Inside the amazingly mechanical Bendix Central Air Data Computer
Determining the airspeed and altitude of a fighter plane is harder than you’d expect. At slower speeds, pressure measurements can give the altitude, air speed, and other “air data”. But as planes approach the speed of sound, complicated equations are needed to accurately compute these values. The Bendix Central Air Data Computer (CADC) solved this problem for military planes such as the F-101 and the F-111 fighters, and the B-58 bomber. This electromechanical marvel was crammed full of 1955 technology: gears, cams, synchros, and magnetic amplifiers. In this blog post I look inside the CADC, describe the calculations it performed, and explain how it performed these calculations mechanically.
Photos of birds.
How Toxic Fumes Seep Into The Air You Breathe On Planes
The air you breathe on airplanes comes directly from the jet engines. Known as bleed air, it is safe, unless there is a mechanical issue — a faulty seal, for instance. When that happens, heated jet engine oil can leak into the air supply, potentially releasing toxic gases into the plane.
For decades, the airline industry and its regulators have known about these incidents — called fume events — and have maintained that they are rare and that the toxic chemical levels are too low to pose serious health risks.
And yet there’s a lot of pushback to measuring just how bad the problem is.
Turbojet SVL - the “forgotten” train of Russia and its American predecessor
What if we put a jet engine on a train engine? In Russian.
Hot Air and High Winds: A Love Letter to the Fantasy Airship
I’ve had a bit of a thing for airships since I was in my teens. I loved - and love - all airships, but it was the great steampunk contraptions of wood and cloth and wrought iron that had me most under their spell. Where the ‘ship’ is taken literally and a creaking old galleon is slung implausibly and enchantingly beneath bulging balloons. Games love them too - they’re most associated with JRPGs, although I think it must have been in Super Mario Bros 3 that I first encountered them. But the airship that really sparked my love affair was in a much more obscure place. Does anyone remember the Fantastic Worlds expansion pack for Civilization 2? Anyone remember the airship units? I do. For some reason that unit captivated me. I loved it, in all its tiny, pixellated glory. I couldn’t find a picture of it. Sorry. Take my word for it, though: that was a good airship.
The Fairey Rotodyne, the vertical takeoff and landing airliner time forgot
The phrase “Urban Air Mobility” (UAM) seems like it’s been with us for quite a while, but really it’s only been in widespread use for two or three years. NASA officially recognized UAM in 2017, calling for a market study of remotely piloted or unmanned air passenger and cargo transportation around an urban area. Most people would probably call this the “air taxi” idea—a vision of hundreds of small, unmanned electric multi-copters shuttling two or three passengers from nearby suburbs or city spaces to vertiports at about 100 mph (roughly 161 km/h).
But if things had worked out differently in the late 1950s and early 1960s, we might have a very different understanding of UAM—something more like mass-transit. We might have had a city-center to city-center 55-passenger vertical take-off and landing (VTOL) airliner shuttling between urban heliports at 180 mph (289 km/h).
Actually, we did have that, it’s just few people remember. It was called the Fairey Rotodyne.
In Carlos Ghosn’s Escape, Plotters Exploited an Airport Security Hole
My name causes an issue with any booking
Whenever I get a ticket through an agent and they put my first name as Amr, it lands as A only in the Airlines system. That happened with many airlines and different agents. That is pretty much annoying, specially during the online check-in.
In the case of a Travel Agency connected to Amadeus, for example, this means that they are likely using ATE: the Amadeus Terminal Emulator, which as the name implies emulates the terminals of old.
Check the Quick Reference Guide, p. 33 on how to create a PNR:
Using a space, the parsing is unambiguous, however not all agents put a space
How airplane food goes from the kitchen to your flight
Gate Gourmet is one major player in the airplane catering game, feeding about 750 million passengers a year in about 60 countries. On a typical day at its Dulles International Airport branch, in suburban Washington, the company is responsible for getting 18,000 meals onto 275 flights. In busy seasons, that number jacks up to 25,000 meals.
Boarding soon: the five-star airship bound for the North Pole
To date, the Airlander 10 has done seven test flights. Now a Swedish company, OceanSky Cruises, is selling tickets for trips to the North Pole starting in 2023. It promises “a flying five-star hotel”, with polar bears and whales lingering below. The round-trip from Svalbard — including cocktail, dinner and breakfast on the airship, lunch in the snow, and another dinner and cocktail on board — takes 38 hours.
Only $79,000 if you book now!
Another article: https://www.bbc.com/future/article/20191107-how-airships-could-return-to-our-crowded-skies
St. Helena Airport
Your average flight from Washington, D.C. to St. Helena Island, located in one of the most remote parts of the world, would be a very arduous affair, a flight that would take nearly two full days, and at least three distinct layovers along the way—first in Ghana, then in Johannesburg, then a refueling stop in Namibia—before you got to your destination. If there’s a delay at any of the three stops, it might compromise the entire trip, because if you don’t make your connecting flight, you’re screwed. And once you’re there, you’re not leaving for a while. I’m endlessly fascinated by these far-off connections, these obscure airports that few people would ever think to travel to—and St. Helena is somehow more hopelessly obscure than the rest. But you’re going to know a lot about it by the time you finish reading today’s Tedium. Strap in—we’re talking about odd airports.
Grumman X-29: The impossible fighter jet with inverted wings
There’s no airplane quite like the Grumman X-29. Its astonishing forward-swept wings were just one of its many bold innovations.
Created at the height of the Cold War by a conglomerate of giants -- NASA, the US Air Force, the “men in black” at the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) and aerospace behemoth Grumman -- it first flew in 1984 as part of a quest to build the ultimate fighter jet.
What it was like to fly the baddest airplane the world has ever known
The X-15 was not the first rocket-powered aircraft, but it is probably the best one ever built and flown. Before the first X-15 took flight in the late 1950s, the fastest speed airplanes had reached was Mach 3. The X-15 doubled that. And, remarkably, it also went on to fly into space more than a dozen times.
Life Can Get Weird When You’re Married to The Middle Seat
A guest columnist—who happens to be the regular columnist’s wife—ponders how his obsession with air travel benefits readers
The Roots of Boeing’s 737 Max Crisis: A Regulator Relaxes Its Oversight
In the days after the first crash of Boeing’s 737 Max, engineers at the Federal Aviation Administration came to a troubling realization: They didn’t fully understand the automated system that helped send the plane into a nose-dive, killing everyone on board.
Engineers at the agency scoured their files for information about the system designed to help avoid stalls. They didn’t find much. Regulators had never independently assessed the risks of the dangerous software known as MCAS when they approved the plane in 2017.
When it absolutely, positively has to be there for the product demo overnight
The person responsible for getting the fancy computer to Hawaii talked with the shipping company about the situation. At the time, they were Microsoft’s exclusive provider of overnight delivery services, and from how this story unfolds, it’s clear that they were serious about maintaining that status.
Malaysia Airlines Flight MH370: Where Is It?
The mystery surrounding MH370 has been a focus of continued investigation and a source of sometimes feverish public speculation.
Kelly’s Heroes: Lockheed’s five finest airplanes
Roughly 110 years ago, one of the world’s greatest aircraft designers—Clarence “Kelly” Johnson—was born in Ishpeming, Michigan. And since we’re gigantic aviation nerds here at Ars Technica, the week of his birthday (February 27) is as good a reason as any to celebrate some of his legendary designs. Johnson spent 44 years working at Lockheed, where he was responsible for world-changing aircraft including the high-flying U-2, the “missile with a man in it” F-104 Starfighter, and the almost-otherworldly Blackbird family of jets.
Flawed analysis, failed oversight: How Boeing, FAA certified the suspect 737 MAX flight control system
As Boeing hustled in 2015 to catch up to Airbus and certify its new 737 MAX, Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) managers pushed the agency’s safety engineers to delegate safety assessments to Boeing itself, and to speedily approve the resulting analysis.
But the original safety analysis that Boeing delivered to the FAA for a new flight control system on the MAX — a report used to certify the plane as safe to fly — had several crucial flaws.
That flight control system, called MCAS (Maneuvering Characteristics Augmentation System), is now under scrutiny after two crashes of the jet in less than five months resulted in Wednesday’s FAA order to ground the plane.
Virgin Galactic's Rocket Man
The ace pilot risking his life to fulfill Richard Branson’s billion-dollar quest to make commercial space travel a reality.
Stucky had piloted SpaceShipTwo on two dozen previous test flights, including three of the four times that it had fired its rocket booster, which was necessary to propel it into space. On October 31, 2014, he watched the fourth such flight from mission control; it crashed in the desert, killing his best friend. On this morning, Stucky would be piloting the fifth rocket-powered flight, on a new iteration of the spaceship. A successful test would restore the program’s lustre.
And a little note at the end, unrelated to the crash:
As it turned out, there had been a glitch in the gyros’ software; the manufacturer had issued a patch, but hadn’t indicated that it fixed a major problem, so Virgin Galactic hadn’t installed it.