Saturday, August 22, 2015

Qantas Back In The Profit Again?

After a recent aggressive restructuring, is Qantas set to be back in profit again?

Given that a number of flag carriers had since gone the way of the dodo as the global fiscal environment got more austere, it can be a refreshing piece of good news that one manages to get back from the brink. Qantas – an acronym for Queensland and Northern Territories Airline Service – Australia’s troubled national carrier manages to get back from the brink with a recent aggressive restructuring and says it is on course to deliver its first pre-tax profits this year in three months to September. The news comes after the airline firm reported a net loss of 2.8 billion Australian dollars (2.6 billion US dollars, 1.6 billion UK £) for the 12 months to June – its biggest annual loss. Back in Wednesday, August 19, 2015, shares in the Sydney-listed airline rose more than 3-percent before midday trading. 

Qantas chief executive Alan Joyce made the announcement in Sydney at the company’s annual general meeting. In a report to the Australian Stock Exchange, Mr. Joyce said he could confirm the airline come through the worst. Shareholders were told passenger numbers were up 2.7 percent compared to a year ago. Mr. Joyce also said yields for its international arm had been positive for 6 months in a row. All of which means good news to anyone who owns Qantas stock or whose frequent business trips make them a frequent flyer with a airline firm. 

Friday, August 14, 2015

Flying Platforms: Aeronautical Engineering’s Evolutionary Dead End?

Despite being portrayed as the “most fearsome must have military vehicle” in 1960s era comic books, are flying platforms really nothing more than aeronautical engineering’s evolutionary dead end? 

By: Ringo Bones 

Despite giving the impression to those who should have known better that it is the ultimate must-have logistical transport vehicle with unlimited potential military applications and ever since film documentaries made about them in the 1970s and 1980s about the US Army’s barmy equipment acquisition programs during the latter half of the 1950s, policymakers who should have known better often hailed them that if the US Army had them during the Vietnam War, or during former US President George “Dubya” Bush’s Operation Iraqi Freedom, America’s overseas military intervention campaigns could have had a different – supposedly better – outcome. And despite being portrayed in 1960s era comic books as high-tech airborne Segway transports for both superheroes and super-villains alike, are flying platforms nothing more than a representation of the Cold War era aeronautical engineering’s research-and-development’s evolutionary dead end? 

In the world of aeronautical engineering research-and-development, flying platforms are a subclass of rotary-wing aircraft. Like helicopters and convertible aircraft, they are supported in hovering flight by the jet-momentum reaction produced by constantly accelerating a portion of the surrounding air downwards. Flying platforms are unlike helicopters in that the rotors used to produce the supporting jets are relatively small and unlike convertible aircraft in that no winglike appendages are provided for high-speed level flight. Flying platforms are unlike ground-effect machines, hovercrafts, or Ekranoplan-type craft, in that the flying platforms are capable of rising to higher altitudes in comparison to their maximum dimension. Thus, the flying platform is a rotary-wing aircraft whose aerodynamic characteristics have been “compromised” by reducing the size of the lifting-rotor system relative to the central body. 

Flying platforms have been envisioned as military personnel carriers for short-range operations at moderate speeds over terrain which is impassable to surface vehicles. The comparatively small size of the lifting rotors is dictated by the necessity of reducing the overall-dimensions of the vehicle for the purposes of storage and concealment.    

The first free flight of a flying platform was made on February 4, 1955. Manufactured by the Hiller Aircraft Corporation, the “platform” was 6 feet in diameter and was powered by two Nelson aircraft engines driving the rotors through V-belts. 

If you think “pervertiplanes” – i.e. convertiplane / convertible aircraft are aerodynamically perverted products of aeronautical engineering, flying platforms could be well-described as the “super-freaks” of Cold War era products of aeronautical engineering. There are three serious problems in the operation of flying platforms and these are directly attributable to the small size of the lifting rotors. 

One of the problems is that the small size of the lifting rotors leads to high lifting-jet velocities which cause trouble directly by creating a serious erosion and dust problem. The high lifting-jet velocities also cause trouble indirectly, since the continuous dissipation of the kinetic energy of the lifting jet leads to high rotor-power consumption that result in much higher fuel consumption in comparison to a conventional helicopter. A second problem affecting flying platforms is that the small size of the lifting rotor leads to catastrophic rates of descent in the event of power plant failure. Unlike the helicopter, which can make an autorotative descent with a wind-milling rotor, or a fixed-wing aircraft, which can glide, the flying platform falls like a rock in the event of a complete power plant failure. This problem is commonly solved by providing two or more independent power plants, so that the machine may descend at a safe rate if one power plant fails. The third serious problem is that the small size of the rotors relative to the rest of the vehicle leads to serious interference-flow effects between the hull of the vehicle and its rotors, particularly in forward flight. These interference effects lead to poor stability and control properties of flying platforms. Thus, this is the very reason why no flying platform type armored personnel carriers and VIP transport vehicles are deployed during the prosecution of former US President George “Dubya” Bush’s Operation Enduring Freedom and Operation Iraqi Freedom. 

Thursday, July 30, 2015

Pervertiplanes: A Forgotten Argot Of Aeronautical Engineering?

Even though the term dates back to the Cold War era 1960s American aeronautical engineering boom, does anyone still use the term “pervertiplane” these days? 

By: Ringo Bones

Any group of specialists has its own private lexicon and aeronautical engineers are surely no exception. The word “pervertiplane” could be defined as a corruption of the term “convertiplane” – which is a contraction of the term “convertible aircraft” – pertaining to aircraft constructed in such a way that their lifting and propulsion systems may be converted to permit efficient operation either for vertical take-off and hovering or for high-speed forward flight. Such craft are now more commonly termed as VTOL or vertical take-off and landing aircraft. 

Convertiplanes – at least their experimental prototypes – began life back in the beginning of the 1960s. Examples of which are the X-19 broad-bladed tilting rotor turboprop VTOL plane, the X-22 tilting ducted fan VTOL plane, or was it the XC-142A, which is probably the great-granddaddy  of the V-22 Osprey that got fielded back in 2007 and some jet-engine high-performance experimental VTOL fighter planes like the British-built Hawker P1127 cascade vane-nozzle turbojet VTOL that later became the USMC’s Hawker Siddeley Harrier / Harrier Jump Jet and the then West German EWR VJ-101C tilting engine turbojet VTOL interceptor. 

Convertible aircraft are sometimes called “convertiplanes”; however, one prominent aeronautical engineer – legend has it that it was Igor Sikorsky – has suggested the name “pervertiplanes” because so many of the machines, in his view, combine the worst features of the helicopter and the fixed-wing aircraft. The necessary provision of such structurally difficult features as tilting wings, tilting rotors, cascade-vane assemblies and the like which may be subjected to high gas temperatures and periodically fluctuating air loads, all at minimum structural weight, leads to the development of very complicated mechanical devices that in turn leads to a high probability of mechanical failure. 

By far, the most serious problem with convertible aircraft lies in its characteristics following engine failure at low altitude. Unlike fixed-wing aircraft, which can fly as a glider following engine failure or the helicopter, which can descend at a safe – but rapid – rate with its rotor being spun by the flow of air past it (a process called autorotation), the convertible aircraft commonly lacks wings large enough to descend slowly as a glider, or a rotor large enough to permit a safe autorotation descent. Worse yet, if power failure occurs during transition, it may not be possible to achieve either type of descent and the vehicle will fall like a rock. Looks like a convertible aircraft or convertiplane’s reputation as a “pervertiplane” seems apt.  Or should we also include L7 guitarist Donita Sparks’ battered Gibson Flying V which she christened as the “flying vagina”?

Sunday, July 19, 2015

The V-22 Osprey: A Pervertiplane?

Does the V-22 Osprey deserve the name pervertiplane because it combines the worse features of the helicopter and fixed-wing aircraft?

By: Ringo Bones 

If New York Times Bestseller List literary phenom E.L. James was an avid aviation enthusiast, James would have chosen to use the V-22 Osprey as the private plane for Christian Grey – the young billionaire business magnate and lead character of Fifty Shades of Grey due to the “perverted” nature of how the V-22 Osprey works aerodynamically. But does such family of aircraft deserve such disparaging label? 

Back in the beginning 1960s, where the granddad of the V-22 Osprey and related aircraft were at their development stage, one prominent aeronautical engineer (Igor Sikorsky?) has suggested the name “pervertiplanes” because so many of such machines – in his view – combine the worst features of the helicopter and the fixed-wing aircraft. The necessary provision of such structurally difficult features as tilting wings, tilting rotors, cascade vane assemblies and the like, which may be subjected to high gas temperatures and periodically fluctuating air loads, all at minimum structural weight, leads to the development of very complicated mechanical devices. The complication of these devices, in turn, leads to a high probability of mechanical failure. 

Ever since Bell Helicopter and Boeing Helicopter was awarded the developmental contract by the US DoD for the V-22 Osprey tiltrotor type aircraft back in 1983, engineering problems of such aircraft that were uncovered back in the 1960s were tried to be “engineered out” via the use of newly mass-manufactured ultra-lightweight ultra-strong composites 1980s era composite materials. The USMC began training crews for the Osprey back in 2000 before its kinks were finally ironed out and its first long-delayed rollout in 2007 as a replacement of its ageing heavy lift helicopters that date back from the 1960s – i.e. the USMC’s fleet of Chinooks and CH-46 Sea Knight fleet.  

Back in October 2007, Time magazine ran an article condemning the V-22 Osprey as unsafe, overpriced and completely inadequate. Given that composite materials make up 43 percent of the Osprey’s overall airframe – and composite materials aren’t exactly cheap – Time magazine may have been correct about the high cost issue of the Osprey. Safely-wise, during its testing phase from 1991 to 2000, there were four crashes that resulted in 30 fatalities. Since becoming operational in 2007, the V-22 Osprey has had 3 crashes that had resulted in 6 fatalities and several minor incidents. The aircraft’s accident history has generated some controversy over its perceived safety issues. Given the aircraft’s history, fictitious billionaire-sex-pervert Christian Grey would probably, in his right mind, steer clear away from using such “pervertiplanes” such as the V-22 Osprey as his main private plane / corporate aircraft. 

Saturday, July 18, 2015

Empty Leg Flights: Champagne Flavored Air Travel At Beer-Budget Prices?

Even though we the 99-percent can only dream of owning our very own private jet, is there a way to experience flying in one on the cheap? 

By: Ringo Bones 

Unless you are a 1980s era legacy rock star, billionaire business magnate, A-List Hollywood actor / movie producer types, etc. we, the 99-percent, can probably only dream of travelling by private jet and so overwhelmingly most of our experiences of flying commercial airlines will undoubtedly involve brutal early morning check-ins, the enforced surrendering of toiletries to airport security – or TSA in the United States – to scowling customs officers and – always a certainty – delays. But, like they say in contemporary cold medicine commercials, there’s another way – one that also happens to be substantially better in every detail. Basically, you need to get yourself to one of those “empty leg flights”. 

Empty leg flights are private jet flights where there happens to be nobody onboard, at least not until you come in and the good news is on short and intermediate range flights, you are paying at almost the price of flying coach in a typical commercial airline flight.  Private jet charter firms, realizing that their aircraft have to return to base after they have ferried the first client to somewhere swanky at some point, have taken to offering these return “empty leg flights” for cut-price rates. It is only logical that these private jet charter firms make some extra money out of someone’s one-way trip and the consumer gets a cut-price private jet experience and the flexibility to just show up 15 minutes before take-off, get right on board and fly. 

Free champagne and swanky caviar-filled catering will be available as standard on an empty leg flight says Mehdi Dialmy of Privatefly, one of the private jet charter firms providing empty leg flights. If Privatefly does it this way, undoubtedly, their competitors will also pamper their empty leg flight clients to attract customers. But timing is the key for availing such budget-priced luxurious civil aviation indulgencies.