June 27, 2014

Dutch detect major flaw in airplane autopilot system

Filed under: Aviation by Orangemaster @ 11:03 am

The Dutch Safety Board has detected a pattern of aircraft autopilot systems misinterpreting radio signals given by airport instrument landing system (ILS), which has led to minor incidents so far, but could lead to disaster if not addressed. And just like computer programmers trying to reproduce bugs to be able to identify a problem, the Dutch Safety Board ordered test flights and were able to reproduce the dangerous conditions that were unknown to the international aviation community until now.

On May 31, 2013 a Boeing 737-800 landing at Eindhoven airport was given instructions to land, and as usual, upon approach it switched on the autopilot for ILS landings, which uses radio signals: one type of signal says ‘pitch up’ and another says ‘pitch down’. Due to the steeper than usual approach of the Boeing, the autopilot went ‘pitch up’ instead of ‘pitch down’, while the plane already had the brakes on, the landing gear out and was decreasing its speed, a recipe for stalling the plane. The pilots took control of the plane, did a go-around, and safely landed the aircraft with the autopilot off.

In this case and other similar incidents elsewhere with different planes, the crew had a limited response time to disconnect the autopilot and recover the aircraft, a potentially dangerous situation according to the Dutch Safety Board. About 1,500 to 2,000 major runways worldwide use an ILS, while planes all around the world use an autopilot system that has this glitch.

Someone’s fear of flying just got real, but not mine though, I love flying.

If you want real details, watch this English-language video:

(Links: phys.org, www.aeroinside.com, www.onderzoeksraad.nl)

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November 19, 2013

Dutch student addicted to travelling

Filed under: Aviation,Weird by Orangemaster @ 8:00 am

The Germans refer to it as ‘Wanderlust’, and the technical term is dromomania, “an uncontrollable psychological urge to wander”. Dutch tax law student Valentijn Kuperus is not only constantly on the go, but tries to do it as cheaply as possible. I can imagine that if you’re on a student budget and have the urge to travel that saving money as well as planning is something you excel at very quickly. And what a lawyer he is going to make, but he’ll never be in his office.

Kuperus knows all about saving air miles, bonus programs and travel sites. He has learned all about online travel booking by spending three to four hours a day looking for deals. Last month Kuperus flew to in Abu Dhabi, UAE and Cape Town, South Africa. However, he spent all of 90 minutes in Abu Dhabi, but was very happy to accumulate thousands of frequent flyer miles by stopping there.

Simply put, Kuperus is clearly addicted to travel and needs it like a fix, a lot like a record collector needs to constantly dig crates to score a great record for next to no money.

Contrary to most of us who like to fly as directly as possible to our destination, Kuperus would rather pile up as many layovers as possible because that’s how he can score the most points to then be able to travel some more. He has even taken flights that earn him more air miles than they cost. He once landed a deal flying from Paris to Sri Lanka for 7,50 euro, a mistake on the part of the airline and a great find for him.

Kuperus has already visited 57 countries, with about 11 more coming up soon. His passport is so full of stamps that he needs to get a new one every two years. This year’s Christmas trip reads as follows: Brussels-Ljubljana-Istanbul-Cairo-Abu Dhabi-Bangkok-Singapore-Beijing-Seoul-Taipei-Ho Chi Minh City-Taipei-Hong Kong-Amsterdam.

He plans to do some studying while flying as well. He has good travel tips on his frequent flyer blog.

(Link: www.waarmaarraar.nl)

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June 24, 2009

Kite your way from Amsterdam to New York in four days

Filed under: Aviation,Gadgets,Science by Branko Collin @ 10:05 am

The vehicle pictured above consists of a kite, a cabin and a keel, and should be able to take you across the Atlantic Ocean. The 157 m2 kite should produce enough power to make you go 90 km/h, the cabin seats two, and the keel makes sure you can actually steer the thing. The only catch is that the Hydrokite so far only exists in the minds of former astronaut and kite nut Wubbo Ockels and ten of his students at the TU Delft.

At 90 km/h you should be able to reach New York from Amsterdam in four days and 1 hour, which would break the old record with three hours, although Kennislink doesn’t say what record that would be (sailing? flying? kiting?).

Laurens Alblas, one of the students, told Kennislink that it will probably “take a couple of years before a control system for kites is developed. But once we have such a system, and assuming we can find sponsors, we will build the Hydrokite and we will try and break the record.”

(Link: Kennislink. Source image: TU Delft)

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February 14, 2009

Willy Wonka of weed will win trip to Amsterdam

Filed under: Film by Branko Collin @ 9:43 am

A UK film distributor has started a contest that will see its winner flown to Amsterdam, by plane that is, to collect a bag of marijuana. The distributor, Revolver Entertainment, is holding the contest to promote its film The Wackness.

Writes Revolver:

Yes, you heard us correctly! We’re offering the chance for you to win a fabulous weekend break for 2 to the city of smoke itself, the beautiful Amsterdam. But that’s not all… the lucky winner will also be able to pick up a complimentary bag of skunk from legendary Amsterdam café, Hill Street Blues.

Hidden within one of the first 1,000 DVDs of The Wackness is a Golden Ticket. Find the Golden Ticket and you win! It’s that simple.

Just as mayor Cohen thought he was getting rid of a certain type of British tourist

Link: BoingBoing. Photo by Sony Pictures.

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January 1, 2009

Baby born on flight to Boston, USA

Filed under: General by Branko Collin @ 5:56 pm

A baby was born on New Year’s Eve on Northwest Airlines Flight 59 from Schiphol Airport near Amsterdam to Boston, USA, reports Fox News. Phil Orlandella, spokesperson for Logan International Airport, said that a doctor and paramedic who happened to be on board assisted with the birth. Upon arrival the baby was treated as a Canadian citizen, as it was born while flying over Canada.

I would assume that births in airplanes to the US are rare, as women who are more than 32 weeks pregnant a rarely allowed to fly on American flights.

Welcome to this big blue marble, baby, and a happy new year to you, and also a happy new year to all our readers!

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August 6, 2008

Jan Akkerman concert on laddermill power

Filed under: Aviation,Music,Science by Branko Collin @ 9:05 am

Dutch guitar giant Jan Akkerman, former astrounaut Wubbo Ockels and Delft University all worked together to come up with this tiny concert in the Stadspark of Groningen last year. The reason? The electrical power was delivered by a prototype of a so-called Laddermill, an invention by Wubbo Ockels that is currently being developed at the University of Delft, and that consists of a chain of kite-wings that act as kites when going up, and as wings when going down.

Laddermills should be able to deliver from kilowatts to megawatts of power, enough to provide neighbourhoods and cities with electricity. According to the Guardian, laddermills are especially useful in The Netherlands, Denmark, the UK and Ireland “thanks to the high-speed jet stream.”

If you’ve never heard of Akkerman before, check YouTube for “focus hocus pocus.”

Via Engadget. See also this TU Delft page.

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March 22, 2007

Another day, another flying car

Filed under: Automobiles,Gadgets by Branko Collin @ 11:55 am

Flying cars are a thing that overenthusiastic inventors have been promising the world for almost as long as the automobile itself exists. The last of these inventors are the Dutch company PAL-V. They’ve got a hunch that thanks to relaxed regulations and improved technology, their motor-cycle-with-roof cum gyrocopter might just succeed this time around. I especially love their use case. If business were this brisk, you probably would not need a flying car.

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