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Amazing New Technology in Aircraft Construction

Planes in and off themselves are amazing feats of technology, but today I saw a couple of different articles about some of the new technology going into the planes at Boeing and Airbus.

The new technology that Boeing is supporting is a new super-light metal that is also super strong.  Just look at the video below and tell me it is not awesome.

This metal is so light it can balance on top of a dandelion.

Posted by The Boeing Store on Friday, September 4, 2015


Airbus is continuing to innovate off of their A350 XWB in building their new A330neo.  They are utilizing materials technology from the innovative A350 XWB along with titanium to build lighter and stronger wing boxes and engine pylons.

It is pretty incredible all of the advancements that continue to be made in aviation.  What will be really fun to see is what the next majorly disruptive technology will be.  What do you think we may see in the near future? distant future?

September 7, 2015 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.

Air Force One to Find a New Home on the Boeing 747-8 Intercontinental

"Air Force One over Mt. Rushmore" by U.S. Air Force File Photo.

“Air Force One over Mt. Rushmore”  U.S. Air Force File Photo.

I know I am a little biased due to my preference for Boeing over Airbus, but the announcement that the latest variant of the 747 will be the new Air Force One really isn’t a surprise to anyone that followed the process at all.  It honestly would not look good to a lot of people to have the American President flying in a French plane.

Just to be clear, the callsign Air Force One applies to any Air Force aircraft that is carrying the president.  Which is why the S-3 Viking that carried President Bush onto the deck of the USS Abraham Lincoln was Navy One, because he was on a Navy plane.  The presidential helicopter bears the callsign Marine One when the president is on board.

Sorry for the lesson, I will get back to the story at hand.

Almost two years ago I wrote a piece about the 787 being a potential replacement for the presidential fleet of three aircraft.  I doubt that it was ever really an option because of the requirements they have for these aircraft, but it was kind of fun to think about it.

The newest 747 variant is the perfect chariot for the American President.

The newest 747 variant is the perfect chariot for the American President. Photo: Boeing

The latest version of the queen of the skies is a fitting fixture for our President to strut around the world in.  This plane is not just a means of transportation for a powerful leader, but a symbol of his office and the power that it bears.  It was a clear decision to pick the most majestic aircraft that is manufactured in America.

The A380 would have been a perfectly acceptable choice as well, along with a few other options, but the symbolic nature of this aircraft really made this choice a no-brainer.

The new planes won’t join the 89th Airlift Wing (the presidential squadron) for about eight years, so we will have gone through at least one more president by the time it enters service.  However, I’m sure I speak for all the other avgeeks out there when I say I hope we get to see some of the development, but I’m not naive enough to think we will see much of anything.

January 30, 2015 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.

Boeing Working to Inspire Children in South Africa

I’ll be the first to admit that I am a Boeing guy.  It’s not that Airbus makes a bad plane, I am just your stereotypical prideful American that wants all of the best stuff to come from the states.  So sue me. (please don’t, I can’t afford it)

I have written in the past about some of the cool things that Airbus is doing to educate and inspire young people to pursue aviation like the Fly Your Ideas Challenge and the Airbus Lycée.  I’m happy to see that Boeing is following suit with their newest joint venture with South African Airways.

One of the things that I spend a lot of time thinking about these days is how to get young people, including my own kids, excited about aviation.  Kids like my son are easy because they just love airplanes, but there are so many that never even see a life in aviation as a possibility because they don’t realize all of the opportunities that exist.

That is why this venture is so cool.

Boeing and South African Airways have taken a normal shipping container and turned it into a mock up NextGen 737 including a flight deck, passenger cabin, and even a demonstration engine.  This is the kind of hands on experience that kids need to really spark their interest in aviation and inspire them to pursue a career.

What makes this shipping container aircraft even more valuable is that it is accompanied by actual people who have careers in aviation that can show the kids that anything is possible.  They can be role models for these young South Africans and give them hope that they can actually pursue their dreams no matter how lofty they may be.

As a kid I always loved airplanes and would stop playing to look up as they flew over my house.  That really hasn’t changed since I grew up, and I hope to find a way to do my part with inspiring young people who have the same dreams that I did, but just don’t know how to make it a reality.

I’m glad to see that Boeing and South African Airways are doing their part as well.

October 1, 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.

Boeing Phantom Eye Promoted to Experimental Status by US Air Force

The Phantom Eye could change the future of ISR forever.

The Phantom Eye could change the future of ISR forever.

I’m sure I sound like a broken record with how much I talk about Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs) being one of the most exciting and interesting topics of discussion in aviation, but they are.  Right now the focus is really on their value as an ISR asset, and I think that is largely where the focus will stay for quite a while.  One of the most intriguing stories is the development of the Boeing Phantom Eye.

I have written about the Phantom Eye in the past and all of the incredible goals they have set.  It is a high altitude long endurance (HALE) airframe that is designed to cruise at 60,000 feet for anywhere from 7 to 10 days at a time.  Yes you read that right, over a week which is made possible by the liquid-hydrogen powered engines.

The platform has only performed six flight tests, but was just promoted from unproven to experimental status by the US Air Force 412th Operations Group.  That upgrade was based on the recommendation of NASA’s Dryden Flight Research Center.

This promotion allows the Phantom Eye development team to expand testing by flying to a nearby test range instead of strictly flying in the protected airspace over Edwards Air Force Base.  The team will now be able to really push the altitude and endurance limits that they are shooting for.

Military use is often the first thing people think of when they talk about UAVs, but there are so many other uses for a platform like this.  What other uses can you think of for the Phantom Eye, or other similar platforms?  Please share in the comments below.

February 12, 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.

Every AvGeek’s Dream: My Adventures in Everett: Part 4 Dreamlifter

We avgeeks are a funny group of people.  We take great pleasure in seeing, or even talking about planes.  They don’t have to be rare planes, though that is fun.  They just have to have wings, an engine, and a cockpit.  Come to think about it, they don’t have to have any of that, they just have to fly in some way shape or form, or at least used to fly, or were intended to fly.  According to my wife, it is crazy to sit around for five hours in cold, drizzly, Seattle weather, just to see a plane take off, but that is just the price of admission for an avgeek.

When I was planning my trip to Paine Field I had only two aircraft that I was really dying to see fly, the 787, and the Dreamlifter.  Trouble was, when I left home the 787 was grounded, which meant the factory had slowed a little and the Dreamlifters didn’t need to be quite as busy.  But even if I didn’t see those, I would be happy just relaxing and checking out some planes.

When I got to the field on my first day I saw a Dreamlifter for the very first time in person, parked on the ramp in all of its hugeness.  For those unfamiliar with the Dreamlifter, it is a retrofitted 747 that was designed to carry parts for the 787.  It kind of looks like a 747 marshmallow that got put in a microwave and blown up throughout the fuselage.  It looks weird and awesome all at the same time.

I kept watching Flight Aware throughout the week hoping to see one actually land or take off, but to no avail.  On my last day there I looked at the schedule before leaving home and there was one on the schedule for that afternoon.  I didn’t really get my hopes up as there had been many on the schedule, none of which I had actually seen fly.  I went anyways, as it was my last day and I just wanted to see planes.

As it turned out there wasn’t much of anything flying that day other than a few little GA aircraft, but it was still nice to be at the airport and just read my book.  Right as I was about to leave my new friend from earlier in the week showed up so I decided to stay for a little while and chat with him.  While chatting we were joined by another avgeek who can also be found on Twitter: @pilot_ngb.  Once again it was awesome to meet someone who loved planes as much as me.

Just as I was about to leave, again, the lights on the Dreamlifter came on.  Was I actually going to see it fly right before I was going to leave.  Sure enough the tug pushed the plane back and it started to taxi out.  Our new friend pulled out his radio and we heard that they would be taxiing down to the other end to take off.  Once we saw the plane make the turn South on the taxiway we jumped in our cars and sped off to the windsock to get a better view.

We made it just in time to watch the Dreamlifter taxi by, and then line up on the runway.  Then I finally got to see this:

Dreamlifter take off

I got to fly on a 747 once about 12 years ago, and it was incredible.  However, standing next to the runway about 200 feet away from it taking off was even more incredible.  I honestly don’t think I can put into words how much I loved it.  It was the perfect ending to my week, and well worth the five-hour wait.

There are a few big things that I took away from my week at Paine Field.

  1. I need to get a better camera so I can take better pictures.
  2. It doesn’t matter if planes are old or young, I love them all.
  3. As awesome as the planes are, and as much as I love the airport, the people are what truly make aviation special.  It is a unique bond that you can’t find in many places.

I am so grateful for the people who I met on my trip, and I look forward to having even more such experiences in the years ahead.  If we ever happen to be in the same neighborhood, hit me up and I would love to talk planes while watching them, or waiting for them to show up.

May 5, 2013 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.

Every AvGeek’s Dream: My Adventures in Everett: Part 1

A couple of weeks back I had the opportunity to spend a few free days at Paine Field North of Seattle, and it was everything that I had hoped it would be.  As a complete and utter AvGeek I will gladly take any opportunity to watch planes in all of their many states.  Paine Field just happens to be one of the best places to see planes as it is also the home of Boeing’s largest factory.

At the Boeing factory in Everett they manufacture the 747, 767, 777, and the recently reairborne 787.  I will talk about the tour another day, but will simply say that I highly recommend it to anyone who loves planes as much as I do.

When it comes to plane spotting at Paine Field I took the advice of some experts as to where to go.  Malcom Muir of wrote a great piece about all the ins and outs of plane spotting in the area.  Based on his recommendations I chose to spend the vast majority of my time on the Stratodeck at Future of Flight.

On my first day at Paine Field I was fortunate enough to check one aircraft off of my list that I wanted to see airborne.  While I had missed the 787 battery test flight the day before, I was fortunate enough to see one of numerous 787 flights that week.  You can see some of the pictures I took below, as well as a couple of shots from a newly discovered friend, PlaneInsight.  Of course that isn’t his real name, but I will leave that for you to learn by getting to know him.

It was awesome to see the 787 in flight.  It is just a beautiful aircraft, and it is a pity that it has been grounded for so long.  Fortunately, it will be back in the air soon.  I was able to see this gem of an aircraft numerous times throughout the week, but again, I will save that for another day.

I mentioned meeting a new friend while plane spotting, and that was probably the second best part of the day.  It was awesome to meet someone who loves planes as much as I do.  Many of us self-proclaimed AvGeeks live with people who simply don’t understand why we love planes and aviation so much, but when we get the chance to be around the people who not only understand us, but share our passion, it is something that you just never want to end.

I finished my day at another great attraction at Paine Field, Historic Flight Foundation.  But I will leave that for later in the week.

April 21, 2013 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.

Boeing and KLM Teaming Up to Improve Aircraft Efficiency

Boeing and KLM announced yesterday that they will be working together to implement some of Boeing’s latest technologies aimed at improving the efficiency, and lowering the environmental impact, of an aircraft’s flight.  One of the aspects that is becoming increasingly more common is the use of bio-fuels to augment the normal fuel load.  In this case they will be using refined cooking oil as fuel in their ongoing effort to create alternative fuel sources that don’t compete with food, water, or land resources.

Bio-fuels are awesome, and something that we should continue to pursue.  If we continue to look we will ultimately find a breakthrough that could make a real dent in the fuel issues that are present throughout the world.

What I find to be even cooler is the new technology that Boeing is testing.  They call it their Optimal Flight Program.

Planes have been essentially flying themselves through auto-pilot systems for a very long time.  Now Boeing is working to make the planes even smarter by integrating performance data with the flight plan to allow for real-time adjustments reducing the workload on the crew, and improving the efficiency of the aircraft.

As part of that integration, the software will analyze aircraft performance, weather, and other factors to recommend ideal speed variances, and provide more accurate timing predictions.  More accuracy in the data will provide or more efficiency not only in the aircraft, but in the air traffic system as a whole.

After the 26 planned flights take place, Boeing will be working with their partners, TU Delft (Delft University of Technology), John F. Kennedy International Airport, Gander, Shanwick, NATS Domestic and Schiphol Group, to develop new recommended practices and procedures to spread these successes to other users.

It is amazing to me how interwoven the industry is becoming.  Aircraft manufacturers are not just focused on building planes.  They are actively pursuing research that will improve the system as a whole.  Airports, and other partners are teaming up with airlines and aircraft manufacturers to do their part as well.

While the aviation industry is pretty well established in much of the western world, this new technology, and joint effort will become increasingly important in nations where aviation is just starting to takeoff like, Asia and the Pacific Rim, where they simply don’t have the existing infrastructure.

In will be interesting to see the results of this joint venture, and what other technologies and procedures will be developed because of it.

What other joint ventures would you like to see take place?  In what areas do we need to see these companies team up to create meaningful improvements?  Please share your thoughts in the comments below.

March 9, 2013 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.

Asia-Pacific Region to Lead the Way in Aircraft Marketplace Future

The Asia-Pacific region is the fastest growing region in the world when it comes to aviation.  Considering that it contains about half of the world’s population that is likely not much of a surprise to anyone.  Airbus recently released a statement outlining what their projections are for the next 20 years, and the numbers are somewhat staggering.

Airbus estimates 10,000 new aircraft including 3,800 widebodies over the next 20 years.  Those are just incredible numbers, that quite simply blow me away.  Airbus and Boeing will clearly be the major players in these markets, but with that many aircraft to be built and sold other companies will likely fill in the gaps.

The above statement talked a lot about larger aircraft, but as time progresses and the region matures I think the regional type aircraft will become increasingly important.  Much the way the regional carriers have become essential parts of air service in the US, these will become essential to really ingraining flying into the culture of these rapidly developing countries.

I recently saw a comment saying that the aviation industry was being attacked by China and India, but I completely disagree.  I think it is awesome for the industry that these countries are becoming larger players.  There is just so much potential and opportunity there that to think that it could possibly be a bad thing makes no sense to me.  We should all want the industry to grow and develop.

The US has long been the world leader in aviation, and will remain such for the foreseeable future.  That being said, we need to embrace that role, and do our part to improve aviation globally.  We need to be the leader in new ATC technology.  We need to not get so bogged down in regulations and red tape that we lose the wonder that has always made aviation so amazing.  We need to bring the wonder of flight to as many people as we possibly can.

I am curious what other people think about the aviation boom in the Asia-Pacific Region.  What do you see as the benefits of this growth?  What are some of the challenges or difficulties that it will present?  Please share your thoughts in the comment section below.

February 25, 2013 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.

Boeing Moves Forward with the Phantom Eye Hydrogen Powered UAV

Two of the biggest topics of discussion in the aviation industry in recent years have been Unmanned Aerial Vehicles(UAVs) and alternative fuels.  Hidden in the Boeing 787 news last week is another story from Boeing that will play a role in both of those topics.

The Boeing Phantom Eye is a liquid hydrogen-powered high altitude long endurance unmanned aircraft system that could have a tremendous impact on the future of aviation.  As you can see in the video below, it looks pretty cool too.

I have written about UAVs before, and become increasingly interested in them the more that I learn about projects like this.  The Phantom Eye is designed to fly at altitudes of up to 65,000 feet, and stay airborne for as long as four days.  You want to talk about options?  Having an airframe that could stay airborne for four days at incredibly high altitudes gives all kinds of options when it comes to military applications, or even civilians when it comes to disaster relief and other situations where having an “eye in the sky” would prove useful.

One of the biggest pieces of news in this story is the use of liquid hydrogen as fuel instead of traditional fossil fuels.  I don’t necessarily think that liquid hydrogen is the answer to our long-term fuel issues, but the fact that companies are actively pursuing other fuels gives me hope for the future.  We don’t need one fuel to replace fossil fuels, but if we can come up with new technologies to ease the burden in certain parts of the industry then we are moving in the right direction.

Last week the Phantom Eye performed taxi tests in preparation for its second flight later this year.  Improvements had been made since its first flight on June 1, 2012.  One of the most notable improvements was to the landing gear.  Learning from the landing gear on the F/A-18 Hornet they were able to make this landing gear more durable after the first attempt resulted in the gear collapsing on landing.

February 11, 2013 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.

Boeing and Airbus Working Together to Make NextGen ATC a Reality

If you browse through this blog at all it will become apparent rather quickly that I am a huge proponent of NextGen ATC technology.  Call me crazy, but when it has been proven that there is a system that exists to replace decades old technology to make something more efficient, effective, and safe, I think we should act quickly to implement it.

While it is not happening as quickly as some people would like to see, it is happening.  Just last week Qatar Airways flew a RNP-AR approach into Nepal.  This week Frontier Airlines received certification from the FAA to fly the same types of approaches in the US.

I find it interesting that both of these events share a common trait.  They are both heavily impacted by high terrain.  Nepal is one of the most mountainous countries in the world, and Frontier does a huge amount of business through Denver which is nestled high in the mountains of Colorado.

These applications are where the safety impact of NextGen becomes so apparent.  Navigational aids are all based on line of sight, which makes it incredibly difficult for ground-based navigational aids to be effective in mountainous regions.  While GPS still requires line of sight with satellites, it is much easier to achieve that with the satellites positioned overhead as opposed to the being on the ground where they can easily be blocked by mountains.

While both of these press releases come from Airbus, it is important to note that both Airbus and Boeing are actually working together to make this new system a reality.  On Airbus’s ProSky website, which is essentially their ATC arm, they have a long description of how the two airlines are cooperating to improve the whole system.

Boeing and Airbus are two of the biggest corporate competitors in the world, so to see them work together on something says a lot about its importance.

For those who may not really understand what exactly NextGen is, Boeing has an article that does a great job of explaining some of the most important technology, namely the ADS-B and how it works to improve air travel for everyone involved.

February 5, 2013 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.