I drove up to Milwaukee and back today for work, so not a lot of time to write today. I will only point to pilot Patrick Smith's observation that 2017 was the safest year ever for commercial aviation—and this had nothing to do with the president:
One. Of the more than two billion people who flew commercially last year worldwide, that’s the number who were killed in airline accidents. One person. That unfortunate soul was a passenger on board an ATR turboprop that crashed after takeoff in Canada in December. Twenty-four others on the plane survived.
Thus 2017 becomes the safest year in the history of civil aviation.
It was 2013 that held that honor previously, but the fact is that flying has become so safe that year-over-year comparisons are increasingly academic. Instead of playing the same game every January, it’s better to look from a wider, more macro perspective. What we see is a trend that began about thirty years ago, and has since reached the point where air safety, as we know it, and what we now expect of it, has been radically transformed.
The big question is, how did we get here?
No, it has nothing to do with Donald Trump, who this week shocked absolutely nobody by taking credit for the good news in a typically preposterous Twitter message. “Since taking office I have been very strict on commercial aviation,” Trump tweeted. Whatever policies or measures he’s referring to, they exist only in his imagination and are better left unexplored. In typical fashion, instead of congratulating the thousands of professionals who helped make this happen, he congratulated himself, having done virtually nothing.
There are three very real things, on the other hand, we can thank, all of which precede Trump’s presidency....
It's kind of amazing, when you think about it. The last time the U.S. experienced a major air disaster was 16 years ago, when American 587 crashed in Queens.
Photographer Mark Holtzman flew a Cessna 206 over the Rose Bowl on Monday—and captured one of the coolest aerial photos I've ever seen. He explains the shot in The Atlantic:
I’m always talking with them. It’s run under the Pasadena Police, so I get a clearance. They don’t want anybody just flying around during a big event like that, even though you theoretically can. So I was on a discreet frequency, the same frequency as the B-2, talking to them. They know me now.
Unlike film, the way you shoot digital is you shoot wider and crop it in. It’s hard. Things are happening really quick. It’s very fluid. I’m flying at 100 miles per hour. They are flying 200 miles an hour in the other [direction]. So, that’s 300 miles per hour. Things happen really quickly.
For me, my goal was to put the B-2 inside the stadium, preferably in the grass. And I don’t want to block any of the names or other stuff. For this picture, if you block the flag, it takes away from it.
So, first you’re trying to find the B-2 as it is flying toward you. Everything is fluid. I am moving around. They have to be on their target and you have to be on yours. There are no shortcuts. Sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn’t.
You have to see this photo.
I'm on a train, using my mobile phone to tether my laptop to the Intertubes. I know this is an old technology, and also the reason I have unlimited data on my mobile, but I still love this stuff.
Things I'm reading:
Now approaching...Highwood! And soon off to my meeting.
I'm under the weather today, probably owing to the two Messiah performances this weekend and all of Parker's troubles. So even though I'm taking it easy, I still have a queue of things to read:
I will now...nap.
I'm about to head to SFO after this very-quick trip to California. My sleeping Surface will have these articles waiting for me to read:
And finally, check out this recruiting video from the New Zealand police (via Deeply Trivial):
Emirates, despite what I may think about its ownership and massive state subsidies, has some of the coolest equipment in commercial aviation. Their latest innovation is to provide virtual windows for their interior first-class suites:
See, Emirates laid out its new First Class suites in a 1-1-1 configuration on the 777. The suites on the sides are treated to several windows, but what could Emirates do about the suites in the middle? Some people love aisle seats and others love windows. (And there are probably a strange few who even prefer neither for some unknown reason.) But people generally prefer to have an aisle AND window when possible. And if you’re in First Class, that seems like quite a reasonable request. There obviously can’t be windows in the middle of the aircraft, so Emirates did something awesome. It installed virtual windows. You can see them in action in this video:
I mean, that's just cool. And it has some really interesting implications:
This kind of technology can also allow designers to really get creative on new aircraft. Think about the B-2 stealth bomber. That kind of triangular “flying wing” design” could lend itself to commercial aviation some day, but windows would be a real challenge. Now imagine that could be built with virtual windows throughout the cabin, giving people a constant ability to look out without requiring any structural work.
Heck, you could make the whole airplane a virtual window if you want. That would result in something similar to Airbus’s 2050 concept airplane (though that plan apparently would, in theory, use transparent cell membranes or something crazy like that).
Yes, this may seem like it’s just a fake window, but it’s so much more. I’m excited about what it might mean for future aircraft development. Oh… and yeah, those new Emirates suites look pretty darn nice too.
I don't think I'll ever actually fly in an Emirates first-class suite, but I agree with Cranky Flier: there's a lot to be excited about in there.
I have some free time coming up next Friday, but until then, there's a lot going on. So I have very little time to read, let alone write about, these stories from this week:
Back to project planning...
Pilot Patrick Smith writes an ode to Maho Beach, Sint Maarten, which remains closed after being partially destroyed by Hurricane Irma three weeks ago:
St. Maarten — or St. Martin — is part French and part Dutch. Princess Juliana (SXM) is in the Dutch section, and Maho sits just off end of runway 10. And when I say “just off,” I mean only a few hundred feet from the landing threshold. As arriving planes cross the beach, they are less than a hundred feet overhead. For an idea of close this is, you can check out any of a zillion online pics. Like the one above. Or this one, or this one, or any of hundreds of YouTube videos. Unlike so many other scary-seeming airplane pictures you’ll come across, they are not retouched.
Thus, planespotting at Maho beach is an experience unlike any other in commercial aviation. Not that you need to be an airplane buff to enjoy it. For anybody, the sights, sounds, and sensations of a jetliner screaming overhead at 150 miles-per-hour, nearly at arm’s reach, are somewhere between exhilarating and terrifying.
This is what he's talking about:
An Air France A380 carrying 520 passengers lost an engine over the Atlantic this weekend:
“Flight 066 landed without further damage at the Goose Bay military airport in Canada and all of the 520 people on board were evacuated with no injuries,” an Air France spokesman in Paris said.
Video and photo images posted on social media, apparently by passengers or their relatives, showed extensive damage to the front of the outer starboard engine, with part of its external cowling stripped away.
The cause of the problem was unknown, with one of the plane’s passengers suggesting that a bird might have collided with the engine which was damaged.
There are many potential causes of the engine losing its cowling in flight, but a bird strike at FL400 is not likely one of them.
Also, the passengers were never in any danger. Four-engine planes have to be able to fly upwards of 275 km on two engines to pass certification.
Via AVWeb, a company in Seattle is making an old kind of drone:
Two brothers in Seattle, working as Egan Airships, have built a drone that combines features from both fixed-wing aircraft and blimps to create an aircraft that can hover, take off and land vertically, and fly at up to 40 mph. The 28-foot-long aircraft weighs less than 55 pounds and uses a patented streamlined envelope design, rotational wings and an extended tail. It’s powered on both the wings and the tail.
The inflated portion of the Plimp aircraft is filled with helium, which is not flammable, and provides part of the lift, which is supplemented by lift created by the rotational wings. Due to its buoyancy, the company says, the Plimp is more efficient than helicopters and fixed-wing aircraft for surveillance and inspection operations. The aircraft is highly visible for miles, so line-of-sight rules can be adhered to for much greater distances than conventional drones, the company said. Its size and visibility also enhance collision avoidance. The aircraft can be operated remotely by a pilot and flight technician, and does not require a runway or launch/recovery system to operate.
Here's the company's video about the aircraft: