16 08 2011

The Aerospatiale-BAC Concorde was the world’s first and only supersonic airliner, which cut travel times down to half that of a normal airliner. It served a short 27 years in the airline business before being famously retired after the only crash its type ever experienced – which wasn’t even the plane’s fault!

Concorde boasted a whopping 2170 km/h top speed, or Mach 2.04, and was incredibly lightweight to give it that extra speed. Only 26 were built, 20 of which served in airlines British Airways and Air France. It was seen as an aviation icon, and still is.

Air France Flight 4590 was the only fatal crash of a Concorde, killing everybody on board, and 4 people on the ground. It was caused by a metal strip that had fallen from another plan prior the Concorde’s take off, which slashed a tyre that flung upwards and burst a fuel tank, igniting the plane in seconds before crashing shortly after.

This incident was the first in the bring down of the Concorde. The plane cost far too much to produce and also needed severe upgrades which neither government was willing to pay for, and so the program was shut down and the Concorde grounded for ever.

The controversy surrounding the retirement was quite large. It was such a big decision to close the program after a successful 24 years before the crash, and to close it after one crash. If they hadn’t made that decision, we would still be travelling by Concorde today, and there would be many more, so fast travel would be available on quite a large basis, reducing flight times the world round.

I am particularly saddened by the decision to ground the Concorde because I would love to fly in one and experience what it is like to fly so quick. I think the decision to ground them was wrong, as the crash was not even caused by the fault of aircraft, but from the fault of a different aircraft. Even if the governments didn’t have enough money to keep the whole program running, I think it would be awesome for them to run at least one quarter of the program until they had sufficient funds to fund the whole thing and even expand it, because today we would have a large network of Concordes to travel in and reduce long distance travel times. I wish they could have kept the Concorde program running, but I have no doubt that with the advances of aviation we are witnessing each day, a new, similar, and better program to the Concorde will be designed and hopefully we can have supersonic, short travel available on a large basis again soon.


Budget Airlines

16 08 2011

Commercial airline travel first came about in 1909, in the form of DELAG (Deutsche Luftschiffahrts-Aktiengesellschaft), using airships, and has since boomed into the one of the largest industries in the world.

Commercial air travel is statistically the safest form of transport in the world today. Airlines boast the best possible security and safety policies they can in order to ensure passenger safety and comfort, whilst they also offer a range of classes and prices.

Budget airlines have been around since the beginnings of large scale commercial airlines, and strive to deliver the lowest cost flights to customers. It is often these airlines that have poorer customer service and are often subject to criticism and in the eye of the media all the time for their problems.

Budget airlines are renowned for their cheap flights, but lack of luxuries such as included meals and drinks, pillows, blankets and in flight entertainment. They are also known to be the most often delayed flights and poorly organised, yet they are still very popular.

The recent temporary shutdown of Tiger Airways Australia brought about a massive media discussion, with fears that it may have to shut down for good because it was too costly for them to shut down for so long and spend a whole heap of money inspecting all of their aircraft before deciding it was safe to fly again, but they managed to overcome this and are now back in the skies.

So are budget airlines reliable? My answer is yes and no. In my experiences on budget airlines, I have experienced delays in my flight about 25% of the time, and have found the service not as satisfying as that of normal airlines. However, the flights and crew were safe and I still felt secure flying with them, which is the good part, because I was not in fear of crashing or anything like that, I was still comfortable. Another thing is, despite their cheap flights (which aren’t always cheap due to misleading advertisements and the little catches they add in which we don’t realise until after we have paid), budget airlines sell onboard food, drinks and entertainment for quite high prices which kind of defeats the whole “budget” thing.

I believe it is mainly media that gives budget airlines a bad wrap, due to the likelihood of the media only talking about problems and delays of budget airlines, and we don’t hear much of the good stuff. Also, the two television shows Airline and Airways focusing on easyJet and Tiger Airways portray budget airlines in a negative light by showing disgruntled passengers and delays and basically highlighting every problem the airline makes. Apart from this, I think budget airlines are just as safe as any other airline, and while it may not be as luxurious as others, it still gets you from A to B, safe and sound, which I think is the most important part of a plane trip, not the added extras that we like to indulge in. After all it is only called air travel, which is travelling through the air. Who mentioned meals and movies?

Advances in Military Aviation – UAVs and New Age Aircraft

16 08 2011

Ever since the invention of the aeroplane in 1903, there has been nothing but innovation and advances in the world of aviation. The use of aeroplanes in today’s world is unimaginably vast and probably beyond the likes of what the pioneers could think of. In particular, the most notable advances have been in military aviation, which has existed ever since the Battle of Fleurus in 1974, which used hot air balloons as air support. Military aviation has become more and more prominent throughout history with conflicts such as WW1, WW2, Vietnam and the Cold War, which have all played vital parts in shaping today’s military aircraft and strategies.

Today’s military aviation sector is highly advanced and technical, and vital in winning a war. Without air support, there is no way you can overcome your enemies in modern warfare. The men and women of the military air services are some of the bravest and also most important people in the world as it is their job to protect and serve their country and their comrades on the ground in an all round effort to win wars. Without ground crews, mechanics, engineers, armament technicians, and most importantly the PILOT, these vital weapons wouldn’t be operational, would they? WRONG – enter the Unmanned Aerial Vehicle, or UAV for short.

"I can do this with my eyes closed"

The UAV is a pilotless plane or ‘drone’ controlled remotely from a secure location, or autonomously as programmed prior to flight.. They are used in high risk airspace in warzones to avoid loss of human entities, and serve a few different purposes:

  • Remote Sensing – picking up electromagnetic and radioactive signals, analyse air, and biological detections.
  • Commercial Surveillance – livestock monitoring, wildfire mapping, pipeline security, home security, and road patrol.
  • Military Surveillance – reconnaissance missions, exploration of enemy territory and bases, location of new enemy bases and hideouts.
  • Geographical Surveys – searches for oil, mineral and gas deposits and earth surface analysis.
  • Transport – can deliver small amounts of cargo and packages.
  • Research – capable of reaching areas too dangerous for piloted aircraft, so they send in UAVs.
  • Attack – UAVs can be armed and deliver a fierce and accurate airborne attack on enemy personnel, armour and artillery, and even other aeroplanes.

UAVs have a wonderful array of useful applications but will it ever be the same as actually sending up a real pilot to do the dirty work? It almost seems like a cowardly way of doing things, and in a way I can relate it to cyber bullying; sitting behind a computer, unbeknownst to your victims, firing a bunch of inescapable and incredibly f***ing terrifying Hellfire missiles at them!!! (or insults in the bullying context). And as someone who aspires to be a fighter pilot when I leave school, I am not particularly fond of UAVs. Although they can be very convenient, safe and useful, I would much rather be up there experiencing the thrills and spills of flying instead, it is so much more appealing than what is essentially a video game version of it, only the consequences of losing are not in favour of the taxpayers.

Oh sh*t!

And as much as I hope it doesn’t happen, I think UAVs and other new age aircraft may eventually rule out conventional piloting and military aviation, but I sure as hell hope it doesn’t happen during my lifetime.