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Radio-controlled jet model airplanes land in Raymond

Owners of radio-controlled jet model airplanes have come from all over the world to John Bell Williams Airport in Raymond to show their stuff.

Airport leaders turned over the runways to the model operators from Thursday until Saturday. It’s an ideal place to allow pilots to show what their jet-propelled miniatures can do.

Watch the story

Pablo Fernandez, 40, an expert from Miami, Florida, came to Raymond for the event.

“The excitement is (that) they are quite expensive. (There is) a little bit of a thrill there,” Fernandez said.

Ronnie Dean, of Waco, Texas, said the planes can range in price from $2,000 up to $30,000.

Dennis Lott, an instructor for the aviation program at Hinds Community College, organized the event.

“This is the 24th year of the Mississippi Jets Afterburner Meet,” Lott said. “We have been doing this event here at John Bell Williams Airport since 2004.”

The event is open to the public. Admission is $5 per carload, which helps to provide scholarships for aviation students at HCC.
 

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Test Drive: Porsche Macan SUV not quite a heartthrob

As a colleague aptly said: “It’s a $70,000 Porsche and I don’t love it.” Bingo.

Any vehicle wearing a Porsche badge and $72,000-plus sticker price should make you weak in the knees, short of breath, eager beyond description.

Macan doesn’t. Good machine, but not a heartthrob.

We suspect the famed German automaker could have done better starting from scratch, not modifying an Audi Q5 so heavily that about 70% of the components are different from the Audi’s.

Our failure to swoon is a surprise. We drove a friend’s Macan briefly in Florida and found it impressive. But getting a similar model from the automaker and spending daily duty time in it — not so bowled over.

Last time Porsche did a remake, it overhauled the Volkswagen Touareg into the Porsche Cayenne SUV, which is the best-selling Porsche in the U.S. by a fair margin, according to tallies by Autodata.

The sales totals show Macan is No. 2 among Porsches, so we suspect the brand has all the validation it needs for the work it did — sales and profits.

Purists who still think Porsche ought not be selling SUVs should keep this in mind: That’s where the money comes from for research and development of the maker’s sports cars. Without the successful SUVs, it would take Porsche a lot longer to come up with new sports cars and red-hot engines. And some might never come to fruition, sacrificed to the gods of expediency and commerce.

A Porsche seems to be more than the simple sum of its parts, so any lack of “Porsche-ness” isn’t accounted for simply by ticking off complaints about Macan. Such as:

The back seat’s too small to be very comfortable for bigger folks, especially on longer trips. Big deal; The Porsche 911 sports car holds the crown for useless back seats and that car’s the very definition of Porsche-ness.

The infotainment/connectivity suite in the Macan test car wasn’t cutting edge, and indeed was a bit cumbersome. So what? Driving a Porsche should — usually does — transcend phone calls, texts, iPods and Tom Petty’s “Buried Treasure” gem of a show on satellite radio.

Fuel economy’s poor. Yeah, right. Like that matters.

Cargo space is significantly less than in rival BMW X3. And the point? Well, in this case there is a point, and it’s at least symbolically significant.

The compromise that comes with designing for the more-or-less mainstream buyer — if you can meld the concepts of “mainstream” with high-income Porsche buyers — is that mainstream considerations become important.

How much stuff you can carry is significant, more likely to influence a purchase and thence vehicle satisfaction than is a chassis that barely notices tight corners, or a gutty-sounding engine, or enough cockpit-style switches to satisfy an airplane pilot. At least nowadays, since Porsche’s become an SUV company selling to the practical-minded instead of the fans who’d sacrifice many conveniences for go-fast integrity.

Back when Porsche hit the market with the Cayenne SUV, the automaker said there would be strong demand because its consumer surveys showed a lot of Porsche households had high-dollar SUVs sharing garage space with Porsche 911s or Caymans.

Wouldn’t they really rather have a Porsche? You bet, as it turned out.

But by now, we’d figures, the buyer is more likely to be thinking, “I want a tidy-size SUV — hey, why not that Porsche whatsis? Porsche’s a cool brand.”

Clearly different from the Porsche partisans.

Our test car was a 2015 Macan S with nearly every option, sticker priced $72,620.

It performed well. The 340-horsepower turbocharged V-6 scooted just fine when asked, the brakes were right-now quick, steering and cornering precise and agile, as befits a Porsche.

The adjustable suspension settings might go unused by a non-enthusiast driver. “Sport” mode firms the ride too much to suit a lot of otherwise enthusiastic drivers.

The sloping front end is quite different from the Audi Q5 that served as Porsche’s staring point, so the neighbors will know yours is special.

To better suit buyers, though, the 2016 Macan, coming in July or August, gets these changes, and a starting-price increase of $2,700:

Three-zone climate control becomes standard (dual-zone is so lower class, after all).

Interior door-lock rocker switches function opposite the current configuration, so you get “lock” by pushing the bottom of the switch instead of the top.

New cover for the head restraints.

Optional new rear entertainment system.

No mention of horsepower or torque or shift mapping or bushings, bearings, sway bars and the like. Which will suit most people fine, Test Drive assumes, because all those things already are fine. It being a Porsche, after all.

And they are more likely to fuss over power tailgates and cell-phone pairing.

What stands out…


Price:
Pretty high for what you get

Power: Enough to be a Porsche

Persona: Not quite pure Porsche

2015 Porsche Macan details

•What? Porsche remake of Audi Q5 to create proprietary four-door, all-wheel-drive, five-passenger compact SUV. Two versions S and Turbo, though both are turbocharged. Audi and Porsche both are sold by Volkswagen Group.

•When? 2015 deliveries began in May of 2015. The largely unchanged 2016s are expected in U.S. dealerships in July or August this year.

•Where? Made at Leipzig, Germany.

•How much? Starts at $50,895 including shipping. Test vehicle, 2015 Macan S with most options, was $72,620. The 2016 staring price is $2,700 more, and the vehicles have more standard features.

•What makes it go? Macan S has 3-liter, twin-turbo V-6 engine rated 340 horsepower at 5,500 rpm, 339 pounds-feet of torque at 1,450 rpm.

Macan Turbo has 3.6-liter turbo V-6 rated 400 hp at 6,000, 406 lbs.-ft. at 1,350.

Both use seven-speed automatic.

•How big? Half an inch longer, two inches wider than rival BMW X3.

Turning circle diameter: S, 38.7 ft. curb-to-curb; Turbo, 39.2 ft.

Weight: 4,112-4,652 lbs, depending on model and powertrain.

Cargo space: 17.7 cubic feet behind second-row seat, 53 cu. ft. when second row’s folded down.

•How thirsty? Both models rated 17 mpg in the city, 23 on the highway, 19 in combined city/highway driving.

Macan S test car registered 14.8 mpg (6.76 gallons per 100 miles) in montage of city, suburban, highway driving, all of it vigorous.

Burns premium, tank holds 19.8 gallons.

•Overall: Frisky, sexy, but not quite lovable.

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Georgia editorial roundup

Local News

Village Books and Paper Dreams expanding to Lynden

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Clemson receives legislators’ initial OK to buy 2nd plane

Local News

Village Books and Paper Dreams expanding to Lynden

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Falcon 20-F5 Costs a Lot to Maintain, Retains Mystique

When Dassault and Garrett AiResearch teamed to create the Falcon 20-5 in the mid 1980s, they succeeded in converting 126 aircraft that flew higher, faster and farther on one-third less fuel. Removing the 1960s era GE CF700 engines and replacing them with TFE731-5 turbofans made these classic Mystère Falcon 20 aircraft competitive with the contemporary midsize models offered by Cessna, Hawker, IAI and Learjet

With a maximum range of 2,400 nm, a 700 cubic foot cabin volume and seating for 9 passengers, it became the jet against which all other midsize competitors were measured.

This is a tough aircraft, with a 20,000 cycle/30,000-hr. initial service life and no hard life limits. Vmo ranges from 350 to 390 KIAS and Mmo is 0.88 IMN, higher than any other competitive aircraft of that era other than Citation X. It has fully powered flight controls and a speed-proportionate artificial control feel system. Falcon 20-F5 model has 270 lb. more fuel capacity than earlier models and full-span slats that reduce V speeds. It has non-stop U.S. West Coast to East Coast range, but the return leg usually requires a fuel stop.

Other features include a 5-parallel buss DC electrical system with manual load shedding, a rather anemic air cycle machine that isn’t up to cooling the cabin on the ramp in summer and an older generation pressurization controller. The 731-5 engines, though, produce ample bleed air to maintain an 8,000-ft. cabin at FL 420, the aircraft’s maximum cruising altitude.

Pilots rave about the aircraft’s soft control feel and docile handling qualities. Unlike newer Falcons, it doesn’t have automatic slat extension for stall protection, but large stall fences on the wings assure gentle high angle-of-attack handling.

The aircraft will climb to FL 360 to FL 370 at MTOW, step climbing to FL380 to FL390 at weights below 28,000 lb. First hour fuel flow is 2,000 to 2,100 lb. Plan on 1,500 lb. for the second hour, decreasing 50 lb. per hour thereafter. Long-range cruise speed is Mach 0.765 when heavy and Mach 0.725 when light. Most operators cruise the aircraft at Mach 0.77 to 0.79 unless range performance is critical. Westbound, they’ll push up to Mach 0.80, or faster, knowing that they’ll being making a fuel stop regardless of cruise speed.

Most aircraft are equipped with 200-lb. Nordam TR5020 (Dee Howard) thrust reversers and a 250-lb. GTCP36-160 APU. Added to the 260-lb .weight increase of the engines and the result is a tail heavy aircraft. Nose ballast is needed unless the aircraft has a Pro Line 4 or Pro Line 21 EFIS upgrade.

Cabins typically are configured with a forward galley, a forward four-chair club section, an aft half-club flanked by a three-place divan and a full width aft lavatory with a wet sink.

Typical BOWs are close to 18,500 lb. and fuel capacity is 9,170 lb. MTOW is 29,100 lb., unless the aircraft has the optional 30,350-lb. MTOW service bulletin. Similar to a Hawker, it has full-tanks/full-seats loading flexibility. The first models were fitted with 4,500-lb.-thrust -5AR engines, but almost all have been upgraded with 4,750-lb.-thrust -5BR engines, in accordance with SB 735. Even so, the aircraft needs 6,500 ft. of pavement when fully loaded, assuming ISA conditions. Departing hot and high airports, there are significant weight/altitude/temperature limitations.

The downside to owning a Falcon 20-F5 is potentially eye watering maintenance expense. There are 6-month A checks, 1,200-hr. B checks, 24-month Z checks and 72-month C checks, along with a 12-yr. landing gear overhaul and major corrosion inspections. Plan on tripling the quoted cost of most inspections to pay for fixing squawks. Deferred maintenance easily can balloon a 3C check to $700,000 and gear overhaul can reach $350,000. Corrosion damage can exceed economic cost to repair. Dassault spare parts are notoriously pricey for the aircraft.

The engines have 2,500-hr. MPI midlife inspections and 5,000-hr. CZI overhaul intervals. Having the aircraft enrolled in Honeywell’s MSP engine program is a must, unless you can negotiate a substantial adjustment to purchase price.

But, cost conscious Falcon 20-F5 operators have found numerous ways to slash maintenance costs. Some buy used midtime engines to replace worn out powerplants. Buy an airplane from well-established corporate operator or reputable broker and you could land a bargain. A cream puff with mid-time engines costs $1 million or less.

There are lots of midsize competitors that cost less to operate, including the versatile Citation Sovereign with superb short-field performance and 2,850-nm range that costs considerably more, the Learjet 60 with a much smaller cabin and similar range and the Citation VII, having less range and a smaller cabin, but better hot-and-high performance.

Ultimately, there’s a bit of snob appeal in owning a Falcon 20-F5. It has an almost palpable aura of quality. Some people say it’s one of the most beautiful midsize aircraft yet designed, a French fashion model that struts down the runway.

In 1963, Pan Am’s Juan Trippe was looking for the ideal mid-size jet to buy for his new business aircraft venture, so he asked Charles Lindbergh to evaluate candidate aircraft. When Lindbergh flew Dassault’s Mystère 20 prototype, he told Trippe, “We’ve found our plane.” The Falcon 20-F5, now in its golden years, hasn’t lost any of that mystique. BCA

 

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Feds warn planes can be hacked, then detain leading hack researcher; then …

Chris Roberts' bio

Chris Roberts’ bio

Yes, airplanes can be hacked, just as power plants can be hacked. No, it’s not a widespread problem right now.  Yes, we should talk about it  before it becomes a widespread (and quite deadly) problem. No, we shouldn’t be harassing and detaining people who research these problems for a living.  But we are.  And that makes us all less safe.  A lot less safe.

I was selected for extra screen on my last flight…and was told almost immediately that the reason was a mis-calibrated explosives trace detection machine. The kind, apologetic screener knew this. So did her colleagues who stood around watching. So did the man who ran the back of his hand all around my private parts, once they track him down. By the time we were done, four employees were involved and we all wasted 10-15 minutes. It was no trouble for me; I had arrived nice and early.  It is trouble for you.  It made you less safe.  We all often forget that security professionals only have so many minutes in the day to look for bad guys.  Time they spend wasting on known good guys is time they can’t get back.  It makes us all less safe.

I tell this story because no doubt, you have a similar story.   And you’ve thought these same things. And that’s why you will understand the importance of Chris Roberts’ faux arrest last week.  Only mere hours after Congress’ General Accountability Office released a report ringing the alarm bell about airplane hacking, Roberts was arrested over his research about airplane hacking. Roberts has been working on the problem of hackable avionics, quite publicly, for years. He is  founder and Chief Technology Officer of One World Labs, a security research firm. And as he boarded a plane last week on his way to make a presentation, he announced to the world that he was concerned the aircraft was hackable. When he landed, FBI agents and local cops took him into custody, took the equipment he had for the conference, and questioned him for a few hours.

And the story doesn’t end there. This weekend, Roberts was on his way to the big RSA security conference in San Francisco. After he had made his way through security and to the gate. United Airlines employees confronted him and told him he wasn’t welcome on their aircraft, according to the Electronic Frontier Foundation. He was able to take another airline to the conference.

Maybe the end result of this incident will be more focus on avionics hacking, which would only be a good thing. But I’ve seen this movie before, and so have you. Authority figures focused on the wrong thing. Instead of fixing the problem, they harass the messenger.  It makes our world more dangerous. And it plays right into the hands of those who would hurt us.

This is no isolated incident. In fact, this very problem is being debated at the highest levels of government right now. The White House’s recent proposal to enhance penalties for certain cybercrimes has been universally criticized in the hacker community for its potentially chilling effects on research.  By now, you should know that hackers break things in order to see how they work. Some hackers do this for fun, some for profit, some for the public good. It’s not always clear who is who. But rules that put hackers in jail long-term for tinkering will of course mean fewer good guys do this research, and leave all the breaking and entering to the criminals. We don’t want that.  We want Roberts working for our side.

Now, as for that GAO report. I wrote about it last week for Credit.com.  It’s always hard to right-size the scariness of such studies.  You have a lot more to fear right now than airplanes falling out of the sky because of hackers, which to date is not realistic.  But as I’ve already said, the time to talk about it is now, not later.

Below is my piece on the report. You can read it at Credit.com, too.

There are two ways to describe an important report issued by Congress’ General Accountability Office this week about airplanes and computers. Here’s how the GAO titled its paper: “FAA Needs a More Comprehensive Approach to Address Cybersecurity As Agency Transitions to NextGen.”

And here’s how many observers described the report: “Airplanes can be hacked through passenger WiFi!”

As always, the truth is somewhere in the middle. The world’s air transportation systems are going through the same changes as all industrial control systems, and these changes bring both opportunities and peril. Once upon a time, it was nearly impossible to remotely hack into a power plant because the plant used old-fashioned proprietary systems that required hands-on users for operation. Slowly, critical infrastructure systems like power plants are transitioning to off-the-shelf software, and at the same time, they’re being connected to the Internet. This allows remote access, which is both a good and a bad thing. It’s good to be able to manage power plants from a long distance. It’s bad because it creates an avenue by which, at least theoretically, hackers can also break in.

So it is with airplanes. The Federal Aviation Administration is transitioning to its “Next Generation Air Transportation System,” known as NexTGen. Modernizing is a necessity. But as air traffic control systems and in-flight avionics systems are increasingly networked, the risk of unauthorized access increases. Any time you connect a computer to the world, the world can connect to that computer.

It makes sense to ring the alarm bell about these possibilities before they actually occur, and that’s what this week’s GAO report does. Auditors asked 15 cyber experts to conjure up worst-case scenarios, and they did a fine job of it. The report does not say that airplanes are currently being hacked. But it does raise a series of possibilities that frankly sound straight out of a horror movie — such as a computer virus causing a flight disaster.

“One cybersecurity expert noted that a virus or malware planted in websites visited by passengers could provide an opportunity for a malicious attacker to access the IP-connected onboard information system through their infected machines,” the report noted.

You would think that in-flight WiFi could never be used to connect to pilot controls — after all, the systems are quite different — but several experts said it could be possible.

“Firewalls protect avionics systems located in the cockpit from intrusion by cabin system users, such as passengers who use in-flight entertainment services onboard. Four cybersecurity experts with whom we spoke discussed firewall vulnerabilities, and all four said that because firewalls are software components, they could be hacked like any other software and circumvented,” the report said. “The experts said that if the cabin systems connect to the cockpit avionics systems (e.g., share the same physical wiring harness or router) and use the same networking platform, in this case IP, a user could subvert the firewall and access the cockpit avionics system from the cabin.”

The report also talks about the added risk of an insider threat from connected systems — a malicious airline employee or FAA worker might be able to remotely cause havoc with specialized knowledge of Internet-connected planes. There’s also the contractor problem. The FAA and airlines must not only certify the security of all the systems they build, but of systems built for them by third parties. Imagine a back-door being inserted into a critical airplane system that a malicious programmer could use later.

It’s important to notice the presence of the word “if” in all these disaster scenarios, as in “if the cabin systems connect to the cockpit avionics systems.” They shouldn’t be physically connected, of course. It’s easy to imagine that happening, however, in the pressure-packed, cost-sensitive world of airline operations.

That’s why the GAO report urges the FAA to “develop a holistic threat model” towards airline hacking, and criticizes the agency for failing to do so. The report does praise the FAA for other cyber security initiatives it has already undertaken.

The FAA says it has already addressed many of the concerns the GAO report raises.

“We take this risk seriously,” said Keith Washington, acting assistant secretary for administration for the FAA, in a response to the report. He noted that the FAA recently established a cyber test center so it could more closely examine potential threats.

But the GAO report, while not suggesting that air travel is unsafe today because of hackers, pulls no punches about possibilities in the future.

“Significant security control weaknesses remain that threaten the agency’s ability to ensure the safe and uninterrupted operation of the national airspace system,” the report concludes.

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Twitt

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