Could Recent Bomb Scares Spell The End Of Cellphone Or Wi-Fi Services On Aircraft?

A few days ago we all became aware of a new attempt at sneaking a bomb onto an aircraft, scheduled for delivery of packages here in the U.S. It seems that a terrorist had attempted to disguise bombs as being printer cartridges. But just as airlines were starting to gear up for wi-fi and cell phone service on-board their aircraft, this recent incident could spell doom for these projects. The bombs found on the aircraft in the UAE had a cell phone connected in what appeared to be an attempt at remote detonation.

In a recent article it also stated that:

This comes as the aviation industry is gearing up to provide broadband in-flight entertainment systems that feature both cellphone and Wi-Fi connections for passengers. These systems would mean that passengers would no longer need to illicitly use their cellphones when they come into range of ground masts at low altitudes near airports – a potentially dangerous activity that could interfere with the aircraft’s avionics.

In-flight communications is a fast-growing market at the moment. Market researcher InStat of Scottsdale, Arizona, says that 2000 passenger aircraft are expected to have this kind of satellite broadband communications technology by the end of this year, compared with just “a couple of dozen” in 2008.

Last week’s discoveries cast doubt on the wisdom of in-flight communications, says Roland Alford, managing director of Alford Technologies, an explosives consultancy in Chippenham, Wiltshire, UK. He says he expects the technology to be scrutinised in the security reviews being undertaken by the UK government and US Department of Homeland Security in the wake of the discovery of the printer bombs.

In-flight Wi-Fi “gives a bomber lots of options for contacting a device on an aircraft”, Alford says. Even if ordinary cellphone connections are blocked, it would allow a voice-over-internet connection to reach a handset.

“If it were to be possible to transmit directly from the ground to a plane over the sea, that would be scary,” says Alford’s colleague, company founder Sidney Alford. “Or if a passenger could use a cellphone to transmit to the hold of the aeroplane he is in, he could become a very effective suicide bomber.”

I don’t know about you, but I can go a few hours without cell phone or wi-fi service, if it means added security for the flight I am on. I don’t believe we need to be connected 24 x 7 to any device or technology.

What do you think?

Comments welcome.

Source – NewScientist

Human-Powered Ornithopter Becomes First Ever To Achieve Sustained Flight

There should be an image here!Aviation history was made when the University of Toronto’s human-powered aircraft with flapping wings became the first of its kind to fly continuously.

The “Snowbird” performed its record-breaking flight on August 2 at the Great Lakes Gliding Club in Tottenham, Ont., witnessed by the vice-president (Canada) of the Fédération Aéronautique Internationale (FAI), the world-governing body for air sports and aeronautical world records. The official record claim was filed this month, and the FAI is expected to confirm the ornithopter’s world record at its meeting in October.

For centuries engineers have attempted such a feat, ever since Leonardo da Vinci sketched the first human-powered ornithopter in 1485.

But under the power and piloting of Todd Reichert, an Engineering PhD candidate at the University of Toronto Institute for Aerospace Studies (UTIAS), the wing-flapping device sustained both altitude and airspeed for 19.3 seconds, and covered a distance of 145 metres at an average speed of 25.6 kilometres per hour.

“The Snowbird represents the completion of an age-old aeronautical dream,” says lead developer and project manager Reichert. “Throughout history, countless men and women have dreamt of flying like a bird under their own power, and hundreds, if not thousands have attempted to achieve it. This represents one of the last of the aviation firsts.”

The Snowbird weighs just 94 lbs. and has a wing span of 32 metres (105 feet). Although its wingspan is comparable to that of a Boeing 737, the Snowbird weighs less than all of the pillows on board. Pilot Reichert lost 18 lbs. of body weight this past summer to facilitate flying the aircraft.

With sustainability in mind, Aerospace Engineering graduate students of UTIAS learned to design and build lightweight and efficient structures. The research also promoted “the use of the human body and spirit,” says Reichert.

“The use of human power, when walking or cycling, is an efficient, reliable, healthy and sustainable form of transportation. Though the aircraft is not a practical method of transport, it is also meant to act as an inspiration to others to use the strength of their body and the creativity of their mind to follow their dreams.”

The Snowbird development team is comprised of two University of Toronto Engineering graduate students: Reichert, and Cameron Robertson (MASc 2009) as the chief structural engineer; UTIAS Professor Emeritus James D. DeLaurier as faculty advisor; and community volunteers Robert and Carson Dueck. More than 20 students from the University of Toronto and up to 10 exchange students from Poitiers University, France, and Delft Technical University, Netherlands, also participated in the project.

“This achievement is the direct result of Todd Reichert’s dedication, perseverance, and ability and adds to the already considerable legacy of Jim DeLaurier, UTIAS’s great ornithopter pioneer,” said Professor David Zingg, Director of UTIAS. “It also reflects well on the rigorous education Todd received at the University of Toronto. We’re very proud of Todd and the entire team for this outstanding achievement in aviation history.”

Click here to see video of this historic event.

Elizabeth Raymer @ University of Toronto

[awsbullet:Weider History Group]

Aerospace Manufacturing And Design

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Stolen Military Items Being Sold On eBay & craigslist

Over at CNN there is an article referencing stolen military gear that was being sold on eBay and craigslist. Items such as military uniforms, body armor, night vision goggles plus other military equipment was also being sold. But there was one item that was being sold that seemed odd to me. It was parts for the F-14 fighter aircraft.

Now that wasn’t interesting in itself. It was the following statement I found alarming:

Two F-14 fighter jet components. The United States has retired its fleet of F-14s. Only Iran is currently using them.

Does anyone else think that it is strange that the US has sold jet fighters to Iran? I recall that we seem to be at odds with the Iranians because of their position on possessing nuclear weapons. So why would we then sell them our aging jet fighters?

I look forward to your comments.

CNN article is here.