Monthly Archives: April 2009

Space Shuttle Gap Worries Experts

Manned space advocates are increasingly concerned about the growing gap of time between the grounding of the space shuttle and the launch of its replacement “Orion / Ares” space system years later, according to

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Twin Crashes in Ft. Lauderdale Neighborhood


A twin-engine Cessna 421,  like the one pictured left, crashed into a house in Ft. Lauderdale earlier today.  The pilot died in the crash, but he is thought to have been the only person aboard.

The Aerospace Blog’s Captain Jay appearing on local CBS-4 Miami news spoke to what may have caused the tragedy.  He suggested likely reasons include pilot incapacitation or a serious structural failure of the aircraft, especially since there appears to be little evidence the 80-year-old pilot had much control over the 35-year-old aircraft when it reportedly sliced the house in half and erupted into flames.

But late reports point to a possible engine failure, yet twin-engine aircraft are expected to remain flyable with the loss of one engine.  So if only one engine failed, the question begs: why did the pilot still lose control?

The answer may lie in the delicate aerodynamic balances of light twins, which must be observed following the loss of one engine.  Whenever power is lost just after takeoff, these aircraft will react violently, and the pilot must apply immediate corrections to regain control.

Late reports that the pilot was maneuvering to return to the airport only add to the problem.  Twins are notoriously touchy in turns with a dead engine.  So it is entirely conceivable that the pilot crashed while attempting this delicate maneuver.

“Twitter” Jay at and check this blog for more insight as the story unfolds.

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Capt Jay Weighs in on United “Fat Fee”


Blogs are abuzz about the United Airlines plan to start charging fat people for a second seat.  But what exactly is the problem?

At their core, the airlines are in the business of selling limited space and weight capacity on each flight for the purpose of transportation.  Ticket prices are set by assuming an average size and weight for each passenger, so the cost to operate the flight are covered.  When an individual falls well above the norm, why should everyone else pick up the shortfall?  The extra cost is not emotional; it is a question of mathematics.

And then there’s the question of the large person’s seat mate.  Why should that individual have to wrestle with wayward flesh pressing its way into their personal space?

And please don’t advance the handicapped defense.  Unlike a true handicap such as blindness, obesity is caused either by an ongoing choice to take in too many calories, or a specific medical condition.  Patients who must travel by gurney pay extra, and those with lung conditions pay extra for in-flight oxygen.  Likewise, passengers who use extra space and weight capacity should pay extra as well.

These passengers are not arbitrarily discriminated against by the airlines, which must charge for their wares; instead misguided advocates are reversing logic in order to shame the public into absorbing the extra cost.

So what’s next?  If we accept the arguments of those who say others should absorb the extra cost of transporting extra flesh; shouldn’t non-smokers then pay for special non-smoking areas for smokers?

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Anti-Missile System Ready For Airliners

ABC is reporting that a new Northrop-Grumman laser anti-missile system is available for airliners, following successful tests conducted aboard 11 FedEx jets over a 14-month period.


Terrorists have long threatened airliners with shoulder-fired missiles, which threaten planes while close to the ground and most vulnerable to attack.  Previous defense systems focused on flares and chaff similar to countermeasures employed by military aircraft, but the cost effectiveness of such systems is questionable.

The new system, dubbed “The Guardian,” consists of a  500-pound, seven-foot canoe-shaped pod attached to the belly of an airliner.  Once airborne, the system continuously scans 360-degrees  for incoming missiles.  If a threat is confirmed, the system focuses a laser and destroys the missile’s guidance system; rendering the weapon useless within seconds after launch.

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New Chinese Missile May Sink Carriers

The US Naval Institute blog is reporting military experts are worried the Chinese may have developed an anti-ship ballistic missile (ASBM) capable of sinking a US aircraft carrier.

If true, such a weapon could alter the balance of power at sea.  The Chinese missile is believed to be hard to see on radar, and operates at a low altitude for up to 2000 km (approximately 1240 miles).  This would make it exceedingly difficult to defend against.  Moreover, reports suggest the missile’s highly sophisticated satellite guidance system can easily locate carriers, and then make enroute adjustments to compensate for a ship employing course changes in an attempt to evade attack.

The US Navy currently has 12 nuclear powered carriers in its fleet, which together form the backbone of America’s tactical power at sea.  These enormous nuclear-powered warships each carry approximately 5000 crew members and dozens of tactical aircraft.  To date, no carrier has been sunk by enemy action since WWII, but the loss of even one would deal a devastating blow the Navy’s tactical forces at sea.

US ships currently have no direct defense against ballistic missiles.

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