Showing posts with label FAA. Show all posts
Showing posts with label FAA. Show all posts

Friday, October 31, 2014

Flying Car

They are really gonna build one.  The Terrafugia Transition, a two seat light plane with folding wings that can be driven on the highway.  The company is in Woburn Massachusetts, just down the road from me. Mostly carbon fiber,  410 mile range with 30 minutes reserve fuel, 100 mph cruise speed.  Price is $279,000.  Which is a lot, you used to be able to buy a used two place Piper or Cessna for $10,0000.  They have 100 firm orders.  Tooling is going to cost $20-30 million, of which half has already been raised. 
   Regulations seem to be as big a hassle to this product than any real technical issues.  Only an easier route to FAA certification open to low power two place sports aircraft made the product possible.  Conventional FAA certification is so expensive, and would add so much heavy "safety" equipment as to kill the design.  After tangling with FAA regulations, they had to deal with highway regulations, which hassled them over the windshield among other things.  Bureaucrats wanted to make the windshield from safety glass rather than polycarbonate plastic. 
   I wish them luck. 

Thursday, September 4, 2014

Let them eat plastic

Gopher tortoises that is.  These are foot long, nine pound grass eating turtles.  They love the long grass adjacent to the runways at Orlando FL airport.   They also love to dig burrows, long and deep ones. Although they cannot dig under the runways, they can burrow into the unpaved shoulders and overrun areas.  FAA fears that a plane skidding off the runway onto the shoulder might catch its landing gear in a turtle burrow and flip over.  Seems kinda obscure to me, but FAA has been on the airport's case to "mitigate" the turtle problem.  Making it harder, the turtles are an endangered species so the obvious measures, like picking them up and trucking them elsewhere, are illegal. 
  The airport's latest scheme.  Replace the grass along the runways with Astroturf.  $14 million worth of Astroturf. 

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Flight safety or political retailiation?

Ted Cruz accused the Obama administration of  forbidding US airlines to fly into Tel Aviv in order to pressure Israel over the Gaza strip.  He might have something there.  The flight ban was laid on after a Palestinian rocket hit within a mile of the airport.  Which is not nearly as dangerous to aircraft as a SAM. 
   Fortunately FAA dropped the flight ban to Tel Aviv after two days, which makes me think maybe they were really thinking about flight safety rather than retaliation. 
  That a responsible US Senator would make such a charge indicates a major loss of trust with the Obama Adminstration.

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

FAA sniffs at Amazon's package delivery drone

After an avalanche of good press from Amazon's video clip of a small whirry helicopter type drone landing a package at a customer's doorstep,  FAA has announced that it doesn't like the idea and will cause trouble for it.  FAA announced in Aviation Week the drones would be limited to 55 pounds total takeoff weight, line of sight operation, daylight only, and altitude not to exceed 400 feet. 
   Line of sight is the killer restriction.  I mean how many customer abodes are within eyeshot of the Amazon warehouse[s]?  Even using binoculars?  Darn few. 
  We will pass over the technological challanges of beyond line of sight operation.  Even after the drone has found the delivery address using GPS, it still has to locate the door, or the mail box, sort out apartment numbers,  distinguish between walks and driveways, and other stuff that mailmen have no trouble with, but robots will find challenging. 
   Anyhow, Amazon created a lot of good publicity for itself, and FAA managed to look like the Grinch. 

Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Next Gen succumbs to budget cuts.

Next Gen is the FAA's plan to completely redo the national air traffic control system.  Under Next Gen, each aircraft would be required to carry a GPS receiver, and upon interrogation from ground radar the aircraft would report it's position according to GPS.
  Next Gen would require every aircraft to be equipped with a $25,000 GPS box, at the owner's expense.  Benefit is better accuracy.  GPS is accurate to a few feet.  Ground radar is accurate to only a few miles.  Knowing that the radar positions are only accurate to a few miles, air traffic controllers keep planes spaced apart in the sky by ten miles or more.  It is claimed that Next Gen would permit closer spacing, making more room in the sky to absorb the ever increasing load of air traffic.  And the equipment manufacturers are more than pleased with the thought of selling all those expensive GPS boxes.
   And now, according to Aviation Week, all this goodness is on hold because Congressional austerity programs won't pay for Next Gen.  Oh woe.
   In actual fact, there is plenty of sky for  any amount of aircraft using today's tried and true radars.  The bottleneck is at the airports.  We only have about 50 big airports into which ALL the scheduled air traffic goes.  These airports can only handle 60 planes an hour.  That limit is set by common sense.  You want the plane that landed to slow down and turn off the active runway before you allow the plane behind him to land.  Just in case the landing aircraft blows a tire, skids off  the runway, or worse (Asiana 214 anyone?) .  That takes about a minute.
  Likewise you want the plane taking off to make it safely into the air before you allow the plane behind to start his takeoff roll.  This takes about a minute.  So the airports are the limit to air traffic, not a lack of sky to hold the planes.  No amount of pricey Next Gen GPS will do anything to let the airports handle more traffic than they do now. 

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Airline money sink, GEN-X

GEN-X is the FAA scheme to modernize the entire US air traffic control system.  Today's system works on ground radar stations, straight out of World War II.  Controller eyeball the radar screens and radio flight orders to airliners to keep them from colliding.  The radar beams are fairly tight, 3 degrees, but that means an uncertainty of plus or minus 2.5  miles when the plane is 100 miles from the radar station.  So controllers maintain a ten mile spacing between planes.
  GEN-X requires all aircraft to carry a GPS and a special transmitter to send the aircraft's GPS position to the ground station.  GPS is accurate to 100 feet and so the planes can be packed up tighter in the sky.
  The GEN-X equipment costs $500,000 per airliner.  Right now the airlines are supposed to pay for this, although FAA will make loans to airlines to fund GEN-X installation.  And, the airline gets no return on investment.  With or without the $500,000 GEN-X equipment, the plane gets from here to there at the same speed.  All GEN-X does for the airline is cost money.  It doesn't offer any benefits.
  The greater accuracy of GEN-X doesn't matter. Packing airplanes more tightly together in the sky won't help move more traffic.  There is plenty of sky to hold all the airplanes.  The bottleneck is airport runways.  An airport can only handle one flight a minute, and all the major airports have been running at capacity for twenty years or more.  I  picnicked on Castle Island, just off  Logan Airport, and watched a never ending stream of airliners, packed up head to tail, coming in for a landing.  That was 20 years ago on a nice sunny day.  It gets worse when the weather gets bad.
  Any how, FAA is pushing hard for GEN-X, for mysterious reasons.  Our tax money at work. 

Thursday, November 15, 2012

1500 hours = $150,000

FAA is going to demand pilots have 1500 flying hours in order to fly airliners, even as a co pilot.  That's a lot of time.  That's 38 weeks of flying 40 hours every week.  Operating or renting a light plane costs better than $100 an hour.   So 1500 hours will cost $150,000.  Few people have that kind of money.
   Used to be, guys would get a job flying co pilot and build up their hours without having to pay for the plane and fuel.  FAA is shutting that off.
   The airlines are wondering where pilots are gonna come from.