First Gold for Britain in Unlimited Aerobatics

 XtremeAir XA41

Among the 21 of the best European aerobatic pilots who competed in the European Freestyle Aerobatic Championship in Slovakia, air display and competition pilot Gerald Cooper from Lincolnshire was held the champion. Cooper, competing in the new XtremeAir XA41 high performance monoplane, became the first ever Brit to receive a gold medal in Unlimited aerobatics Continue reading

China’s Z-10 Revealed to Have Russian Roots

Z-10 attack helicopter
The general designer of the Kamov Design Bureau, Sergei Mikheyev, has revealed that the Russian helicopter company secretly designed the baseline version of the Z-10 attack helicopter for China in the mid-1990s. Having undergone extensive testing by the People’s Liberation Army for several years, the two-seat helicopter made its public debut at China’s 2012 Zhuhai air show. Continue reading

NASA Develops Aircraft that Uses Half Less Fuel

NASA develops aircraft that uses half less fuel
NASA has developed a manufacturing method for wing-shaped aircraft, which when combined with a jet engine called “ultra-high bypass ratio engine”, promises to cut fuel consumption by half.

Scientists have long known the benefits if a wing-shaped aircraft compared to the conventional tube and wing design. The flying wing design came to be known through the B2 Stealth Bomber although the patent for a tailless plane was filed by Hugo Junkers in 1910.

Some of the benefits of the design include reduced structural material resulting in significantly lower overall aircraft weight, and more lift generated by more dramatic wing surface and curvature. The challenge of the design so far is aircraft control during lower speeds. The flatter design has proven to be more challenging to support a pressurized cabin. Conventional tubular designs are easier to manufacture to support extreme temperature differences.

The scientific advancement by NASA is in the manufacturing process, potentially opening the door to commercial manufacture in eight to ten years.

“NASA’s manufacturing process starts with preformed carbon composite rods. The rods are covered with carbon fiber fabric and stitched into place. Fabric is then stitched over foam strips to create cross members. The fabric is impregnated with an epoxy to create a rigid composite structure.” Tech Review

Aside from strength and reduced weight, the carbon fiber stitching process appears to prevent more catastrophic events in flight.  When pressured to the degree of breakage, the stitching prevents cracks from spreading.  With recent failures in the most expensive aircraft ever built, the Boeing 787 “Dreamliner”, a safer design will be welcomed by consumers.

The new design is a result of a $300 million partnership between NASA, Pratt & Whitney and Boeing.  Since Boeing doesn’t convince the powers that be to include a lithium ion battery in the design, everything should work out.

The new engine design will be used in the first commercial manufacturing process next year. It promises to dramatically reduce CO2, NOx emission and manufacture cost.  The ultra-high bypass ratio engine promises to change transportation emissions significantly as it makes its way into the commercial airline fleet.

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US Military’s Mystery Plane and a Classified Mission

The mysterious X-37B space plane of the US Air Force is quietly chalking up mileage in space more than two months after its latest launch into orbit. The robotic space plane soared into orbit atop an Atlas 5 rocket from Florida’s Cape Canaveral Air Force Station last Dec 11. The mini-shuttle’s mission is known as Orbital Test Vehicle-3 (OTV-3) as it is the third classified mission under the Air Force’s X-37B program.

It is still unknown if how long OTV-3 will remain in Earth orbit. The mystery space plane mission is officially on Air Force space tracking books as USA-240. “The mission is ongoing,” Air Force Maj. Eric Badger, a spokesman for the X-37B program, told “As with previous missions, the actual duration will depend on test objectives, on-orbit vehicle performance and conditions at the landing facility.”

The current flight underway has attained the major milestone of reusability. The same vehicle was flown on the maiden voyage in the 2010 X-37B program. The OTV-1 mission lasted nearly 225 days in orbit and then zoomed back to Earth on autopilot over the Pacific Ocean, gliding down onto a specially prepared runway at Vandenberg Air Force Base in California. The OTV-2 mission, which used a different X-37B vehicle, also made a Vandenberg touchdown on June 16 of last year after remaining in orbit for 469 days, more than doubling its sister ship’s stay. There’s a possibility that OTV-3 won’t be landing in Vandenberg. There have been discussions about bringing the space plane down at the space shuttle landing strip at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center. “The possibility of using the former shuttle infrastructure for future X-37B landing operations is still being investigated,” Badger said.

The X-37B looks like a miniature space shuttle with a length of 29 feet and width of 15 feet, and a payload bay about the size of a pickup truck bed. Officials said that only two X-37B space planes have been constructed for the Air Force by Boeing Government Space Systems. Flights of the space plane are conducted under the auspices of the Air Force’s Rapid Capabilities Office.

According to an Air Force fact sheet, the Rapid Capabilities Office is working on the X-37B Orbital Test Vehicle “to demonstrate a reliable, reusable, unmanned space test platform for the United States Air Force.”
Mission control is handled by the 3rd Space Experimentation Squadron, 21st Space Wing, of the Air Force Space Command in Colorado Springs, Colo.

Little is known bout what OTV-3 is toting in its cargo bay, but amateur skywatchers offer some insight into the mission. “All does seem quiet,” said Ted Molczan of Toronto, a leader in an ever-vigilant, worldwide satellite sleuthing network. “OTV-3 remains in its initial orbit, maintaining altitude with periodic engine firings,” Molczan told “Unlike the first two missions, its ground track does not closely repeat at the frequent intervals that would suggest an imaging reconnaissance mission.”

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Hybrid Wing Plane Uses Half The Fuel Of Standard Airplane

Hybrid Wing
NASA has demonstrated a way to build “hybrid wing” airplanes that dramatically reduce fuel consumption, Kevin Bullis of MIT Technology Review reports. The blended wing body (BWB) design, combined with the super-efficient ultra-high bypass ratio engine, could use half as much fuel as conventional aircraft.

Program manager Fay Collier estimates that the BWB — which lowers the weight of the aircraft’s structure by 25 percent — could help improve conventional commercial aircraft within eight to 10 years.

Bullis notes that while aerospace engineers have long been looking for an alternative to conventional airplanes, tubular bodies on aircraft have persisted because they can withstand outside forces acting on them during flight while maintaining cabin pressure.

The new hybrid design has a flatter, box-like body that blends with the wings. The challenge is to build it in a way so that it’s strong, and light enough to be practical.

Tests have confirmed that sections of the BWB can withstand the forces that would be applied to a finished aircraft. Now Collier’s team is building a 30-foot-wide, two-level pressurized structure (to be finished in 2015) to validate the manufacturing technique.

NASA says that this type of aircraft, which would have a wingspan slightly greater than a Boeing-747, could operate from existing airport terminals.

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WWII Military Plane Part of California Estate Sale

Attendees at a California estate sale had an interesting item to consider in the home’s backyard shed: a World War II military airplane. Owned by the late William G. Simmonds, Jr., an aviation collector and enthusiast, the plane was purchased in 1962.

The Taylorcraft L-2, dubbed “the Grasshopper” by pilots during the war, was only used for enemy reconnaissance. Its slow top speed (93 mph) and inability to fly very high (top altitude, 10,000 feet) made its use limited. The plane hasn’t been flown since the 1980s, when Simmonds had to give up his pilot’s license due to a medical condition.

The asking price for the plane during the estate sale was $22,000. Several individuals inquired about it but none offered up the cash immediately according to the salesman for the Sacramento-area estate sale company.

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Unmanned British ‘Superdrone’ Robot Plane Could Fly ‘Within Weeks’

An unmanned British combat drone could be deployed in the front line of the war on terror in regions such as North Africa and the Middle East, if a forthcoming test flight in Australia is successful. The performance of the eight-ton Taranis “superdrone” will be monitored by Ministry of Defense officials, after the long-awaited flight was delayed by stringent aviation laws in the UK, and repeated technical setbacks.

According to a spokesman for the Ministry of Defense “Taranis is a trailblazing project that reflects the very best of our nation’s advanced design and technology skills and is a leading program on the global stage.” Forthcoming Taranis trials will provide further information about the potential capabilities of Unmanned Combat Air Systems. “Unmanned Aerial Vehicles play an important role in operations, helping reduce the risks faced by military personnel.”

British armed forces currently operate drones only against suspected Taliban militants in Afghanistan. But advances in US military technology have sparked a global arms race for drones, and the Ministry of Defense is now committed to developing a new generation of pilot less aircraft with a range of more than 2,000 miles.
The Taranis, manufactured by BAE, supersedes US models by incorporating a customized Rolls-Royce jet engine rather than a propeller.

Britain’s fleet of armed drones are currently piloted by crews of ground control units. But Taranis will incorporate technology allowing it to use on-board computers to perform airborne manoeuvres, avoid threats and identify targets. Ground crews will only be consulted to gain authorisation for an attack.

Controversy surrounding the use of aerial drones has been highlighted by the UN, which began an investigation last week into deaths caused by drone attacks.

A spokesman for BAE said: “Taranis is a joint BAE-MoD programme and we are not at liberty to confirm any details of the forthcoming flight, including the location, timing or who may be present.”
BAE unveiled Taranis in a glossy presentation two years ago.

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