Friday, July 30, 2010

Taranis - Britain latest unmanned combat air vehicles

The UK Ministry of Defence's "combat aircraft of the future" -- a state-of-the-art jet capable of deploying weapons and bringing back intelligence without human guidance -- made its long-awaited debut at a ceremony Monday.


Named after the Celtic god of thunder, the Taranis comes equipped with advanced stealth technology. Unlike the current generation of propeller-driven unmanned combat air vehicles (UCAV), the Taranis would therefore be able to carry missiles into regions where the military does not have air dominance.


Initially budgeted at 125 million pounds, the Taranis was originally scheduled to enter ground testing last year in time for military use this year. Instead, the aircraft set producers BAE Systems back an estimated 143 million pounds, and flight testing is expected to commence next year.

Taranis "is a prelude to the next generation of fighting capability," Nigel Whitehead, group managing director of programs and support at BAE, told the Financial Times. "If we are not on top of that, there will be no future for UK aircraft capability."

Though the use of UCAVs and other automation of weaponry is a growing military trend as part of a way to reduce budgets, the Taranis' debut has its share of detractors.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Airblue plane crashed near Islamabad

No one survived the crash of a Pakistani passenger plane that went down in the outskirts of the capital Islamabad Wednesday morning with 152 people on board, officials said.

Rescuers worked in heavy rains to recover bodies from the wreckage, as officials launched an investigation to determine why the accident occurred. Pakistani Information Minister Qamar Zaman Kaira said 115 bodies have been taken to area hospitals.

Initially, Kaira and Interior Minister Rehman Malik reported survivors in the crash. Kaira said there were eight survivors and Malik said there were six.

But Kaira said the initial information received from the scene was incorrect, and both men later said no one survived the crash.

Hours ago, Wajid Shamsul Hasan, Pakistan's ambassador to the United Kingdom, said crews combing through the debris had recovered a so-called "black box" -- which is actually orange -- that is either the craft's flight data recorder or cockpit voice recorder. Information from the recorder will help authorities determine the cause of the tragedy.

But Kaira later told reporters that the "black box" has not been recovered.

The Airblue plane was headed to Islamabad from the sea port city of Karachi when it crashed in a hillside while trying to land, said Pervez George, a spokesman for the country's civil aviation authority.

The Airbus A321 was carrying 146 passengers and six crew members, George and AirBlue said. The U.S. Embassy in Pakistan said two of the people aboard were American citizens.

Raheel Ahmed, an AirBlue representative, told CNN that among the passengers, 110 were male, 29 were female, five children and two infants. Ahmed said the pilot was Capt.
Pervez Iqbal Chauhdary, one of the airline's top pilots with 35 years and more than 25,000 hours of flying experience.

Malik, appearing on Pakistani TV, said the plane was at 2,600 feet as it approached Islamabad but went back up to 3,000 feet before eventually crashing.

"It came from the city toward the Margalla Hills. It was raining heavily," said area resident Ahsan Mukhtar, who saw the plane go down. "It shattered into pieces as soon as it crashed. A burst of flames came off, but the rain put out the fire."

The Margalla Hills are a series of small hills north of the capital.

Officials do not know if weather played a factor in the crash. Pakistan is in the midst of the annual monsoon season, when rain sweeps across the subcontinent from June until September.

Airblue, a private airline company, offers flights within Pakistan, as well as to the United Arab Emirates, Oman and the United Kingdom. It makes a fuel stop in Turkey when it is flying from Manchester, England.

"The aircraft was absolutely airworthy. There was nothing technically wrong," said Taheel Ahmed, a spokesman for the airline.

Airbus issued a statement saying the Airbus A321 was delivered from the production line in 2000, leased to Airblue in 2006, and had accumulated about 34,000 flight hours in some 13,500 flights.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Lufthansa Cargo flight MD-11 crashes

A Lufthansa cargo plane crashed in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, on Tuesday, and two pilots aboard were injured, the German company confirmed.

Lufthansa Cargo said the MD-11 plane was traveling from Frankfurt, Germany when it crashed at 11:38 a.m. local time (4:38 a.m. ET). The cause of the crash was under investigation.

A company spokesman said the plane was on fire but the blaze was under control. The craft had been carrying 80 tons of cargo.

Lufthansa said it did not know the extent of the pilots' injuries but both were being treated in a hospital.

The plane crashed at King Khalid International Airport. It was not yet clear what freight was on the plane and whether customers were affected.

Saturday, July 24, 2010

Airshow CF-18 Jet Fighter Crashes

A CANADIAN Forces pilot has survived after ejecting from a fighter jet moments before it crashed during practice for an airshow.

The pilot was admitted to a hospital in Alberta. Captain Brian Bews was performing low-flying manoeuvres in the CF-18 fighter jet when he ejected and parachuted to the ground.

Airshow CF-18 Jet Fighter Crashes

Witnesses said his plane appeared to stall while he was practising a run for the airshow at Lethbridge County Airport.

Airshow CF-18 Jet Fighter Crashes

The fighter jet burst into flames on impact. Canadian newspapers reported Captain Bews, 36, was alert and speaking in hospital after the crash.

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Virgin Galactic Spacecraft Makes 1st Crewed Flight

Virgin Galactic SpacecraftA company working to send tourists on suborbital flights says it has tested its spacecraft with a crew for the first time.

Virgin Galactic says the craft remained attached to a specially designed airplane throughout a six-hour flight over California's Mojave desert Thursday.

On its website, the company congratulated the crew and said "Objectives achieved." It says the two crew members evaluated all of the spaceship's systems and functions.

Virgin Galactic says the flight test program will run through 2011 before it starts commercial operations.

Recommended reading
* VSS Enterprise maiden flight
* VSS Enterprise - SpaceShipTwo Unveiled

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Solar Impulse started 24-hour test flight

A solar-powered aircraft which one day hopes to circle the globe has started a 24-hour test flight in Switzerland.

Solar Impulse took off shortly before 5 am GMT, Wednesday from an airfield in Payerne, 80 miles northeast of Geneva.

The plane is being piloted by Andre Borschberg who will fly the plane to a height of nearly 28,000 feet (8,500 meters) throughout the day.

During the evening the plane will slowly descend to an altitude of 5,000 feet (1,500 meters) where it will remain for the rest of the night, before Borschberg attempts a dawn landing.

Solar Impulse has a wingspan of over 63 meters -- the same as an Airbus A340 -- and is nearly 22 meters long. It weighs 1,600 kilograms and has nearly 12,000 solar cells attached to its wings and horizontal stabilizers.

The plane is also equipped with four electric engines and has a top speed of 70 kilometers per hour.

"The goal of the project is to have a solar-powered plane flying day and night without fuel," co-founder of the project, Bertrand Piccard said.

The Swiss adventurer, who piloted the first non-stop balloon flight around the world in 1999 in the Breitling Orbiter III said the test flight was "crucial for the credibility of the project."

The challenge to fly a solar plane around the world was officially announced in 2003.
If the 24-hour flight is successful, a second airplane will be designed to fly much further next year, with the aim of flying across continents and the Atlantic Ocean.

In 2012, the team hope to fly Solar Impulse around the world in five stages.