Finally, an FAA Panel Agrees That Our eDevices Won’t Crash Planes

Federal Aviation Administration

There’s no harm in continuing to listen to music, watch movies, read e-books and otherwise enjoy “airplane mode” activities on electronic devices during takeoff and landing, according to an advisory committee appointed by the Federal Aviation Authority (FAA).

The committee submitted a report to the FAA this week, recommending the agency ease restrictions on use of electronic devices when a plane is below 10,000 feet, the Wall Street Journal reported.

“The FAA received the report and recommendations today on the expanded use of personal electronic devices,” FAA spokesman Les Dorr told Mashable in an email on Monday.

Paul Misener, Amazon’s vice president of global public policy, is one of the leaders of the advisory committee the FAA appointed to look into the matter last year. Misener told the Wall Street Journal “the committee effectively determined there are no major safety impediments to allowing unlimited use of tablets, e-readers and other hand-held devices from the beginning to the end of flights there are no major safety impediments to allowing unlimited use of tablets, e-readers and other hand-held devices from the beginning to the end of flights.”

The report, which includes more than two dozen recommendations, does not recommend changing rules restricting activities that require a network connection such as voice calls or data transfer.

The next step in the process is for the FAA to respond to the advisory committee’s report, though the agency would not comment on when that might happen.


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Airbus Testing its First Composite-Materials Airframe

English: A350XWB Diagram

The European aviation giant is keeping mum on when the A350 might take to the air for the first time, but the Paris Air Show begins in little more than a week. That’s got everyone in the aerospace industry wondering if the A350-XWB will make an appearance above one of the biggest stages in aviation. The company’s chief rival, Boeing, will be performing at the airshow  with the composite 787 Dreamliner, so it’s hard to see Airbus letting Boeing take the limelight at the industry’s most important event.

During take off, the airplane’s flight computers will be turned off, with controls operating in the “direct law” mode. Because the A350-XWB is, like the 787 Dreamliner, a fly-by-wire aircraft, a computer is always involved in transmitting control stick forces to the control surfaces. But Airbus uses several different “laws” that engage different computers and software to provide varying levels of assistance or automation during flight. In “direct law” mode there is no “buffer” between the pilot and the control services, meaning the computer will do exactly what the pilot commands.

The crew expects to climb to around 10,000 feet and about 200 knots (230 mph), at which point it will change the flap configuration and raise the landing gear. These changes are usually made immediately after take off in a normal flight, but during a first flight, the goal is usually not to change anything in the first few minutes until the pilots are confident in the basic flying qualities.

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Airplane Passengers Don’t Turn Off Their Gadgets – And Planes Aren’t Crashing

Gadgets on a table with lamp 12-2004

In a recent study the Airline Passenger Experience Association and the Consumer Electronics Association, as many as 30 percent of all passengers said they had accidentally left a device on during takeoff or landing. About 67 percent said they had never done this, always ensuring that their electronics were turned off. Four percent were unsure.

In another segment of the study, passengers were asked if they turn their devices to “off” when instructed to do so by the pilot. Although 59 percent of passengers said they do fully turn their electronics off, 21 percent said they often simply switch to “airplane mode,” which disables the main radios of a gadget. Five percent sometimes adhere to the rule. And others were either unsure or do not carry electronic devices on a plane.

The device most often left on is the smartphone, the study found.

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US Military Able to Deliver a Bomb Anywhere in Less Than an Hour

An illustration of DARPA's Falcon Hypersonic T...

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DARPA has announced the second test flight of the Falcon HTV-2 aircraft.  This unmanned aircraft is designed to fly at speeds up to 13,000 mph (at least that’s what they’re admitting to) and is the result of a project started in 2003 for the US military to be able to reach anywhere in the world in less than an hour.

The Falcon is launched on the back of a rocket and its carbon composite skin is designed to withstand the heat generated by flying in the upper atmosphere at speeds more than 20 times higher than the speed of sound — four miles per second.

With this spur yet another mis-use of technology as we decided to get rid of our ground bases around the world in favor of having a few fast, stealthy aircraft which can deliver a payload instead of having boots on the ground?

Over the last decade we’ve been experiencing the result of relying on intercepted satellite communications over having infiltrated potential enemy organizations.  It’s great to have the ability to put hardware in harm’s way instead of our soldiers, but there’s nothing like the ability of a human to make sure we’re ready, and to make sure we’ve got the right target.

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Electric Hybrid Jets — A Puddle in the Future

Animated scheme of a four stroke internal comb...

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X projects have helped us build some of the most successful technologies ever.  It was an X project that got Lindburg to fly across the Atlantic and it has helped spur our first commercial space program.  But now the X moniker is being lent to a new, hybrid Air Force Jet Fighter, dubbed the “F-X”.

The Air Force’s cheif scientist, Mark Maybury, has been at the drawing board and he’s sketched out a future in which US military jets are equipped with battery-powered flight (backed by internal combustion), an extensive avionics package which includes lasers, radar reflection and evasion, heat detection and even the ability to inject computer malware into enemy computers.  (Think Iran‘s Stuxnet nuclear bug).

Maybury is looking to use super capacitors to store excess energy generated by the jet’s engines to such an extent that they would power all the on-board electrical systems and be able to handle the huge current draws that we expect from the laser and directed-beam energy weapons systems of the future.

Not a bad idea, but also not a big reach idea either.  Improved motor designs, such as a combined-cycle motor are likely to win more wars and save energy while doing so.

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