Current rules for model aircraft are sufficient

Posted: Wednesday, February 25, 2015 3:30 am

Current rules for model aircraft are sufficient

So why the big brouhaha over amateur drones? Americans have been flying model aircraft, both fixed wing and rotary (i.e. helicopters) for decades. Most model airplane enthusiasts fly their craft at model airplane clubs, are conscious of safety rules and adhering to the specified radio frequencies. The new four rotor drones are easier to fly and many are much smaller than the normal model aircraft. The drone opponents claim that they could crash and injure someone, or fly out of range of the operator. So can the model aircraft, which have never caused a public outcry.

Radio controlled cars pose a similar hazard for injury. The larger models can weigh several pounds and run at high speeds. Yes, an out of control high speed radio controlled car could cause injury. But have they? No, surely not such that we need a federal bureaucracy to regulate them.

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      Wednesday, February 25, 2015 3:30 am.

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      Star Democrat,,

      Letter To The Editor,



      Federal Regulations,

      Model Aircraft

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      ATV’s re-entry camera returned no images

      Artist's concept of Europe's Automated Transfer Vehicle breaking up during re-entry. Credit: ESA

      Artist’s concept of Europe’s Automated Transfer Vehicle breaking up during re-entry. Credit: ESA

      A camera packed inside Europe’s Automated Transfer Vehicle failed to transmit images from inside the disposable supply ship as it plunged through Earth’s atmosphere Feb. 15 and broke apart over the South Pacific Ocean, the European Space Agency said Friday.

      The robotic cargo freighter carried a camera and instrument package cocooned inside a miniature heat shield to survive the temperatures and pressures of re-entry. While telemetry indicated the camera took nearly 6,000 pictures, none of the images were received by engineers.

      ESA said the information still will help scientists study re-entry dynamics and could contribute to the design of future spacecraft to minimize the risks of space junk, but the loss of imagery from the ATV’s destructive dive back to Earth left officials with a small fraction of the data originally slated for collection during the European cargo craft’s re-entry.

      The ATV’s final mission was the last chance in the foreseeable future to monitor the guided, destructive re-entry of such a large spacecraft.

      The ATV was the size of a double-decker bus and capable of lofting a mix of experiments, crew supplies, spare parts, water, air and propellant to the International Space Station. At the end of the ATV’s fifth flight, the craft undocked from the space station Feb. 14 and steered toward a fiery fall into Earth’s atmosphere one day later.

      Engineers wanted to use the opportunity to record data that could help mission planners prepare for the eventual re-entry of the International Space Station — the largest complex ever assembled in space — some time in the 2020s.

      Scientists worked for more than a year to plan a modified re-entry profile for the fifth and final ATV that called for the spacecraft to dive into the atmosphere at a shallower-than-usual angle, exposing it to different conditions than previous re-entries before breaking apart dozens of miles above the uninhabited South Pacific.


      ATV’s re-entry as seen from the space station. Credit: ESA/NASA

      The re-entry would be perfectly timed for a NASA DC-8 research airplane to watch it from below, and for astronauts on the space station to record imagery of the ATV’s destruction from above.

      Two data recorders supplied by NASA and ESA would ride inside the ATV’s pressurized cargo section, logging temperatures, pressures, loads, g-forces and other parameters.

      But a battery failure in one of the freighter’s four power chains cropped up in early February, and although the glitch did not affect the ATV in a normal operating mode, ESA officials decided to forgo the shallow entry and aim for a standard steep profile used on previous missions.

      NASA opted to remove its re-entry data recorder and keep it aboard the space station for use on a future spacecraft, but ESA kept its system inside the ATV.

      The infrared camera and communications package, made by Ruag Space in Switzerland, was supposed to take a series of pictures and transmit the imagery to scientists via Iridium satellites.

      The camera itself was not designed to survive re-entry, but the communications transmitter was encased in a spherical ceramic heat shield to withstand the high temperatures, then send the camera’s imagery before impacting the ocean.

      ESA said in a press release that the break-up camera’s ground team received one message from the communications package. Later messages expected to contain the images never arrived.

      The ATV's re-entry breakup camera and transmitter. Credit: Ruag Space

      The ATV’s re-entry breakup camera and transmitter. Credit: Ruag Space

      “The message we received contained information on the number of pictures taken — nearly 6,000 — as well as accelerometer and magnetometer readings, details of the sphere rotation and a temperature reading,” said Neil Murray, manager of ESA’s break-up camera team.

      Murray said the message confirmed all systems initially worked as intended, including the camera, software, and the communications system’s modem and heat shield.

      “We also know from the message the internal temperature of the sphere remained moderate and there were no signs of any thermal issues,” Murray said in an ESA press release.

      “To retrieve all the data, more messages would have been required, but — frustratingly — these have nor arrived. Our team is currently investigating why further data packets didn’t make it through,” Murray said. “This investigation may result in improvements, such as a backup data relay for future missions.”

      The ATV’s five missions sent up 31,446 kilograms, or 69,327 pounds, of cargo, fuel, water and air to the space station. They five flights spent a cumulative 776 days docked to the space station on missions launched in 2008, 2011, 2012, 2013 and 2014.

      ESA wished to stop producing ATVs after the fifth model, preferring to focus European industry on the development of a new project using technologies from the cargo resupply program.

      The five ATV flights were part of a barter agreement with NASA to pay Europe’s share of the space station’s operating costs through 2017.

      ESA and Airbus Defense and Space, the ATV’s prime contractor, are now working on a propulsion and power module for NASA’s Orion crew capsule. It will fly on the Orion spacecraft’s next test flight around the moon and back to Earth in 2018.

      The Orion service module contribution covers ESA’s cost commitment to the space station through 2020.

      Follow Stephen Clark on Twitter: @StephenClark1.

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      Aircraft involved in false alarm being tested: CAA

      A TransAsia Airways airplane that was forced to turn around on Saturday after showing a false engine warning is still being tested and will remain grounded for the time being, the Civil Aeronautics Administration (CAA) said yesterday.

      TransAsia Flight GE507, originally scheduled to fly from Taipei International Airport (Songshan airport) to Magong Airport in Penghu County, on Saturday experienced an engine alert, which was confirmed after it returned to Taipei to be a problem with the aircraft’s warning system instead of with the engine itself.

      The ATR 72-500 airplane is the same make and model as the aircraft used on TransAsia Flight GE507, which crashed outside Magong Airport on July 23 last year, killing 48 of the 58 people onboard.

      The carrier’s most recent deadly crash occurred on Feb. 4, when a newer ATR 72-600 model aircraft crashed in Taipei, killing 43 of the 58 people onboard.

      After Saturday’s false alarm, TransAsia informed the aircraft’s French-Italian manufacturer ATR of the problem, but the CAA reiterated that the engine was in proper functioning condition and that the problem was merely a signal malfunction.

      Parts related to the sensor system have been replaced, and tests and inspections are planned to continue, the CAA said.

      The airplane will not return to service before the cause of the incident is identified and fixed, the agency said.

      TransAsia has only said that the aircraft would not fly without first receiving authorities’ approval.

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      Port Hope boy to compete at world model aircraft championships

      PORT HOPE – 

      James Millson will be the youngest Canadian to ever compete at the indoor world championships of electric model airplanes.

      The 2015 FAI World Championships for indoor model aerobatic aircraft take place from March 14 to 21 in Warsaw, Poland.

      James is only nine years old and hails from Port Hope.

      The technical phase for the competition is the F3AP indoor precision aerobatics.

      With his father Wayne as his “pit crew” James has been practising twice a week and is extremely grateful for the assistance of the Cobourg Community Centre and the large area of the gymnasium.

      On Friday, three other members of the team, including team captain Xavier Mouraux from Montreal, Pat MacKenzie from Toronto and Paul Hepworth from Toronto came to the CCC to practise their routines.

      The battery powered airplanes are extremely light and costly.

      James’s plane was built in Lithuania and weighs 54 grams. It’s made of carbon fibre.

      “This is my outdoor activity,” James said with a smile during a short break from his routine.

      As other members arrive at the CCC, James greets them and studies their planes to learn all he can to help him have that extra “edge.”

      The relatively new sport is very big in Europe and is catching on fast throughout North America.

      James is the youngest person ever to be licensed to compete internationally from the Aero Club of Canada.

      Flying indoors for three years, James got his “wings” through a program from the Model Aeronautic Association of Canada.

      He currently belongs to the Northumberland Electric Aviators and is looking forward to competing against the best pilots in the world next month.

      “It’s a lot of fun. What I like about indoors is the box for competition is defined and you can never go out of it.

      “I love flying. But it frustrates me sometimes when I do something wrong because I always want to do better.”

      The Cobourg Community Centre is the only local facility large enough for the flyers to use. The fans must be turned off while team members go through their three-minute routines.

      During the competition members will be judged on how well they perform a fixed set of manoeuvres.

      “It’s a very disciplined sport,” Wayne Millson said.

      The technology has been around for 12 years but it’s really come around in the last few years with the planes becoming much lighter.

      “I think it’s great,” Millson said. “He’s learning to work, achieve goals and it’s a competitive sport.”

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      Dassault Aviation to present Falcon fleet at Australian International Airshow

      MELBOURNE, Australia – Dassault Aviation will present its Falcon fleet of large cabin, long range business jets at the Australian International Airshow, Australia’s largest and most comprehensive aviation, aerospace and defense exposition.

      The six day event, which opens on February 24th, will take place at Avalon airport in Geelong, Australia. It will feature Dassault Aviation’s 5,950 nm/11,000 km Falcon 7X trijet, the fastest selling Falcon of all time; the 4,750 nm/8,800 km Falcon 900LX trijet, a class leader in both performance and fuel efficiency; and the 4,000 nm/7,400 km Falcon 2000LXS, a short-field derivative of the popular Falcon 2000LX twin.

      Australia has been a key market for Dassault for almost half century. The company’s first business jet, the Falcon 20, entered commercial service ‘Down Under’ in 1967, barely two years after its service introduction in the United States. The Falcon 20 entered the inventory of the Royal Australian Air Force the same year and served in the RAAF’s transport and utility wing for 22 years before being replaced by the Falcon 900. The force flew five Falcon 900s for 13 years.

      Ten Falcons are currently in operation in Australia. The fleet includes all in production Falcons, including the Falcon 7X, Falcon 900 (EX model) and the Falcon 2000LX, and is particularly active in the tourism, wine and mining sectors.

      The exceptional flexibility, operating economy and comfort of Falcon business jets make them ideal in a country of continental proportions dotted with small hard to reach airfields.

      The current flagship, the Falcon 7X, features advanced systems largely derived from military aircraft along with an ultra-quiet, roomy interior that allows passengers to disembark fresh and relaxed after a 13 hour flight. The aircraft’s exceptional versatility allows it to serve the most demanding destinations even at short, elevated and hot airfields. Last year, the Falcon 7X completed trials in Daocheng, China, that will allow it to operate out of the highest commercial airports in the world.

      More than 2507X aircraft have left the assembly line since the model was certified in 2007.

      The 4,750 nm Falcon 900LX offers 7% more range than the Falcon 900EX EASy, which it replaced in 2010. The 900LX features Honeywell TFE731-60 engines and the state-of-the art EASy II flight deck.

      The 4,000 nm Falcon 2000LXS offers improved airport performance, payload and cabin comfort compared to the Falcon 2000LX, which it superseded in 2013. Equipped with full-length inboard slats and high-mach blended winglets that enhance approach and landing capabilities and balanced field length, the 2000LXS can access more airports than any other aircraft in its category.

      Dassault Continues New Aircraft Development

      Over the past 18 months, Dassault has introduced two new models that are also expected to prove popular with Australian operators: the 6,450 nm/12,000 km Falcon 8X, which rolled out last December, and the 5,200 nm/9,630 km Falcon 5X, introduced in 2013.

      The 8X made its first flight on February 6 and is due to begin deliveries by mid-2016. It will feature the longest Falcon cabin and the lowest ownership and operating costs in its class while offering the same advanced flight deck technology and operating flexibility as the Falcon 7X from which it is derived.

      The all-new Falcon 5X will offer the largest cabin cross-section of any business jet and the lowest ownership and operating costs in its category. First flight is anticipated later this year and market entry in 2017.

      Customer Service Investment Grows

      To ensure optimum service levels for its expanding fleet, Dassault has been rapidly expanding its global support network, including in Australia.

      The company’s spares inventory in Sydney has increased nearly 60% over the past two years, to about U.S. $4 million. The Sydney warehouse, managed by Hawker Pacific, has been in operation since 2005 and stocks the top 500 parts for all Falcon models.

      Dassault’s relationship with Hawker Pacific dates back over 30 years. In addition to spares management, the Sydney facility is a Falcon Authorized Service Center qualified to perform line maintenance and scheduled A and B level checks on all Falcons. It has approvals from the Civil Aviation Authority of Australia, EASA, the FAA and CASA of Papua New Guinea.

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      Marbleheader Dave Crowley remembers building model airplanes as a kid

      It started when Tommy White and I were in the fifth grade at the Gerry School in Marblehead in 1949. We must have been around 10 when we happened on a little metal toy that we called a cap blaster, which used paper caps to propel a small projectile the size of a grape into the air.

      Paper caps contained small amounts of gunpowder and made a convincing pop, at least to a child, when we used them in the cap pistols that all boys had when I was a kid. It was the detonation of the gunpowder that launched the projectile part of the cap blaster toward the sky. It had a feather that stabilized it in flight, and just like a small rocket it turned over at the peak of its trajectory and fell back to earth, usually within easy reach, or so we hoped. The metal made a satisfying ping when the cap exploded and another one when the projectile landed.

      Not satisfied with a small bang or a flight below tree level, we added caps but found that four explosive caps were too many – there was a loud bang, but the metal toy split open, ruining it. What we really wanted were rockets, but fireworks were illegal in Massachusetts, and the cap blaster was as close as we could get.

      Tommy was passionate about aviation of any kind, even at age 10. We graduated to model airplanes made from balsa-wood kits. I got my first one at Finch’s store on Washington Street and assembled it at home. I had the whole balsa frame put together, fuselage and wings, with glue drying before the next step, which was to apply the special tissue paper that formed the skin. I left the model on the chair in my room when my mother called me for dinner.

      Forgetting about the airplane, I ran back upstairs later and plunked down into the seat. As I settled, I heard a crunching sound under me. I knew just what it was and said something I wouldn’t want my parents to hear. I sprang up, but it was too late – the model was crushed.

      I got a little further with the next airplane, which was powered by a rubber band that you twisted by winding the propeller. It stretched back from the nose to the tail inside the fuselage.

      You had to install the rubber band before the paper went on. It would be great, I thought, to test the propeller by winding the rubber band as tight as I could, just to watch the it spin. The instructions said to wait until the model was complete before testing the propeller, but I had no patience and proceeded to wind it up. I had it just tight enough when there was another crunch. The model collapsed nose to tail, just like an accordion. By this time, I had developed enough skill to repair and complete it.

      In the meantime, Tommy had discovered “Jetex” model rocket engines, which were small metal cans with a solid fuel pellet inside that you lit with a fuse. There was a bracket for attaching it to your model airplane, which we did on the Gerry School playground, the original testing ground for our cap blasters.

      In the spring of 1950, my parents and I moved into rented rooms where I had no space to build airplanes. It wasn’t until the fall of the next year when we had settled in to our own house that I could get back to the models. Then I built replicas of World War II aircraft: the British Spitfire, which I painted white, and a few naval aircraft like the Douglas Dive Bomber, the Grumman Hellcat and the Chance-Vought Corsair. Other modelers like Tommy were much more serious about it and got into planes with little gasoline engines, but I never went that far.

      Tommy joined the Air Force during his senior year Marblehead High School and, after his service, received an engineering degree from Northeastern University. He spent his entire working life in the aviation industry and retired as a senior manufacturing engineer for a company that makes precision parts for aircraft engines. He was still employed with aviation when I talked with him around the time my mother died in 2000. He retired to Florida with his wife in 2004 and died there in April 2012.

      I kept my keen interest in aviation but unlike Tommy could not pursue it as a career. The cap blasters that we played with 65 years ago are beyond most people’s memory, but every time I look at a model aircraft magazine or watch a YouTube video of the latest modeling developments, I think of Tommy and how he got me started.

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      Defense R&D: Is the Reward Worth the Risk?

      By Sandra Erwin

      At a time when the Defense Department is eager to attract more private investment in cutting-edge technology, even the Pentagon’s top contractors are taking a step back and hedging their bets.

      A growing hesitance to gamble on futuristic military hardware was the clear subtext of speeches and conversations last week at Lockheed Martin’s annual media day in Arlington, Va. The nation’s largest defense contractor derives most of its business from military sales but when it comes to next-generation technology, the company is not ready to make huge wagers.

      “Are defense companies going to invest more to get new programs started? That’s more of a commercial model. I don’t see a lot of that happening in the future,” said Rob Weiss, Lockheed Martin executive vice president and general manager of aeronautics advanced development programs, also known as the Skunk Works.

      Weiss runs the company’s most secretive and most celebrated operation that was the cradle of revolutionary military machines like the SR-71 spy airplane and the F117 stealth fighter. Most projects at Skunk Works are classified, and new technology development largely is funded by the Defense Department. Lockheed does not intend to make risky bets on technology for its own sake, Weiss said, and he sees similar behavior across the defense industry. “If industry is going to invest on the front end, then we’ve got to expect that you’re going to get returns on the back end,” he said. “At Lockheed Martin in general, we are being prudent with any internal dollars we spend to make sure there’s a reasonable return on the back end.”

      The company is working on future concepts for surveillance and strike aircraft, but is not going to pour funds into these projects until clear “requirements” are spelled out by the Defense Department. “Requirements are key,” Weiss said. Although that is easier said than done, however. Sometimes a company works on a design, development and prototyping, and “you’re not necessarily sure what the requirements are,” he said. “The problem with investing early is that you may invest and the requirements move.”

      That is why companies are increasingly gun shy. A case in point is the Navy’s carrier-based combat drone known as UCLASS. The Navy initially selected four designs but the requirements changed and some of those designs no longer met the needs, Weiss noted. “Who’s going to invest to catch up with competitors that happen to be in the right space?” he asked. “I think it’s going to require much better clarity overall on what is the requirement, earlier. And then stick to that requirement so investments by industry are focused on that requirement.”

      Another reason corporations may hold back investments is the uncertainty that a program will survive leadership changes. Military and civilian officials, and members of Congress “come and go,” Weiss said. “These programs take a long time to come to fruition. So you may have different leaders over time. A challenge for the industry is how to maintain direction even with new people.”

      Trailblazers like Skunk Works seek to push the limits of technology, but in the current business environment, it is best to use as much existing “proven” technology as possible, said Weiss. “What’s the key to successful programs? Take as much mature technology as you can. We use it all. Every bit that we can from prior programs.” Weiss is leading Lockheed’s bid in the upcoming competition for a new trainer airplane for the U.S. Air Force. The company announced it would propose an updated version of the existing T-50 trainer. A clean-sheet design would be put forth if the Air Force requested it, but Weiss believes that would add risk and years to the program. “The issue is the time associated with a new development. If you need it soon, an off-the-shelf solution is the way to go.”

      Much of the excitement at Skunk Works today is less about dreaming up airplane concepts and more about updating current aircraft with modern information networks. “We made a huge investment in open systems architecture work,” said Weiss. “We have hard data to prove the value.” This is the type of technology that saves the government money because it allows legacy airplanes like the U-2 to be outfitted with plug-and-play electronics and sensors made different vendors, he said. “We are all in on open systems architecture.”

      The industry wants to help the Defense Department innovate, he added, but it is difficult in the current environment. During the glory days of military aviation at Skunk Works, “we had stable requirements, small teams, engineering talent empowered to make decisions, higher tolerance for risk.” The system today is “not quite as comfortable” with those things any more.

      Risk aversion is reflected in Lockheed Martin’s latest financial reports, observed James McAleese, industry consultant at McAleese Associates. “The sheer size of Lockheed Martin’s dividends and share repurchases limits overall size of annual RD funding,” he wrote in a briefing to clients. Internal RD in 2014 was only 1.6 percent of sales, compared to an average of 2.1 percent for its peers, McAleese noted. “Expect Lockheed Martin to invest in RD with a two to three year payout,” he added. Most of the RD funds are going into the company’s lucrative missiles and fire control sector, McAleese said, where Lockheed is investing in programs like the MEADS missile defense system and the joint light tactical vehicle.

      In the space business, Lockheed is shifting focus to the commercial market. It is spending $250 million in corporate RD to update a 20-year-old communications satellite called A2100. “We are refreshing the design and investing in new manufacturing capabilities as the commercial market is growing,” said Mark Valerio, vice president of Lockheed Martin’s military space business.

      The modernized satellites would target the growing global market for Internet, TV, and secure communications, said Lockheed Martin President and CEO Marillyn A. Hewson. “We invested in the A2100, reducing the number of its parts and streamlining its production so our customers can get it into orbit more quickly and at a fraction of the cost,” she said. “Worldwide demand for smartphones is estimated to increase by six times over the next six years. Mobile data traffic will grow by more than 11 times in five years.”

      Lockheed also is venturing into nondefense applications of big data algorithms that were originally created for the Pentagon. “We’ve taken traditional missile defense tracking technology and applied it to detect sepsis in patients in hospitals,” said Keith Johnson, Lockheed Martin technical director for analytics. “We have a workforce of engineers that have a lot of experience working with data,” he said. “The technology now is allowing us to use that knowledge for new customers. That’s what we are seeing as we go forward.”

      Hewson said Lockheed is betting on potentially groundbreaking healthcare technology such as genomics. It signed a partnership last year with Illumina, a pioneer in gene sequencing. Both firms are working on “personalized healthcare” solutions that would be marketed to countries around the world.

      Investors generally have encouraged large Pentagon contractors like Lockheed to transition some of its business to other markets that might offer better returns.

      The Defense Department’s 2016-2020 funding projections show “flattish investment outlays,” said Byron Callan, director of Capital Alpha Partners. Periods of defense innovation, he noted in a note to investors, are not stable and predictable. “Managements that seek this sort of environment are apt to see plans wrecked by new military surprises and competitors.” Commercial technology firms earn much higher margins than defense contractors, he added. “They take far more risk than defense firms, but they also spend far more on research and development, for the most part. Commercial technology is globally available and proliferation of cheap digital electronics is one factor why the Defense Department has become so concerned.”

      Photo Credit: Lockheed Martin Skunk Works

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