Wait... Delta Has 787's On Order?

While this may not be big news to some people, personally I had not been aware that Delta indeed has orders in to Boeing for 18 Dreamliners. Beyond that, the company also has some A350's on order from Airbus.

Why is this so surprising to me? Mostly because I see Delta as the used car king. The CEO likes to brag about going around buying up used 777 aircraft for massively reduced prices over a brand new aircraft. This seems to be a point of pride for the Delta CEO, whether that is a good or bad thing can be argued.

On one hand, the massive discount on used 777 aircraft is something that can be understood. The price reduction is so large that the definite higher fuel consumption rates may make the aircraft worth the cost up front. However, Delta seems to hang on to planes for a long time. I'm still taken back that 767's seem to be a huge workhorse for them on international flights, a plane that is out of production and has been for some years now.

787's are the new boy on the block for this sized aircraft, but they are rarely found in used condition since they are so new. 787's also boast massive fuel savings over their aging counterparts. The A350 is in the same ballpark, however, they service a market for larger aircraft. While it shouldn't be surprising to me that Delta wants to take advantage of these new aircraft to some extent, their CEO's brazen attitude toward new aircraft leaves me a bit in disbelief that they actually shelled out money for new aircraft.

Here's to seeing more of the 787 and far less of the aging 767. I hope to see more than 18 orders for 787's in the future as Delta hopefully starts to phase out old aircraft. I won't hold my breath though.

Era of Green Flight Begins

NASA has just announced their first X plane designation in over 10 years. The new plane, the X-57, is an experimental aircraft designed to test an all electric airplane. Utilizing a unique wing design, 14 electric motors, and what I can only assume is a boatload of batteries. 

NASA's design mimics a small private type plane, or general aviation type aircraft. It's small, only can fit a few people and travels at around 175 mpg, leaving out faster and larger airliner type aircraft. Keep in mind though that X planes has a storied history of exploring new territory in aviation. The purpose s the learn and find new ways of doing things.

When speaking about airlines, there are a number ideas floating out there currently. Bio fuel is already a thing happening in the airline industry as a way to reduce the environmental impact, and get away from the volatile oil business. Let's make no mistakes though, bio fuels are not a good green solution as they still burn and still pump large amounts of CO2 into the atmosphere.

Other options currently are being explored in the jet arena, but this new X plane coming out of NASA will be the first all electric airplane and the first time I've even seen the idea seriously put forward. NASA has even redesigned the wing to have a much smaller surface area, presumably to reduce drag that would be a huge drain on the aircraft and subsequently on the batteries required to power it.

As someone who works in green energy, I'm very happy to see these solutions starting to come up more and more. The world is in need of a change on this front, and it's great to see these types of solutions being put forward.

Delays Happen... Keep Everyone Informed

One of the most frustrating things in travel happened last night, the plane was broken and we didn't know it until we were already boarded on the plane. The problem turned out to be a fuel system valve that wasn't opening properly. 

One an airplane there are usually multiple fuel tanks that are filled depending on how long of a flight the aircraft is on. The airplane has tanks in either wing and either one or more center tanks in the fuselage of the plane. A plane must be properly balanced in flight at all times, otherwise the pilot would have to fight the weight imbalance throughout the flight or in the worst case scenario would cause an emergency. In order to balance fuel loads, there is a fuel transfer system on all aircraft that allow fuel to be re-balanced. It can be redistributed from center tank to wings, or from wing to wing to keep the weight of the fuel in balance. Sometimes fuel burns faster in one engine than in another so fuel is consumed faster out of one side, this re-balancing system is important to proper flight.

The valve that allows the fuel transfer was broken last night on our plane and needed to be fixed. After boarding the plane, mechanics were on and off the plane over the next half hour. Sitting in first class really helps to reduce stress as you are in the front of the plane, can see the work being preformed and the pilots can talk to you and keep you up to date. This crew was exceptional, keeping everyone up to date through the whole process.

Issues came in when I checked the flight status on my phone... On Time.... WHAT!? We were already past departure time by about 20 minutes when I checked and the status showed us mid flight. This needs to be corrected. I understand that American and for that matter, no airline wants to have to deal with a delay. People on the plane are not the only ones looks at the flight, people are being picked up upon landing and may think the plane is en route. It is very important to keep the status up to date, especially for such a short flight.

So how about it American, let work on updating the delays a little bit better, this is a the second time in a row I've had this issue.


What is Wing Mist?

While I started a series a little while ago on the inner workings of an airplane, I think it might be time to pick back up on the intricacies of aircraft, how they work and more.

Hundreds of millions of passengers take to the skies every year, and most people are not that familiar with the craft they are flying on or how any part of it works. Nowhere was this more apparent to me than during my last flight from London to Chicago, where I was upgraded to business class for no cost. After a quick taxi to the runway, our 777-200 lined up for takeoff. Outside of the aircraft was a fairly typical London afternoon… so in other words it was wet, and the air was full of moisture.

Hearing the engines spool up, I prepared for takeoff. Lumbering forward, our giant plane gained speed and rotated into the air. As the aircraft pulled back, a stream of mist came off the top of the engine near the support strut. As soon as this began to happen, from the back of the business class cabin came the voice of a surprised woman. She was worried, asking what was happening to the engine. While she was surprised and seem slightly worried, she didn’t freak out, most likely in part due to the rest of the passengers paying no attention to it.

Personally, I was a bit surprised to hear this from a business class passenger. While I know some inexperience travellers sometimes use the cabin, usually business class is filled with very experienced travellers who have seen this happen many times. It does make a point to me though that there are people who don’t have my background in Aerospace Engineering, who have no idea what's going on outside that window.

If you travel long enough, you will see this quite often. Not only does this happen over the engine, but more commonly over the entire wing. Usually the air needs to be quite moist in order for this to happen, but it is something you will see pretty frequently.

So what is happening here?

Mist clouds forming over a wing, in an engine or sometimes over the body of an aircraft, is due to a process called the Prandtl-Glauert singularity, or the Prandtl-Glauert effect. In essence, we are creating a cloud over the wing due to the moist air. When air flows over a wing, it flows faster over the top surface than the bottom, this is how a plane lifts into the air. When the aircraft pulls back on an accent, or pulls back to increase lift during a landing, the air over the wing sees an immediate and increased reduction in air pressure.

The rapid reduction in pressure over the wing causes moist air to rapidly lower in density. When this occurs, the temperature of the air over the wing drops for a split second. Temperature drops cause the moist air to condense into a cloud. This is very much how a normal cloud forms, water rises in the air until the temperature lowers to a certain point, and then the vapor condenses into a standard cloud. The same thing is happening on the wing, just rapidly and due to a quick pressure drop in the air.

So the next time you’re flying into or out of a rainy city, take a look out the window and see if you can catch a cloud forming on the wing. It’s not dangerous in any way, but to those who don’t know what it is, it can be startling. No need to fret, everything's shiny captain.

Flying on a Plane You Designed

Those who have read some of my previous articles here, know that in my first job, I was a design engineer on the Boeing 787. Since going into mass production, I've been wanting to fly this beauty. Finally this week gave me that chance, and although United doesn't have the best business class product, I am happy I chose the window seat.

Seeing the wing flex upon takeoff was incredible. Engines are massive looking out of the window, and boy what a quiet ride. This was also my first experience in business class, I wouldn't have changed that it happened on this aircraft and let me say, this is the way to fly, more on that portion later.

Boeing since the day I joined the team has been touting the lower altitude cabin pressurization, the higher in cabin humidity and mood lighting that is designed to leave you less jet lagged... so did it work? No idea on this one, I was still tired afterwards because the flight was only 9 hours. Factoring in dinner service on either end, I really only had about 3-4 hours of sleep, don't get me wrong, this was amazing since I don't sleep in economy at all. Either way, 4 hours of sleep just isn't enough for me, so I would have been tired either way. That being the case, it's hard to tell if the cabin changes helped.

Big windows are amazing, another feature of the carbon fiber, big windows can be added. As someone who stares out the windows all the time, much appreciated. Windows have another feature that gets mixed reviews, the way they shade against the sun. The 787 uses electric window tinting, you can control the window tint with a button. While this feature is super cool, I do have to agree that it wasn't a great design choice. I did wake up to the sun lighting up my seat pretty well. While the shading blocks a huge portion of the light and keeps the cabin fairly dark, when the sun is up, it will still come into the cabin somewhat.

Really the window shades are the only complaint I had, otherwise I have to say that I'm proud to have been a part of the design team that put this beauty together. I have at least 2 more trips this year on 787's and I am looking forward to it.