Inside the secretive world of B2 Bomber pilots

The B2 Spirit Stealth Bomber looks like one of Batman's rides. In service since the mid-1990s, the B2's distinctive flying wing shape, even after decades in service, still looks like the future – and an expensive future, at that. Each B2 costs $2.1 billion. As such, only 21 of the stealthy aircraft were ever made.

Congress, even in the heyday of "what about potential war with Russia," refused to pay for any more. It's an aircraft with a mystique that comes both from its exotic design and how little information we have on the pilots who fly it, and their experience of flying one of them.

Recently, journalist William Langewiesche was given the opportunity to become familiar with the bomber and those that pilot it. More intriguingly, given that the bomber scarcely has space in its cockpit to accommodate a pilot and co-pilot, Langewiesche, by the sound of things, was allowed to join a B2 flight crew on a mission that would take them all the way from the United States to a bombing run on an ISIS camp in Libya.

From The Atlantic:

Night came quickly after a short day. Once they passed into the Mediterranean, the pilots used their radar to find three tankers that had come from Germany to meet them for their second refueling, and to map some thunderstorms that were active in the area at the time. Because of its composite structure, the B-2 is particularly vulnerable to static discharges and lightning strikes, and is required to stay 40 miles away from thunderstorms—twice as far as other airplanes.

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NASA is sending a helicopter to Mars

Joining the Mars 2020 rover mission to the Red Planet will be a small helicopter. The Mars Helicopter, with a softball-size fuselage, the autonomous chopper will be solar powered and integrate a small heater so it doesn't seize up at night. From NASA:

Once the rover is on the planet’s surface, a suitable location will be found to deploy the helicopter down from the vehicle and place it onto the ground. The rover then will be driven away from the helicopter to a safe distance from which it will relay commands. After its batteries are charged and a myriad of tests are performed, controllers on Earth will command the Mars Helicopter to take its first autonomous flight into history.

“We don’t have a pilot and Earth will be several light minutes away, so there is no way to joystick this mission in real time,” said (Mimi Aung, Mars Helicopter project manager at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory.) “Instead, we have an autonomous capability that will be able to receive and interpret commands from the (rover on the) ground, and then fly the mission on its own.”

“The ability to see clearly what lies beyond the next hill is crucial for future explorers,” said Zurbuchen. “We already have great views of Mars from the surface as well as from orbit. With the added dimension of a bird’s-eye view from a ‘marscopter,’ we can only imagine what future missions will achieve.”

Mars 2020 will launch on a United Launch Alliance (ULA) Atlas V rocket from Space Launch Complex 41 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida, and is expected to reach Mars in February 2021.

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People are flying around in these jumbo personal drones in China [VIDEO]

Between this and Starman's Tesla in space, it's a weird week. Read the rest

Ever seen a model jet fly at 451 miles an hour?

Holy moly, this kerosene-fueled full GFK* body RC speeder has a turbine engine that generates 40.50lbs of thrust at 125,000 rpm, letting it reach speeds over 450 miles per hour.

Perhaps even more impressive is that the pilot is able to maintain control at those speeds. Mindboggling!

* Fun fact: GFK stands for Glasfaserverstärkter Kunststoff, the German name for this type of glass-fiber reinforced component. I had to look it up!

Here's a POV shot of this type of RC jet

FASTEST RC TURBINE MODEL JET IN ACTION 727KMH 451MPH FLIGHT TRAINING WORLD RECORD TRAINING PART 2 (YouTube / RC MEDIA WORLD) Read the rest

Drone and hawk hover together in beautiful aerial dance

Usually, drones and hawks don't get along so well, but this hovering hawk didn't mind being filmed. Read the rest

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: Read the rest

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. Read the rest

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. Read the rest

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

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