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How Can Bionics Research Improve Aircraft Design?

When I was younger I was sure I would become an engineer just like my grandpa and my older brother.  I loved science and math, and did quite well which seemed like a perfect fit.  However, it just wasn’t meant to be, and the more stories I read like this one from Airbus just reaffirms to me that I made a wise choice in leaving the engineering to other people.

The article itself is about how Airbus has created a company wide network for their bionic projects to ensure that repetitive work isn’t being done and that the greatest minds are working together to create the best results.  Good for them.

The really cool part of the article is when they talk about some of the incredible technology they have already developed.  One project is working to copy the structure of a lily to make stronger support structures for aircraft parts.  I don’t think most of us look to plants for inspiration on building aircraft parts, but maybe that is why we aren’t engineers.

The other huge technology that is making news not only in the aviation industry but in all kinds of industries is the use of 3-D printing to save weight and reduce costs in manufacturing.  This technology makes it possible to manufacture parts in ways that simply were not possible in the past.  We truly are in an exciting period for aircraft design and manufacturing.

All of these technologies are really starting to come together and complement each other in the development of safer and more efficient aircraft.  As sad as it is to see aircraft like the 747 start to fall in favor, it is pretty exciting to think about what the future may hold.  In reality, most of us probably have no idea what the not to distant future may hold when it comes to new aircraft development.

November 22, 2014 I Written By

I'm Dave and I am a proud Avgeek. It goes way beyond liking airplanes. It is a passion that cannot be subdued.

Lessons Learned: What to Do When You Can’t Fly

I’ve been going through withdrawals recently, two kinds of withdrawals actually.  The first one is writing because I just haven’t felt like I had anything special to share mostly because of the second one: I haven’t been able to fly.

This may come as a surprise to many of you, but being aircrew in the Air Force does not mean that you get to fly all of the time.  In fact, we do a whole lot more other stuff than we do flying, but that might be something for another day.

So what does one who is obsessed with planes and flying do when they can’t fly?

Read about it naturally.

It is a lot of fun reading all of the various blogs and news sources out there, most of which I have stumbled across on Twitter, and they do provide incredibly value assets to someone like me who soaks in anything they can find related to planes.  I have learned, in my relatively short years, that there is as much information out there to be taken in as you are willing to search for.  The awesome thing about the aviation industry is that it is full of people who will talk your ear off about anything you want to know.

For an avgeek, that is a lot of fun, but for someone whose career is in aviation, it can make all the difference in the world.  It really makes no difference if you are a flyer or if you work on the ground supporting flight operations, we all stand to gain so much by taking the chance to learn from anyone who is willing to share.

As I mentioned, I haven’t been able to fly for a little while because I keep getting sick every time I am supposed to fly.  As much as that sucks, I did have an instructor who has forced me to take advantage of this time and not waste it.

He gave me a couple of exercises that forced me to get into the regulations and expand my knowledge.  Admittedly, I was a little annoyed at first because I was in the middle of other things, but once I got past the initial reaction and started digging into the books it reminded me why I love my job, and how cool it can actually be.  There is just something about feeling like you have expanded your own knowledge base that is incredibly rewarding.

While studying the FARs may not be as exciting as studying military tactics, there is still plenty that can be learned that is very exciting, and may just save your life.  The best example is Capt Sullenberger who landed his plane on the Hudson.  He had spent countless hours studying and learning for a situation just like that.  There is a quote from an interview that he did with Katie Couric that really sums this all up perfectly:

“One way of looking at this might be that for 42 years, I’ve been making small, regular deposits in this bank of experience, education and training. And on January 15 the balance was sufficient so that I could make a very large withdrawal.”  -Capt Sullenberger

I apologize that I couldn’t find a solid reference for that quote, but whether he said it or not, the message remains true.  We work in an industry where serious accidents are a very real possibility every single day.  The only way to be prepared for those accidents is to put in the time and effort now, at ground speed zero.  There is no way to know everything all at once, but a solid foundation of safety can be developed over time if we only put forth the effort.

So as much as it sucks to be grounded for long periods of time, that doesn’t mean that we can’t take advantage of that time to become better aviators or improve our abilities on the ground.  There is an unending fountain of knowledge that we all can partake in, if only we put forth the effort to take it in.

November 17, 2014 I Written By

I'm Dave and I am a proud Avgeek. It goes way beyond liking airplanes. It is a passion that cannot be subdued.

Airbus’ Fly Your Ideas Competition Inspiring Young Minds

Fly your ideasThis is not the first time that I have written about the Fly Your Ideas competition put on by Airbus, but I feel that it bears repeating as many times as they put forward such an inspiring competition.

We live in a world where innovation is happening at all times, and some of the greatest innovators are young people.  With any luck, one of these ideas may be the next disruptive technology in aviation.

In Round 1, during which teams submit their ideas, Airbus will continue accepting registrations until 1 December.

You can take a look at previous entries in some of my previous posts, including a winner or two.  Suffice it to say that I am a huge supporter of any innovation, especially ones that are inspired by young minds that will carry us into the future.

Fly Your Ideas Competition Finalists

Airbus Changing the Future of Aviation

Full contest information can be found at: www.airbus-fyi.com

Here are images of the finalists from the last competition:

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November 13, 2014 I Written By

I'm Dave and I am a proud Avgeek. It goes way beyond liking airplanes. It is a passion that cannot be subdued.

Veterans Day is a Celebration of People

The venerable P-51 Mustang was actually designed by the German-born Edgar Schmued.

The venerable P-51 Mustang was designed by the German-born Edgar Schmued.

I have probably thought more about this article than just about any other article that I have written, and I still am not exactly sure what I want to say so I will start with a little education and see where I end up.

For those who may not know exactly where Veterans Day comes from or why we honor it, let me explain it for you.  The original holiday was designed to honor those who had died in WWI and was celebrated on November 11 in honor of when the Armistice with Germany went into effect at the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month.  Armistice Day is still celebrated in other countries, and is also referred to as Remembrance Day in places like Canada and the UK.

After WWII a movement was started by a veteran named Raymond Weeks who thought the holiday should celebrate all veterans, and not just those who died in WWI.  In 1954 the Veterans Day that we know was officially established to honor all veterans who have served this great nation.  Just to be clear, Memorial Day is to honor those who died in service to the country, while Veterans Day is to celebrate ALL who served.

I guess maybe that is the message I want to focus on is that this is a celebration of people.  Many people have played many different roles in multiple different wars in the last century.

We are often quick to recognize those who died or performed heroic acts, and rightfully so because they made the ultimate sacrifice to ensure our freedom and the freedom of others.  They deserve our utmost gratitude and adulation for their actions, and I will never tire of hearing their stories and honoring their example in any way that I can.

It is also important to recognize those whose contributions may easily get overlooked.  Being the avgeek that I am I think of people like Edgar Schmued, the German-born designer of the P-51 Mustang that had a huge impact on the air war and directly impacted the final outcome of the war.

I only recently learned of my Grandma's involvement in the Navy.

I only recently learned of my Grandma’s involvement in the Navy.

I think of my Grandma who served in the Navy as a clerk in the Brooklyn Shipyard ensuring that parts were getting to where they needed to be.

I think of my friend, and fellow Airman, Joe Kaelin who comes from a family of military members that have served for over 70 years including 32 years consecutively.

I think of my dad who served in the Army in both tanks and helicopters; which ultimately inspired my love of airplanes and my own military service.

I think of standing on the yellow footprints at MCRD San Diego 11 years ago and ultimately crossing the parade deck with 214 other young men.  Sadly, I have little contact with many of them now but it is not unreasonable to think some of them have paid the ultimate sacrifice, or at least been wounded defending our freedom.

I think of the young men and women I had the opportunity to support last year in Afghanistan bringing them valuable supplies, or bringing them injured back to a hospital where they could receive the care they needed.

You see there really are no words to describe exactly how I feel about this day.  It is one of those things that you can’t really describe unless you have experienced it yourself.  There are so many amazing people who fulfilled their duty in whatever way they were asked that makes it possible for all of us to live our lives the way we want to.

The sacrifices made by each of us as individuals varies dramatically depending upon the era in which we served, and the missions which we were called to perform.  But, no matter what those sacrifices were we accepted them willingly and performed at our best to ensure that those around us could return home safely, and if that wasn’t possible that at least their sacrifice would mean something in defending the freedoms of those they were fighting for.

Joseph Ambrose, an 86-year-old World War I veteran, attends the dedication day parade for the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in 1982. He is holding the flag that covered the casket of his son, who was killed in the Korean War.

Joseph Ambrose, an 86-year-old World War I veteran, attends the dedication day parade for the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in 1982. He is holding the flag that covered the casket of his son, who was killed in the Korean War.

It is one of the great honors of my life to serve with amazing men and women who have sacrificed so much for people they don’t even know.

Veterans Day is a special day for me because it helps me to take a second to stop and think about the legacy that I am leaving behind.  We military members have been entrusted with a very solemn legacy that means so much to so many people and it is important to stop and think about that sometimes.  The most important part of that legacy is the people themselves who sacrificed so much and asked for absolutely nothing in return.

I would encourage you to seek out those that you may know that have served, or are currently serving.  Maybe it is a friend, family member, or coworker.  Take a moment on this day to thank them, and more importantly ask them about their story.  For those who are capable of sharing, ensuring that legacy lives on can be one of the greatest expressions of gratitude that they will ever receive.

I would love to hear their stories in the comments below, or through any other means you deem appropriate.  As I said before, keeping their story alive is one of the greatest honors we can give them so please help me to do that.  Thank you for your support.

November 11, 2014 I Written By

I'm Dave and I am a proud Avgeek. It goes way beyond liking airplanes. It is a passion that cannot be subdued.

Disney’s Planes Fire and Rescue Now Available on Blu-Ray/DVD

Get your copy now and watch it over and over with your kids like I did.

Get your copy now and watch it over and over with your kids like I did.

“Did you just fall out of a B-17?  Cause your da bomb!”

That has got to be one of my favorite lines from just about any movie I have ever seen, and it just happens to come from one of my favorite kids movies ever.  That movie is Disney’s Planes Fire and Rescue which just so happened to come out on Blu-Ray this week.

I won’t bore you with a review of the movie again since I did that when it came out in theaters, but I will reassert how much I absolutely love it.  The sights and sounds of this movie are even better than the original.  It is also an even more touching story than the original because it is based on people who literally risk their lives to keep others safe.  Suffice it to say that I watched it three times this weekend (Don’t judge me, I am just an avgeek) and it touches me more every time I watch it.

While there aren’t a ton of bonus features, the ones they did add are quite nice.  They include an amusing short film about Dusty and Chug performing at an air show in Propwash Junction, a couple of short intro videos of the characters, and my personal favorite, a short feature on the actual firefighters from Chino California that much of the movie was based on.

These Cal Fire aircraft inspired much of the movie.

These Cal Fire aircraft inspired much of the movie.

The members of Cal Fire risk their lives every year to fight wildfires across the region to protect the lives and property of countless people.  The movie mirrored their control tower off the actual tower in Chino as well as basing the Blade character off one of the Cal Fire helicopters.

They really did a fantastic job with the technical aspects of the movie, which they also talk about during the special features.  There is a little bit of artistic freedom, but the vast majority of the flying is spot on and really makes an avgeek like me anxious to get out and fly.

The Blu-Ray, DVD, and digital edition are available on Amazon and will be at your house in two days or less if you have Amazon Prime.  If you need a little eye candy to push you over the edge to buy it, just take a look at the trailer below.  After you do come back and leave a comment, I would love to hear about how much you and your kids love it.

November 9, 2014 I Written By

I'm Dave and I am a proud Avgeek. It goes way beyond liking airplanes. It is a passion that cannot be subdued.

1970s Commercial Recruiting USAF Navigators

A friend of mine from work posted this on Facebook and I just had to share it.  Great for a laugh these days.  I think my favorite part is the beach/surfing at the end.  We navigators really do live a glamorous life.

I Written By

I'm Dave and I am a proud Avgeek. It goes way beyond liking airplanes. It is a passion that cannot be subdued.

Is Free Inflight Wifi a Real Possibility?

We live in an increasingly connected world, which has both good and bad associated with it.  Whether we like it or not that connectivity is only going to increase in coming years, and that includes internet access when we are flying.

In-flight wifi is becoming increasingly more common on airlines around the world with various levels of accessibility and cost across the industry.  For basic travelers they are likely only interested in accessing their email or maybe playing around with social media which can be done relatively inexpensively by purchasing an hour or even a day’s worth of access for those with connecting flights.

Business travelers would likely be interested in greater access which naturally comes with a greater cost.  However, their company is probably going to cover the cost so it likely makes little difference to them how much it costs.

A quick search of a few airline sites revealed that lower end access, which should be sufficient for most people, will cost anywhere from about $5-20.  That isn’t unreasonable, but when you consider many people will have just paid $25 or more just to get their bag on the plane, and may be hungry on the flight which will cost them another $5-10, paying another $20 just may not be worth it to check their email.

On the other hand, if it was free, I think most everyone would use it, if only sparingly.  But how realistic is it to expect widespread free wifi?

It probably isn’t too far-fetched considering some foreign airlines already offer it.  Norwegian offers free access on their domestic flights, and Emirates offers the first 10MB for free on their A380s and 777s.  After that they have a tiered model to pay for certain levels of access.

The reason this even came to mind for me is that Emirates is actively pursuing free wifi for all of their passengers.  Naturally there are some technological and cost restrictions that aren’t allowing that to happen yet, but it is noteworthy that airlines are actively pursuing it.

I personally don’t think many US airlines will provide free wifi access across their fleet, but it may become a feature that they attempt to utilize to distinguish themselves from other offerings. In this era of charging for every little aspect of a flight I just don’t see airlines offering a luxury free of charge.  However, we may see one or two that decide that will help them sell more tickets the way that Southwest has with their free checked bags.

It is not surprising that European and Middle Eastern airlines are leading the way in this area as they generally provide a much better service than US based airlines.  I can’t help but wonder how long it will be before the US airlines are forced to start offering better service because the foreign airlines start taking away the market share.  Regulation will likely prevent that from happening, but with any luck we will see improvements like free wifi becoming more common and maybe even the standard by which all airlines are judged.

What do you think?  Will free wifi ever come to US airlines, or will we have to fly foreign to receive that benefit?

November 6, 2014 I Written By

I'm Dave and I am a proud Avgeek. It goes way beyond liking airplanes. It is a passion that cannot be subdued.

Aviation Guy News Now Available!

For a little while now I have been posting to a second site that I utilize for posting press releases from a variety of companies to include airlines and aircraft manufacturers.  Utilizing my incredibly creative mind I decided the site should be known simply as Aviation Guy News.

I am still working on how exactly I will utilize that site but in general it will just be a collection of press releases from all sorts of companies in the aviation industry.  I am still working on broadening my horizons and adding companies to my list.  If you have connections with a company and would like to see your press releases posted please leave a comment below, or get in contact with me through email, Twitter (you should follow me), or Facebook(you should like my page), or however else you want.  Or if you just want to see more releases from a company you are interested in please let me know.

I hope this new site will be a valuable resource for those looking for news directly from the companies themselves without any spin from writers like me.  This site will remain the place where I share my thoughts and opinions, and I will just link back to applicable articles as necessary.

So there you have it.  Sorry I didn’t have a more inspiring piece today, but I had homework to do.

Please check out the new site and let me know what you think.

November 3, 2014 I Written By

I'm Dave and I am a proud Avgeek. It goes way beyond liking airplanes. It is a passion that cannot be subdued.

Lessons Learned: When to Ground Yourself

Flying is an inherently dangerous venture.  While still significantly safer than driving, by the numbers, there is a much higher risk involved with flying because of the unforgiving nature of problems that occur at altitude, or even on the ground where other aircraft are operating.  In fact, the largest accident in aviation history occurred on the ground.

Because of the dangerous nature of flying, in the Air Force we have a process to determine how much risk we are taking on for each mission.  We assign numbers to the various aspects of the mission such as flying at night, flying an unfamiliar route, or having inexperienced crew members.  It can be somewhat difficult to assign numbers to some things, but it helps paint a better picture of the level of risk that is being taken on for each flight.

Part of the process for determining the overall risk level for the mission is determining the risk level for each individual crew member.  This individual score is based upon two factors, our own personal health to include things like fatigue and sickness, and personal factors like family problems or work stress that may impact our ability to perform at the highest level.

Surprise surprise that a government organization has an in depth process to allow people to fly long before the actual flight even takes place.  I have no idea what airlines do but I would venture to guess it is based largely on legal compliance which makes sense because their flights are essentially the same every time.  When it comes to individual people flying smaller planes I think most people walk out to the plane and do some level of pre-flight, with a level of detail unique to each individual, and get in the plane and fly.

Which finally brings me to my lesson from this last flight.  As I mentioned before, I am in the middle of lead upgrade which means I get to do all of the planning for our mission.  I spent half of the day before this flight coming up with a plan to meet training objectives and ensure we were as effective as possible.  I even went to sleep a little earlier than usual to try and be rested.

Unfortunately, my body decided it didn’t want to sleep for half the night but would rather spend that time in the bathroom.  I will spare you the details, but suffice it to say I wasn’t enjoying a nice soak in the tub.  I finally just got up and went to work to finish preparing for the flight.  As I was driving to work I noticed that I was not as sharp as usual which was really no surprise considering I only got about 4 hours of sleep.

All of us will have this happen at some point in our flying career.  We will be tired, or sick, or even stressed to the point that our performance will suffer, and we will put ourselves, and everyone else flying around us, at risk.  It can be really hard to know where your limits are.  Especially when you have a crew that is counting on you, or passengers trying to get somewhere, no one wants to be the reason that a flight doesn’t go.

As I was making my last preparations, before everyone else showed up, it became apparent to me that I was not in a position to be flying so I made the decision to ground myself and hoped that we could come up with a solution to allow others to still fly.  Coincidentally, someone on the other crew was also not able to fly so we had to rearrange crews anyways and only one plane flew that day.  Not the ideal situation, but the safe one.

The point I am trying to make with this long explanation is that each of us needs to know what our limits our.  We need to recognize when we are tired, or sick, or even just distracted, and we need to ground ourselves.  This may disappoint our friends or cause scheduling issues at work, but that is way better than having an accident because we weren’t in the right mindset to handle it.

You don’t have to create a formal sheet like we have in the Air Force, but it may not be a bad idea for that to be the first step in your checklist:

1. Am I in the right mindset/physically able to fly today? 

Making sound decisions is a huge aspect of being an aviator, and that begins long before you ever start the plane up to fly.

November 2, 2014 I Written By

I'm Dave and I am a proud Avgeek. It goes way beyond liking airplanes. It is a passion that cannot be subdued.

The Final Flight of a C-130H: The End of an Era

Tail #2070 served her country well for over 40 years.

Tail #2070 served her country well for over 40 years.

I had a bit of an interesting experience this week that I don’t think most people ever really get.  I had the opportunity to be a part of the crew that took a plane on its very last flight.  With the development of the C-130J it is quickly replacing the older, and better, C-130H.  Yeah, I know, I’m biased.

Many of the older planes have gone to National Guard units around the country to finish out their service lives.  However, there are a couple of planes that have finished their flying lives and need to be taken to their final resting place.

The disappointing part was that none of us knew this was the planes’ last flight, or fini flight, as we like to call them.  Had we known I would have come prepared with my good camera and not left you with these weak images from my phone, but I did what I could.

It really was an honor for me to crew this plane on its last mission.  That aircraft served for 40 years in all corners of the globe performing an incredible variety of missions.  I don’t know any specifics, but it is reasonable to assume that it carried Soldiers and Marines to critical missions that brought freedom to people in all different countries.  It likely carried young men and women that were injured in battle to a hospital that saved their lives.

In the case of those that weren’t so lucky, it likely performed that most sacred mission of returning them to their loved ones draped in the colors that they sacrificed everything for.

This tail flash will never fly through the air again, but her legacy will live on in the hearts of those who flew her.

This tail flash will never fly through the air again, but her legacy will live on in the hearts of those who flew her.

It hurts my soul a little to think about these great pieces of machinery having their careers come to an end, but they served their country well, and in the case of this plane, tail #2070, it will continue to serve on the ground for another couple of years.  You see, we passed it off to one of the Air Force’s test and evaluation squadrons where it will aid in developing various different products and processes that will make the planes still flying safer and more effective.

It really made me stop and think about how cool my job is.  I fly a historic plane that has served our country, and many others, for 60 years now.  I get paid to fly in the footsteps of real heroes.  It is truly a privilege to try in some small way to carry on the heritage that they left us with.

While most people will never have the opportunity that I did, nor will I likely ever do it again, we all have the opportunity to keep their heritage alive by visiting aviation museums, and by listening to the stories of those who flew these amazing aircraft.  Most of us have at least a little bit of aviation history in our own backyards if we only look.

I would encourage you to look around and see what you might find, and please share it with the rest of us because that is the only real way to keep aviation history alive.

October 29, 2014 I Written By

I'm Dave and I am a proud Avgeek. It goes way beyond liking airplanes. It is a passion that cannot be subdued.