Tag Archives: NASA

785 The Boeing Company

Boeing and Spirit AeroSystems continue to dominate the news, along with 737 MAX certification, lap babies, the proposed JetBlue and Spirit Airlines merger, route growth at United Airlines and Breeze Airways, and the demise of the Ingenuity Mars Helicopter. Also, flight tests for the B-21 Raider and more favorite aviation movies.

Aviation News

Boeing, not Spirit, mis-installed piece that blew off Alaska MAX 9 jet, industry source says

Wichita-based Spirit AeroSystems builds the 737 fuselage for Boeing. A person familiar with the situation says the door plug was removed by Boeing, and then reinstalled on the 737.

127 Days: The Anatomy of a Boeing Quality Failure

In The Air Current, Jon Ostrower reconstructs the journey of fuselage 8789 from Spirit AeroSytems to Alaska Airlines. It’s an insightful look at the relationship between Boeing and Spirit AeroSystems.

Opposition grows to Boeing 737 MAX 7 safety exemption

Boeing wants an exemption to certify the 737 MAX 7 and MAX 10, despite problems with the engine anti-ice system.

Video: United Airlines CEO: Boeing’s 737 Max-9 grounding is ‘the straw that broke the camel’s back’ for us

NTSB Urges Parents Not to Fly With Children on Laps After Alaska Incident 

At a recent press conference, NTSB Chair Jennifer Homendy said “We would urge passengers to put their children under two in their own seat, in an FAA-approved car seat, so they are secure and safe in case something like this happens.” Currently, the FAA allows children under the age of two to be held in an adult’s lap.

Boeing CEO to meet with senators scrutinizing 737 MAX 9 blowout

Dave Calhoun has been meeting with U.S. senators to answer their questions about the 737 MAX 9. After meeting with Calhoun, U.S. Senator Tammy Duckworth said he “offered no assurance” that Boeing would withdraw its exemption request for the 737MAX 7 jet. 

Boeing Whistleblower: Production Line Has “Enormous Volume Of Defects” Bolts On MAX 9 Weren’t Installed

JetBlue casts doubt on its merger deal with Spirit Airlines after judge rules against merger

JetBlue Airways has informed Spirit Airlines that the merger agreement might be terminated. JetBlue feels some conditions of the merger agreement can not be met while Spirit says there is no basis for terminating the merger agreement.

United Airlines To Launch First-Ever Route From Washington DC To Alaska

Breeze Airways Adds Three Airports, 11 Routes To Network

After Three Years on Mars, NASA’s Ingenuity Helicopter Mission Ends

On April 19, 2021, the Ingenuity Mars Helicopter made history by becoming the first craft to achieve powered, controlled flight on another planet. After sustaining rotor blade damage, NASA Administrator Bill Nelson announced that the Ingenuity mission had come to an end after  72 flights.

Ingenuity Mars Helicopter sitting on the surface of Mars.
This view of NASA’s Ingenuity Mars Helicopter was generated using data collected by the Mastcam-Z instrument aboard the agency’s Perseverance Mars rover on Aug. 2, 2023, the 871st Martian day, or sol, of the mission.

For more information about Ingenuity, see https://mars.nasa.gov/technology/helicopter.

Mentioned

Do Electric Aircraft Face Lapse Rate Challenges?

B-21 Raider Flight Testing Now Underway

Hosts this Episode

Max Flight, Rob Mark, Max Trescott, David Vanderhoof, and our Main(e) Man Micah.

782 NASA X-59 Test Pilots

Two X-59 test pilots discuss the NASA X-59 mission, the design and technology of the X-59 aircraft, the role of test pilots, and the challenges of flying supersonic.

The X-59 in flight. Graphic courtesy NASA.
X-59 in flight. NASA image.

Guests

Photo of X-59 test pilot Nils Larson.
David Nils Larson

David “Nils” Larson is a research test pilot at NASA’s Armstrong Flight Research Center in Edwards, California. He is NASA’s lead pilot for the X-59 aircraft, and is assigned to Armstrong’s F/A-18, F-15, T-34 research and mission support aircraft, and DC-8 airborne science aircraft. Nils also serves as senior advisor for NASA aeronautical flight research. In this role, he is a strategic advisor to program directors for agency mission directorates concerning aeronautics flight research planning, execution, aircraft airworthiness, and risk management for future flight research projects.

Before joining NASA in 2007, Nils was on active duty with the U.S. Air Force. He has accumulated more than 7,000 hours of military and civilian flight experience in more than 100 fixed- and rotary-winged aircraft.

Photo of X-59 test pilot James "Clue" Less.
James “Clue” Less

James “Clue” Less is a research pilot and aerospace engineer at NASA’s Armstrong Flight Research Center in Edwards, California. He is a project pilot for the X-59 aircraft.

Clue has worked at Armstrong since 2010 conducting flight research and airborne science missions as a pilot for the F-15, F-18, T-34, and King Air, as well as the Stratospheric Observatory for Infrared Astronomy (SOFIA), a  modified 747SP jetliner, and various remotely piloted aircraft, including the MQ-9 Ikhana and aircraft from the center’s subscale research laboratory.

Before joining NASA, Clue served as an officer and pilot in the U.S. Air Force for nearly 21 years. Upon graduating from Euro-NATO Joint Jet Pilot Training, he flew F-111 aircraft at Cannon Air Force Base in New Mexico and the F-117 Stealth Fighter at Holloman Air Force Base in New Mexico.

Quesst

Commercial supersonic flight over land is prohibited because the noise of the sonic boom is objectionable. But NASA and Lockheed Martin believe they can turn the boom into a thud by designing the X-59 in a way that manages the shock waves. The NASA Quesst mission has two goals:

  1. To design and build NASA’s X-59 research aircraft which includes technology that will reduce the loudness of the sonic boom.
  2. Fly the X-59 over U.S. cities, collect data from the communities about the sound, and share the public reaction to the quieter sonic “thumps” with the FAA and international regulators. 

The regulators can then consider writing new sound-based rules to lift the ban on supersonic flight over land.

On January 12, 2024, NASA held a public unveiling ceremony for the X-59 supersonic research aircraft.

Video: Rollout of the X-59 Quesst Supersonic Plane (Official NASA Broadcast)

Graphic of expected X-59 sonic noise compared to other sound sources. Courtesy NASA.

Hosts this Episode

Rob Mark and our Main(e) Man Micah.

781 Astronaut

A veteran NASA astronaut, scientist, and author discusses his journey to becoming an astronaut and his experiences in space. In the news, FAA orders Boeing 737 Max 9 planes grounded, a JAL A350 collides with a Dash-8, seating layout and air rage, American Airlines launches Smart Gating, and JSX plans to buy more than 300 hybrid-electric aircraft.

Guest

Astronaut Tom Jones standing in front of the Atlantis Space Shuttle

Thomas D. Jones is a veteran NASA astronaut, scientist, author, pilot, and speaker. He flew on four space shuttle missions to Earth orbit in more than eleven years with NASA. In 2001, Tom led three spacewalks to install the American Destiny laboratory, the centerpiece of the International Space Station. He has spent fifty-three days working and living in space. Tom has written seven space, aviation, and history books. 

Tom’s latest title is Space Shuttle Stories: Firsthand Astronaut Accounts from All 135 Missions from Smithsonian Books. This book is a comprehensive oral history of the thirty years of the Space Shuttle. Tom collected stories from astronauts across all 135 shuttle missions.

Book cover: Space Shuttle Stories

A Distinguished Graduate of the Air Force Academy, Tom piloted B-52D strategic bombers, earned a doctorate in planetary sciences from the University of Arizona, studied asteroids and robotic exploration missions for NASA, and engineered intelligence-gathering systems for the CIA.

Tom’s awards include the NASA Distinguished Service Medal, four NASA Space Flight Medals, the NASA Exceptional Service Award, the NASA Outstanding Leadership Medal, the NASA Exceptional Public Service Award, Phi Beta Kappa, the Air Force Commendation Medal, and Distinguished Eagle Scout. Asteroid 1082 Tom Jones is named in his honor. In 2018, Tom was inducted into the U.S. Astronaut Hall of Fame.

Tom served on the NASA Advisory Council and the Association of Space Explorers and the Astronauts Memorial Foundation boards. He consults on the future direction of human space exploration, uses of asteroid and space resources, and planetary defense. A frequent public speaker, he is often seen on-air delivering expert commentary on science and space flight.

For more, see Tom’s website, follow him on Twitter/X at @AstroTomJones, and he’s also on Facebook.

Aviation News

FAA orders grounding of certain Boeing 737 Max 9 planes after Alaska Airlines incident

FAA orders temporary grounding of Boeing 737 Max 9s

A new Alaska Airlines 737 Max 9 lost a plugged rear-aft door as it climbed out from Portland, Oregon. The plane depressurized and immediately returned to the airport. No injuries were reported. The FAA ordered maintenance and safety inspections.

Haneda accident outcome the sum of decades of integrated air safety lessons

What if the Haneda Accident Had Occurred in the US?

A landing Japan Airlines A350-900 collided with a Japan Coast Guard (JCG) Dash 8-300 resulting in the deaths of five members of the JCG and the total loss of the A350. All 368 passengers and 12 crew members of JAL plane evacuated safely.

Class ‘Inequity’ Fuels Air Rage

The Physical and Situational Inequality on Airplanes Predicts Air Rage study by Princeton University found that the chance of an air rage incident increased four times when the aircraft had a first-class section. The chance doubles again when boarding economy-class passengers pass through the first-class section.

Smart Gating: How American Airlines Is Using Machine Learning To Reduce Taxi Times By 20%

The American Airlines Smart Gating system is designed to streamline operations, reduce taxiing times, save jet fuel, reduce carbon emissions, and improve operational efficiency. The system uses real-time flight information and assigns aircraft to the closest gate. This can reduce taxiing time by up to 20%. Smart Gating has been deployed across American Airlines’ major hubs.

Video: American Airlines Smart Gating

JSX Plans To Add 300+ Hybrid-electric Aircraft to Fleet

Public charter operator JSX intends to purchase up to 332 hybrid-electric aircraft: 82 Electra nine-passenger eSTOL aircraft (32/50 firm/options), up to 150 Aura Aero 19-seat Era model (50/100), and up to 100 Heart Aerospace 30-seat ES-30 (50/50).

Mentioned

Ramrod to Munster by Stephen C. Ananian [PDF]

Aircraft Accident Investigation (AAI) course, University of Southern California.

The course is designed for individuals who have limited investigation experience. All aspects of the investigation process are addressed, starting with preparation for the investigation through writing the final report. It covers National Transportation Safety Board and International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) procedures. Investigative techniques are examined with an emphasis on fixed-wing investigation. Data collection, wreckage reconstruction, and cause analysis are discussed in the classroom and applied in the lab.

Can you spot Max Trescott?

The Journey is the Reward podcast, Episode 60: A Conversation with Capt Jeff of the Airline Pilot Guy.

Hosts this Episode

Rob Mark, Max Trescott, David Vanderhoof, and our Main(e) Man Micah.

769 Transonic Truss-braced Wing

A transonic truss-braced wing aircraft gets an X-Plane designation, some categories of air travel capacity have returned to pre-pandemic levels, detecting germs on airliners, and the Collings Foundation reaches a settlement.

Aviation News

Next Generation Experimental Aircraft Becomes NASA’s Newest X-Plane

The transonic truss-braced wing experimental aircraft has received the designator X-66A. This will be developed under the NASA Sustainable Flight Demonstrator (SFD) project and produced under a partnership between NASA and the Boeing Company. Recently, Boeing flew an MD-90 airplane from Victorville, California, to its facility in Palmdale, California, where the X-66A conversion will take place. The plane’s wings will be replaced with longer and thinner wings stabilized by diagonal struts.

Transonic Truss-braced Wing concept
Transonic Truss-braced Wing. NASA concept.

See the Wikipedia List of X-planes to learn more about past X-planes.

Air travel is back to pre-pandemic levels with new turbulence ahead

Based on data from aviation analytics firm Cirium, capacity (measured by scheduled available seat kilometers) has returned to pre-pandemic levels. However, IATA says industry profits will be more than 40% below 2019 levels. Airline analyst Helane Becker at TD Cowen says, “Industry revenues are back to 2019 levels but costs are over 2019 levels by about 18 or 19%.”

Just how germy are airplanes? We put one to the test.

Using a microbial detection test from Charm Sciences, the author swabbed 10 high-touch points on a recent flight. Nine tests failed. The worst spots were the lavatory sink handle and a tray table. The test that came back with zero contaminants might surprise you. Or maybe not.

Collings Foundation Reaches Settlement With Nine-0-Nine Crash Victims

The Collings Foundation has settled the remaining legal claims involving eight of the 10 passengers who were aboard the Nine-0-Nine B-17 when it crashed at Bradley International Airport in Connecticut on Oct. 2, 2019. Terms of the settlement will not be made public. In its final report, the NTSB found pilot error, lax maintenance practices,  and a dysfunctional safety management system had contributed to the crash. We interviewed pilot Mac McCauley under the wing of that plane one week prior to the crash in AirplaneGeeks.com/573.

Mentioned

FAPA.aero (Future and Active Pilot Advisors) offers “objective and independent advice for aspiring pilots of all levels.”

Hosts this Episode

Max Flight and Rob Mark.

734 Grand Dames of Aviation

We speak with the Founder and Chairman of the Board of Grand Dames of Aviation. In the news, Boeing and NASA team up to develop a Transonic Truss-Braced Wing airliner, a US judge orders Boeing to appear for an arraignment on a 737 Max fraud charge, SWAPA authorizes a strike vote, and a procedure change and the JFK runway incursion. We also have an Australia News Desk report and interviews from the 2023 Seattle Aerospace BBQ.

Guest

Grand Dames of Aviation founder Carol Dean in the cockpit.
Carol Dean, founder of Grand Dames of Aviation

Carol Dean is the Founder and Chairman of the Board of the non-profit Grand Dames of Aviation. Formed in 2017, the Grand Dames of Aviation is an exclusive group of accomplished women in professional aviation. What started as a private Facebook group has grown into a large organization that celebrates, educates, and inspires women to believe, achieve, and lead in aviation.

Carol explains the requirements to become a Grand Dame of Aviation and mentions some of the notable members. We learn about scholarships, mentoring, and leadership networking. Cultivating the talent, innovation, and leadership of women is critical for the future of aviation and aerospace.

Carol is currently a B757 pilot for a major carrier and has over 30 years of experience in aviation. As a test pilot and pilot instructor on the Design-Build Team, she helped certify the Gulfstream V in 1997 and was the first woman to fly the aircraft. Carol is an FAA-Designated GV Pilot Examiner and a JAA-certified GV Type Check Airman. She flew Gulfstreams Part 91 and 135 for various Fortune 500 companies for 20 years before going to the airline in 2016.

Grand Dames of Aviation Watch

Grand Dames of Aviation Watch – The “Grand Dame” is offered by Abingdon Company. This timepiece was designed to honor trailblazing women in aviation. Fierce. Accomplished. Confident. Skilled. All proceeds go to the Grand Dames of Aviation scholarship fund. For a limited time, Grand Dames receive a special 15% discount.

Grand Dames of Aviation private Facebook group.

Sisters of the Skies  

AVIATE with Shaesta

Carol Dean standing in front of jet.

Aviation News

New aircraft design from NASA and Boeing could benefit passengers in the 2030s

The Sustainable Flight Demonstrator Project brings NASA and Boeing together to create a plane with a Transonic Truss-Braced Wing (or TTBW) configuration. This features long thin high wings supported by diagonal struts to the fuselage belly. Boeing is to produce and test a full-scale single-aisle demonstrator aircraft with the first test flight planned for 2028.

Artist’s concept of Boeing Transonic Truss-Braced Wing aircraft.
Artist’s concept. Courtesy Boeing

US Judge Orders Boeing Arraigned on 737Max Fraud Charge

In January 2021 the U.S. Department of Justice granted Boeing immunity under a $2.5 billion deferred prosecution agreement. A Texas federal judge has now ruled that Boeing must appear in court on Jan. 26, 2023, to be arraigned on federal criminal charges over the 346 deaths in two Boeing MAX 737 crashes in 2018 and 2019. The judge believes the victim’s families were not part of the process under the Crime Victims’ Rights Act.

SWAPA President Casey Murray Calls for Strike Authorization Vote

The Southwest Airlines Pilots Association has authorized a strike vote beginning May 1, 2023. “This historic action on the part of the pilot union comes in the wake of Southwest’s largest meltdown and the utter lack of meaningful progress on a contract negotiation, with scheduling work rules and information technology asks in particular, that has been ongoing for more than three years.”

First Officer On American JFK Runway Incursion Flight Had Added Task At Departure, Source Says

New cockpit procedures Introduced on January 2 were being executed for the first time by the first officer. These procedures required the first officer to make a takeoff announcement for the passengers and flight attendants. The announcement must be made with precise timing, and other tasks are to be interrupted. An unnamed source said, “She has all this data to analyze and input, plus she has a new task on top of all that. She was overwhelmed.”

Australia News Desk

The guys recap a little of their history with the show, for the benefit of newer listeners, digging into the archives to find their first report as a team from episode 52 in 2009.

On the news front, Bonza Airline announces its inaugural flight

‘Overdelivering on expectations’: excitement builds for a Bonza first flight

The Defence Department announces a confirmed order for 40 UH-60M Black Hawk helicopters for the Australian Army, with deliveries to commence at the end of this year

Black Hawk helicopters for Defence

And QANTAS has sure had better weeks, with multiple in-flight mechanical issues making the news and causing a media frenzy!   Oh dear….

Fixation on Qantas won’t end, even if string of incidents were unconnected

Qantas calls for calm after engine failure and three flight turnbacks

Seattle Aerospace BBQ 2023

Brian Coleman attended the 2023 Seattle Aerospace BBQ and recorded four interviews:

Isaac Alexander from Hype Aviation and the organizer of the Seattle Aerospace BBQ.

Robin Koenig, the founder of Hype Aviation, the news aggregator and media intelligence service for aerospace industry professionals and enthusiasts.

Nick Benson of JetTip.net, the smart flight alert service for aviation enthusiasts. Flight alerts are sent by app notification or email, and filterable arrival/departure boards make aircraft spotting a breeze. JetTip tracks flights of interesting and unusual aircraft at major US and Canadian airports.

Dave Honan, a photographer and plane and train spotter living in the Seattle area. See his Instagram.

Attendees eating at the 2023 Seattle Aerospace BBQ.
2023 Seattle Aerospace BBQ. Photo by Isaac Alexander.

Mentioned

ZeroAvia successfully completes first flight of world’s largest hydrogen-electric plane

Hosts this Episode

Max Flight, Rob Mark, Max Trescott, and David Vanderhoof. With contributions by Grant McHerron, Steve Vischer, and Brian Coleman.

690 Charlie Bolden

Our guest is Charlie Bolden, former NASA administrator, astronaut, and naval aviator. In the news, the first production Falcon 6X arrives at the completion center, Air Force accidents decline, FAA proposes changes to autopilot training, Frontier and Spirit propose a merger, and Delta wants a federal no-fly list for unruly passengers.

Guest

Charlie Bolden photo
Charlie Bolden

Charles (Charlie) F. Bolden Jr., was Administrator of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration from 2009 to 2017. He’s a former astronaut who flew on four Shuttle missions, and a retired United States Marine Corps Major General. He is the Founder and CEO Emeritus of the Charles F. Bolden Group.

In our open and wide-ranging conversation with Charlie, he talks about the factors that have led to the prominence of commercial space companies. We look at how Congress reacted to the shift and why the commercial industry changed NASA for the better. These “New Space” companies often use an iterative development process that is very different from the regimented process used, for example, with the James Webb Space Telescope.

We touch on the role of NASA and the need for the Administrator to navigate the politics of Washington. We also consider whether the NTSB or FAA should investigate space accidents.

Charlie explains how returning to the Moon and going on to Mars raised concerns that funding would shift to human space flight at the expense of science missions. He also describes initial skepticism that the Ingenuity Mars Helicopter was a good idea. Charlie has some interesting thoughts on the notion of “colonizing” Mars and if that planet is really an alternative to Earth.

Along the way, we look at spherical aberration on the Hubble telescope (and its twin), what the Boeing CST-100 Starliner and the Sierra Nevada Dream Chaser bring, and of course SpaceX. Charlie describes an overwhelmingly emotional moment on his first Shuttle flight and how astronauts used ham radio to talk to their families from the Orbiter.

Charlie also provides some insight into the criteria used to select who would receive the four Space Shuttle orbiters after that program ended.

Among a number of other activities, STEM education is a focus of the Charles F. Bolden Group. Charlie talks about the SERVIR-West Africa project, a joint initiative by the US agency for International Development (USAID) and NASA.

Aviation News

First Falcon 6X Arrives at Dassault’s Little Rock Completion Center

The first production Falcon 6X extra widebody twin arrived at Dassault Aviation’s 1.25 million square foot completion center in Little Rock, Arkansas. Serial number five was ferried from Dassault’s production facility in France. The Pratt & Whitney Canada PW812D-powered Falcon 6X is expected to enter into service later in 2022.

Deadly aircraft accidents declined in 2021, Air Force says

The Air Force reported 63 severe mishaps in fiscal 2021, compared to 71 the prior year. “Class A” incidents dropped to 21 from 30 in 2020. The 5-year average is about 27 Class A mishaps.  The manned aircraft rate fell to 0.94 accidents per 100,000 flying hours, the lowest since 2014. At the same time, the rate for unmanned aircraft accidents jumped to 1.96 unmanned aircraft accidents per 100,000 flying hours, which is the highest since 2017.

Retired Boeing 747 Bought for $1.30 Begins New Life As Party Plane

This retired British Airways Boeing 747 can be rented from Cotswold Airport in the south of England. Purchased for just £1 ($1.30), almost £500,000 ($671,000) has been invested in the plane, which costs $1,300 an hour to rent, or $16,000 for 24-hours.

FAA proposes changes in autopilot training

The FAA wants pilots to avoid overreliance on the autopilot and make sure they focus on flight path management. So the FAA issued draft guidance and recommended practices. The FAAs action comes in response to NTSB recommendations after the July 2013 accident where Asiana Airlines Flight 214 struck a seawall at SFO, killing three passengers. Also prompting the draft guidance are requirements specified by Congress after the two fatal Boeing 737 MAX accidents.

Frontier to buy Spirit Airlines in $2.9 billion low-cost carriers deal

The two carriers are proposing a merger where Frontier Airlines would hold 51.5 percent and Spirit would hold 48.5 percent. A name for the combined airline hasn’t been offered, nor has the CEO or location of headquarters identified.

Delta Air Lines CEO Edward Bastian asked the U.S. Attorney General to set up a nationwide no-fly list for unruly passengers. The ACLU and others are critical, citing problems with the TSA’s current terrorist list.

Mentioned

Inside Marine One
On March 4, 2022, from 6:00 to 8:00 pm, the American Helicopter Museum is offering members a sneak preview of the new Inside Marine One exhibit. A conversation will feature USMC Colonel Ray “Frenchy” L’Heureux (former Marine One pilot and author of Inside Marine One: Four U.S. Presidents, One Proud Marine, and the World’s Most Amazing Helicopter) and Roger D. Connor, Ph.D. (Curator of the Smithsonian’s National Air and Space Museum Aeronautics Department). You can still participate in the discussion via Zoom (6:30-7:30) if you can’t join in person. Register by March 3, 2022.

The American Helicopter Museum's graphic for their Inside Marine One exhibit.
Inside Marine One

You Can Now Learn to Fly at Owls Head Airport

Penobscot Island Air has started a new flight school at the Knox County Regional Airport in Owls Head, Maine. PIA provides mail, freight delivery, and even medevac services. The CFIs are Penobscot Island Air pilots and in the first three weeks, seven students enrolled.

The airport is shared by the Owls Head Transportation Museum which conducts many events throughout the year, including the annual Wings and Wheels Spectacular Airshow, to be held August 6, 2022, 10:00-3:00.

Hosts this Episode

Max Flight, David Vanderhoof, and Max Trescott.

645 Woman Aviator

The inspiring story of a legendary woman aviator and member of the “Mercury 13” who was also the first female FAA inspector and the first female investigator for the NTSB. Also, the AerCap/GECAS merger of aircraft leasing companies, the Dassault Falcon 6X first flight, FAA 2021 GA award winners, Buzz Lightyear’s mission with Southwest Airlines, and the serial stowaway.

Guest

Loretta Hall

Loretta Hall captured the memoir of the extraordinary woman aviator, Wally Funk, in Higher, Faster, Longer: My Life in Aviation and My Quest for Spaceflight.

Wally Funk was the first woman civilian flight instructor at Fort Sill, Oklahoma, the 58th woman in the U.S. to earn an Airline Transport Rating (in 1968), the FAA’s first woman operations inspector and Systems Worthiness Analysis Program specialist, and the first woman NTSB accident investigator. She was also one of the “Mercury 13,” hoping to become an astronaut.

Wally Funk

Loretta is a freelance writer and nonfiction book author. She’s a long-time space travel enthusiast and is currently a certified Space Ambassador for the National Space Society. Loretta has written eight books, including five on the history and future of space travel, one of which is The Complete Space Buff’s Bucket List: 100 Space Things to Do Before You Die.

Loretta has been interested in space travel since her teenage years when she followed the early NASA programs: the selection of the Mercury Seven astronauts, the suborbital and orbital missions of Mercury and Gemini, and the Apollo steps toward a moon landing. She has written eight books, including five on the history and future of space travel. Loretta loves finding ways to participate in space activities without being an astronaut. Her newest book was a cooperative effort to produce the memoir of Wally Funk, an icon in the fields of aviation and spaceflight.

Loretta Hall and Wally Funk

Aviation News

This $30 Billion Deal Could Reshape the Aviation Industry

AerCap Holdings announced that it would acquire the GECAS (GE Capital Aviation Services) unit of General Electric in a $30 billion deal. This would consolidate the number one and number two commercial aviation financing and leasing companies, measured by the number of aircraft. The resulting business would be the largest customer for Airbus, Boeing, and the engine manufacturers.

Dassault’s Falcon 6X Makes First Flight

Dassault Aviation’s Falcon 6X long-range, ultra-widebody business jet’s first flight was made from the company’s facility at Mérignac, France, near Bordeaux, on March 10, 2021.  The 2.5-hour flight reached FL400 and a speed of 0.8 Mach and was dedicated to Olivier Dassault, who died in a helicopter accident on March 7, 2021.

2021 GA Award Winners Announced by FAA, Committee

The awards for National Flight Instructor, Aviation Technician, and FAASTeam Rep of the Year will be presented at EAA AirVenture at Oshkosh, Wisconsin, in July. The 2021 awards go to:

  • Ronald Jay Timmermans of Orlando, Florida, Certificated Flight Instructor of the Year
  • Michael Colin Dunkley of Coshocton, Ohio, Aviation Technician of the Year 
  • Adam Timothy Magee of Swisher, Iowa, FAA Safety Team Representative of the Year.

‘To infinity & beyond!’ Southwest Airlines reunites Buzz Lightyear with young passenger who left toy behind

After a young boy left his beloved Buzz Lightyear on a flight, a Southwest employee found it, located the family, and arranged for Buzz to return home.

Women’s History Month: A Look at Impactful Women in Aviation

Women Entrepreneurs in Aviation

These articles highlight just some of the amazing women who have had successful careers in aviation. They include

Mae Jemison, the first African American woman in space; Joan Higginbotham, who helped build the international space station and operated robotic arm; LeAnn Ridgeway, a Rockwell Collins executive leader (now Collins Aerospace); Susan Mashibe, Tanzania’s first female FAA-certified pilot and mechanic and owner of a private jet handling and hangar services company; Rachel King, the founder and owner of the Precision Approach aircraft washing service; and Steffany Kisling, founder of cabin attendant staffing company SkyAngles and SKYacademy, an online training platform for pilots, cabin attendants and aspiring crew.

Mentioned

#PaxEx Podcast 74: Ready to fly, but has COVID reset expectations?

Max Flight’s Aviation Podcast Directory

Airline Pilot Guy podcast

ABC7 Salutes: Filmmakers complete mission to make documentary honoring WWII heroes

Journey to Royal: A WWII Rescue Mission is a hybrid documentary and action film with painstakingly accurate recreations filmed using real planes (at the Palm Springs Air Museum and the March Field Air Museum) and recreated models. It is now available on streaming and cable platforms and on DVD.

The story takes place during the Second World War, the 4th Emergency Rescue Squadron was stationed on the Mariana Islands of the South Pacific. Its crews policed flight paths searching for B-29 bombers in jeopardy and downed airmen in need of rescue in the open ocean of this war-torn theatre.

View the trailer: Journey to Royal: A WWII Rescue Mission

World’s best airports for customer experience revealed

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625 Aerospace Internships

We talk with a co-founder of the Patti Grace Smith Fellowship which matches interns with aerospace companies. He’s also a former USAF combat pilot and an astronaut who flew on two Space Shuttle missions. In the news, EASA and the Boeing 737 MAX, the NTSB finds that alcohol caused a fatal accident, the U.S. Army plans to review its aviation fleet, expansion opportunities for budget airlines, and a dog evades capture at an airport for 12 hours.

Guest

Alvin DrewAlvin Drew Jr. is the Department of Defense Liaison at NASA Headquarters and a cofounder of the Patti Grace Smith Fellowship. That organization is designed for Black and African-American students who are looking for their first aerospace internship. Alvin is also a former USAF combat pilot and an astronaut with over 600 hours in space.

The mission of the Fellowship is to provide a pathway into successful aerospace careers and future aerospace industry leadership to people whose race and ethnicity has made them the subject of systemic bias. Participating companies identify internship opportunities and the Fellowship matches those with student candidates. Aerospace internship applications are being accepted this year through November 15, 2020.

In addition to hearing Alvin explain the Patti Grace Smith Fellowship, we are treated to some perspectives that can only come from an astronaut who has flown the Space Shuttle twice and visited the International Space Station.

Alvin graduated from the United States Air Force Academy, served as a combat rescue helicopter pilot, then transitioned into USAF special operations, where he flew 60 combat missions. Alvin went on to become a test pilot, and served in the U.S. Air Force’s Air Combat Command staff, retiring in 2010 as a Colonel. Alvin has more than 3,500 hours of flying experience and has piloted 30 different types of aircraft.  

Selected as a mission specialist by NASA, Alvin was initially assigned technical duties in the Astronaut Office Station Operations Branch. He served as Director of Operations at the Gagarin Cosmonaut Training Center in Russia and logged more than 612 hours in space on STS-118 in 2007 and STS-133 in 2011. Alvin is the 200th person to walk in space. 

Alvin holds two bachelor’s degrees from the United States Air Force Academy as well as master’s degrees from Embry Riddle Aeronautical University and the United States Air Force Air University. He is an active member of the Society of Experimental Test Pilots, and the American Helicopter Society.

Learn more about the Patti Grace Smith Fellowship at their website, and follow them on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram.

Aviation News

Boeing Max Judged Safe to Fly by Europe’s Aviation Regulator

EASA is reviewing the documents for a draft 737 MAX airworthiness directive that it expects to issue in November. The organization is satisfied with the September test flights. After the draft is issued, there will be a 4-week public comment period. EASA wants a synthetic sensor added in addition to the two mechanical AOA indicators. Boeing says that will take 20 to 24 months, but EASA says, “Our analysis is showing that this is safe, and the level of safety reached is high enough for us. What we discussed with Boeing is the fact that with the third sensor, we could reach even higher safety levels.”

NTSB Points to Alcohol-Impaired Pilot as the Cause of Alaska Accident

In a 2019 accident near Girdwood, Alaska, a Piper PA22-150 impacted a 5,512-foot ridge about 15 feet below the peak. The ATP-rated pilot and three passengers died. The NTSB reported that both the pilot and the student pilot had elevated levels of alcohol in their bloodstream.

Army to conduct thorough review of aviation fleet in FY23

The U.S. Army is trying to balance funding for the current fleet vs. investments in future technology, including the Future Armed Reconnaissance Aircraft (FARA) and the Future Long-Range Assault Aircraft (FLRAA).

Budget airlines muscle into big airports as coronavirus creates new opportunities

In the past, some airlines would have liked to expand into new airports but their ability to do so was prevented by the lack of airport capacity. Now, with incumbent airlines cutting back on some routes, the door has opened for others to move in. At the Boyd Group International Aviation Forecast Summit this month, most estimates for when air travel will return to 2019 levels put that recovery in 2025 or 2026.

Dog Disrupts Airport For 12 Hours

Arriving at Pearson International Airport in Toronto from Spain, Crystal, a Spanish podenco, escaped from her crate. The podenco is related to the greyhound and is a fast runner. It took airport personnel 12-hours to chase Crystal down.

Eat at the Airport

Reporter-at-Large Launchpad Marzari speaks with Gate 12 Bar and Grill owner Cody Whitten for a live Eat at the Airport review from Easterwood Airport (KCLL) in College Station, Texas. Find more airport eating establishments at EatAtTheAirport.com.

Mentioned

Request for Feedback on the Standardization Community’s Interest in Developing Space Cyber Standards – The American National Standards Institute (ANSI) is seeking information on efforts by members of the standardization community to develop space cybersecurity standards, or any plans to develop such standards.

Six Minutes to Freedom: An Evening with Kurt Muse – At the American Helicopter Museum, November 14, 2020. Hear the amazing story online or in-person of Kurt Muse, who was rescued from a Panamanian prison by American Special Operations Forces after being interrogated and confined by military dictator General Manuel Noriega. Muse will tell the story of his fight for freedom in Panama as the leader of a group of patriots broadcasting on The Voice of Liberty, an underground radio station; his harrowing interrogation and imprisonment; and his dramatic rescue by the elite Delta forces in Operation Acid Gambit. He will offer his presentation in front of the Museum’s Hughes MH-6J helicopter, which was recreated from parts of the helicopter that rescued him.

Powering a Sustainable Future, an Aerospace Industry Business After Hours Webinar at the New England Air Museum with Dr. Michael Winter, Senior Fellow, Advanced Technology, Pratt & Whitney.

Airplane Geeks Listener poll #625

Video: Space Shuttle Launch Audio – play LOUD (no music) HD 1080p

620 The Master Minimum Equipment List (MMEL)

A 737 crew couldn’t properly hand fly the airplane after autopilot failures, and we discuss the Master Minimum Equipment List. Also, airline furloughs loom, unwanted Austrian Eurofighter Typhoons, Air Force efforts to produce more pilots, an engine shutdown due to rain, commercial flights to nowhere, too much PPE isn’t allowed on American Airlines, and an airport throws out an operator.

Aviation News

Experienced crew struggled with instrument flight after 737 lost autopilots

The Lithuanian carrier Klasjet 737-500 departed Madrid Barajas for Kaunas on April 5, 2019, with the captain’s autopilot inoperative. That’s permitted under the minimum equipment list regulations because the officer’s autopilot was working. However, the FO’s autopilot failed 2 minutes after take-off. The pilots had difficulty flying the plane, with large altitude and pitch variations, several go-arounds, flight below the required minimum, and failure to follow ATC instructions.

For an example of an MMEL, see Master Minimum Equipment List (MMEL) for the Cirrus SF50 Vision Jet. [PDF]

United Eyes Extensive Furloughs

United Airlines plans to furlough 16,370 employees as early as October 2020: 6,920 flight attendants, 2,850 pilots, 2,260 airport operations personnel, 2,010 mechanics, and 1,400 in management. American and Delta have also announced plans to reduce their workforces beginning Oct. 1.

Austria Wants To Offload Its Unwanted Eurofighter Typhoons On Indonesia

The Austrian defense minister said she plans to hold talks that aim to sell the country’s Eurofighter Typhoons to Indonesia. Indonesia is interested in buying the 15 Typhoons, the only fighter jets the Austrian Air Force has. We discuss why Austria wants to get rid of the fighters and wonder why anybody would want them.

USAF Looks to Address Pilot Shortage with New Programs

Earlier this year, the Air Force told Congress that the service had a shortage of about 2,100 pilots, 10% of the pilots it needs to execute the National Defense Strategy. Air Force initiatives to address the shortage include the use of simulation, reality (VR), and artificial intelligence (AI) programs. A new $38 million Virtual Test and Training Center (VTTC) at Nellis Air Force Base (AFB), NV will be used for joint-aerial combat training.

U.S. Air Force Trains Robotic Dogs to Scout Battlefields

The Department of the Air Force, the U.S. Northern Command, and the U.S. Space Command just performed a field test of the Advanced Battle Management System (ABMS). The ABMS is a digital battle network system that collects, processes, and shares data among U.S. and allied forces. In addition to shooting down a cruise missile with a hypervelocity weapon, the Air Force tested the Vision 60 quadrupedal robots developed by Ghost Robotics.

Airbus A220 Operators Told To Protect Avionics Against Rainfall

Rain entered an A220 through the main cabin door and overflowed the drains. Then during taxi the water dripped into the avionics bay below and tripped a circuit breaker, causing an engine shutdown. A220 operators have 12 months to modify the drain tubing.

Starlux Airlines Plans Six More Flights To Nowhere

Last month, Taiwanese carrier Starlux Airlines flew a “flight to nowhere” so passengers could “pretend to go abroad.” The flight flew over the Pratas Islands in the northern part of the South China Sea. This was such a success that Starlux plans more of these flights in their Airbus A321neos.

American Airlines Bans Wearing Too Much Personal Protection Equipment On Board

American Airlines sent a memo to its customer care agents about “Prohibited Personal Protection Equipment (PPE).” Several “recreational” PPE items are banned from flights: personal face/body tents, personal face/body pods, personal air purifiers/refreshers, and Ozone generators. Under the Weather sells a variety of these body pods.

JetSuiteX banned at Orange Co Airport, Asks Customers for Help

According to JetSuiteX, John Wayne Airport in Orange County, California told the company that they were “no longer welcome” at Orange County Airport. No reason was given. JetSuiteX provides “hop-on service” from FBO’s with 19 Embraer ERJ-135 and -145 jet aircraft configured for 30 passengers. Customers received communications from JetSuiteX asking them to write to the Orange County Board of Supervisors.

Mentioned

Prototype of the ‘Flying-V’ plane built by KLM that burns 20% less fuel than traditional aircraft takes to the skies for the first time and TUDelft Flying-V.

“The Flying-V is a design for a highly energy-efficient long-distance aeroplane. The aircraft’s design integrates the passenger cabin, the cargo hold and the fuel tanks in the wings, creating a spectacular v-shape. Its improved aerodynamic shape and reduced weight will mean it uses 20% less fuel than the Airbus A350, today’s most advanced aircraft.”

When does flying become CO2-neutral?

The German Aerospace Center (DLR) has some concepts for “an aircraft that flies as climate-friendly as it is economical and is ready for operation by 2040… This aircraft should be able to carry at least 70 passengers for a distance of up to 2,000 kilometers.”

Calling all pilots! Corps to give up to $210,000 for Marine pilots to re-up

The Marine Corps will give out an aviation bonus of up to $210,000 for select pilots willing to extend their service commitment by up to six years, according to a new administrative message.

Major General Charles Bolden Honored with 2020 Wright Brothers Memorial Trophy [PDF]

The National Aeronautic Association (NAA) announced that Major General Charles Bolden USMC (Ret.) has been selected as the recipient of the 2020 Wright Brothers Memorial Trophy for “…his impassioned commitment to public service in aviation and aerospace as an aviator, astronaut, and leader and his dedication to excellence for the advancement of all humanity.”

Charlie appeared as our guest in Episode 316 – NASA’s Aeronautics Research, September 2014. His blog from his days at NASA is still online.

590 Richard Aboulafia

David Neeleman’s new airline, Breeze Aviation; Boeing’s board of directors, the 737 MAX, the NMA, and the FSA; United’s flight school purchase; NASA’s experimental X-59 jet and the prospects for supersonic transport; and a Southwest Airlines Teddy bear. Plus, the Igor Sikorsky Weekend Fly-In, other upcoming aviation events, the EAA mobile unit, carbon monoxide detectors and pulse oximetry, and a physics lesson.

Guest

Richard Aboulafia

Richard Aboulafia

Richard Aboulafia is Vice President, Analysis at Teal Group. He manages consulting projects for clients in the commercial and military aircraft field, and has advised numerous aerospace companies. He also writes and edits Teal’s World Military and Civil Aircraft Briefing, a forecasting tool covering over 135 aircraft programs and markets. Richard also writes publicly about the aviation field, with numerous articles in Aviation Week, Aerospace America, and other publications. Frequently cited as an aviation industry authority by trade and news publications, he has appeared on numerous television news programs and has spoken at a wide variety of conferences.

Aviation News

JetBlue founder unveils new, Utah-based ‘world’s nicest airline’

The new airline being started by David Neeleman will be known as Breeze Aviation, headquartered in Utah. Neeleman’s previous startups include Morris Air, WestJet, JetBlue, and Azul. Breeze will nonstop fly between currently underserved airports. Breeze ordered 60 new Airbus 220-300 aircraft, with deliveries beginning in April 2021. The company leased 30 Embraer 195 aircraft from Azul, which will be delivered starting May 2020.

Experts question whether Boeing’s board of directors is capable of righting the company

Some think the Boeing board took a long time to fire Muilenberg. Is that an indicator of the board’s ability to deal with the crisis Boeing faces? New CEO Dave Calhoun says the board repeatedly considered confidence, but then in December decided it was lost. Richard Aboulafia was quoted: “The board you see today was largely created by McNerney, and he packed it with people with zero engineering experience.”

United Airlines buys flight-training academy to speed up hiring of 10,000 pilots

United Airlines needs to hire more than 10,000 pilots during the next decade. The airline is buying the Westwind School of Aeronautics in Phoenix, a flight-training academy, with plans to bring student pilots into the academy with zero flight experience to become fully-rated commercial pilots.

NASA’s experimental X-59 supersonic jet could be built by the end of 2020

The X-59 QueSST is designed to test “quiet” supersonic transport over land. The aircraft was approved for final assembly in 2019. NASA commissioned Lockheed Martin to build the plane and they expect to have it completed by the end of 2020. First flight is expected in 2021.

Video: Quiet Supersonic X-Plane

Unbearably cute: A boy lost his teddy bear on a Southwest flight – so the airline sent him a new one

 After a young boy lost his favorite Teddy bear on a Southwest flight during the Thanksgiving holiday, his mother took to social media to try and locate the Teddy. The airline assigned an employee to find the bear but after an investigation, the Teddy couldn’t be located. So the corporate office decided to send the boy a new Teddy bear along with a storyline on how it was coming to live with the boy.

Mentioned

Igor I. Sikorsky Weekend Fly-In at The Bradford Camps on Munsungun Lake in northern Maine.  Meals and private lodging in waterfront cabins are included. July 10-12,  2020.

College Park Aviation Museum

That Last Decade, by Courtney Miller.

The Air Current Expands with new analysis, new director

The Experimental Aircraft Association will deliver the excitement of flight throughout the United States in 2020 as EAA’s “Spirit of Aviation” mobile unit, sponsored by the National Air Traffic Controllers Association (NATCA), visits numerous events in 2020. The traveling experiential exhibit introduces EAA to enthusiasts through aviation activities for people of all ages.

AOPA’s 2020 Fly-ins (now in AvGeekFests.com)

#StormCiara at London Heathrow – 20+ Go-Arounds and Crosswind Landings!!