Yes, flights are getting more turbulent thanks to climate change

Advances in Atmospheric Sciences reports that flying is going to get more and more turbulent, even at cruising altitudes, because of climate change:

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How to fold a World Record-winning paper airplane

John Collins holds the Guinness World Record for designing the farthest flying paper airplane. The plane, folded from a single piece of A4 paper, flew 69.14 meters in 2012. Harvard University made this video of Collins folding his masterpiece during a recent visit with Harvard's design engineering graduate students. More designs at The Paper Airplane Guy.

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New flying robots inspired by creatures of the skies

Biomimickry continues to improve and refine specialized drones and flying robots. Mindy Weisberger at LiveScience dives into an issue of The Royal Society's journal Interface Focus on coevolving advances in animal flight and aerial robotics. Read the rest

Video compilation of 8 personal hovercraft that work

This year has seen some interesting movement in the world of hoverbikes, hovering platforms that can support a standing human, and drone prototypes large enough to carry people. EUKA has an overview of 8 noteworthy examples. Read the rest

Aircraft that looks like ass has crashed

The Airlander 10 hybrid airplane-airship, the world's longest aircraft that resembles a massive ass, crashed on landing at Cardington Airfield in Bedfordshire, England. Video below. Fortunately, the crew was uninjured. It was the aircraft's second test flight.

"The flight went really well and the only issue was when it landed," said a spokesperson for Hybrid Air Vehicles, the company that developed the aircraft over the last decade, originally supported by a US Army contract.

Sir Mix-A-Lot had this to say about the accident: "I like big butts but this one can't fly..."

(BBC)

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Build your own private gyrocopter

Frequently seen in the pages of 1950s-era Popular Mechanics magazines, the Bensen B-8 was a small gyrocopter that was in production until 1987. Download the plans and build your own two-person gyrocpter fleet to compete with Uber and Lyft!

(via Weird Universe)

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World's longest aircraft looks like ass, literally

The Airlander 10 hybrid airplane-airship, the world's longest aircraft at 302 feet long, has emerged from its hangar at Cardington Airfield, Bedfordshire, England.

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What do bats and skateboarders have in common?

Bats and skateboarders have something special in common. They both use inertia to land their tricks which, in a bat's case, means landing upside down.

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Man flies new jetpack around the Statue of Liberty

For decades, engineer Nelson Tyler has kept the jetpack dream alive, most recently with the company Jetpack Aviation. Above, video of the company's CEO David Mayman flying the latest model, the JB-9 JetPack, over Manhattan.

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Beautiful animated air traffic patterns

Air traffic data is great fodder for visualizations. Case in point, this lovely animation of a day of flights titled "North Atlantic Skies" by air traffic control firm NATS. (via Laughing Squid) Read the rest

Why birds fly in a V formation

Why do birds fly in a "V" formation? Scientists at the UK's Royal Veterinary College attached sensors to endangered ibises migrating from Austria to Tuscany. What they confirmed is that the aerodynamics of V flocking helps the birds conserve energy and that they optimize this by careful positioning and timing their wing flaps. "Precision formation flight astounds scientists" (Nature) Read the rest

An airship boom in Southern California

Photo: the Aeroscraft in a hangar in CA. Image: Worldwide Aeros, Inc.

In the Los Angeles Times, an article about an aerospace industry boom of sorts in Southern California, involving new twists on an old technology: airships. Who's buying? The military, and other government agencies, primarily for defense and surveillance purposes.

[I]n recent years, the affordability of airships as well as developments in high-definition cameras, high-powered sensors and other unmanned technologies have turned these oddball aircraft from curiosities of a bygone era to must-have items for today's military. And airships increasingly are being used for civilian purposes.

The federal government is buying blimps, zeppelins and spy balloons, and many of these new-generation hybrid "lighter than air" aircraft are taking shape across California.

"So much is going on with airships in California now," Pasternak said. "It wasn't this way 10 years ago."

Of note, the difference between airships, blimps, and zeppelins: Read the rest

Solar Impulse plane lands, completing world's first intercontinental flight powered by the sun (photos)

Photo: REUTERS/Youssef Boudlal

The Solar Impulse plane project president and pilot Bertrand Piccard lands after a 19-hour flight from Madrid at Rabat's International airport, June 5, 2012. The plane landed in Morocco on Tuesday, completing the world's first intercontinental flight powered by the sun to show the potential for pollution-free air travel.

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Toddler kicked off plane after iPad deprivation tantrum

A family from Washington state had to cancel an island vacation when their flight was grounded after their 3-year-old son pitched a tantrum.

The toddler had been quietly playing with an iPad while waiting for the plane to take off, the father said. When the iPad was taken away—you know how all electronics must be stowed during takeoff and landing—all hell broke loose. Read the rest

Solar-powered airplane "Solar Impulse" attempts transcontinental flight

Photo: REUTERS/Denis Balibouse

A Solar Impulse aircraft takes off at Payerne airport May 24, 2012, piloted by André Borschberg. The Solar Impulse HB-SIA prototype aircraft, which has 12,000 solar cells built into its jumbo-jet-sized wings (about 200 feet long), attempted its first intercontinental flight from Switzerland to Morocco with a few days for a technical stop and a change of pilot in Madrid. This flight will act as a final rehearsal for the 2014 round-the-world flight.

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Will the FAA stop prohibiting electronic devices on commercial flights?

As I noted in a Boing Boing post yesterday, there's news of a possible change ahead for in-flight gadget rules in the US.

The Federal Aviation Administration currently prohibits passengers from using electronic devices on commercial flights when the plane is below 10,000 feet in altitude. But the FAA announced this week that after widespread demands to modify restrictions, there may be new efforts to review whether devices like the iPad or phones in "airplane mode" can be permitted safely during takeoff and landing.

Aviation journalist and pilot Miles O'Brien, who uses his iPad for navigation while flying his own plane, joined KPCC's Patt Morrison show today to discuss the news. Here's a direct MP3 link to the radio segment. It's a good listen. Read the rest

What good is half a wing?

One of the most common arguments you'll hear against evolution (or, at least, one of the most common arguments I heard growing up amongst creationists) had to do with transitional forms. An eye is a valuable thing, this argument goes. But half an eye? That's just a disability.

Like many of the really common arguments against evolution, this one crumbles the minute you start to apply the slightest bit of fridge logic. Sure, half an eye is less useful than a full eye. (Or, more accurately, a clustering of light-sensitive cells don't have all the functionality of a modern eyeball and optic nerve system.) But, if most of the other creatures have no eyes, and you have a few light-sensitive cells, you've got an advantage. And an advantage is all it takes.

Now apply that to the evolution of birds. One of the cool things about this process is that it appears that feathers evolved before flight. In fact, feathers seems to have evolved rather independently of flight.

You might ask: What's the point of that? How are feathers an advantage if they can't help you fly? Is this just about looking pretty? Maybe. But on his blog, The Loom, Carl Zimmer presents another hypothesis. Feathers and wings, even without flight, might have given their owners a physical advantage over bare-skinned cousins. The birds in this video aren't flying. You can see that their feet don't leave the ground. But the act of flapping those feathers around helps them to walk up inclines that would otherwise be impassable walls. Read the rest

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