Boeing Launches Paper Planes to Kick off 100th Anniversary

Later this summer, Boeing will mark 100 years of changing the way humans move around the world, and the company has begun the celebration by unveiling some new airplane designs. But these planes aren’t ones that you’ll ever get to fly on — they’re the kind you fold and launch using your own muscle power.

The Flypaper Project” as it’s called, resulted in ‘the most aerodynamically engineered posters in the world.’  Boeing founder, Bill Boeing is known for saying “Build Something Better,” so Boeing asked their own engineers to submit designs for a better paper airplane. The company says getting young people to build a flying object with their own hands can help rekindle the wonder of flight, and inspire them to contribute to the future of aerospace.

Boeing Paper Airplane 1

The designers found the influence for their designs from encounters with engineering early in their childhood. Alexandra Sonnabend said she took apart toasters and vacuum cleaners as a kid, just to see how they work. As a female engineer, she also enjoys challenging the gender-based stereotype. Elizabeth Benson designed two of the Flypaper planes. She also liked to take things apart at a young age, and was taken on a Boeing tour by her father when in Middle School. Mahesh Changalva’s career in engineering was influenced as a kid in the 1970s, by an old issue of LIFE magazine about the first lunar landing. He say there was “no turning back” once he realized that engineering is what it took to get humans to the Moon.

The paper airplane designs were turned into poster art, making the design pleasing to the eye whether folded for flight, or hung on a wall. Boeing says they will distribute the posters to schools for education outreach programs, as well as make them available for purchase at Boeing stores.

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Sky Fight! Boutique Air vs. Vegas McCarran Airport

Part 135 operator Boutique Air has thrown down the gauntlet before McCarran Airport in Las Vegas, by publicizing a feud over Boutique’s desire to operate scheduled service into McCarran. In an open-letter email from Boutique Air CEO Shawn Simpson to Clark County Director of Aviation Rosemary A. Vassiliadis, Simpson says the airport (LAS) is being downright discriminatory.

Boutique Air had planned to begin service from Merced, California to LAS on Sunday, November 1st, but there is currently no flight schedule on their website. The airport states that Boutique many only fly sterile operations into LAS, at Terminal 1. The airline wished to operate non-sterile flights, into a FBO.

Boutique Air 2

In his letter, Simpson points out, “We have never encountered any resistance by any airport in conducting scheduled service between smaller communities with larger hubs, until now…The problem is that it is not the place of a public airport funded by federal tax dollars, to tell an airline what type of operations they are willing to accept. It is the duty of a public airport to accommodate all operations that are safe and do not disrupt the normal operation of the airport.  Somehow none of the other airports where we conduct non-sterile operations [including DFW and ABQ] have a problem with us. In fact, they welcome us.”

Simpson also notes that McCarran has been the recipient of federal Airport Improvement Program (AIP) grants for runway and taxiway refurbishment for the past five years, amounting to over $109 Million. The reception of AIP grant money prohibits LAS from being discriminatory with its policies, but Simpson alleges that because the customers from Merced would be mostly Hispanic, that they’re being shut out: “What I am hearing though, is that the largely Hispanic community of the Central Valley will not be allowed to fly into McCarran via Merced because Boutique Air is not allowed to come in non-sterile.” Simpson goes on to day that Boutique is on the verge of serving the Native American community of Gallup, New Mexico, where they would potentially want to offer flights to LAS.

McCarran accepts the non-sterile operation of dozens of private jets each day, to and from FBOs, but the scheduled operation of Boutique’s single-engine Pilatus PC-12s is for some reason forbidden, other than being “against airport policy.” The latest response from LAS told Boutique Air that if they want to offer non-sterile flights to Vegas, perhaps they should use North Las Vegas Airport. A win for Boutique Air in Las Vegas would be a win for the air travel consumer.

Avgeek DREAM Come True — My First Boeing 787 Flight

I finally took my very first flight on board a Boeing 787 Dreamliner! I’ve been following this aircraft since it was on the drawing board, and still called the 7E7. I joined the World Design Team and participated in the naming contest, though “Dreamliner” did not get my vote. In 2008. my wife and I even made a special Seattle detour prior to an Alaskan cruise, just to see the first 787 (ZA001) on the assembly line in Everett.

I had toured a couple of 787s in the past, including test aircraft ZA003 during Boeing’s World Dream Tour at DFW, and British Airways’ first 787-8, G-ZBJA, but I had yet to fly on one until this week. My inaugural flight was aboard British Airways’ first 787-9 Dreamliner, G-ZBKA.

My trip was part of a media assignment for AirwaysNews, and my full trip report will be on that site very soon. But here, I just wanted to share my experience in a more personal way, and reflect on some notes that I found interesting.

Before my flight, I had always made the assumption that the dimmable, electromagnetic window shades were more of a gimmick than something that was really necessary. This flight completely changed my mind! Leaving Heathrow, I sat in seat 1A, which had the sun on my side during the first half of the flight. I dimmed my window shortly after takeoff. The first couple of steps still allow you to see outside with a lot of detail, but without being blinded by direct sun. It became pleasant to look outside. With the window completely darkened, it wasn’t a full blackout, but the sunlight now appeared as moonlight, making the cloud tops glow beneath us as we soared over the North Atlantic.

British Airways' 787-9 First Class. Photo by Paul Thompson.
British Airways’ 787-9 First Class. Photo by Paul Thompson.

Everything about the flight was excellent, from the quiet cabin to the service by the flight attendants, the seat comfort, and entertainment options. As you’ll see in the photo above, the seat area is spacious, and appointed with high-end materials and features. Once again, there will be many more details about the trip on AirwaysNews, so please check it out.

I’ll have more 787 experience in the weeks to come, including a trip to the other side of the world, so stay tuned for that!

Airbus ‘Perlan 2’ Sailplane Completes Successful First Flight

On Wednesday in Redmond, Oregon, Airbus Group’s Perlan 2 sailplane made its first flight. Flown by chief pilot Jim Payne and team pilot and project manager Morgan Sandercock, and attached to a towplane, it took off from Redmond Municipal Airport. It was released by the towplane at an altitude of 5,000 feet. During the flight, the pilots performed various control system checks on the aircraft.

Sailplane pilot and NASA test pilot Einar Enevoldson conceived the project in 1992, after seeing images of stratospheric mountain waves in Sweden. He then spent the following six years researching mountain waves, which are spawned by strong winds blowing over the tops of high mountain ranges. In 1998, Meteorologist Elizabeth Austin partnered with Enevoldson, and discovered that the Polar Vortex, and one of its principal components, the stratospheric polar night jet, existing only in winter, provided the high speed wind in the stratosphere that powered incredibly high waves.

Famed experimental pilot Steve Fossett joined the project in 1999. At NASA’s request, the U.S. Air Force loaned pressure suits to Enevoldson and Fossett. A German-made, two-seat Glaser-Dirks DG-500M glider was chosen as the basis for the Perlan flyer. It was built as a motorized glider, but the Perlan team removed the engine. Fossett and Enevoldson flew the glider in the Patagonia region of Argentina to a record altitude of 50,727 feet in 2006. This led Fossett to pledge funding for Phase 2, but he died in a 2007 plane crash into mountainous terrain, 9 miles from Mammoth Lakes, California. Project funding was halted, and so was the Perlan project.

Image via Airbus / Perlan Project
Image via Airbus / Perlan Project

At EAA Airventure 2014 in Oshkosh, Wisconsin, Airbus Group CEO Tom Enders announced the Airbus partnership with ‘Perlan Mission II.’ I was at the press conference for the announcement, where Enders said, “Our company is built on the shoulders of aviation pioneers who pushed boundaries in their own times – people who flew higher, farther, faster. Hence,when we learned of the Perlan Project and its quest to soar to record heights, we knew we needed to find a way to be a part of it. Partnering with the Perlan team is consistent with our core values of furthering innovation in aerospace and of inspiring the next generation of designers, manufacturers and aviators.” Phase 2 would involve soaring to the edge of space, at 90,000 feet in order to explore climate change, learn more about weather forecasting, the Ozone layer, and the future of Martian space exploration.

Perlan 1 is now on display at the Museum of Flight, in Seattle. For Perlan 2, a two-seat pressurized glider by Windward Performance is the research aircraft. Made of composites, its 83-foot wingspan will allow it to soar to even higher altitude, and with air pressure less than 2% of seal level, the glider will fly at nearly half the speed of sound. Although the cabin will be pressurized, the pilots will wear pressure suits, in case of an emergency. It is also equipped with a ballistic parachute system. Prior to Wednesday’s flight, Perlan 2 received its airworthiness certificate from the FAA on September 4th.

Perlan 2 will next be flown in Nevada, this December, after receiving its cabin pressurization. El Calafate, Argentina is the selected location where the exploratory flights will be performed, slated for the Southern Hemisphere winter of 2016, to take advantage of the Polar Vortex and stratospheric polar night jet. The 90,000-foot goal altitude, once achieved, will be a record for an airplane, surpassing the SR-71 Blackbird which holds the current record of 85,069 feet. By 2019, the project aims to move on to Phase 3, adopting new transonic wings and achieving an altitude of 100,000 feet.

British Airways Marks 50 Years of Auto Landing Capability

BEA Hawker Trident - Image provided by British Airways
BEA Hawker Trident – Image provided by British Airways

I bet there are a lot of people out there who didn’t even know that some planes are capable of landing themselves. Did you know that? I knew that – but what I only recently learned, was that it has been happening for fifty years! Auto landing fully automates the landing procedure of an aircraft’s flight, under the watchful eye of the pilots, of course. Wikipedia says auto landing was designed to be used in situations where visibility is too poor for a visual approach, usually less than 600 meters Runway Visual Range, though each aircraft has specific operating parameters.

Image provided by British Airways
Image provided by British Airways

Today (June 10th) happens to be the 50th anniversary of the first auto-landing of a commercial airline flight. The act was performed by British European Airways (now British Airways) flight 343, from Paris to London. The aircraft was a Hawker Siddeley Trident 1 (pictured), with Captain Eric Poole at the controls. Captain Poole and BEA’s Chairman, Sir Anthony Milward signed a special certificate for each passenger as a memento of the day (pictured above).

Throughout its history, British Airways has been at the cutting edge of technology and passenger services in the airline industry. In 1952, British Overseas Airways Corporation (BOAC) was the first airline to operate a jet – the De Havilland Comet. BOAC was also the first airline to offer trans Atlantic jet service, with the Comet 4. British Airways is also known for having operated the Concorde, and having installed the world’s first fully flat beds in Business Class.

Portland is the Next Red Bull Flutag Site, and You Have 2 Weeks to Apply

Image via Red Bull
Image via Red Bull

You build a homemade airplane and launch it off a ramp, over a body of water, using only human power… what could possibly go wrong? Now, add in costumes, music, and the world’s most popular energy drink, and you have the world-famous Red Bull Flutag.

In German, “Flutag” translates to “Flying Day,” and Red Bull has announced that the Flutag will be returning to Portland this year, on August 1st at the McCall Waterfront Park. Flutag events have been held worldwide for 23 years.

Flutag teams are comprised of five members. Teams are judged not only on flight distance, but creativity and showmanship as well. In case you were wondering, the world record Flutag flight distance is 258 feet. Perhaps Portland’s proximity to Seattle (site of Boeing’s assembly plants) will influence some true aviation engineers to get involved. For design inspiration, the Flutag videos on YouTube are pretty incredible, and hilarious!

Image via Red Bull
Image via Red Bull

Flutag events are known for drawing 50,000-80,000 people, and they look like an absolute blast! I’ve never attended one, but I am hoping to make it to PDX for this one, so consider this a PSA. Applications for PDX Flutag teams opened on March 18th, and close on May 12th, with only the first 500 applications being considered. You can apply online at redbullflutag.com. More information about the event is also available on Facebook at the Red Bull Flutag Page.

Image courtesy of Red Bull
Image courtesy of Red Bull

Red Bull’s Air Race World Championship continues this year, with eight stops. In this year’s first race, held in Abu Dhabi in February, Paul Bonhomme of Great Britain took First Place – and along with it 12 points toward the World Championship. The next race will be held May 16-17th in Chiba, Japan. You can purchase Air Race tickets and find out more information about the series here. 

Don’t Even THINK About Planespotting in the United Arab Emirates

Emirates A380, by Kurush Pawar (Flickr / CC Commercial License)
Emirates A380, by Kurush Pawar (Flickr / CC Commercial License)

Over the past decade or so, Dubai has grown into one of the world’s most eccentric cities, perhaps second only to Las Vegas. The home of the world’s largest building and one of the world’s most decadent hotels is also home to one of the world’s fastest-growing and most luxurious airlines, Emirates. But in spite of Dubai’s push into tourism, there’s one activity they are not friendly toward — planespotting.

Planespotting is an activity popular throughout the world, and had grown even more in recent years due to digital photography and social media. Aviation enthusiasts are constantly on the look-out for the newest aircraft, or those painted in one-off special liveries. Many airports are friendly toward planespotters, creating parks or observation areas that are conductive toward viewing aircraft movements at the airport.

Emirates 777 in Dubai - by Raihan S.R. Bakhsh (Flickr / CC Commercial License)
Emirates 777 in Dubai – by Raihan S.R. Bakhsh (Flickr / CC Commercial License)

Two British plane spotters recently served a two year prison sentence after photographing planes at Fujairah airport in the United Arab Emirates. Their arrest occurred on February 21st, under suspicion of espionage. Police found Conrad Clitheroe, 54, and Gary Cooper, 45 and an expatriate friend taking photos and making notes about planes at the airport. The men pled guilty, knowing it was against the law.

But why was it prohibited, if the men made their observations from public areas? You don’t even need to be at an airport in person to track the comings and goings of aircraft. Spartphone apps and websites such as FlightAware allow anyone to see which flights are arriving and departing, by broadcasting information from aircraft transponders. This information includes altitude, heading, speed and registration. The UAE’s national carrier, Emirates is owner of the world’s largest fleets of Airbus A380s and Boeing 777s – two huge, modern aircraft that are both an obvious draw to aviation geeks. In addition, there are scores of photos of these aircraft easily available online. If there is potential harm to be done by allowing people to track what planes are around a commercial airport, I’m not seeing it.