat aircraft only to destroy them with an air rifle over ever increasing ranges. The pyre from the burning plastic stoked with lighter fuel would stretch it the evening sky after a session with my best mate Mark. What joy the host of memories brings to this semi-repentant vandal.
Plastic cracks doesn’t it? Hit a composite fuselage with a catering truck and what do you have? Presently with alluminium jets, an inspection followed perhaps by a day or two in the hanger de-skinning, repairing a frame or two then re-skinning and painting. Then ‘Bob’s your Uncle’ – back to the line and revenue service.
Play the same scenario with a carbon fiber fuselage and where do you start. I guess the questions have been asked but the answers have not been as confidently forthcoming. Take it further, consider what would happen after setting one of these structures alight in an accident with air breathing mammals aboard and a toxic nightmare raises its ugly head….
These are not questions with simple answers. I just hope the research was comprehensive enough to save a certain manufacturer an awfully red face.
You might not fancy the trip to the ‘Webinar’ but some of the questions may have interesting answers.
The argument has been aired many times, yes 2% of the worlds carbon dioxide emissions come from air travel and with expansion that is set to rise to 20% over the next however long…. fifty years – who knows?
Stark statements and an even starker reality. If the environmental lobby have their way we will all be grounded and traveling by sail across the worlds oceans again. From a romantic perspective that is quite an attractive idea isn’t it? – naaa, it’s a non starter, too much is at stake both on the job and World economic scene.
So if we are to believe the pundits something must be done, and soon. I’m all for that – but is the evisceration of aviation really the answer, or are there other solutions that might help us achieve the objective of limiting the damage to ‘acceptable’ levels for the foreseeable future and possibly completely remove them in the longer term?
What’s happening now? This post outlined what the prospects might be of producing a green fuel for aviation use from coal or natural gas. Up-pacing the industrial extraction of massive amounts of coal to keep ever expanding fleets of aircraft airborne is a non starter, and gas… similar problems. The USAFs line of research does point up the strategic importance of securing reliable supplies of aircraft fuel doesn’t it – if we ever needed reminding of the importance of air power to politics…
Ethanol/Biofuel is a big hope in the alternative energy game but it inevitably has its challenges. Is it economically viable to produce aviation fuel mixes, ethanol/fossil? Is the production of the volumes that aviation consumes sustainable? Is it ethically viable to devote huge tracts of land to produce the crops that ethanol is produced from to sustain a largely discretionary air travel option for those who ‘have’? I don’t think so, perhaps a part solution but the whole answer – no.
How about hydrogen? Fuel cell technology is moving ahead but not at a massive pace. As far as aircraft are concerned there are some pretty hefty problems with the carriage of hydrogen. There have been advances though and the prize is very significant. The only by products of hydrogen fuel burn are heat and water.
We could spend ages here debating these questions and producing reams of evidence for each case, but it would probably not advance the argument. I am sure we all applaud Richard Branson’s initiative in the area (whilst at the same time keeping one eye on his astute PR activities).
The sorry truth is that unless there is a technological breakthrough of mammoth proportions over the next few years, we need to limit the expansion of air travel severely. The most likely method to be used to achieve this unfortunately fiscal – by charging more for it. This in itself raises weighty questions – for a start who takes the money, the airlines or government structures?
Gordon Brown, the British chancellor of the UK exchequer is actively lifting cash from the air traveler. He lost no time cashing in by fleecing the UK traveling public with taxes levied at the check in desk. Brown’s motivations, the fairness of his measures and the final destination of the money are hotly debated subjects in Parliament and that debate will warm further as time and his raiding marches on. Vociferous? yes, a little, and an example of how the cost issue may engulf the argument; it’s emotive isn’t it?
Air travel was once an expensive luxury, in relative terms it doesn’t need to be quite so expensive, but again, I do believe the price of a seat should rise, either to fund research and development, carbon offsets, or both. Merely diverting the money into the general taxation pot is unacceptable in my opinion. Trap Gordon’s hand in the till I say.
Does this mean that the modern concept of the low cost carrier is about to whither and die? – I doubt it. If anything, the way they do business will remain little changed and the competitive pressures they exert on the industry will continue to define the way businesses administers themselves. Traveling by air might get more expensive, but the pressure will still be to make it as cheap and efficient as it possible to make it; fierce competition will still rule that element of cost related to the provision of the service. An inefficient carrier will still have the continued life expectancy that the Dodo enjoyed. Dodo – what Dodo?