Humanoid Robots Learning to Fly Planes

As we're entering the era of unmanned flying, there's probably something soothing in having a somewhat familiar face at the helm.

The robot with a humanoid appearance is learning to fly through a simulator for now. No doubt, he'll be steering a plane someday.

"I Have Ebola!" Shouts Passenger, Medical Commando Boards Plane

“I have Ebola! You are all screwed.”

Not very smart to be shouting that in a plane. A “joke of poor taste” doesn't even begin to describe what ensued.

This is not a still from the movie ‘Outbreak’ (image credit:  Patrick Narvaez, YouTube )

This is not a still from the movie ‘Outbreak’ (image credit: Patrick Narvaez, YouTube)

Passengers were ordered to stay in their seats as emergency medical teams dressed in protective suits boarded the aircraft at Punta Cana airport to confront a traveller who had been coughing during the trip from the US.

A few minutes later the man, said to be a 54-year-old from the US, was escorted from the US Airways aircraft protesting, “I ain’t from Africa. S***.”

Teddy Roosevelt becoming the first president to fly in 1910

An amazing photo and an even more amazing story.

"The aeroplane sped quickly around the field at a height of less than one hundred feet. It made the first lap of a mile and a half before news percolated through the crowd that Mr. Roosevelt was Hoxsey's passenger. When he swept past the grandstand he leaned forward a bit and waved his hands. The spectators seemed frightened and remained silent, watching the aeroplane intently.
The flying machine sped by and made the turn for the second lap. Hoxsey could be seen to bend over and shout something into Mr. Roosevelt's ear. The engine cracked regularly, hurling the aeroplane forward at a speed of nearly a mile a minute, but from the ground it looked as though it were travelling much slower because it sailed so evenly and smoothly. There was not a breath of wind, and the engine did not miss fire once."
The pilot had been warning Roosevelt to hold onto the rail, lest his he interfere with the engines or fall out. "Mr. Roosevelt's first act after alighting was to shake Hoxsey's hand vigorously. 'It was great! First class! It was the finest experience I have ever had,' he declared. 'I wish I could stay up for an hour, but I haven't the time this afternoon.'" - according to the New York Tribune

Europe Will Allow Electronics for Entire Flights

 

Airline passengers will be able to use smartphones and tablet computers throughout their entire flight

They're moving fast—it was only a few months ago that "flight mode" was deemed acceptable. 

Flying BA in 1989 Compared to Today

Was the earlier generation better off when it comes to flying?

Most people would answer yes. The author of a recent Telegraph article doesn't hide his enthusiasm for nostalgia either.

Only the Eighties could forgive a dish like Chicken Annabel's - served with curry sauce and a garnish of bananas and mushrooms.

According to Oliver Smith, BA had better prices, better food, fun crew uniform.

The latter argument aside—it's laughable—, judging food on a premium class menu doesn't say much about the general state of travel.

Toothpaste must have been an amenity. (source: BA, Telegraph)

Toothpaste must have been an amenity. (source: BA, Telegraph)

If you want to focus on the front-cabin experiences, just think about the seats: where were the lie-flat beds in Business in 1989? Today's BA's Club World would make most past First pale. The product has evolved. Wake up.

If prices is your beef, applying some common sense like, say, inflation, would do you good. The author quotes the LHR-JFK route at GBP 257 in 1989, 399 today.

257 is equal to …GBP 590 (in 2013 prices, the latest I could do a calculation with). In 1989 prices, you'd get the flight for just 170 quid!

Same goes for Business and First. It's less expensive today, full stop.

There's a lot to say about the state of travel today. Some truly negative—the security hassle, the economy seats, etc.

But let's not get carried away with a misplaced elitist nostalgic narrative. Way more people can fly today that in the entire history of flying. No matter what you think about the privatization of carriers or the emergence of low cost carriers, the fact remains: it has opened the skies to more people than an elite. 

That's just amazing in my book. 

Oh, and in 1989, smoked salmon had a different taste indeed. Tar and nicotine were added by your fellow passengers.

Ever wanted to be strapped to the underside of an airplane in a tiny metal pod?

Apparently, it used to be a possibility. These pods were designed to smuggle in (and out) special forces personnel, as well as wounded servicemen. It's not clear how one would be "inserted" into enemy territory using one of these contraptions. But boy, that view on the way down would be something else!

The F-117 seems to be flying secret missions 6 years after it was "retired"

This is interesting. The F-117 Nighthawk was officially retired over 6 years ago but there have always been rumblings that several of the models were continuing to fly sorties of some kind. Now new photos have emerged proving that there are at least 2 F-117s making regular flights from the Tonopah Test Range in Nevada.

The aircraft flew on Sept. 29 using radio callsign “Knight 12″.
Why some F-117s were kept in flying conditions and still operate in secrecy (although during daylight…) more than 6 years after their official retirement remains a mystery.

A flypast just 2 feet off the ground!

I can't find much info about this photo at all, but it appears to be an Argentine Airforce A-4 Skyhawk. Regardless, that is a LOW flypast!

Airline food through the ages

A nice article covering the rise and fall of airline food.

In a 1938 article detailing the food service program at Newark Airport, Mrs. G. Thomas French explained how she managed the kitchen program for the entire airport. She proudly noted that her kitchen 'does all our own baking – pies, tarts, pastries, cream roll desserts, breads and muffins.
Frederic Lewis/Archive Photos/Getty Images

Frederic Lewis/Archive Photos/Getty Images

Lufthansa Is Betting Big on Its New Premium Economy

Lufthansa is betting big with its 3 billion EUR upgrade plan, and the Premium Economy class of service where the company goes all in.

lufthansa-premium-economy.jpg

It's a nice offering in terms of seats: 50% roomier than Economy (3 centimeters wider, 10 cm on the side, and 97 cm of leg room), a true armrest separation between passengers, a better recline. The airline is touting "not more than one seat away from the aisle", which translates into both a 2-4-2 and 2-3-2 configuration

Here are some numbers to compare (in inches this time, so everybody's happy):

ClassPitchWidthShoulderRecline
Business64"20"26.4"flat
Premium38"18-19"23-24.5"8"/130°
Economy31"17-18"19-20.5"6"/113°

In addition, Premium will have a footrest. Anectodally, you'll also get a leg rest in the front row, but you'll have to sacrifice screen size, as it will be only 9" (as in Economy) compared to the rest of the Premium cabin with 12".

A welcome addition is power on every seat—as you have to carefully select your seat in Economy, only one in two allowing you to charge your devices up.

The service will also be enhanced, with double the luggage (twice 23kg), an amenity kit, better meals, a slightly bigger screen, more storage. And access to the Business Lounges. 

Interestingly, LH is not cutting through its Business or First offering to add this new class of service in the 747-8. There will always be 8 First Class seats, 92 Business class ones (or 80 in the alternate model) , but the Economy cabin will downsize from 262 to 208 (from 298 to 244 respectively) gaining space for 32 Premium seats, in a 2-4-2 configuration.

lufthansa-premium-economy-747-8-seat-map.png

On the A380-800, the front of the Main Deck will be reserved from 52 Premium seats in 2-4-2, sheding 84 Economy ones (I don't have seen the seating plans for the A340-600s yet—I guess I'll have to check personally when they start flying from MUC in early 2015).

It's a trade-off. And a risk.

With an expected 600 EUR premium over Economy and no less than 10% of its long-haul seat capacity (roughly 1.5 million PAX a year). Lufthansa is betting big. 

Early booking numbers however show that customers are willing to try it out, at the company says they are "exceeding expectations".

If you're a Miles & More frequent flyer, you might be wondering about the upgrade system. During the first weeks, the company will offer free upgrades from Economy, but I'm not entirely sure how it will be organized later. I bet it will look like a system of "half-upgrades", from Economy to Premium to Business. 

The new product will be first available in December on the new 747-8s and gradually be introduced on other long-haul aircrafts until the end of 2015.

The dedicated website is truly well-done, you can check all the routes directly, but also visit the cabin.

lufthansa-premium-economy-routes.png

The best way to see it is to wait for the augmented reality app that Lufthansa is about to launch for iOS in which you can truly immerse yourself in the new cabin.

A little bit more can be a lot more, says the ad. Well, Lufthansa, you're truly doing more than a little here.

Assembling the First European 787-9 by Virgin Atlantic

For those who are living in Europe, like us here, the 787-9 is finally coming to an airline near you, Virgin Atlantic.

Stealth. (image credit: Virgin Atlantic)

Stealth. (image credit: Virgin Atlantic)

To celebrate their ‘Birthday Girl’, Virgin has put together a nice time lapse video of the assembly and livery painting.

The plane will be delivered in October and shall fly the Heathrow-Boston route with an initial three-class configuration of 31 Upper Class, 35 Premium Economy (2-3-2) and 198 Economy seats (3-3-3). 
Virgin is promising an enhanced version of its Upper and Premium seats, along with a refresh of the interior. The Wander Wall, a space dedicated to socializing, will make its appearance in the front of the Premium Economy cabin.

The inaugural flight will be a private journey to Atlanta with a in-flight live concert that should be streamed online for all of us. 

If you're into those, check Etihad's and American's livery paintings.

Etihad Gets New Striking Livery, Differentiates from Emirates

The rumors were founded, Etihad has unveiled a new livery.

Confidence in the winds.

Confidence in the winds.

I absolutely love the tail. It's modern, it's confident, it makes you ask questions and reflect. A stellar job by Landor Associates, the brand consulting firm.

The new design uses a colour palette which reflects the varying hues of the landscape of the UAE, from the darker sands of the Liwa desert to the lighter colours seen in the Northern Emirates.

As I mentioned in an earlier post, Etihad is the actual flag carrier of the UAE, not Emirates as many believe. The confusion is not only due to Emirates' emerging prominence around the world, but also for its use of the country's flag colors on its aircrafts' tails—something usually associated with national carriers, think American for instance.

Just look at this quick comparison I created for you:

Etihad versus Emirates, until September 2014.

The new design is strikingly differentiated, breaking from tradition:

Etihad versus Emirates, post-September 2014

In the words of the CEO:

The striking new livery also continues our commitment to breaking from convention and doing things differently

The UAE flag is not completely gone, it appears near the cockpit. The national emblem, featured on the old tail, is now featured next to the Etihad name along the fuselage (the brand name as well as its arabic counterpart seem to be pushed forwards to make room for it).

The unveiling happened during a live broadcast of the reveal of its first A380 in Hamburg, Germany.

I couldn't tell if the livery makes use of the undercarriage or not. This computer-rendered video released by Etihad doesn't give it away.

The below one is not rendered though and is really great to watch, as often with those time lapses videos

We'll have another chance to see the new livery during Etihad's 787 unveiling tomorrow (Saturday 27,) live from Everett in the US. The entire existing fleet shall be repainted within the next three years.

Allow me to repeat it once more, I really enjoy that tail design. Might become a true favorite of mine. Congratulations Etihad!

French Fighter Jet Rafale in Action

France's fighter jet is called the Rafale which translates to 'Gust'. It's not everyday you can spot one, as it's basically only in use by the French, the technology marvel that it is notwithstanding—fighter jet sales are highly political anyway. 

The French Army has quite a lot of videos on its YouTube channel, the recent ones focusing on this jet, as it's involved in current operations in Iraq—named Opération Chammal. The images are pretty impressive, no matter what you think of fighter jets and the strikes themselves.

Le vent dans les cheveux. (image credit: Forces Francaises)

Le vent dans les cheveux. (image credit: Forces Francaises)

You can see the actual pre-flight check along with takeoff (that noise!) in the following video: 

And the most recent video was filmed during the second strike of the operation, West of Baghdad, near Fallujah. 

Chicago Airspace Almost Completely Shut Down

As you may have heard, a fire at Chicago's traffic control facillty is strongly affecting the area to the point of almost complete shut down.

ORD and MDW only accept limited arrivals and the FAA says the facility could be closed for days—which might prove a big headache.

O'Hare handled 883,000 takeoffs and landings in 2013, which makes it the second busiest airport in the world. The disruption is affecting the entire US and lots of international flights.

If you want to get updated, you can check this little nifty website that was just created: ischicagoflying.com 

Current status? O'Hare: Very limited arrivals overall. Midway: Very limited. Scheduled arrivals diverted. 

Understanding Airline Liveries Around the World

Liveries around the world are the calling cards for hundreds of different airlines. For some they are the passengers only interaction with the brand image of the airline, so as they park up at the gates of airports globally, they need to be able to communicate the values and concepts that each airline brand stands for. 

TheDesignAir has done a great job categorizing carriers with what they represent—from low cost carriers to legacy flag ones—and how that translates with the choice of livery for their planes.

Bold and colorful (image credit: TheDesignAir / Southwest)

Bold and colorful (image credit: TheDesignAir / Southwest)

I'd love to hear their thoughts on the new A380 livery that Etihad has now made official. I find it strikingly dashing for a flag carrier (many, including TheDesignAir in its otherwise great article here, mistake Emirates as the national UAE airline, which it is not).

Air Canada has a porn problem

Apparently there is a recurring issue at Air Canada with porn being left in the flight decks of its Embraer fleet. 

CBC News has obtained an internal Air Canada bulletin warning flight crews they could be fired or face criminal charges for placing “inappropriate material” in the flight deck.
It was sent last year, four months after a similar reminder to stop hiding “suggestive images in Company aircraft” appears to have been ignored.

Two things are weird about this; firstly, that it keeps happening despite threats of criminal prosecution. Secondly, that it's exclusive to the airline's Embraer fleet. That fact is even highlighted in the company-wide email sent out by Air Canada's Chief Pilot, a copy of which can be seen below. 

Airbus Invents Immersive Seat Helmet To Make You Forget You're Flying

Another day, another Airbus patent.

During aircraft flights, certain passengers have periods when they are bored … Moreover, it is known that aircraft flights generate stress for certain passengers.

The solution? An isolation helmet.

You're now an astronaut. (image credit:  patent application )

You're now an astronaut. (image credit: patent application)

Imagine being totally surrounded by sound and visuals, having your electronics (or the IFE) plugged in, or simply decide to dim everything around you. A inflatable cushion adds to the comfort (and acts as a kind of airbag during turbulences).

And more:

The headrest here offers the passenger the possibility of choosing one of the other of the types of ambient [oxygen] flow, refreshed or conditioned. The distributed air can be enhanced with or more natural or synthetic odorous substances. 

Airbus is going into virtual reality territory. You forget you're in a plane—or at least that's kind of the intent here.

Choose your reality, from the engine noise to a totally immersive experience. (image credit:  patent application )

Choose your reality, from the engine noise to a totally immersive experience. (image credit: patent application)