The paperless office may not have arrived, but it looks like the paperless cockpit is well on its way. Boeing has announced that Air New Zealand is abandoning old-fashioned hard copy technical logs on its fleet of six 787 Dreamliners in favor of Boeing's Electronic Log Book (ELB). According to the aircraft manufacturer, Air New Zealand is one of the first airlines to gain operational approval for the app, which is designed to improve the speed, accuracy, and efficiency of aircraft maintenance operations.
The first of the new generation of Boeing 737 MAX airliners to roll off the assembly line has made its maiden flight. Today's flight of the 737 MAX 8 began at 9:46 am PST from Renton Field in Washington State and ended at Boeing Field in Seattle at 12:33 pm. The flight marks the start of Boeing's test flight program for certification and delivery.
If the window seat doesn't cut it for you when flying, how about a roof seat? The SkyDeck, designed by aerospace engineering firm Windspeed Technologies, will give passengers 360-degree views from a transparent bubble installed on the top of a plane.
Looking more like a high-tech fighter than a light plane designed for private use, the Valkyrie from Cobalt aircraft has just been launched. With a canard front wing, sleek aerodynamic shape and a turbocharged 350 hp (260 kW) engine, the new Valkyrie is claimed to be capable of traveling at speeds of up to 260 knots (482 km/h, 300 mph) and has capacity for up to five adults and their luggage.
Stealth aircraft like the F35 fighter generally rely on high-tech absorption materials and unusual geometries to scatter, deflect, and sponge up incoming radar signals. These techniques are exceptionally good at masking a vehicle's shape and size, particularly when swept with side-scanning radar. However, with lower-frequency, directed anti-stealth radar-targeting systems being developed, these surfaces prove much less able to hide an object. To help address this, a team of Chinese scientists has developed a thin electronic material that sheaths an object and effectively absorbs radar signals over a wide range of frequencies.
Takeoffs and landings account for 66 percent of fatal air accidents, but current air traffic control systems are designed mainly to monitor aircraft that are in mid-flight. To help fill this gap, ALTACAS Technology has developed its Aerial, Landing, & Takeoff Aircraft Crash Avoidance System (ALTACAS). Designed to be retrofitted to current aircraft and as a supplement to existing next-generation air traffic control and crash avoidance systems, it uses lasers and microprocessors to monitor runways and flight paths during takeoffs and landings.
Military airborne communications can be tricky. Not only do they need to overcome attempted disruption from hostiles, but also tackle the difficulties in getting different systems to work together. DARPA is looking to improve things, soliciting proposals to get both manned and unmanned systems communicating faster, more securely and in spite of enemy jamming attempts.
A world where unmanned aircraft soar alongside their manned counterparts mightn't be all that far away, with UK defence firm Thales recently flying its Watchkeeper drone in civil airspace for the first time. The test run has been labeled a success, with operators saying it brings the UK one step closer to using unmanned aircraft for various applications, including security missions and border patrol.
Last year, Lockheed Martin began testing a new tactical laser turret for future warplanes. After 60 test flights Lockheed says the 360° capability of the turret system has been verified, moving the technology a step closer to deployment on tactical aircraft flying at near-supersonic speeds.
Two years ago, DARPA started developing self-destructing electronics as a way to prevent advanced military gear falling into the wrong hands. Now the agency is expanding on the idea with its Inbound, Controlled, Air-Releasable, Unrecoverable Systems (ICARUS) program, which is tasked with developing small, unmanned, single-use, unpowered air vehicles that can can be dropped from an aircraft to deliver supplies to isolated locations in the event of disasters, then evaporate into thin air once their job is done.