When supersonic travel inevitably returns to the skies, the airplanes are going to look a lot different. At least one design harks back to the early days of aviation with a biplane design, rather than a sleek delta-winged jet like the Concorde. This shape can apparently produce much less drag and therefore much less noise at supersonic speeds, MIT engineers say.
Landing airplanes on moving ships is no mean feat, but this will be especially true when the airplanes are unmanned. Along with making decisions, autonomous airplanes will have to heed their human counterparts during aircraft carrier takeoff and landing — but can a robot read and understand arm-waving signals?
First commercial pilots started getting iPads, and now military pilots want in — the U.S. Air Mobility Command is planning to buy up to 18,000 iPad 2 tablets “or equal devices,” replacing heavy flight bags that pilots use to stow their charts and other flight materials. The devices will apparently be used on the C-5 Galaxy and C-17 Globemaster. The Air Force Special Ops Command is also planning to buy 2,861 iPad 2s for its crews.
The skies are going to look very different pretty soon, and it’s been a long time coming. Congress finally passed a spending bill for the Federal Aviation Administration, allocating $63.4 billion for modernizing the country’s air traffic control systems and expanding airspace for unmanned planes within three and a half years.
The people who built the first private aircraft to fly into space are teaming up once again to construct the largest aircraft ever flown, a behemoth air-launched orbital cargo delivery system called Stratolaunch. And SpaceX, the first company to launch a privately built spaceship into orbit, will build the rocket. As a reusable rocket-plus-glider system, it certainly seems like a potential replacement for the space shuttle.
Dr. Jason Steffen, an astrophysicist at Fermilab, came up with a method he claimed could cut airplane boarding times drastically about two years ago. More recently, he tested several different methods of boarding, complete with video: Boarding as we do it now (blocks of fliers, boarding from the back of the plane to the front), compared with a random boarding system and a careful one of his own design. Those three methods, by the way, are in ascending order of effectiveness.
This is a fairly common scenario during the conflict in Afghanistan: A forward operating base along the Khyber Pass needs supplies, and a C-130 cargo plane is dispatched to deliver them. The plane aims to drop several 2,000-pound pallets carrying food, water and ammunition.
Enemy fire in the area will make a supply recovery mission risky, however. An Army convoy must risk IEDs and sniper fire to retrieve the goods. If only the pallet would only drop more precisely, much closer to the base''s boundaries, the soldiers could stay out of harm's way.
Despite using advanced technology that lets planes practically fly themselves, airline pilots are still bogged down by a lingering 20th-century artifact: Paper. Now at least one commercial airline is adopting cockpit iPads, after the FAA approved their use earlier this year.