Monthly Archives: April 2012

Aeroscholar Talks with the AiplaneGeeks

Discovery Space Shuttle at Smithsonian

Last Sunday I had the pleasure of recording a podcast with some amazing aerospace buffs at www.airplanegeeks.com. One of their viewers was interested in learning more about http://www.aeroscholar.com, the University of Michigan Aerospace Engineering department, and AIAA. I was extremely happy to oblige them 🙂

I highly recommend the show to those of you interested in aviation, especially if you have a long commute to work where you’ll have plenty of time to listen.

The episode that I was a guest speaker on can be listened to here.

Highlights of the show:

  • Aeroscholar talks about the state of education in the aerospace industry, aeroscholar.com, advice for people interested in aerospace engineering and aviation, and the cool tours that the AIAA at Michigan have been on.
  • David Vanderhoof gives us a report on the Space Shuttle swap-out at the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum’s Udvar-Hazy Center at Dulles Airport. He spoke with NASA Director Charles F. “Charlie” Bolden, NASM Curator Dr. Helen Morill, and Senator John Glenn.
  • Dan spoke with Virgin Galactic’s CEO and President George Whitesides aboard Virgin America’s inaugural flight from Los Angeles to Philadelphia.
  • Warbirds Facing Doom?
  • American Airlines unions, US Airways announce deal to support merger
  • Merged airline would be called American Airlines, headquartered in Fort Worth
  • Bates: US Airways has a good plan, American Airlines doesn’t
  • A JET FLIGHT PASSENGER’S NIGHTMARE: Delta flight forced to emergency land after bird strike takes out a 757 jet engine
  • Business Expert Videos Delta 1063 Mid Air Bird Strike

The hosts were great, consisting of:

A full bio for each of these airplane geeks can be found on the Airplanegeeks.com About page.

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Filed under Aerospace Careers, AIAA, Industry Tours

Funchal, Madeira Airport (FNC): 9th Most Dangerous Airport

Landing at Madeira FNC Airport

Half of my family is from Madeira, Portugal, a small island off the coast of northwestern Africa. The island offers amazing beaches, beautiful year-around weather, and majestic mountains. I’m a little different than most tourists though, since I love their airport the best! Ranked by Discovery Channel as one of the top 10 most dangerous airports in the world, you could literally just watch the planes come in and have yourself a great day (and get a great sun tan while doing it).

Its been a few years since I’ve been to Madeira (though I hope to be back within the next year now that I’m about finished with school), but there really isn’t anything like landing there. To put things in perspective, to be able fly from Madeira at all, the pilot in command must have a minimum of 200 hours as captain on the aircraft type in use, and a minimum of one take-off and landing at Madeira in the last six months, or one supervised flight accompanied by a pilot qualified to land there.

FNC Approach

Approach info for flying into Funchal's airport.

Incidents & Accidents at FNC

  • On 5 March 1973, an Aviaco Sud Caravelle 10R (Registration EC-BID) crashed into the sea during approach, losing the aircraft and three crew.
  • On 19 November 1977, TAP Portugal Flight TP425, a Boeing 727-200 (Registration CS-TBR) was traveling from Brussels to Madeira via Lisbon. After a go around, the aircraft attempted to land in poor weather conditions, of which it landed long on runway 24 (now runway 23) and plunged over a steep bank. It then struck a stone bridge and the right wing was torn off, and then crashing hard onto a beach. A fire then broke out, setting the aircraft alight. Out of the 164 on board, 131 lost their lives.
  • On 18 December 1977, SA de Transport AĂ©rien Flight 730, a Sud Caravelle 10R (registration HB-ICK) was cleared for approach on runway 06 (now runway 05), but descended below 720 ft (220 m) causing the aircraft to crash into the sea. 36 people died out of the 57 on board.

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Filed under Airports, Flying

Nice insight into problems facing American Airlines

The Stengel Angle

I grew up in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, somewhere that probably does not ring a bell to most people. However, if you’re at all familiar with the steel industry, you might recognize the name Bethlehem Steel, once the second-largest steelmaker in the United States. Founded in 1857, Bethlehem was a titan that had large influences on the steel industry, like shipbuilding during World War II and the mass production of the ubiquitous I-Beam (which placed the company as the leading supplier to the construction industry and led to the skyscraper era).

Unfortunately, if you know the story of Bethlehem Steel, you also know about their demise. Plagued by the increasing market share of cheaper foreign steel in the U.S., mismanagement, and labor issues, the company closed its iconic Bethlehem plant in 1995, declared Chapter 11 bankruptcy in 2001, and finally sold all remaining assets to the International Steel Group in 2003. According to

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Complexity

Complexity Cockpit

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The Beauty of First Flight

This weekend I got the chance to do something that I’ve always dreamed of. I piloted my first aircraft! Like most aerospace fanatics, ever since I was a child all I wanted to do was be a pilot. Having family all over Europe, I was constantly traveling and I loved it. I got to fly on planes all the time.

When the time came to choose my career path I tried to make the best decision between becoming a pilot or being an aerospace engineer. Eventually the decision was made to follow engineering and I’m extremely happy that I did! Being able to help design and build beautiful flying machines gives a level of satisfaction that I wouldn’t give up for anything. I did however make myself a promise that I would one day become a pilot, even if only as a hobby. This post outlines the beginning of a dream that will hopefully consume endless beautiful weekends for the rest of my life.

The Michigan Flyers did a phenomenal job of hosting the AIAA event for us this year! Thanks again!!

Cessna Planes

Discovery flights for the AIAA University of Michigan. I'm flying in the Cessna 172, but we also had a 162 and 152 at our disposal.

Ann Arbor Airport

Shortly after takeoff you can see the Ann Arbor Airport

Big House

Flying over the Big House and Crisler Arena

Whitmore Lake

Whitmore Lake from the sky

Landing Ann Arbor Airport

Flaps deployed for landing at Ann Arbor Municipal Airport

Landing Tower Ann Arbor Airport

With a little help from the flight instructor we made it safely back on the ground

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Happy First Contact Day

Twitter is going crazy today with everyone saying, “Happy First Contact Day.” Both William Shatner (@WilliamShatner) and Leonard Nimoy (@TheRealNimoy) have also been in on the action.

So what is this mysterious First Contact Day that everyone keeps mentioning? A little definition below:

The term First Contact, in Human context, is also used to specifically refer to the first official publicly and globally known contact between Humans and extraterrestrials. The First Contact took place on the evening of April 5, 2063, when a Vulcan survey ship, the T’Plana-Hath, having detected the warp signature of the Phoenix, touched down in Bozeman, central Montana, where they met with the Phoenix‘s designer and pilot, Zefram Cochrane. This event is generally referred to as the defining moment in Human history, eventually paving the way for a unified world government and, later, the United Federation of Planets. The event also became an annual holiday called First Contact Day. (Star Trek: First Contact; ENT: “Broken Bow”, “Desert Crossing”, “E²”, “These Are the Voyages…”; TNG: “The Outcast”, “Attached”; VOY: “Homestead”)

An unofficial first contact between Humans and a Vulcan occurred during theDepression era in New York City. In 1930, Kirk and Spock, a Vulcan from the23rd century, traveled through time and walked on the streets of New York being witnessed by many. When the two were caught stealing clothes by thepolice, Kirk attempted to explain to the officer that Spock was Chinese and his ears the result of a childhood accident. After they escaped from being taken into custody, Spock disguised his Vulcan appearance. (TOS: “The City on the Edge of Forever”)

We finally may have made some progress on quieter supersonic flight, I hope 51 more years is enough to get our Warp Drive technology up to speed!

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Why the US Can Beat China: A SpaceX Story

A letter from Elon Musk:

Whenever someone proposes to do something that has never been done before, there will always be skeptics.

So when I started SpaceX, it was not surprising when people said we wouldn’t succeed. But now that we’ve successfully proven Falcon 1, Falcon 9 and Dragon, there’s been a steady stream of misinformation and doubt expressed about SpaceX’s actual launch costs and prices.

As noted last month by a Chinese government official, SpaceX currently has the best launch prices in the world and they don’t believe they can beat them. This is a clear case of American innovation trumping lower overseas labor rates.

I recognize that our prices shatter the historical cost models of government-led developments, but these prices are not arbitrary, premised on capturing a dominant share of the market, or “teaser” rates meant to lure in an eager market only to be increased later. These prices are based on known costs and a demonstrated track record, and they exemplify the potential of America’s commercial space industry.

Here are the facts:

The price of a standard flight on a Falcon 9 rocket is $54 million. We are the only launch company that publicly posts this information on our website (www.spacex.com). We have signed many legally binding contracts with both government and commercial customers for this price (or less). Because SpaceX is so vertically integrated, we know and can control the overwhelming majority of our costs. This is why I am so confident that our performance will increase and our prices will decline over time, as is the case with every other technology.

The average price of a full-up NASA Dragon cargo mission to the International Space Station is $133 million including inflation, or roughly $115m in today’s dollars, and we have a firm, fixed price contract with NASA for 12 missions. This price includes the costs of the Falcon 9 launch, the Dragon spacecraft, all operations, maintenance and overhead, and all of the work required to integrate with the Space Station. If there are cost overruns, SpaceX will cover the difference. (This concept may be foreign to some traditional government space contractors that seem to believe that cost overruns should be the responsibility of the taxpayer.)

The total company expenditures since being founded in 2002 through the 2010 fiscal year were less than $800 million, which includes all the development costs for the Falcon 1, Falcon 9 and Dragon. Included in this $800 million are the costs of building launch sites at Vandenberg, Cape Canaveral and Kwajalein, as well as the corporate manufacturing facility that can support up to 12 Falcon 9 and Dragon missions per year. This total also includes the cost of five flights of Falcon 1, two flights of Falcon 9, and one up and back flight of Dragon.

The Falcon 9 launch vehicle was developed from a blank sheet to first launch in four and half years for just over $300 million. The Falcon 9 is an EELV class vehicle that generates roughly one million pounds of thrust (four times the maximum thrust of a Boeing 747) and carries more payload to orbit than a Delta IV Medium.

The Dragon spacecraft was developed from a blank sheet to the first demonstration flight in just over four years for about $300 million. Last year, SpaceX became the first private company, in partnership with NASA, to successfully orbit and recover a spacecraft. The spacecraft and the Falcon 9 rocket that carried it were designed, manufactured and launched by American workers for an American company. The Falcon 9/Dragon system, with the addition of a launch escape system, seats and upgraded life support, can carry seven astronauts to orbit, more than double the capacity of the Russian Soyuz, but at less than a third of the price per seat.

SpaceX has been profitable every year since 2007, despite dramatic employee growth and major infrastructure and operations investments. We have over 40 flights on manifest representing over $3 billion in revenues.

These are the objective facts, confirmed by external auditors. Moreover, SpaceX intends to make far more dramatic reductions in price in the long term when full launch vehicle reusability is achieved. We will not be satisfied with our progress until we have achieved this long sought goal of the space industry.

For the first time in more than three decades, America last year began taking back international market-share in commercial satellite launch. This remarkable turn-around was sparked by a small investment NASA made in SpaceX in 2006 as part of the Commercial Orbital Transportation Services (COTS) program. A unique public-private partnership, COTS has proven that under the right conditions, a properly incentivized contractor — even an all-American one — can develop extremely complex systems on rapid timelines and a fixed-price basis, significantly beating historical industry-standard costs.

China has the fastest growing economy in the world. But the American free enterprise system, which allows anyone with a better mouse-trap to compete, is what will ensure that the United States remains the world’s greatest superpower of innovation.

–Elon–

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Remember, if you want to be entered for a chance to watch the next Falcon 9 launch from the Kennedy Space Center, then be on twitter today (4/5/12) at noon EST and be following @SpaceX.

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