Around the World

Miles flown for stories
2014: 201,532
2013: 330,818

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It’s a Boat…It’s a Plane…It’s BOTH

The KM Ground Effect Aircraft. Photo - Russian Navy (unattributed photographer)

The KM Ground Effect Aircraft – Photo: Russian Navy (unattributed photographer)

Rostislav Alexeyev loved hydrofoils. He was so enamored with the idea of hydrodynamic lift, in fact, that he developed the world’s first commercially-viable hydrofoil. Remembering that Bernoulli’s principle applies to any fluid, it is no wonder that he loved hydrofoils. Underwater wings can reduce the hydrodynamic drag acting on a vessel.

Boeing made the 929 in the 1970′s; there are lots of AvGeeks that consider hydrofoils to be a worthy marine pastime. Alexeyev, however, took things a step further.

To understand where he was coming from, one needs to consider the concept of ground-effect. When an aircraft is in ground-effect (roughly 1/2 the distance of the wingspan of an aircraft and the ground) it has some very interesting drag and performance characteristics. For instance, for a given wing area the force of lift is stronger, the drag is lower, and the thrust needed to stay aloft is less. Either way, the aerodynamic drag is much lower than the hydrodynamic drag.

Aircraft in Russia had TsAAGi as their equivalent of NASA. Hydrofoils and ekranoplans were shuffled off to TsKB po SPK (it’s even longer in Russian) in 1958. Before then, almost all of the research was done directly by Alexeyev within TKB-19 (his equivalent of an aircraft’s OKB)

Alexeyev wondered what would happen if you put wings on a boat. The thing is, an extremely fast, fuel efficient, heavy lift ground-effect vehicle would be one of strong military interest. This happened sometime in either late 1957 or immediately prior to the creation of TsKB po SPK – the sources are ambiguous. Either way, the military was interested and they made it a top-secret priority. Continue reading It’s a Boat…It’s a Plane…It’s BOTH

Review of Business Class on American Airlines’ Transcon A321

Business Class on the American A321. Image: Eric

Business Class on the American A321 – Photo: SouthpawCapture

I live in the Dallas area, and don’t often fly transcon flights. However, I recently needed to go to both LA and New York close to the same time, and I thought it would be fun to try American’s new Airbus A321”T” they are flying between JFK and both LAX and San Francisco.

I am an Executive Platinum AAdvantage member (American’s top-tier elite for the unitiated) so I can often, but not always, upgrade on a regular coach fare. I looked for the flight with the most available seats in business class, reasonably figuring that this would give me the best chance of upgrading. It was a midweek flight leaving LAX at 1 PM, arriving at JFK at around 10 PM local time.

If it’s not obvious, I am a typical top-tier elite member – very spoiled. Sitting in the back of the bus is for the great unwashed, not I. Seriously, no, I am not above sitting back there, and as I make lots of last-minute changes, I often wind up squashed in with everybody else. Plus since I own my business, travel costs come out of my pocket. No high-end business class fares for me.

American's A321 in flight. Image; Eric.

American’s A321 in flight – Photo: SouthpawCapture

So when you have the opportunity to take “AAdvantage” of the few perks you get with business travel these days, you grab it. Considering this was a five-hour flight and I was already very tired, I was REALLY hoping for the upgrade, to say the least.

When I got to LAX, the upgrade still wasn’t there, and I was pouting. To make things worse, the flight was listed an hour late due to weather in JFK. But about 45 minutes before the flight left the gate, the clouds parted, the sun shone, and the upgrade gods smiled on me. Business class it was, Seat 8F on the new A321.

Continue reading Review of Business Class on American Airlines’ Transcon A321

Touring the Bigelow Aerospace BA-330 Space Habitat Mock Up

This manicain is doing important experiments in the BA-330

This mannequin is doing important experiments in the BA-330

Space… the final frontier. Sorry, I just always wanted to start a story with that and figured this was the time.

When I was recently invited down to Las Vegas to learn about Boeing’s CST-100 and Bigelow Aerospace’s BA-330 space habitat, I lit up. I love space and, even more so, commercial space. This is the area of space where maybe someday an average Joe might be able to experience what it is like to be up in the heavens. Until then, it will take companies and individuals with money to get commercial space off the ground (literally).

Once inflated, the BA-300 is quite large.

Once inflated, the BA-300 is quite large

The International Space Station is currently expected to have a useful lifespan until about 2020. Firms like Bigelow Aerospace are looking at ways to provide a commercial space habitat to nations and companies who are willing (and able) to pay. Although they have tried a few variants, they are putting quite a bit of effort into the BA-330 Space Habitat (no, it is not related to the Airbus A330).

It is one thing to see drawings of what the BA-330 will look like, versus having a full mock-up. And that is exactly what Bigelow had at their facility in Las Vegas – a true, life-sized version of the BA-330, and I was lucky enough to get a look inside.

Continue reading Touring the Bigelow Aerospace BA-330 Space Habitat Mock Up

My First General Aviation Flight

I film in the backseat as we taxi out for the runway inside a Cessna 172 Skyhawk.

I film in the backseat as we taxi out for the runway on a Cessna 172 Skyhawk – Photo: Steven Paduchak

Though I have been studying aviation management in school for the past three years, I haven’t had a chance to go up for a flight in a general aviation (GA) aircraft yet. I know, that sounds crazy. I’ve traveled commercially all my life. However, all of that changed on an April weekend in Florida, when I took my first GA flight.

At my university, I enrolled in an “Introduction to Film” class to meet an elective requirement. Of course, given the course, we were assigned a project to make….well, you guessed it, a short film. The production was to be about 10-15 minutes long. Coincidentally, the majority of people in my assigned group consisted of aviation majors. Being the AvGeeks that we naturally are, we attempted what everyone expected us to do; make a film related to aviation.

Our film was planned out as follows: a young boy grows up aspiring to become an airline pilot, much like his father. Unfortunately, his father is killed in a plane crash, thus leaving him very bitter, sad, and alone. As the film goes on, skipping five years in between, the young boy struggles to move on in life, but eventually, a recording from the “Black Box” reveals the boy’s father wishing him a happy and successful life in the skies.

Hearing his father speak for the last time is both relieving and motivating for the young boy, whom at that point, is a young man flying for a regional airline. My group and I knew putting this powerful story into a 10-15 minute film would be a challenge, but we decided to give it a shot!

Continue reading My First General Aviation Flight

Wine, Wings, & More at the Future of Flight Aviation Center

Just hanging out under a Beechcraft Starship having wine - Photo: Future of Flight

Just hanging out under a Beechcraft Starship drinking wine – Photo: Future of Flight

We like wine. We like wings (the airplane variety). Why wouldn’t we love this awesome event at the Future of Flight?

On Friday, June 20th (next Friday), from 6-9pm, the Future of Flight is hosting a special event that features a night of wine, beer, food, music, and more at their facility (with airplanes there of course): Wing, Wings and More.

The event includes tastings from over 30 boutique wineries and distilleries and a beer garden on the Strato Deck with amazing views. Not to mention there will also be catered food.

Tickets are on sale now and only cost $45 ($35 if you are a member).

Hope to see you there!